How to host a campus outreach

Create Events That Serve Each Threshold

In servant evangelism, you begin with your friends in mind. You ask visioning questions to help understand their needs and their journey. Where are they at in their journey? What do they need to help them to take steps to cross into the next threshold? Questions like this hopefully help you to see them more accurately and also open your eyes to the ways that the Great Seeker is pursuing them and wooing them.

Once you see your friends' journeys through God's lens, you can plan events that will catalyze their journey. Of course you cannot germinate growth for anyone, but you can offer them ways to think about their lives of faith and help them reflect on where they might want to go next.

Planning outreach events is not an exact science by any stretch of the imagination. An event that serves folks at one threshold could easily serve people at another; perhaps you'll feel that one of the events below should go in another threshold instead.

For the sake of getting the conversation going and the brainstorm flowing, here are various events, tailored to each of the five thresholds of postmodern conversion:

THRESHOLD 1: Trusting a Christian

Fun

People tend to think of Christians as dreary or anti-fun. Therefore, it can be great to host legitimately fun events. InterVarsity events can be the most fun thing going on. Your chapter can host the best parties on campus. You can have more fun than anyone else.

Be creative. Think of truly fun things that no one else is doing. You can be a servant by coming up with the most hilarious and entertaining events on campus. And you can enjoy yourself in the process!

What is your idea of the dream fun event?

  • Karaoke night
  • Almost any sport
  • Fruit Ninja, Guitar Hero, or another video-game competition

Clever

Sometimes the best way to get their attention is to be clever. Use humor. Do the unexpected. Do the bizarre.

Can you think of something clever that they would never think of?

  • Christian confession: In Blue Like Jazz, there is a story about Christians gathering on campus to confess the sins of Christians and ask for forgiveness.
  • Jesus Wrestling Federation: A student had an idea for a WWF-style act, done in the center of campus, featuring Jesus against the social ills of the campus. We did this with Jesus against Satan and his minions, like racism, sexism, narrow-mindedness, etc. We gathered a huge crowd...not sure it was effective though. How might you improve this idea?

Compelling Causes

You might build trust with some students on campus if they find out that God loves justice.

What are the causes that matter most to your campus? What are the causes that you could bring to your campus’ awareness that are not yet there? What is on God’s heart for the globe that could connect to your campus?

  • Homeless awareness: Several campuses hosted a homeless-awareness week. With their campus's permission, they slept outside in cardboard boxes for five nights. They held GIGs each evening for those who stopped to talk.
  • Any one of World Vision’s events

THRESHOLD 2: Becoming Curious

Felt Need

If your event can tap into a felt need, people will come. Some felt needs vary depending on the type of campus and the type of students.

Other events are always relevant for college students: sex, dating, and heartbreak never go out of style.

What are the felt needs on your campus? How can you turn that into an event?

  • Fake love versus the real thing: Why do we satisfy ourselves with fake love?
  • Bad religion versus true spirituality
  • Do pain and romance always go together?
  • Suffering and the goodness of God: Does God care about the injustices of our world?
  • Sexy Pizza
  • No Secrets

Public Forums for Questions & Discussions

Students like to engage with key topics, but they usually need to feel like it is safe to do so. Public forums can work well for this.

  • Semi-Anonymous Questions: Set up a place in a dorm lobby or the quad for people to respond to a key question on a large piece of paper. Students can read what others have written and add their own comments.
  • Question of the Week: One staff member sat at a table each week with a “question of the week” sign. People came up to engage him about it, and he became a fixture on campus with students expecting to see a new question each week.

THRESHOLD 3: Opening to Change

Challenging Apathy

Honest Community

  • Create a weekly small group about spiritual direction: The small-group leader can regularly ask each member to share for 5-10 minutes by asking, “Where have you seen God show up in your life this week?” Non-Christians are welcome to come and members can invite their friends. Non-Christians can also answer the question about where God is showing up. Your vulnerability will be attractive and contagious.
  • Allow non-Christians on the leadership team of a GIG: One or more eager non-Christians can help set the plan and the agenda for each GIG. Sometimes you can look at passages from the Bible, other times you can discuss key topics. Since non-Christians help plan the event, they will want to invite their friends to the discussion group.

THRESHOLD 4: Seeking After God

Challenge/Invite for a Short-Term Quest

To help people go from meandering to seeking, it is helpful to invite them on a quest. A quest can be for a short, defined period: seven days, four weeks, etc. And, you can join the quest with them, to help them interpret God’s activity in their lives.

  • Seven-Day Prayer Challenge: Invite a non-Christian friend to pray together with you 10 minutes daily for seven days. Expect God to answer a prayer and reveal himself, maybe in other ways than the things you both are praying about.
  • One Month in the Bible: Invite someone to read the gospel of John and discuss it with you.
  • GIG Series: There are several GIG studies available, including two 5-week options from Urbana 2009 and Urbana 2012. Make the fourth week the invitation into the Kingdom, using Luke 23 or another commitment passage.

Experiential

Create intentional events for non-Christians to explore and experience God. It may make sense to host these in the final quarter of the school year, after your chapter has been building trust all year long. You could also include them as conclusions to other outreach activities.

  • “Space for God” Day: Consider hosting an "all-day" (noon to 9 p.m.) event on a Saturday. We would have several large group talks or scripture studies. We would have fun together. We would give reflection exercises, and small-group discussion. The call to commitment came at the end of the day. I would meet privately with the non-Christians who were not yet ready to commit to Jesus, and I would ask them to go on a quest for God.

Mark on the Edge

Try to have seeker tracks for as many of your conferences as possible. Help non-Christians become seekers by leading them in an inductive study through the first half of the gospel of Mark. Ask them to open their hearts and minds to God. Ask them to pray and expect answers. Design the whole experience in order to facilitate their quest for Jesus.

THRESHOLD 5: Entering the Kingdom

Harvest Events

Throughout the year, it is very helpful to have periodic events where you invite people into the Kingdom. A campus-wide harvest event can be a great way to encourage decisions for Christ. A successful harvest event requires detailed planning, good execution, and a thorough follow-up strategy. Read "Plan a Harvest Event This Semester" for more information on how to plan the various stages of a harvest event on your campus.

  • Fall conference can be an excellent harvest event in itself, if you have a speaker who is willing to build the conference to also serve non-Christians.
  • Can This Wait?: One campus hosts an annual non-Christian retreat each April. They bring 20-30 non-Christians to consider commitment to Jesus. It is an excellent weekend, and they usually see more than half of the non-Christians become Christians by the end of the weekend as conversion becomes contagious.

Large Group

Recently, students have become more open to making faith decisions at large-group meetings. You'll have to convince your students that you can make an excellent invitation at large group and that they should invite their friends. Once they see you or guest speakers do this consistently a few times, they will start regularly bringing non-Christian friends to large group.

Here are two pointers:

  1. Have a trained follow-up team who can help talk with anyone who makes a decision at large group. These decisions can often be quite emotional, so you need to have conversations with these people immediately to help interpret.
  2. Call the Christians to commitment first, to stand up and respond to something in the talk. The act of responding should become normal for everyone. This will make it easier for the non-Christians to stand up.

Do you have suggestions for types of events that would fit into one of the thresholds? Have you tried any of the suggested events above, and if so, how did it go? Leave a comment below.