Posted by: naccm | May 19, 2010

5 Things We Would Do Differently…by Tim Hawkins

After five years on site here in Boston, four years leading community groups, and two years on our first campus…this seems like a good time to reflect on the 5 Things We Would Do Again (last week’s post)  if we were to move and plant another campus ministry tomorrow, and the five things we definitely not do again…or at least do differently looking back.

This list easily could be 10 or more items long.  But, the following five seem to be things we have spent the most energy adjusting/fixing.

  1. Focus more attention on socialization of freshman/sophomores

Because we were community group focused from the beginning, missional with little to no focus on larger group identity or gatherings, we really missed the most important connect for freshman and sophomores…fun.  One of our staff described our time as a “processing station”.  We became the place for people in process and discontents.

I think this was especially important for many who found a home with us, but probably 80% of our students were Juniors – grad students.  Which means our leadership turnover was ridiculous!

Moving on to campus to host community groups via a registered student organization is giving us more opportunities to focus on one of the primary needs in those early years…friendship.

2.  We would have paid for web-design

Our Arts and Social Media guy, Bobby is an outstanding and creative thinker and illustrator.  Which to me equaled web/graphic-designer, but they are different skill sets.  Bobby has done a great job learning web-design and developing our site, but we have had so many ideas about content, design, functionality, purpose…that starting out with someone else doing our site/design would have saved Bobby a lot of time and headache.

In retrospect, I would have budgeted money for someone to lead us through this process before we made a move on to campus.  I don’t think web-sites have to over-function, however, most students will give our ministries the blink test based on our websites.

3.  Spent more time learning from other start-ups and respected ministries

There is really not much more to say about this!  Once you launch, it is difficult to get time away to learn from others.  In retrospect, I would have spent the first 6 months working spending 1 week at 6 different ministries that I wanted to learn from.

4.  Defined more clearly our student leadership expectations/development

When you are in start-up mode, it is very easy to just be glad you have people…any people!  So, to think about narrowing the opportunity of leadership seemed problematic.

However, in retrospect, I think this article by Seth Godin sums it up.  We would have focused more time and attention on TRUE FANS, than marketing for strangers.  Consequently, leadership development that I had done INTUITIVELY for years in one place, was difficult to transfer through mere modeling and 2nd generation intuitiveness…BECAUSE WE WERE WORKING A STEP FURTHER BACK IN THE DISCIPLESHIP PROCESS.

Most students on our campus back at University of Central Missouri had some kind of church/Christian background (maybe 70% or more).  Here we were working with students who had very little if any church/faith background.  And those who gravitated to us early on did so because they were discontent with their experiences.

What we are now in the process of doing is developing a DELIBERATE discipleship and leadership development to help students not only find their way back to God, but give students more intentional ways to help others do the same.

5.  Identify with our tradition

At a staff meeting recently, I shared that we were beginning to use the phrase “A campus ministry of the independent Christian churches” on our website.  Our youngest staff guy became animated and excited…sharing that was one of the first questions he asked about us…and when he received the answer spent the next 2 hours “googling” us.

Students know that every organization has a story.  We would have told ours more clearly from the beginning.  It wasn’t just methodology that made us distinct from other campus ministries (I’m not sure that was every the case), or theology, or philosophy of ministry…but, our history and tradition.

So, those are the things I find us giving the most effort to correct.  I’m sure there are other things we would do differently, but they aren’t pressing us for attention just yet!

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