Have you ever wondered, “What’s the big deal with conferences, anyway?”
Why do we work so hard to get students to come?
Why We Ask
Conferences and retreats have proven to be a powerful resource to reach student, build groups of multiplying disciples, and help students take next steps with God.
- Students hear more clearly from God when they get away from the noise of life.
- Students respond to Jesus and make decisions to follow Him for a lifetime.
- Going as a group helps to build community and connection that students will bring back to campus.
- Students are given hands-on training in how to share Jesus with their words and actions.
- Students build a shared vision to reach their campus, together.
But while group advertisements, powerpoint slides, videos, and student stories can convey information and help build excitement, many students won’t go unless someone personally invites them to come.
When we want someone to do something important, we ask them. If we need someone to cover a shift for us at work, we ask. If we want a friend to go with us to a movie we’ve been waiting to see, we ask.
Opportunities such as Winter Conference are no different – this goes for both student leaders, and involved students. Don’t assume anyone plans to go. Meet with each of your student leaders and challenge them to come, and to bring other students with them.
Make sure every student in your movement is directly and personally invited to come.
The Face-To-Face Invitation
- Pray for each student you will meet with.
- Be intentional to ask key people first, and challenge them to invite as many friends to come with them as they can.
- Make sure you are considering each student’s unique needs and concerns when you meet with them. Make sure you care about them more than you care about them coming to this conference.
- Help the student explore how this conference could make a difference in their life and help them move closer to Jesus.
- If you know the student well, explain some specific ways you think this conference will help them grow.
- If you do not know the student well, ask them about some specific ways they hope to grow this year, and help them see how this conference could help them move toward their goal.
- Ask the student to pray about going. Help them understand that not making a decision is actually a “no.”
- Follow up with each student, asking for a definite “yes” or “no.”
Remember to have a conversation instead of simply saying, “You should go.” Ask questions such as:
- How close do you feel to Jesus, right now?
- Is there a way you’d like to see God show up in your life?
- How are you hoping to grow, in your walk with God?
- Are there spiritual questions you’re struggling with right now?
- How do you feel about talking to other people about Jesus? What fears or struggles do you have?
- How are you feeling about this conference? Are there reasons you want to go? Are there reasons you don’t wan to go?
- Are there people you’d like to invite to come with you?
Listen for what the student’s decision is hinging on. Be sensitive to their objections and help them explore whether this conference will be a good choice for them, anyway.
Helping Students Navigate Obstacles to Going
Sometimes, God uses obstacles to teach us to trust Him and push into the difficulty. But other times, He uses obstacles to direct us elsewhere.
Help your student explore what God might be teaching them. Here are some common barriers students face:
- Money for registration and travel. College is expensive, and some students may be barely making rent or eating enough. And likely, the students struggling the most will be reluctant to tell you so. Don’t assume they have any margin in their budget if they mention the conference expense. Instead, help them explore how God might provide the funds they need – such as through writing support letters or applying for scholarship money through their student activities office.
- Work schedule. Encourage the student to ask for the time off or see if they can ask coworkers to cover their shifts. Sometimes, it just takes courage to ask. Remember, the sooner you invite students to come, the more time you give them to make arrangements.
- They don’t know anyone who is going. You can point out that they know you, and offer to introduce them to others. Make sure to follow through on this promise, and check in with them several times, to see if they’re feeling welcomed and starting to connect.
Remember, if they don’t want to go, respect their decision.
Don’t miss any students:
- Write down all the names of students in your group.
- Split them between your leadership team.
- Commit to inviting each one. Set a hard deadline.
- Written by Tim Dorsch