“My grandparents were praying for me to find a group on campus that I could be involved with,” says Arianna King, junior nursing major at Simmons College in Boston.
“Once I got involved with Cru, joined a Bible study and got involved in Christian community, that’s when I developed more of a relationship with God and began growing closer to Him.”
That’s what Arianna and the other six student leaders at Simmons want for all the students on campus. They are implementing and brainstorming creative ways to reach students with the message of Jesus.
On University campuses around the country, there is a great need for Christian students to creatively engage their peers in spiritual conversation.
The student leaders at Simmons meet weekly to plan outreaches, study the Bible and have one-to-one spiritual mentorship with a Cru staff member.
They use resources like CruPress Green to help spark ideas for outreaches and supply material for Bible studies.
Staff member Malisa Ellis leads the Boston Metro teams. She has been working on the campus at Simmons for three years and is excited about the student leaders there.
“The highlight of Simmons is that the leadership girls are creative,” she says. The leaders are “inviters” – really great about inviting new people into their community. “They are great about pulling people in,” says Malisa.
At the beginning of each school year, students with Cru at Simmons gave away 120 bundles of clothing hangers at the student activities fair. Interested students could stop by the Cru activity table, fill out an informational survey and receive the hangers. “Traditionally, students have a very low spiritual interest,” says Malisa. But in 2011, 90 students indicated on their survey that they wanted to hear more about Jesus.
Tori Mead, a junior Psychology major and student leader at Simmons, remembers how easy it was to get involved. She visited the Cru table at the activity fair during her first week of school. In no time, she was helping lead the Cru movement at Simmons.
The atmosphere at Simmons is like many liberal arts colleges: very accepting of many truths and lifestyles. “Once you say the words, ‘God or Christian,’ walls go up,” says Arianna. “There’s a lot of negative connotations associated with Christianity on campus.” Much of the student leaders’ focus on campus is to debug those assumptions. “We are trying to break down those walls,” says Arianna.
Because of their involvement and training with Bible study and coaching from staff members, the student leaders have been able to spark up conversations with non-religious friends. “I have the courage to go out and talk to people,” says Arianna.
“My relationship with God has transformed me,” says Arianna. “It would be great to bring God to students and give them that opportunity, especially here at Simmons.”
So that is what the leaders are doing: bringing God to students any way they can.
“I’m on the softball team and I’m a Residence Advisor,” says Arianna. “I have a lot of opportunities to talk with people. Being a leader, people feel more comfortable coming to you about certain issues… it makes it easier to have those conversations, past the surface level questions.”
One girl from Arianna’s softball team came to a movie night, then stayed and asked questions. That same girl started coming to Bible study the rest of that semester. “She is very interested in God and spiritual things,” says Arianna.
“Reaching out to a campus can seem like a big task,” says Tori. Here are some ideas for outreach opportunities the student leaders in Boston are implementing:
• Set up a table at the Student Activity Fair each semester. “Have a jar of sweethearts and let people guess how many are in it,” says Tori. “Give the winner a gift card or something fun."
• Sell raffle tickets and give away prizes.
• Use Soularium cards to spark spiritual conversations.
• Once a month or more, go door-to-door, offer cookies and popcorn, start spiritual conversations.
• Have a weekly Bible study in the lobby of the largest Freshman dorm on campus. “One night we had a short film movie night with a popcorn machine,” says Tori. At the end, people broke into groups and discussed the films.
• Have a girls night function: make your own bath salts, demonstrate makeup tutorials, paint nails, hand massages, etc., “Students wander down from their dorms because they are interested in what we’re doing,” says Tori. “It’s a great way to meet people.”
• Host a bake sale. You can raise funds for your ministry or to send students on mission trips, but also get people interested and educated about what your ministry is doing on campus.
• Give away hangers or recycled grocery bags with a ministry website on them.
• On colder days, set up a table with hot apple cider or hot chocolate for a study break in the dorm lobby.
• Host a sugar cookie decorating party around Christmas and other holidays.
• Host a craft night. Make your own bath salts, greeting cards, etc., “This can be a great time to talk with students, asking about special celebrations, traditions, and family,” says Tori.
An important factor for all of these outreach opportunities is fun. “Do something fun and interesting,” says Arianna. “Something that sparks interest.”
For example, Tori and Arianna are working with the other leaders to plan a Hipster Tea Party this semester. “We don’t really even know what that means yet,” says Tori, “but we are trying to do things that appeal to a wide range of students by offering different or new options.”
Try to organize events that are low commitment and not intimidating. “Focus on building relationships,” says Tori. “Keep it simple. You don’t have to host a huge concert or invite every single person on campus, but create a space where people feel comfortable to talk and have deeper conversations there or later that week.”
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