HEART OF THE MATTER
There are few opportunities where you see such tremendous building of vision and growth in students in so little time, especially if it is their first event of this type. Conferences and retreats help students to make critical decisions that will deepen their walk and commitment to the Lord.
STEPS TO TAKE
Determine to Go. It is crucial that the leadership of a student movement attend conferences and retreats. Even veteran conferees, who feel they have heard it all (which, of course, is not true), can best encourage others to go if they go themselves. A movement takes a giant step toward building vision when the leadership decides to go and then asks themselves: Who can I bring with me?
Promote. Announce regularly the upcoming retreat or conference. Freely give out brochures. You might punctuate its importance by setting up a registration booth at your weekly meeting. Someone could share briefly how this conference or retreat affected his or her life. A skit is another great way to focus attention on the upcoming event.
Recruit. Posters, videos and brochures are great recruiting tools but by themselves have little affect in convincing students to come to a conference. Students attend conferences because they are personally invited and because their friends are going. The leaders of your group will see the greatest success in recruiting if they take time to individually meet with the students involved in your movement. Then they can explain more of the specifics of the conference, deal with any potential barriers and pray with the potential conferee. Barriers are inevitable. To help students overcome some barriers you may want to organize rides for them to get to the retreat, or consider providing scholarships for those on a tight budget. You may want to help some students think through how to talk about the retreat or conference with their parents.
Build Relationships. Once at the retreat, the leaders need to plan some events the group can do together. Retreats unify them as a movement and anything you can do to facilitate that will greatly benefit your ministry. Students are interested in the cause, but relationships keep them returning to your group. It is especially important that Bible study or cell group leaders spend time with those in their group.
Provide Opportunities for Future Involvement. You may have heard the phrase “involvement breeds commitment.” Toward the end of the retreat or conference is a great time to build an opportunity for that future involvement and sense of vision in the whole group. Plan to meet together as a campus on the last day of the event. This provides a great opportunity to do four things:
1. Have a sharing time so students can hear how God has worked in each other’s lives.
2. Use God’s Word to communicate His heart to the team.
3. Point to the future. Plan an event (usually an outreach) that will give them an opportunity to apply what they have learned.
4. Pray together.
REAL LIFE STORY
Rick and I seemed to hit it off from the first day we met. He readily trusted Christ when the gospel was presented to him. He was very eager to learn about his new found faith and every time I told Rick about the next conference or retreat coming up, he appeared excited about it.
Many times though he would decide at the last minute to “skip this one” until finally a good friend of his was going and Rick decide to join him. He was excited about the conference and felt an extra boost of confidence knowing that he already had one friend there. Rick had a life-changing week. He was infused with a vision that he had never caught before. Soon after the event, he was one of the key leaders of the movement. He led both his roommates to the Lord. He also designed a number of evangelistic strategies that were used by the movement to more effectively reach students for Christ.
Two years after graduation, Rick left his position in one of the top advertising firms in the world to join the staff of Cru. Today, the Lord is using him to create and develop campus movements all over the United States.
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