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Helping students reach their personal ministry targets, part 4

March 20, 2017

This is the fourth in a five-part series of articles defining the game-changing strategy of Personal Ministry Targets. Click here for part three.

Coach students using a flexible and reproducible strategy

Your efforts to mobilize students to have a personal ministry will be much more effective if you give students “tracks to run on” as you inspire them with stories and real life examples of others doing it well.

It’s important to give them benchmarks and goals to shoot for.

Here are six steps we use with students to help coach them along as they pursue their personal ministry targets:

Pick a target

Most students have a natural affinity group that they automatically fit into.

Believe it or not, students often have a life outside of hanging out with the people in your Christian group. You might be surprised!

Some potential affinity groups your students are already in may be their major, dorm floor, Greek chapter, sports team, hobbies, interests, apartment complex, club, workplace, or even group of friends.

Not every affinity group warrants the same kind of effort.

Some are so small that although we will want to share Christ with those folks it won’t take as much effort.

Some groups are more strategic than others in the grand scheme of building a movement on campus, so it may be helpful to point students to groups that have the most potential to multiply.

Mostly though, encourage students to seek the Lord and try to discern which groups to target first. You want them to be excited about which group they are seeking to reach.

Also, the Lord is gracious to guide us as we seek to advance His mission.

If the original target you hoped to reach out to is closed off, then look elsewhere for other lost pockets of people.

Put together a team

When possible, it is a game changer for a student to team up with a small group of fellow laborers to seek to love and share Christ among their group.

If a group of your students can move into the same dorm floor together or join the same sorority for this purpose, that is ideal.

If you have a team, you will have built in motivation and accountability.

It can be such a powerful thing for students to pray together for their lost friends, seek to serve the people in the group, and to boldly and creatively share the gospel together.

If a student is in an affinity group on campus but doesn’t have a team to serve with then that’s ok!

If you provide coaching and encouragement to this student leader they can have an effective personal ministry in the hardest mission field on campus. A motto I love is “You plus the Holy Spirit is a majority everywhere you go.”

God is able to do amazing things through broken and weak people. He will honor those who are willing to step out in faith and obedience to His command to go and make disciples.

Yes, put together a team whenever possible, but don’t let a lack of a team stop you from doing what you can to reach those students who desperately need to hear the gospel.

Pray like crazy

Praying for the people in your targets should be a daily practice for anyone seeking to have a personal ministry. Times of prayer with other student leaders is helpful also.

Our core team has a Facebook group where we often share prayer requests about who we are sharing Christ with.

As a staff member you should not only be praying for your personal ministry targets but also for your student leaders.

Recently I have been trying to pray everyday for each one of the 36 people on our Core Team. It has been a stretch for me at times but I have found that as I labor for them in prayer my love for them has grown, and my ideas and vision for each one have grown also.

I love the illustration found in Exodus 17 that describes how Moses, as the leader, expressed his dependance on God.

His people won the battle, but when his hands were lowered, the enemy started winning. “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.” (Exodus 17:11)

This is a powerful illustration of how essential our prayers are as spiritual leaders.

Personal and faithful prayer for your staff and student leaders is one of the only ministry responsibilities that you can’t delegate.

I have found that there is a direct connection from how faithful I am to pray and how much prayer I mobilize to how God works through our ministry.

Proactively pursue relationships

Once a student has chosen their target it is essential for them to do whatever it takes to become an “insider.”

A great thing about being a student is that it is often possible for a student to move right into the area he is seeking to target.

If they are seeking to reach freshmen then moving into the dorms makes a lot of sense. If they want to reach a fraternity then moving into the house might be a good idea.

Moving is not an option for many students. It is important to explore other natural ways to build relationships with those within the affinity group.

Many students are already “insiders.” They just need to use the time they have with other students with more intentionality.

If there is not a strong social identity within the group, it may help to encourage that by planning regular get-togethers around a hobby that most people enjoy.

I tell the guys I am discipling that one of the only redeemable things about video games is that they can be a great icebreaker for friendships and eventually gospel conversations.

Help students think of creative ways to build relationships with their ministry target.

Preach the gospel boldly and broadly

One mistake many students make is being too slow about getting around to sharing the gospel with the people in their ministry target.

They spend so much time building relationships first that they start to get nervous about “ruining” those friendships by sharing the gospel. They start to lose focus on why they are there in the first place.

We have discovered that it is most effective if a student starts sharing the gospel as soon as possible with as many students as possible.

Most of our students don’t have the problem of being too bold that they are going around offending people all the time. Most people need to be encouraged to take the initiative in love in the context of relationship and leave the results up to God.

God is preparing lost students to hear the gospel all over campus. It’s a laborer’s job to discover those people by sharing the gospel with as many students as possible.

One of the key ministry principles I believe in is the concept of sowing broadly. As Steve Shadrach puts it, “there is a direct connection to how many students you share the gospel with and how many you lead to Christ!”

I recommend each student leader make a goal of doing a gospel appointment with as many students in their target group as possible.

One tool that has proven helpful for many is an investigative Bible discussion. A couple of good examples of these can be found on Navs and Cru.

After an initial gospel appointment a person is often not ready to trust Christ but is curious about exploring who Jesus is. This is a great opportunity to help the person explore Jesus as well as draw in other curious students if you encourage them to bring their friends.

I highly recommend you read Taylor Tollison’s excellent article, “This might be your most important ministry event” and the guide for Groups Investigating God put out by Intervarsity.

If you are looking for material to use, consider Seven Stories of Hope which have been used effectively to help people to explore Jesus around the world.

Honestly I would rather see students being too bold within their group and learning by trial and error how to effectively contextualize the gospel than waiting around too long to share Jesus with the friends they love.

There is something inconsistent about having the best news in the world that you know can transform your friend’s life and not sharing that with them.

The most loving thing a student can do is sit down face to face with each of their friends and lovingly share what Jesus has done for them.

It gives me chills just typing this and thinking about how the Lord uses simple gospel conversations.

A motto we use in our ministry is “When in doubt, share the gospel.”

Ninety-nine percent of the students in our ministries need an adrenaline shot of Holy Spirit-inspired boldness in their personal witnessing.

A great question to ask yourself as a college ministry leader is “How many students on my campus will hear the gospel this week?”

If you can increase that number year after year using relational methods I believe you will see a growing number of students coming to Christ.

Persistently prove your love for them

Faithful gospel ministry involves showing and telling!

As you share the gospel with as many people as possible within the target group, you will want to look for simple ways to serve the people who are in the group.

If it is a sports team, then going to some of their games is essential. If it is a dorm hall, helping people move in or offering rides to Walmart may be a great way to serve.

As you get into the lives of lost people, you may find yourself helping a drunk friend find his way home from a party and into bed.

Ask God to open your eyes for creative ways to truly love the people God has called you to reach. Do whatever you can to serve and love these people in practical ways.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

Your practical expressions of love will surprise people and make a greater impact than you will see in the moment.

Reflection Questions

Which of the steps above do you need to focus on the most?

What questions about this process do you have?

Make sure to fill out the Personal Ministry Target Worksheet to make goals and strategies to reach your target area. This will be a helpful tool to use with students and staff to intentionally reproduce this process.

Continue reading Helping students reach their personal ministry targets, part 5 to learn about “Persons of Peace.”