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7 out-of-the-box college outreach ideas

It is easy to get in a rut when thinking about ministry to college students. Too often, churches think that to minister to students, they need to have a worship service targeting students or the ability to take them on a mission trip. Though both of those avenues can be successful, they are not the only options. Stay connected with college students with these five out-of-the-box ministry ideas.

1. Host a free laundry night.

No one likes to spend money on laundry, and college students are no exception. If your church has washers and dryers, host a night for students to come and do their laundry for free. It can be a great time to interact with students — and give them an unexpected financial boost.

2. Serve midnight breakfast during finals.

This one will take a some planning and coordination with your local college or university, but it will be worth it. The idea is simple. Gather some of your best omelette and bacon cooks, several hotplates and plenty of food and head to the lobby of the nearest dorm. The bacon aroma may be the only advertising you need to make the pain of finals a little more bearable. Be sure to bring along several people to help serve food, chat with students and maybe even quiz them on their final subject.

3. Offer career coaching by successful professionals in your congregation.

Many college students graduate without thinking through the next steps toward a career. Recruit some “stars” who are thriving in their careers and offer free counseling services to students interested in similar fields. You will help students move toward success in their careers and let successful professionals use their experience in ministry. If you need help recruiting mentors, tap into SCORE a nonprofit network of successful entrepreneurs who mentor students and professionals for free. They also offer many other types of business and entrepreneurship training for very low cost. 

4. Use your church bus to transport students to free fun in your city.

Often, college students arrive in a city, lacking  transportation or knowledge of the city’s free entertainment such as parks or museums with free days. Recruit a couple of drivers to spend a day each week transporting students to local fun. Since you are providing a helpful service, ask the college to help you advertise through email or the student web portal.

5. Offer free paper proofing.

Every church has a handful of people who spot every typo in each Sunday bulletin. Rather than lamenting their gift for proofreading, channel it into a useful outreach to students by offering to proof papers free. Offer a single night for proofreading or set up an address to which students can email their papers and get a response in a couple of days.

6. Recruit strong backs for move-in day.

Students and parents show up on move-in day with much more stuff than they would ever carry up the stairs at home. Coordinate with the college and develop a badge to signify that you are approved by the school to be there and to help those moving in.  

Then begin recruiting volunteers who are good at carrying boxes and handy with a dolly to help make move-in day a little less stressful. Take it to the next level by having volunteers wear church shirts or nametags. If you plan ahead, you can also invite the students you help to your free laundry night or fun city tour.

7. Offer free church bus tickets to an out-of-town game.

Another way to use your church bus or van in ministry with college students is to find a volunteer willing to drive it to one or two out-of-town sporting events. Since seating is limited, make tickets so that you can give students a safe and free ride to support their team.

Jeremy Steele

When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Al. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!

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