Connecting Freshmen

At a 4 Year Campus
Connecting Freshmen right from the beginning can have its challenges, yet Jeff Kennon, Texas Tech BSM Director, outlines how true connections are made with their new batch of freshmen.

How do you connect Freshmen to people in your ministry?
We begin the process of connecting freshmen during the numerous new student orientations Tech has over the summer. We work hard at contacting those freshmen we meet during those orientations through every means possible. Most key for us, however, is the first week. We host a $.99 Steak Night along with various other types of events in order to get to know and meet freshmen. We also do quite a bit of follow up from those we meet at our Steak Night and other events. We do this by delivering Welcome Packet type stuff to their dorm room. The most important aspects of these events are the connections our existing students establish with new students.

What ongoing activities are involved in connecting freshmen?
We have made some adjustments in our ongoing activities by adding a night meeting that is designed just for freshmen. Anyone can attend of course, but we have made this meeting a time where freshmen can get to know us and for us to begin the process of integrating them into our various ministries. We have designed this night meeting to exist for only 5 weeks, or rather, that is all we are asking freshmen to commit to at the start. During these 5 weeks, we have established certain curriculum we go through. After the 5 weeks, we are then doing a retreat in which we will go further into student’s spiritual gifts, etc. Our hope is that freshmen will catch the "vision" of BSM. Another key way we have connected with freshmen has been our Campus Groups. These are groups that meet in dorms, and they have been vital in meeting new students each week as well as reaching out to "lost" students.

How do you ensure they have a true connection and not just a superficial one when connecting freshmen?
Good question! On one side of this question is the reality that we can do all of the right things as far as events or gatherings go and yet there not be a genuine connection. We do all we can and pray much! But on the other side, we know there are some things we can do that will help develop community. We try to get freshmen involved in small groups and ministries as soon as possible. We are also honest and let freshmen know that it takes time for relationships to develop and that just because there is not an instant connection with others after one small group meeting doesn't mean that a sense of community will not happen.

How do you lead your leadership to be aware of the importance of connecting freshmen?
We have a long-term goal at Tech of developing a team of students that just works at connecting freshmen to our ministry. This group will include our dorm leaders as well as those who help coordinate the night meeting designed at integrating freshmen. We are still in process with this leadership group but are excited at the possibility of what can happen with them.

At a Junior College Campus
Yes, connecting freshmen right from the beginning can have its challenges, but Mark Jones, Tyler Junior College BSM Director, explains how they are connecting freshmen on their campus.

On the junior college campus, freshmen are a huge focus for ministry in the here and now, realizing that we often won't have the students around for long. We enlist and involve freshmen in our leadership structure immediately. They are invited to apply, and if included must sign the leader covenant and meet with BSM staff in one-on-one weekly meetings. We have also used sophomore ministry mentors with freshmen to keep them connected. 

Enlistment of freshmen begins in the summer, as we are present at all freshmen orientation times. We collect names and use texting and social media to make initial contact. Sophomore leaders call, text and visit during the first weeks of school.

Our small groups that meet in the dorms really target freshmen. I also use the devotional and large group times to deal with issues that are relevant for freshmen. I discuss with sophomores the feelings they had when starting college and how vital it is to make contact and include freshmen in activities.

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