Going Where Students Are

The year was 1951. Bill and Vonette Bright stepped onto the campus of UCLA to fulfill their call in helping to fulfill the Great Commission. They wanted to impact the world, which meant impacting the future leaders of the world, which meant going where the students were – the college campus.

But “going where the students are” is taking on a whole new meaning today. It’s moved beyond just showing up on campus, and going to the student union, or walking into a greek house. Where are the students? Where are they spending most of their time? What’s their preferred medium of communication?

I remember when I was a student in the early mid 90’s, and the excitement of having my first email account. I could communicate with my HS friends all over the US by simply typing a few paragraphs and hitting send. But countless hours were still spent in the dining hall or the student union sitting across the table having face-to-face conversations. By the time my senior rolled around, those hours in the dining hall started to decrease, while hours on the computer and ICQ quickly increased.

But what strikes me most when I think back to those days as a student were the numbers of vendors that would set up tables on the West Mall (the high student traffic area on our campus), compared to how many I saw in recent years. The decrease was drastic. So are vendors deciding not to target college students anymore? Of course not. No, they actually understand the concept of being where the students are.

[A little excerpt from mediapost.com]

Marketing Where the Students Are: The “average” college student has 87 email contacts, 146 cell phone contacts and 438 “friends” on social networks. Men tend to have more cell phone contacts and women more “friends.”   Marketers have become especially interested in this sphere of influence of 671 potential consumers around each student.  This is true especially in social networking where almost 40% of college students have “friended” a brand or product online, double the national average.   The digital world has many possibilities as college students access more than 14 screens a day – compared with just over 5 for all adults.   They prefer text messaging to face to face communication and 83% have visited a website associated with a TV program they watched.  More than 60% have watched a TV show online through sites like Hulu or Joost during the past year.   (mediapost.com February 25, 2010)

Marketers get it, and are pouring thousands into effective marketing strategies to reach students. How much more do we need to figure out how to effectively be where students are? We’re not pushing a product. (2 Corinthians 2:17) We’re talking about the gospel. We’re talking about where these students will spend an eternity. We’re talking about how they experience life here on earth. A life of freedom in Christ. We’re talking about impacting souls for generations to come!

One final comment. Check out my friends post on students’ preferred methods of communication.

What do we need to do differently (if anything) for us to continue to be effective in “helping to fulfill the Great Commission”? What’s keeping us from doing those things?