Mapping your relational networks can open doors to new ministry opportunities.
NSO Ice cream give-away and other welcome ideas
They’re coming this fall — hordes of freshmen and new students to your campus. While your school is preparing their dorms, classes and cafeteria food, your InterVarsity group can prepare now to personally welcome newcomers who are looking for new friends, new experiences and, for some, new life and purpose in Jesus. Here are some ideas to unleash your creativity and have some fun with New Student Outreach (NSO).
“NSO is our busiest time of the year as we meet hundreds of new people. On the outside, it looks like just a flurry of activities but, in actuality, NSO is about the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me … rivers of living will flow from within them” (John 7:38). NSO is about the opportunity to love new students extravagantly and offer them hospitality. It is about inviting people to come and see this man named Jesus who offers living water. It is about being people from whom rivers of living water flow.” —Esther Wong, St. Louis University (MO)
Ice custard happiness
When “Free Rita’s” were offered to new students at Alvernia University (PA), the lines started forming. Students hung around for a raffle and a short presentation about InterVarsity.“Giving away ice cream treats and pretzels created a great opportunity for students to learn more about God and be invited to join his mission on our campus,” said Danny Greenawalt, InterVarsity staff. Rita’s donated more than 100 coupons for the raffle. “Asking businesses to contribute can be a win/win since it’s an opportunity for them to advertise to incoming students and attract more business — and we got a lot of free coupons to give away.”
We prepare for NSO with 1,440 bottles of water and 2,300 contact cards. Our students return to campus a few days early to get themselves settled and ready to show hospitality to new students on Move-In Day. The next day we station water tables strategically throughout campus and offer free bottles of water and information about InterVarsity. It’s our primary means of publicity and initial contact with many students. —Scott Beatty, University of Illinois
Bouncing off the walls
We were on a prayer walk around our two-year community college of 18,000 students when the Lord gave us a creative idea: a bounce house in the middle of campus. It suited the atmosphere in our community— playful and fun! A local church sponsored the event in partnership with our students. We inflated the bounce house on a Friday morning and watched students enjoy themselves throughout day. The InterVarsity students hung around and chatted with everyone who came by, handing out Bible study invitations and InterVarsity knapsacks. It was great fun! —Erin Straughan, Johnson County Community College (KS)
Stories for chocolate
At our NSO bounce house, I met students who had a lot they wanted to say but no friends to share with, so that led to a very simple idea. We reserved a table and made a sign that said, “Tell me a story and I’ll give you a candy bar." People lined up to tell their stories! Some tales were sad and tragic, like the student who had three close relatives die within thirty hours. Others were heroic, funny or just plain odd. One student talked about out-snowboarding an avalanche. I heard stories about a magical turtle named Mervin, a hedgehog named Harry and a wizard named Funnyfunny Mr. Mustache. I love NSO! —Erin Straughan, Johnson County Community College (KS)
Start a party
We had to radically alter our NSO plans when the university moved freshman orientation to take place over the entire summer rather than the two days before the semester starts. Our group prayed and trusted in God’s faithfulness as we actively hung out in the dorms and hosted many parties with pizza, ice cream, pancakes and brownies. We’d start a party and end up playing games with 20-30 students in a lounge. Our leaders put on such great parties that some of the Resident Assistants got program credits for the semester. —Sarah Burke, University of Nevada, Reno [Photo by Gwendolyn Barr]
We have a small chapter and our best NSO idea is called “Brunch Bunch.” Every Saturday in September and October we invite all our freshmen and new students to a brunch held in the home of a junior or senior chapter member who cooks breakfast for them. They eat together, play games and get to know each other. There is a short devotional about a topical relevant to freshman. It’s a great time for older students to serve the freshman and for friendships to develop. These brunches build a sense of community early in the fall. —Esther Wong, St. Louis University (MO)
Bubble Tea Bash
Just following the chalkings for “Free Bubble Tea!” For the past eight years, Asian InterVarsity at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor has been passing out free bubble tea for our kickoff NSO event. Attracting a diverse crowd of around 1,500 each year, students fill out information cards as they stand in a snaking line, awaiting their tea. Conversations strike up around proxe stations and atrium benches where new relationships develop. In a nearby room, students are praying for good conversations and asking God to bring those searching for a relationship with him. God has never failed to use this event for his glory on campus! —Sara Wolfgram, University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
Take me out to the ballgame …
NSO is a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game and a picnic for InterVarsity chapters in southeastern Wisconsin. “New students have a whole day to form friendships with our chapter members — it’s quality time,” said Bob Wolniak, InterVarsity staff. “For some international students, it’s their first experience of American baseball.”
At the picnic, chapters compete in relay races and crazy games, such as catching chocolate-covered marshmallows or sticking the most cotton swabs on a person covered in tape. The winning chapter gets a traveling trophy. A Brewers player from the team’s Bible study shares his testimony and answers questions about being a professional baseball player. Read more in the article, Baseball, Books, and Sticky Tape.
Praying a blessing
Often in the past our NSO efforts have focused on recruiting new members for our chapter. Now we see NSO primarily as an opportunity to bless new students and pray for them. Usually after I’ve met someone, I’ll offer, “Can I bless you today by praying for you?” A student leader who tried this with me was incredulous at the open doors it provided, saying, “It’s like making something out of nothing.” Praying for others blesses all of us! —Peter Horton, University of Wisconsin
Do your NSO shopping at the InterVarsity Store and stock up on give-aways and other NSO merchandise. You’ll find much more than T-shirts galore, with stadium cups, backsacks, flying discs, lip balm, highlighters, balloons, pens, lanyards and other cool NSO stuff.