Years ago, I was running across a putt-putt course and kicked a small root in the ground. As the box I was holding flew out of my arms, almost as if in slow motion, all of its contents went flying through the air while my body fell quickly to the ground in an immediate face plant. There is no way to be haughty or prideful in that moment. Being on your face in the dirt brings humility and an unavoidable shift in posture.
This year, in a similar way, we are taking our organizational chart and figuratively laying it on its face.
Historically, Impact has held an organizational structure that, at times, seemed top-down. The positions of director or exec would cast vision, make the bigger decisions and drive the mission. At other moments, we operated from a bottom-up approach where every voice was heard, personal goals were set across roles and feedback was welcomed and implemented. Both models have positive aspects; but over the years we have seen some of the challenges to both. This led us to pray and reconsider our leadership structure. This led us to reimagine our posture by simply laying us on our face.
Rather than a vertical approach to leadership, this flip is simply reframing our thinking to a leadership-followership model with one shared direction in mind. In marrying the idea of empowered leaders and excellent followers, we foster growth that produces character for years to come. For anyone who has ever been involved with Impact, you know that all 555 students are leaders. We empower that thought and ensure that each person knows their intrinsic value in this ministry. We encourage them to walk in confidence of that trusted leadership which brings strength, ownership and increased engagement.
With this comes a repurposed way of thinking for each one of our students. Though each are leaders, they are all in one or another a follower. God has placed individuals within Impact who give leadership to fellow students. For these students to be effective followers, they must listen well, serve wholeheartedly and display commitment. While they follow other students within Impact, they are ultimately following Our Leader of this ministry.
Imagine our organizational structure as if metaphorically set up on a battle field. Consider the above organizational chart from a bird’s eye view. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” We know who leads this organization. We embrace the charge that The Lord is leading. It is with God as our head that we find the most hope and confidence. It is with clarity of mission known by all 555 students that we find the most success. It is on our face in humility that we can move forward with power, all running in the same direction with the same goal in mind:
To glorify the Lord in every aspect of our existing while serving the incoming freshmen class and showing them their first glimpse of the body of Christ at Texas A&M and Blinn.
Review of 2018 Retreat
For ten days, nearly 1700 freshmen occupied the campgrounds at Latham Springs as over 550 staff showed them the importance of living a life for Christ in college. Throughout these days, freshmen experienced many things during their session, including camp competitions, high-energy dance parties, and engaging large-group games. Outside of creating hilarious roll calls, camps had meaningful conversations while getting to meet people from all over the country.
The environment of retreat presents the Gospel of Jesus Christ through authentic worship, the power of expectant prayer and staff testimonies of how God has changed their lives. These relationships with staff provide the space to ask questions about following Christ in college while being vulnerable and honest within their small groups about where The Lord has them as they enter this new stage.
We are thankful for the time with the freshmen this August and have successfully been able to help connect freshmen to the Body of Christ at Texas A&M and Blinn. Now, we are more than excited to get started to prepare for what the Lord has in store for Impact 2019!
By the Numbers
An estimated 70-80% of incoming freshmen will walk away from their Christian faith during their first year of college. As Impact aims to connect freshmen to the local church, the hope is this would happen seamlessly, like a perfect baton pass from the faith and community they found in high school to the exciting newness of growth to be found in Christian community in Bryan/College Station.
As a staff we strive to make Impact the best experience possible. But it is beyond the retreat where the real attack on the above statistic takes place. One of the major reasons freshmen drop their faith in college is a lack of resources to connect them to the Christian community in that college city. This is where Impact and the partnership with 20+ local churches comes into play.
Just three weeks after the start of fall classes, Impact freshmen were surveyed and the results are unbelievably encouraging! First, we use the term “follow up” to refer to the first month or two relationship between an Impact counselor and their freshmen. When asked if their Impact counselor followed up well with them, 71% said “Yes, Beyond my expectations” and an additional 25% said “Yes. It has been good.”.
While this relationship is of great value, our primary advocacy is for the church and the longevity it brings for the college career of these incoming freshmen. We asked: “Do you feel like you've "landed" at a local church?”
49% I am confident in my local church choice!
46% I have visited, but haven't settled on one.
To know that 95% of Impact freshmen attended a local church body and that nearly 50% are confident in that church within the first few weeks of starting college is so worthy of praise. It is a testament to the way the local churches invite them in and show them where they can belong, ways they can grow, and how they can serve.
That said, we strongly encourage our staff to be the ones extending the invitation and willingly going with these freshmen while they aim to find a church they can call home. When asked if Impact staff have offered to take you to a local church or go with you to one, 46% said they went with one of their Impact leaders and an additional 53% said they offered but have gone with other friends. That’s an incredible 99% physically offering an invitation. This is evidence that our staff are bought into the vision of the local church and charting a new set of statistics that will ultimately lead to a higher Christian faith retention of incoming freshmen.
These glimpses of fruit fuel us for Impact 2019! It’s in evaluation we can be even more effective in the way that we do our ministry. It is our hope and prayer that in the future, we can have more freshmen say that they have landed at a church home quickly and that our staff continue to do a great job leading in the transition for freshmen from high school to college!