My first year as student leader of the OCF Chapter at MTSU, myself and a few friends met a couple of times a semester in my house. Three years later, we were meeting twice a week (once on campus and once our local parish) with anywhere from 10-30 students at each meeting. A few times, we even had as many as 40 students at a meeting!
Looking back on that experience, I can assure you it wasn’t quick or easy to help our chapter grow so much. Along the way, I had to learn a lot about college life, campus ministry, and my own strengths & weaknesses as a leader.
The two aspects of our chapter structure that engaged students with the most success were consistency and diversity.
We didn’t see a huge growth in our OCF chapter until the other students and I in our emerging group committed to meeting every week at the same time and the same place. It took some time before many students could get consistent at this, and sometimes I would be the only person to show up. The key change happened when we made that commitment not to cancel a meeting just because a few core members couldn’t come.Because we met every week, students who knew about us soon began to think of Thursday nights as “OCF night,” whether or not they came to our meetings. Because students were able to mentally dedicate that evening to OCF, many could plan ahead and leave that evening open so they could visit a meeting. Slowly but surely, our chapter grew.
Our group started as mostly Antiochian Orthodox converts (and second-generation converts, like myself). Although that was a good core group, we all knew that there was much more to Orthodox culture than our own, and that we were missing out. In year two I made it a personal goal to get at least one student from each major jurisdiction to an OCF meeting, and by the beginning of year three we had students in our chapter from Greek, Antiochian, Ethiopian, Coptic, and Eritrean backgrounds, in addition to many inquirers from other Christian faiths. The Greek Orthodox student was half Bulgarian, so you could very well say we had Bulgarians represented as well!For many of us who were raised Orthodox, this was our first opportunity to really build relationships with Orthodox Christians from other backgrounds. It was an incredible experience. I wasn’t the only one who cherished the opportunity, because students came back to meetings again and again.
That’s part of the model I used to help the OCF chapter at my university take root and grow, but what about you?
What strategies do you use to bring students to your OCF chapter meetings?