The first few weeks of a new student’s college experience are incredibly important. Within the first forty days of school, many students form the habits and make the friends they will keep for the duration of their time in college. This means that it is CRUCIAL for OCF to reach out to incoming students within the first forty days of classes.
Here are some guidelines for reaching out effectively to new students:
1. Please make your best effort to contact students before the first forty days of school have passed! This probably means before the end of September on your campus.
2. It’s best if a fellow student makes the first contact with a new student rather than a spiritual advisor, lay coordinator, or faculty advisor. Hearing that staying engaged in your Orthodox faith important part of college life from a peer is often more valuable to fellow students initially.
3. We suggest that you start by emailing new students--something general and friendly about your OCF chapter, when and where you are meeting this semester, and perhaps a word of encouragement from Scripture or a spiritual author or something special about your chapter.
4. After 3-7 days from your initial email or directly prior to your first OCF event, make phone calls to your new students and personally invite them to the upcoming event.
5. If you have no success via email or phone, use Facebook to reach new students, but send them a private message rather than adding them as a friend.
Here are some principles to follow as you are contacting new students and encouraging them to get involved in OCF:
1. Get to know the person. If you have the opportunity, try asking new students about their interests, their classes, etc. Convey to them that you care about them as people, more than you care about your attendance numbers at your weekly meetings.
2. Be of service. If you get the chance, offer to serve a new student in some way--be it helping them move into their dorm, driving them to Church, or inviting them out for coffee or a meal.
3. Openness is key! Be friendly and cordially invite new students to be a part of your OCF activities. Be open to their ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Remember that while some students will be overjoyed that you have reached out to them and will join in OCF events excitedly, some may be more hesitant at first for a variety of reasons (don’t assume you know what those reasons are). Make sure they know that OCF and the Church are always open to them, even if they aren’t ready to jump in head-first just yet.
4. Respect is essential! Respect people’s privacy, their personalities, and their right to choose not to come to OCF or to Church. The Lord has given them freedom--you can’t take it away! Resist the temptation to judge those who make that choice or pressure them through guilt into coming along. Love is much more attractive than judgement, and love is patient.
5. Leave a calling card. Give the new student your personal information, ask if you can friend them on Facebook, give them information about the local parish, etc. Make sure they have a way to find OCF later if they decide to come.
6. Follow up. Keep in touch with students over the course of the semester, but try not to overwhelm no-shows with too many activities or events. Instead, be selective and invite those who seem less involved to something once-a-month or so, rather than every time you get together.
7. Pray! Remember that no matter what, praying for your fellow students is an important part of your role as an OCF leader. Ask that the Lord to inspire your fellow students with love for Him and zeal for His Church and that He be with them through the struggles of college life.