Ian Gaston

From Un-Excited to On Fire: How to Help Your Campus’ Catholic Club

As a freshman in college I found that my campus Catholic club left something to be desired. While it wasn’t really bad, it was definitely not what I wanted or expected coming into college. I wanted somewhere to grow in my faith and to build a community of believers and tight friendships, but my Newman Club was not the place for it. As I watched the attendance of the club’s meeting dwindle as the year went by, I knew that other people wanted more as well.

I knew something had to be fixed, and not just for myself but for my fellow students and also for the incoming freshmen who would expect more like I did. I couldn’t just leave the abandon the program and risk losing newbies who had a small interest in the club.

Imagine a Catholic who is not super into his or her faith, but is interested enough to come to one Newman meeting. But when he or she comes, she finds that the meeting is not interesting and doesn’t come back. I… we… owe that person more. We have an obligation to help them grow in their faith, even if it means we have to revamp a club that’s 10 years old.

So what can we do to make a club better?

1. Start Planning Now

This is the biggest thing we have to do. If we do not plan for next semester now, we will have to plan for it at the beginning of the year. New freshman will come in and see a disorganized program rather than a jumping, fun club. In order to bring in new members we need to hit the ground running at the beginning of the year.

2. Come up with Goal for a club

Without a goal or main mission of the club, everything we do will be fragmented. The first thing we do should be to come up with a goal that will determine how we run everything else. The goal my club came up with for next year is to build a community of support and belief.

3. Design New T-shirts

In this process of revamping the club, we are essentially building a new club from the old one. As such, we turn to the age-old adage ‘New club, new shirts.’ Shirts get people excited about the club and also are a tangible representation of membership. Making new ones also symbolizes that you intend for your club to be something different next semester: something new, exciting, and fresh.

4. Make an awesome Orientation Week

Orientation is of utmost importance. Freshman are looking for clubs to join and might feel a little out of place or lonely. This semester we need to plan out specific events to draw new members. These events can be as simple as making pancakes in a dorm. During these events we need to get peoples’ numbers and reach out to them personally—invite them to coffee, ask them how orientation is going, show them around campus or the city if they come from far away. Having personal interactions with newbies will show them we care and want them to take part in our clubs.

5. Keep it Going

After orientation week is over, we cannot stagnate and allow the club to devolve back to what it once was. Throughout the year we have to work to improve it. Bring in new members as much as you can, work to build friendships, and above all be present at the club’s events to show we care.

6. Pray

Constantly pray throughout the summer for leadership skills and a new freshman group who can breathe life into our clubs. Without prayer none of the other steps really matter.

Although we can walk away from a club because it seems like we have no obligations, we can’t. We do have obligations to any person who has even a slight interest in a Catholic club. We owe it to them to improve and make something we can all be proud of. If your Catholic club on campus is not as good as it can be, take initiative and do something about it; do not be content with something less than representative of the beauty of Catholicism.

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Ian Gaston

About the Author

I'm a freshman in college just trying to stay joyfully holy and get to heaven while singing very badly and loudly, calling my best friends "fool," and writing fantastical stories.