Realtors call it curb appeal. It is the desirability created when someone checks out your place for the first time. And in real estate, it’s very important. The value of a property can go up by thousands of dollars just by adding a little fresh paint and a few shrubs. Prospective renters and buyers will often decide how they feel about a situation before they ever get out of the car based on curb appeal, which is why the weekly lunch at the MSSU Baptist Student Union is worth a lot of my time. It gives our ministry curb appeal.
We call it NoonDay Café, but more often than not students just call it the BSU lunch. We do it every Wednesday during the semester and for many students it’s their first exposure to our ministry. We often don’t know them, and they don’t know us, so we take a low-key approach by offering it ‘no strings attached.’ There’s no cover charge, no devotional, no worship service, not even a gospel tract to take home. They come, they eat, they leave. All we do is feed. Simple. Curb appeal.
And because we keep it simple, there’s no sense of pressure. It’s attractive because we definitely want students to come to us and have a positive experience, but it’s also incarnational because we make sure it’s a natural environment. There’s no hidden agenda, no bait-and-switch. We try to get to know people little by little and week by week as they come for lunch, but what God does is pretty amazing. As they get to know us, and vice versa, the Spirit moves. We’ve had people accept Christ, commit to a mission trip or Bible study, and even plug into a local church -all over a plate of spaghetti.
These types of stories, of course, make my time spent making phone calls to churches to schedule the meals and running to Sam’s Club for paper goods and wiping down tables when its over completely worthwhile. And from a purely selfish standpoint, it gives me a better connection to the churches who serve, and gives those churches a first-hand glimpse of college ministry. While we’re together I often regale the volunteers with the latest stories of how God is moving through the BSU and remind them how grateful I am for their support. Mega-brownie points, right? Yep. And totally worth it. Those churches are the life-blood of our ministry and they deserve our praise.
NoonDay Café. When students first think about the BSU at Missouri Southern, their first impression is usually hot, tasty and free. We’ve worked hard to cultivate that, and it’s paid huge dividends. It gives us curb appeal. Other ministries, I know, have other methods; no two houses are the same. So, what gives your ministry that extra something that makes people want to check it out? I would love to hear the answer.