Enhancing Student Ministry
This is a project that has literally been a decade in the making with lots of stops and starts. Some of the hold-up was a lack of a student database. With the recent move to Salesforce, the door was finally open to create an app for student leaders that could enhance campus ministry.
Greek Ministry, a focused ministry of InterVarsity’s, had been spearheading these efforts to have a digital app alongside the “Greek Box”: a kit containing everything a student leader needs to lead a small group, including a spiral bound leader’s guide.
Previous efforts had included user research with developed personas that I could draw from.
However, none of the research had explored the angle of what the life of a student leader was like in a semester. I knew this app was intended to be used over the course of a semester, so I took this opportunity to host an exploratory workshop where we took the persona information and aligned to a semester.
We broke into 2 groups — one group that focused on the student leader semester, and one who focused on the staff semester.
We identified major events in each month, observations from the personas, and how the app could potentially enhance ministry at the time.
Based on the persona and the semester, the product owner identified the major features for Staff, Student Leader, and App Administrator.
How will we know if we are successful?
We also wanted to identify some criteria to know we were successful.
- They chuckle when they use it
- The app enhances ministry, not keeps them from doing it
- They feels more confident, motivated, and connected/supported
- Staff feels more confident, informed and effective in developing student leaders
- Staff can take on more student leaders
- Staff spend more time in deeper issues rather than surface issues that the app will now report on.
With major features, success criteria, and a narrative about how the semester should go, I started to build something more tangible.
Screen & Content Strategy
I like to build what I call hybrid sitemap-content strategy maps, which you can read more about here. I started laying out where the main features would live on which screens, which gives me a head start on prototyping.
Initial screen design
Normally I have a style guide I’m working from and I design in high fidelity from the beginning. However, InterVarsity was in the middle of a rebrand effort, and since I really didn’t know where that would be heading, I went with a more typical wireframe style.
Based on the major features and attributes of the persona and desires of the stakeholders, I chose to emphasize a few things:
- Other Bible studies happening on campus
- What the latest update from other student leaders was
- The next upcoming bible study
However, this did not align with what the product owner was envisioning. The feel they wanted was relational — that this wasn’t about “doing”, it was about seeing your friends come to Christ, so I developed an alternate screen to present to students.
Normally I live in Wisconsin, but my husband and I take off during the winter to lovely Arizona, which happened to be near one of the Greek Student Leader Conferences in LA, which happened to fall on the weekend before we were supposed to leave Arizona! In a last minute scramble, I was able to book a flight and get to Greek Conference LA.
I had two goals:
- Attend Lead 101 training to be immersed in how students were trained.
- Talk to students!
Lead 101 Training
Lead 101 is the training student leaders go through before receiving their first Greek box. Even though I had Greek leadership explaining Greek ministry to me during our exploratory workshop, I learned so much by being immersed in the training. It turned out they had forgotten to explain a core framework to me that everything about a Greek Chapter Ministry revolves around:
- Follow Up
My initial wireframes accounted for none of that! I started sketching on the back of my paper what a revised home screen would be like with all this new information.
Normally I don’t recommend focus groups because I’d rather talk to people 1:1, but that was all the conference planners would allow. It didn’t matter though because no one showed up 😅.
Time to improvise! I quickly put together a card sort that we could text to students instead and nabbed a table where I could recruit (cough hold hostage cough) students to take a look while they waited in line for food.
Because my time with students was so short, and I was curious to hear their reaction of the fullest experience rather than trying to explain what a wireframe was, I ended up adding visual design to the major screens.
They were shown the relational home screen that Greek Leadership preferred and the new screen that emphasized the weekly cycle that I had created the night before.
This yielded interesting insights that surprised the Greek Leadership — I asked them generally about how their student leadership was going and how an app might fit into it
The book doesn’t quite follow how I actually work
“I am a student leader, work a job, and have to do school work — the more it can help me be organized, the better.”
I never do the prep videos — they’re a pain to find.
We skip around lessons sometimes — flexibility is needed
Greek Leadership had never actually observed a student leader using the physical leader guide!
Unfortunately, I have no pictures of students taking a look — apparently the only picture I took in LA was of tacos 🌮.
Card sort results
There were 3 Greek Conferences, and so across the 3 conferences I was able to hear from 116 students about what features wow’d them, which they didn’t think they needed, what were must haves, and any that students weren’t sure what they were.
This is actually one of the higher rates of agreement I’ve ever gotten and between the student feedback and the card sort, it was clear that the emphasis on the cycle and organization was what would help enhance student ministry.
Based on Greek conference, we tabled a few major features and narrowed down into what seemed truly essential. However, there was one sticky point.
Bible Study Guide
As I’ve mentioned, there’s a physical leader book. Students had expressed a desire for the app to also include study guide from the physical book. However, Greek Leadership asked for the study guide to be pulled from the app. We had a choice before us:
- We could offer the guide in the app, as asked for by students so that they would always have their study guide on them. This would increase our development time and content management time to add a significant amount of content.
- We could not offer the guide in the app, as asked for by staff to encourage students to be more responsible and to reap the benefits of studying by book instead of studying by phone. This would be much shorter in development.
We obviously want to listen to our students, but we also want to instill responsibility into our students. Sometimes that means not giving them what they asked for. How do we choose? One philosophy I am using more is making decisions based on what we value.
- Proposal 1 leaned on the value of student feedback and ease of accessibility at expense of a longer build time.
- Proposal 2 leaned on the value of responsibility and good habits and a shorter build time at the expense of student feedback.
While it was a sticky decision, it was quick to make — we had already established a value for a shorter build time. We would wait to see what more widespread feedback was and could build it in later.
I’ve shared some highlights, but there’s a lot more under the hood that I could talk to you about for hours! The next phase of development includes a leader feed, resource library, and automated coaching reminders.
- The app is in Phase 1 development.