Starting a Chapter
Form a Fellowship
Wise practices that build relationships on campus
In forming a law student fellowship, make sure to understand and engage the campus correctly, building respectful and sound relationships on campus. Specifically, students should keep the following in mind:
- Be respectful in your treatment of the administrators and other student groups.
- Place “Everyone Welcome” on all materials your chapter posts or distributes. While CLS continues to require that leaders agree to the CLS Statement of Faith, CLS has always welcomed all students to attend its events and activities. By placing “Everyone Welcome” on written materials, it makes your policy clear.
- Also place a disclaimer on all materials your chapter posts or distributes to the following effect: “The law school neither sponsors nor endorses CLS’s meetings or speech.” Again, this may help to reassure the university that law students will understand that CLS’s speech and meetings are not the university’s own speech or meetings.
- Build relationships with other student organizations if possible. Begin with obvious allies in other campus ministries, faith groups, and “traditional” groups and branch out as seems wise. We want you to reach out, encouraging your colleagues on campus.
Building a Student Chapter
Where should Christian students begin when it comes to starting a fellowship group?
They should begin in prayer, meditating on the words of the psalmist, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
Commit the Work to the Lord
They should prayerfully commit the task to the Lord after “counting the cost” (Luke 14:28-30), entering upon the endeavor only after recognizing that it will entail planning and hard work, especially at the beginning when only one or two students may be taking the initiative.
Finally, they should undertake the task with an understanding that the biblical concept of leadership requires them to be servants (Matthew 20:25-28).
After committing the task to the Lord in prayer and counting the cost, CLS suggests that the student leaders review the “Affiliation Materials” (click here) and take the steps outlined below.
Become Familiar with Law Student Ministries
If you do not receive the Resource Packet by August 15, contact LSM immediately! Don’t let this stop you from continuing to build your fellowship! Continue to follow the steps below, and access the information contained in the packet on the website.
Identify Other Christian Students on Campus
Identify and contact other Christian students who might be interested in helping you to form a chapter. How?
- If you are a CLS member, check the member directory to find other members on your campus.
- Contact Law Student Ministries at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if there are other student contacts on your campus.
- If your school has a student activity or organization day at the beginning of the year, it is extremely important for you to obtain permission from your school to set up a table at the event.
- Display some of the materials from the Student Resource Packet mailing at your table and be sure to have a one-page handout describing your local CLS chapter listing your planned activities, contact information, and a regular meeting time and place (if you have one.
- This is an important time to obtain contact information from interested students in order to build you mailing list. Be sure to have a sign-up sheet to gather names and emails.
Plan an Initial Meeting and Contact Students
Contact other students directly, informing them that you are starting a CLS chapter, briefly explaining what you seek to do and announcing the date, time and location of the first meeting.
Always include the name, telephone number and e-mail address of a key student or students who can give more information about the chapter and take sign-ups. Also include a disclaimer on any posted information that “the law school neither sponsors nor endorses CLS’s meetings or speech” and that “all students are welcome”.
Common sources of advertising or exposure to the law school community (ask your school!) include:
- The school newspaper;
- The school email list-serve;
- Flyers placed in the student lounge, cafeteria, foyers, and other strategic locations;
- Banners or large posters placed in high-visibility areas, such as on bulletin boards;
- Information services of various campus ministries or chaplains;
- Student folders or mailboxes and e-mail addresses;
- Sign-up sheets posted in student lounges or other high-traffic areas; and,
- Written notices on blackboards and verbal announcements in classes or at student events.
Plan your first organizational meeting and announce the time and place through the most effective means of communication at your school.
Your First Meeting
Commit the meeting to the Lord by opening in prayer. (Luke 18:1-8; Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17; and Ephesians 6:18)
Allow plenty of time to get to know one another.
- An icebreaker or short game is sometimes helpful. Another technique is to use a “buddy” system: break up the group into pairs or small groups of three; allow time for the students in each group to get to know one another; then reconvene the group and have each student introduce one of their new friends to the rest of the group.
Discuss what the chapter should accomplish and what needs it should meet.
- A good place to start in addressing this issue is the LSM mission and vision discussed in this manual. Encourage an open forum environment, so that everyone will feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
Discuss the step of becoming an officially recognized student chapter of the Christian Legal Society. For reasons outlined in this manual and in other materials in the Resource Packet, we recommend that your student group officially organize and affiliate as a CLS student chapter. The affiliation process is discussed in Section II of this chapter.
Determine who will serve as the leaders or officers of the fellowship. Depending on the size of the group, you will generally need three to five officers. If the group decides to formally affiliate with CLS, the chapter’s officers will need to join CLS, which entails filling out an application containing a statement of faith and paying annual dues.
Make sure to schedule a second meeting or a special event at the end of the first meeting.
Pass around a sign-up sheet to gather essential information: name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, year in school, and hobbies and interests. Ask those present if they know the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of other students who may be interested in CLS.
Either at the end of the first meeting or shortly thereafter, those committed to organizing the chapter should divide up the names of all the students at your school who are interested in the group. Make sure to follow up personally with these students and to:
- Take the time to cultivate friendships and relationships (for many students, law school is one of the loneliest times of their lives);
- Explain the chapter’s purposes to them, invite them to the next meeting, and ask them how the group can meet their needs and concerns; and,
- consistently pray for them.
Become a Recognized Student Group at Your School
Find out how to become a recognized student organization at your school. A good place to start is to inquire at the Dean’s office; at many law schools, the Student Bar Association (SBA) oversees the process of certifying student groups. At others, the process is automatic so long as the chapter remains in good standing. The importance of formal recognition is that it gives you access to the school’s facilities, forums, and means of communication and sometimes even funding. Being recognized and an official student group is also the cheapest form of public relations that you can have since your scheduled events could appear on the school’s calendars!
Get to Know Available Resources
To facilitate the organization, management, and promotion of your group, make use of available resources, including other people and interested organizations!
LSM can connect you with other law school chapters, local attorneys, law professors who are CLS members and other organizations that work with CLS.
Websites and Other LSM Resources
The list on page 6 of this manual will be helpful for you and your group. For example, you’ll find Bible studies, video discussion starters, articles, an extensive bibliography, study guides, podcasts, and more at the CLS and Cross & Gavel websites.
If your fellowship group is blessed to have a CLS attorney, law professor, or InterVarsity, Cru, or CCO staff member as an advisor, make sure to keep him or her informed of the chapter’s activities. If your group does not have an advisor, the LSM staff will work with you to try to locate one. Additionally, CLS and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA work closely on law school campuses, with InterVarsity staff available to minister to law students in partnership with LSM. Your local IVCF Graduate and Faculty Ministry (GFM) staffer is a valuable resource for your ministry on campus. If you’d like to get in touch with your campus staffer, please contact Anton Sorkin at email@example.com.
Surveys & Polls
Take a survey of chapter members to discover their needs, personal goals and the talents and skills they can bring to the chapter.
Local CLS Attorney Chapter
If your city has an attorney chapter, please contact their leaders and let them know what you are doing on campus! Local lawyers will be of great help to your group, providing encouragement, speakers for your meetings, and loads of wisdom! Again, LSM staff can get you connected with local attorney groups.
The Law School Community
Gather information from the Student Activities Office, the SBA, Student Government and other sources on campus to discover:
- resources that are available to student groups;
- perceptions and attitudes of students and faculty toward CLS and the local Christian Law Fellowship; and,
- goals of other student organizations, with an eye toward shared ministry and cosponsoring events.
We understand that the law school experience is a challenging time, where the stress of opportunity makes it easy to forget the calling to love your neighbor. If nothing else, pray for your classmates and seek out opportunities to serve them.
The School Newspaper
Publish an article discussing the formation of your chapter and its goals and any scheduled events and fundraisers.
Other CLS Fellowships
Other Christian law fellowships can be an invaluable resource, providing encouragement and a wealth of information. Consider co-sponsoring an event with a local attorney chapter or with another student chapter at a law school in your area. For contacts at other Christian law fellowships, please contact the LSM office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 894-1080.
Local Churches and Other Campus Ministries
Your local church and campus ministries such as InterVarsity, Cru, CCO, Search, and Navigators can provide a broad array of resources, materials, and insights on maintaining a campus fellowship group. LSM has developed partnerships with some of these ministries and would be happy to facilitate collaborations on the local level. Again, please use your local InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministry (GFM) staff person as a resource. These are just a few pointers on getting started. If you have questions or need guidance, please do not hesitate to contact Law Student Ministries.
The LSM staff exists to help you glorify God by developing a strong Christian Law Fellowship on your campus.
Affiliating with Christian Legal Society
By affiliating with CLS, a college or law school chapter does not lose its primary identity as a local fellowship of Christian students. Instead, by becoming an official CLS student chapter, the group gains valuable benefits and joins a national grassroots network of lawyers and law students, committed to proclaiming, loving and serving Jesus Christ, through all we do and say in the practice of law, and advocating biblical conflict reconciliation, public justice, religious freedom and the sanctity of human life.
Why Affiliate with CLS?
The group may promote its meetings and activities with the nationally-recognized name of “Christian Legal Society” and with CLS symbols and trademarks. For example, an affiliated student chapter may reproduce the familiar CLS cross/scales-of-justice symbol, use the CLS and LSM mottos, and state that a speaker is sponsored by CLS or by one of its four ministries.
The chapter will have more immediate access to the resources and staff of CLS and Law Student Ministries – becoming a priority group for speaking engagements when CLS and LSM staff members travel to your area.
CLS chapters have access to the services of the national organization, including Christian Legal Aid training, national conference discounted rates, and the services of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom.
How to Affiliate
Affiliating with CLS is a relatively easy task:
- Adopt a constitution for your group, based on the Model Constitution (attached in the Appendix to this manual).
- Complete the Application for Recognition as a Student Chapter of the Christian Legal Society (“Affiliation Agreement”) (See Appendix).
- Both the Constitution and Affiliation Agreement must be signed by three officers, all of whom are national members in good standing of the Christian Legal Society.
- Submit the originals of the signed Constitution and signed Affiliation Agreement to:
CLS Law Student Ministries
8001 Braddock Rd, Suite 302
Springfield, VA 22151
After receiving an official letter of recognition from the CLS Executive Director, the group may operate as a recognized CLS student chapter. Please note that if a group amends the Model Constitution, the approval process will take longer. No amendment to the Constitution shall have any validity unless first approved by the CLS Executive Director.