Another use for an effective tool.

I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get in a rut with how I do ministry. I usually see our tools having a single purpose for which they were designed.

Recently, my wife, Chris, was on a coaching call. Rachel graduated three years ago and is seeking to live missionally in her workplace and neighborhood. Rachel leads a study of middle school Christian girls. But their behavior doesn’t always match their profession. Rachel knew they needed to understand the filling the Holy Spirit, but struggled to bring the message home to them.

Now, Chris is very creative. She is great at seeing possibilities where none appear to exist. (Oh, and BTW, I am not trying to earn brownie points here! Just telling it like it is.) Chris suggested taking the Soularium cards and asking the questions we would ask in an evangelistic setting. “What cards best illustrate your life now?” “Why?” “Which cards do you wish would illustrate your life?” “Why?” And from that discussion launch into what God would do with lives completely yielded to Him so that He could work unhindered in them, or what we would commonly say as being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Chris told me about her conversation, she said she knew most of us look at Soularium as an evangelism tool primarily. But sometimes we can be limiting and not see a tools’ versatility. What might God do outside the box?

Perhaps you have discovered a creative way to use one of our tools and have seen God use it. I’d love to hear about it.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

Summer Survival.

One of the many priorities we have in campus ministry at this time of year is preparing students for the summer.

“Let’s face it. Summers can pose a major challenge to our faith and obedience to Christ.

So begins the first article in the Summer Survival Guide.

Summers can be:

  • a very spiritually isolating time because you are away from the environment and friends that have helped you grow spiritually this past school year.
  • or a great experience as you see your faith tested and increased and take some key steps on your own (1 Peter 1:17)

What makes the difference? The decisions you and your students make now can put them in a position of advantage and strength going into the summer. “As a Christian, we can embrace challenges the summer brings because we recognize the opportunity to trust God in new ways and see our faith grow in ways that we would have never seen otherwise.”

The Summer Survival Guide provides perspective and resources to help make the difference. The introductory article of the survival kit tells about three essentials with practical helps and further resources:

  • self-discipline
  • the right fellowship
  • daily time with God and His Word

Personal growth happens when there is the right combination of personal desire and conducive environment. Both are needed. Many of our students will be going back into less than ideal environments. Let’s do the best job we can to prepare all of our students to grow in Christ this summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

The First Two Weeks in the Fall.

Years ago, Eric Swanson wrote the article, “The First Two Weeks on Campus.” We still do much of what he talked about in getting ministry started in the fall. How those first two weeks go, makes a difference in the rest of the year. That’s why it is so important to be thinking now about fall ministry start-up essentials.

Read on for my distilled version of Eric’s thinking, a few thoughts of my own.

Time with key leaders

  • Ask student leaders to return before freshmen arrive on campus. It’s essential to do this before so as to maximize relationship building time with freshmen.
  • Cast vision for the year. You may need to re-align and provide motivation.
  • Involve them in dreaming about and planning for the year.
  • Walk through the key events of the first few weeks.
  • Delegate responsibilities for those events.

Visibility

  • Visibility communicates that what we are involved in is significant.
  • Goal: That everyone on campus knows we exist.
  • Being attractive to students: Having fun, building relationships, involved in meaningful efforts.
  • Flyers and handouts.
    • What we hand out or post lends credibility to the more critical personal invitation.
    • Does the publicity represent us well?
    • Do students see us as the kind of people they want to be involved with?
  • Tabling
    • Surveys, sign-ups, providing information about first meeting, socials, retreat.
    • Food!
  • Socials
    • First day of school picnic, pizza party, ice cream social, etc.
    • This is your first opportunity to make a body-mode impression.

Gathering

  • Principle: If you have a non-believer focus—believers will come; if you have a believer focus, non-believers won’t come.
  • Believers may be a great source of manpower. But you are looking to survey large numbers of students to find those most interested as early as you can.
  • Again, the first two weeks are most important all year.
  • Atmosphere: Students don’t feel pressured yet. They have lots of hope for what the year holds in store for them. They are seeking friendships and a place to belong. This window of opportunity will close quickly.

Conserving fruit

  • Set a deadline to follow up contacts. Contacts become cold in two weeks and dead in three.
  • Look for ways to have lots of person-to-person contact.
  • Start large open connection groups quickly. By starting too late, we lose people.
  • We can start discipleship groups later.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Train your students what to do on a first appointment
  • What about returning students?
  • Plan well your first meeting of the year.
  • Plan your first outreach.
  • Plan a movement launch.

Minister to your team

  • Since you as a team are working hard these two weeks, look for ways to affirm that work, celebrate the progress, and refresh.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Becoming not ashamed of the Gospel.

One of the many priorities we have in campus ministry at this time of year is preparing students for the summer.

A good part of that preparation is helping them gain confidence in their faith and to be able to communicate it to  family and friends back home when they are away from their Christian friends.

Chris West, Student LINC Coach, led a devotion in staff meeting recently. He told us he had two verses, Romans 1:16,17, and three questions. Here are the questions and a summary of our discussion.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel,…” Romans 1:16a NIV.

1. Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel?

  • We do not understand its power.
  • The gospel is not popular.
  • Some see the gospel message is as narrow, “cultural-imperialism,”  (my beliefs, culture, and traditions are better than yours), intolerant, even hateful and “phobic”.
  • For some Christians, the message of grace is too easy and they want to add to it.
  • The Gospel clearly says that no one is good enough to earn God’s favor. This is an affront to human pride and independence.
  • Some Christians have acted shamefully.
  • We’re digging out of a hole. ie: we are starting the gospel conversation with people who already have significant beefs about Christianity.

2. What does it look like to be ashamed of the gospel?

  • Responses included: being timid, silent, fearful, powerless, private, guarded, weak. No surprises here.

(It is important to acknowledge both the normal human responses as well as the cultural climate in our society in which this discussion takes place.)

3. Helping our disciples gain confidence so as not to be ashamed of the gospel.

  • Encourage them to spend time with God in His Word.
  • Boldness grows out of strong conviction.
  • Recognize the Holy Spirit as the source of power and boldness for witnessing.
  • Connect with other believers who are not ashamed of the gospel.
  • Recognize that we are invited by God to join with Him in what He’s already doing.
  • He will reach people with or without us.
  • The mention of an atheist comedian, Penn Jillette, chiding Christians for not sharing their faith.
  • Sometimes we simply need to overcome inertia, and move intentionally toward conversations.

There was lots more discussion. But Chelsea Hengeveld, Destino Distance Coach, mentioned how she asks her student leaders to use the wondering questions as a way to start spiritual conversations. She asks them to “wonder with someone.” They could say, “We’ve never talked about this (spiritual things) before, but I wonder…”

The underlying assumption is that someone who has confidence in their faith will have a better likelihood of growing in their faith, rather than walking away from it over the summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Celebrate!

How are you at juggling? Ministry during April requires a fair amount of juggling. You are trying to end the semester well. You are thinking about the summer. And you are already planning for next year.

Last year’s list might be helpful as you keep all those balls in the air.

One important aspect of ending the year well is celebrating what God has done. Jeff Grant, partnership specialist on our Student LINC team, recently shared some thoughts along these lines with me.

“The Bible says a lot about celebration, God even commands us to remember the good things in our life by throwing parties! In my own strategic, always-looking-forward mind, I often forget to stop and make a big deal about people and what they and God have accomplished. Let’s spend less time reaching for the next thing (which only God can accomplish anyway) and more time rejoicing in the people and blessings God has already given us!”

Jeff also shared an interesting article from Entrepreneur, “4 Ways Innovative Companies are Celebrating Their Employees.” and a video by Rend Collective telling the story behind their “The Art of Celebration.”

There are lots of ways to celebrate. Jason Skjervem, MTL, Northern North Dakota, offers a “toast to Jesus”.

And here is one we used when we were on campus. Okay, now, at the risk of showing my age, and before you read on, now might be a great time to cue up “Celebrate,” by Three Dog Night.

We would bring a bucket of stones from our backyard to the last meeting of the year and build a monument to what God did in our ministry that year. We started by reading Joshua 4 and talked about how the rock pile served as a visual reminder of what God had done for the Israelites. Similarly, this would be a mental monument to God’s working in our lives. After students put a stone on the pile and share what God had done in their lives and ministry, we took time at the end to thank God for what He had done.

Such times of celebration are so encouraging and lifts our eyes to what God might do next year.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV

Now that’s worth celebrating!

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

“Better than my dreams.”

Last week I mentioned that this is the time of the semester when I typically map out the rest of the year. I chose, instead, to focus on prayer and putting ourselves in a posture of receiving direction from the Lord, not just projection planning based on what we’ve done before.

Again, last year, this particular tip looked like this.

It seems appropriate to keep asking what the Lord would do. But this week, consider the dreams He is giving you.

  • What could you imagine the Lord doing if He had free reign?
  • What Scriptures are you praying about for your campuses?
  • What would your campuses look like if your dreams became a reality? (i.e., the spiritual responsiveness of non-believers, the spiritual walk of believers, the spiritual tone on campus, the character, vision, and biblical convictions of Christian students, etc.)?
  • What is the Lord showing you concerning the kind of person you’ll become in order to see your dreams fulfilled?
  • What could you imagine regarding the spiritual health and training of your student leaders and volunteers?
  • Since small plans don’t inflame the minds of men, what faith stretching events might you do in the next two to four years to fulfill your vision?
  • In light of the vision God has given you for the next two to four years, what is He showing you to do or become this year?

(These questions were adapted from “Cultivating a Vision for my Campus.”)

There’s a line in the book (not the TV series), The Virginian, by Owen Wister. It’s at the end, and I won’t spoil it for you by telling the circumstances. The Virginian repeatedly says, “Better than my dreams.” And finally he says, “And my dreams were pretty good.” What are we dreaming that only God can accomplish?

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Where we’re seeing both fast starts and fast growth.

A question: What do these have in common?

  • College national directors taking a team of high school staff to Hawaii.
  • A “Fast Food Outreach”.
  • 25 students at Big Break sign up for more because they found spiritual openness in this demographic on the beach.

Here are the back-stories.

Hawaii.

Amanda Gagnon and Jim Kercheval (CFM NDs in the PSW), in partnership with seven Cru High School staff leaders led our first Aloha Expedition. The Expedition Leaders were CJ Neal (Indianapolis Cru HS) and Yaneth Diaz (Houston Cru HS). The goal of the expedition was to go to Oahu and the Big Island to meet with and encourage pastors, teachers, parents, to look for opportunities to resource, to start, or accelerate high school ministries on the islands. The hope is that those involved in the lives of high school students would be able to tap into our online resources and coaching center to help them to eventually grow and send local middle school and high school students to the universities where there are Cru and Epic Movements. The vision is to see more local Hawaiians reached with the Gospel and involved in our college movements and sent to the world.

Fast Food Outreach.

Camryn, a University High School student attended a high school Fast Break last year and placed her faith in Christ. This year she went back and heard talk about conducting a Fast Food Outreach. The night of the outreach, Camryn brought Bri, who had questions and was wrestling about deciding to trust Christ. Sitting at the table were three students who had just two days earlier placed their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. They really encouraged her to take that step of faith, which she did. Last year at this time, University High did not have a movement. Today, with 40-50 students involved, it is seeing rapid multiplication.

Big Break interest.

Glen Nielsen, giving leadership to the three week-long Big Breaks in Panama City Beach told me that what they are seeing this year is consistent with previous years. High school students are more open and responsive to the Gospel in higher numbers than those over 18. Students sharing Christ remark how surprisingly open high school students are compared to the students on their college campuses back home. 25 students at the first week of Big Break have indicated an interest in starting a high school movement when they get back to campus.

And now to connect the dots: We’ve known all along, and continue to see evidence, that those under 18 years of age are very responsive to the Gospel. Movements launched in high schools often see rapid replication. And there continues to be an interest among college students in reaching out to high school students. I think it bears out that college students have a genuine concern for their little brothers and sisters and want them to face the world with Jesus right there with them. Anything we can do to open doors for ministry to teenagers can potentially make a difference in our college ministries too. Here are some helps.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016