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

First, prayer.

This is the time of the semester when I typically map out the rest of the year. It’s a busy time, giving thought to ending the year well, preparing for summer, and planning out the beginning of the next fall.

Last year, this particular tip looked like this.

But I thought it might actually be good for this focus to be on prayer. That will set us up better as we lead out of this year into next.

Actually, it was my wife, Chris, who said, we can do the same things we have always done In planning and preparing for the summer and the fall. But where is the faith in that? Are we planning by experience, and then, logically, by projection? “We did thus and so…and so with what we have, we should be able to do such and such.”

No one is going to argue that we shouldn’t pray. Prayer surfaces leaders. Prayer causes growth. Prayer brings us in tune with the heart of God. Prayer opens doors. Etc., etc.

But, while we should plan ahead and do our preparation, let’s consider how we can put ourselves in a posture of receiving from the Lord as we look ahead.

You might possibly have a significant season of prayer and then come up with the same things you have always done. But isn’t it good to know that it was the Lord leading you in that?

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Hove and Holleman’s “A Grander Story.”

There is a pivotal moment in The Hobbit in which Bilbo Baggins climbs a tree in Mirkwood Forest. Our hero had been mired in the malaise of fading hope on their journey to the Lonely Mountain and their quest. As he broke through the treetops, suddenly the direction becomes clear and his vision is renewed. The book records that “Bilbo’s eyes were nearly blinded.” The movie brings vivid color to what had been previously dull and gray.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself easily losing the forest for the trees, if you will.

I recently finished “A Grander Story: An Invitation to Christian Professors” by Rick Hove, Executive Director of Faculty Commons, and Heather Holleman, PhD, and English Department instructor at Penn State. It tells about the important contribution that professors can make, highlighting six stories of faculty who see their position in the academy as one of significant spiritual influence.

The final section of the book offers some practical steps for Christian faculty in embodying this grander story of their identity. But I found my own eyes wonderfully lifted up in the last chapter as I read about the high calling of living for our King.

Rick and Heather wrote,

“Because there is a King, we have a grander story, and this changes everything. The Apostle Paul picks up this line of thought in 1 Corinthians 15. After a stirring chapter on the resurrection, he writes, ‘But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ….’ Christ’s victory results in daily steadfast, abounding, hope-filled work in the Lord. Because He is risen, there is hope, and we should give ourselves fully to His work; we long to ‘abound in the work of the Lord.’ Because God is King, and He is at work in the world, there is hope for every person, the academy, and the world. What might this look like? P. 183.

“The academy is uniquely positioned to shape the world, as so much of our country, and the world, is ‘downstream‘ of America’s universities. The research, discoveries, and students flowing from our universities go to shape the world. P. 188.

“America’s universities can be a tangible blessing to the world because through those who follow the King, the hope of Jesus Christ, in all sorts of ways, can flow to the people of our country and even to the world. P. 189.

“One day we will be with the One for whom we were created, and though we do not know the timing, the certainty of this moment is no more in question than the certainty of His first appearing. Until that day, we follow our King, trusting Him to use us in our departments, classrooms, and the world, to play out the specific role He has called us to in His grander story. P. 190

“Lord, may we seize upon the moments, You’ve given us, to give our lives away to be used by You in Your great plan to bless the world, for Your glory. May we be both faithful and full of faith, as we long for Your great glory to cover the earth. You are our hope and the hope of the world.”
P.194.

Does this not lift your eyes to a worthy vision of the Lord’s grander purposes for us?

Why not consider picking up a copy of the book. You can get it here. Then when you finish reading it, why not give it to a Christian faculty member and offer to meet together to consider ways to integrate their faith and work.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Understanding Change.

If you are in the US campus ministry you are well aware that we are in a season of organizational change. Our Executive Director, Mark Gauthier, says these changes are not so that we can better manage what we already have going on, but so that we can get to that which we don’t yet have.

I welcome this thinking. In order to take on something new, we typically have to do what we are doing differently. Much of the messaging of these tips has been about launching and building new movements.

But with any change process there can be a range of emotions over losing something before we see the new reality.

On the same day the changes were presented, Bob Lewis, an expert on change management, leadership, and strategy, shared some very helpful perspective about change. Here are three slides from his presentation:

The S Curve is a pretty standard picture of change and growth. As the new is being formed, there can be decline and even challenges before growth and significant success occurs. These are typical and we should be aware of it.
 

 

 

This one shows the spectrum of emotions we experience from seeing something end to the new up and running. Again, all of us go through various ones of these and at various rates. It is under-standable and a normal process for us to go through. Where are you along the spectrum? Where is your team?

 

Bob shared many other thoughts that I found valuable. His concluding slide summed up some of those thoughts.

Some people absolutely love change. I am not one of those. But no matter how we metabolize it, change is part of the spiritual adventure that God has for us. Together, let us pray for our leadership and for our posture of trusting, seeking, and depending upon God.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Noticing Your Way Into Spiritual Conversations.

Our Student LINC and Coaching Center team reads a book every semester. There have been some memorable books and some not so much. Some helped us with our personal development or devotional life; others help us better equip those we coach. (I devoted my Coaching Tips last summer to some of those we particularly liked. Here is the last with the whole list at the bottom.)

This semester, we are reading God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally, by Doug Pollock. Most of us had read it before, but this time we are trying to take away specific coaching points for our leaders.

I believe our ministry does a much better job of training in ministry mode evangelism than natural mode. But if most of those involved in our ministries graduate and they don’t know how to begin spiritual conversations with their friends, have we set them up for frustration? It seems that we need to place a greater emphasis on natural mode in order to better prepare them for a lifetime of ministry.

One powerful tool students can use in their day to day lives, both while still involved on campus with us, and after graduation, is what Pollock calls, “noticing your way into Gospel conversations.” Chapter 3 in God Space.

He explains it like this.
“ ‘Go and notice others; then come back and share what you saw that maybe you hadn’t noticed before.” [This comes from Jim Henderson, founder of Doable Evangelism.] …noticing is a prerequisite to caring about others and serving them in tangible ways that smuggle the gospel into their hearts.

“Not only does noticing cause us to care for others, but it builds natural bridges to spiritual conversations. The Apostle Paul modeled this for us when he said, ‘Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship…’ (Acts 17:22b-23a, italics mine)…

“The simple act of noticing enables us to connect with others in authentic ways that pave the way for spiritual conversations to happen naturally…” P. 38.

Chris and I were in San Antonio recently. We were encouraged to visit Magnolia Pancake Haus. It was a great breakfast. Our server, Dean, was very attentive and carried himself with a bit more professionalism than most servers. We asked him if he was a student. He asked why. I explained what we had noticed about him. He said that as a matter of fact, he was planning on attending culinary school and eventually wanted to manage his own restaurant. Now we didn’t get any further in conversation as the restaurant was full and he was busy. But he appreciated our complements and I could see how “noticing” started the conversation in a natural way.

Pollock suggests trying a faith experiment. Go with some friends to a place where Christians might not frequent. “Prayerfully consider what you see and hear. Gather with your friends afterward, and share what you noticed, what you felt, what disturbed you, what you felt God was showing you. Talk about what you learned—and how to respond to it—as a community.” P. 42.

If you see God do something significant in noticing your way into a spiritual conversation, would you let me know? I think this could be a valuable tool for helping train others to be lifelong laborers for Christ.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

Balancing Relationships

Years ago when Chris and I were in Rhode Island, our church there ran an interesting campaign. Signs were up all around the church, “It’s February. But March is Coming.” It called attention to the dreary days of winter and anticipated the message of Easter.

About this time of the semester you may be feeling a bit tired.

Ministry is great. It is a privilege to be involved in sharing the Gospel; leading people to Christ, helping them grow in a relationship with the Lord, and imparting vision to leaders. But ministry can be tiring. We often forget the physical toll spiritual activity exacts on us.

Some people can be particularly draining, even if the weather isn’t depressing. If you are an introvert, like I am, you may feel it more acutely. That’s why it is important for us to have people in our lives that build into us while we are giving out.

I recall a conference speaker a few years ago talking about leading for the long haul. Among other things, he addressed balancing our relationships. He mentioned five types of people that Gordon MacDonald talks about in Restoring Your Spiritual Passion.

1. Very resourceful people. VRP. These ignite your passion.
2. Very important people. VIP. These share your passion.
————————————————–
3. Very trainable people. VTP. These catch your passion.
4. Very nice people. VNP. These enjoy your passion.
5. Very draining people. VDP. These sap your passion.

Many have referred to these five types of people. If you google “very draining people”, most entries reference these.

Those above the line, VRPs and VIPs, put energy into our lives. Those below take energy out. Most of us in ministry spend most of our time with those below the line. That’s natural, but we need to have some in our lives who ignite and share our passion to fill our tanks as we minister.

Two thoughts come to mind.

  1. Even while you are at the height of busyness in the semester, why not consider who might be a possible VRP or VIP, imparting energy to you. They may be in your church. They may be friends or mentors. Taking steps now to fill your tank will help you give out over the long haul.
  2. Which type of person are you to your teammates? Is there a possibility that you drain some more than you impart to them? An honest assessment helps to know areas of personal growth.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Shane Sebastian’s “This Change Is Everything.”

“Imagine growing up without parents…Now imagine, in Old Testament times, you were a woman growing up in a culture that constantly looked down on women…Now also imagine growing up in a culture where you were not only a woman, but also an ethnic minority. You were surrounded by a culture that was very different from yours, perhaps a culture that looked down on you.”

This is how Shane Sebastian, Executive Director–Global Missions, introduces, a “young minority female orphan saving an entire race of people” in his book, This Change Is Everything. Read on for more of Shane’s insight into this incredible story of Esther.

Shane continues.

“Now stop imagining. That really happened.

“The Bible tells the story of a person just like the one above. Esther was a diaspora Jew living in Persia, an Israelite, who advanced God’s mission in another land… [She] was a young, ethnic minority living in a majority culture: the Persian Empire… [This] young woman develops as an influencer throughout the narrative; she grows throughout this story into a strong leader. Esther makes significant decisions and stands by them…

“Towards the end of the story of Esther, as a result of her actions and leadership, many people become followers of the one true God…The leadership of this young woman leads many to believe and practice the faith of the Jewish people. She brings salvation.

“Esther advances God’s mission. Esther also saves her people from certain death… [And] in saving her people, paves the way for Jesus Christ, the coming Messiah.”

Shane quotes author Drora Oren, ‘ “Esther, a Jewess, sentenced to die by Persian law, nonetheless shapes conceptions of what it is to be Persian. She not only brings salvation to a people destined for annihilation, but also questions the rigid alignments of Persian identity with male power.” God advances his mission of reaching out to the nations through the leadership and courage of this young, ethnic, orphaned woman.’

An ongoing theme  throughout Shane’s book is how God uses young people to make a difference for the Kingdom. He has laid out a great apologetic for how and why students can be involved in missions. It will be a great encouragement to your students as they consider God’s direction for their lives.

Also, Shane helps to break down the stereotypical things that we think must be in place in order to make an impact for Christ. This example of Esther, young, an ethnic minority, a woman in a man’s world, and even an orphan, without the normal advantages we often associate with influence, shows God’s power to work in spite of organizational, social, and financial disadvantages. Do we believe that God is not limited to only working when the circumstances are favorable?

If you have a copy of “This Change Is Everything”, and haven’t read it, please do so. You will enjoy it. Or you can order it here. It makes a great companion to Dave Dishman’s “Go, following Jesus to the Ends of the Earth”. Each one is visionary, practical, brief, and a great tool that you will want to circulate among your students thinking about what God would have them do for a summer, a year, or for a lifetime.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016