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

25 Ways to Keep the World Before Your Students.

I spent the summer after my first year on staff in the Philippines. It was an incredible time with great highs and a few lows. I saw amazing opportunities for evangelism and movement development. But I contracted amoebic dysentery, laying me out flat for parts of the summer.

I’ve tried to maintain a heart for the world, as I’ve focus on launching and building movements in the US. Though I did not leave the US again for a number of years, I’ve been able to travel more internationally in the last decade and I have a trip to the other side of the world later this Spring. But I wish I had known some ways for keeping a vision for the world.

I’ve shared this list before by Mike Berk, PSW Associate Director for Global Missions. Since many found it helpful, here it is again.

25 Things to keep the World before your students.

  1. Read Missionary biographies with your small group.
  2. Pray for a location regularly with your disciples.
  3. Skype with a missionary during bible study.
  4. Send a care package to a missionary.
  5. Go on a vision trip together.
  6. Go on a summer mission together.
  7. Challenge one another to take a year together reaching students.
  8. Book mark the traveling team website and read the articles together.
  9. Eat ethnic food together.
  10. Go to the international student center and hang out.
  11. Initiate with someone different from you – practice crossing cultures.
  12. Start an international student ministry on your campus.
  13. Take a perspectives class together.
  14. Take a language course.
  15. Go to Cost Plus World Market and find some food or music from a different culture.
  16. Go to and regularly pray.
  17. Get a large world map and keep track of missionaries, trips you or your friends have gone on and parts of the world God is burdening you for.
  18. Read the world section of the newspaper (online).
  19. Do a fund-raiser for an international cause – human trafficking, social injustice, evangelistic missions…
  20. Memorize scripture on God’s heart for the nations.
  21. Read through famous missionary quotes:
  22. Read the book “Go, following Jesus to the Ends of the Earth” by Dave Dishman.
  23. Have your group practice sharing the gospel – practice by doing and practice often!
  24. Download the Jesus film App on your phone. It’s a great tool to have that can help you communicate the gospel to students from just about everywhere.
  25. Read a book about sharing the gospel with people of another faith. Some Recommendations:

Click here to access a pdf of Mike Berk’s entire article on 25 ways to keep the World before your students. And just out is Shane Sebastian’s, “This Change Is Everything“. A great read.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Top Ten Myths About Sharing Your Faith.

Our Student LINC team is reading God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally by Doug Pollock. Most of us had read it before. But we are discussing to help us better equip our leaders in natural mode evangelism.

Last week during our staff meeting, one coach, Chris West, led a devotion from Colossians 4:1-6. We had a great discussion on what an open door is for the message. Chris told me afterward that since we were going over chapter 3 of God Space, “Noticing Your Way Into Spiritual Conversations”, the Colossians passage could help with our equipping.

He also referenced a resource that he’s used for years in training students at Dartmouth, at conferences, and with his student leaders over a distance. I thought you might find this helpful.

Top Ten Myths About Sharing Your Faith.

  1. It’s my responsibility to convert people.  We are only responsible for what we can do, not what others do.  Our responsibility is simply to take the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.  We don’t have to push!
  2. We can witness without words.  By definition a witness is “one who testifies.” As Christians our lives need to be consistent with our words but they are not a substitute for them.
  3. We must “earn the right to be heard”.  Partially true. While there is merit in the idea of gaining a hearing, the notion of “earning the right to be heard” can also put Christians on their heels.  Do Hollywood producers call you to ask if you might be offended by the scenes and themes of their upcoming movie?  Do your professors distort Christian ideas and qualify their lectures with an apology?  All around us people are making bold assertions about what is right and true.  We have the TRUTH.  We are called to declare it tactfully and assertively.
  4. My friends already know what I believe.  If your friends did understand what you believe and why you believe it, then there’s a good chance they would believe it too.  It’s better to ask than assume.  You’ll soon discover that people around you have all sorts of false ideas about God and what it means to be a Christian.
  5. People’s beliefs about God are based on reason.  We often assume others have thought about their spiritual beliefs to the extent we have.  Many people believe what they do more for emotional reasons or convenience.   People often believe what they WANT to believe — what makes them feel good.  This is especially true among “postmoderns,” who commonly think,  “Whatever you believe about God is fine and true for you, but it’s not for me.” Sometimes you might even succeed in answering a person’s intellectual objections only to find they still resist.  We need to lovingly discern “smoke screens” and find the core issues that keep a person away from God.
  6. People aren’t interested.  To the contrary, there is overwhelming interest in discussing the substantive questions of life.  Nobody likes to be pushed but there is strong interest in discussing spiritual ideas.  By experience we’re seeing that many students are tired of shallow conversation and heavy-hand of political correctness that makes it taboo to talk about God.
  7. I must have all the answers“When I came to you brothers I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know  nothing while I was among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I came to you in weakness, fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power so that your faith might not rest on man’s wisdom but on God’s power.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-5  Nuff said.
  8. I must have a close long-term relationship with someone before I can share the gospel with him.  While this helps, the gospel’s inherent power is not bound by our personal connections.  God might sovereignly bring people across our path for even a brief time, so that we would share the message of Christ with them.  Remember the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?  (Acts 8:26-40)  Sharing the gospel is a supernatural action that requires supernatural power.  That’s why the disciples were told to wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to be God’s witnesses.  (Acts 1:8)  That power is available to every believer!  Considering the scope of Jesus’ mission to reach the whole world, we can’t afford to wait to develop a close personal relationship with everyone before presenting the message.
  9. I must wait for people to come up to me, ask me why my life is so different, and ask me to tell them about Christ.  Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17  Fishing for men requires initiative on the fisherman’s part, not the fish!  Sharing Christ with others is an active endeavor, not a passive one.
  10. Sharing your faith is inherently confrontational.  Most people are uncomfortable with interpersonal confrontation.  Sharing your faith should be a conversation not a confrontation. Yes, there is a very real battle taking place in the spiritual realm, but on a personal level, people need to know that we genuinely care about them.  We need to develop the art of asking good questions and listening.  See Luke 2:46-47  The principles in this passage are excellent – very insightful with regard to our personal witness.  If someone is clearly uncomfortable discussing God then we should back off.  Whoever said that the same social rules that apply in “normal life” don’t apply in personal evangelism?
  • 10a Bonus.  I must tell a person everything I know about God in every situation.  Not every opportunity to share the message is equal.  In some cases you’ll have just a minute to talk, ask a question, share an idea, or simply listen.  Make the most of it and relax.   (Col 4:5)  Try to discern how much a person is ready to hear.  Jesus Himself said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” John 16:12  Even with His disciples he did not feel compelled to unload everything at once.

Why not ask your leaders to look at Colossians 4:1-6 and ask them what an open door is for the message. Then ask what might hinder them in sharing their faith. You now have 10, actually 11, possible things and some responses.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Natural mode launching.

My pastor told us today that the Gospels record 132 meaningful conversations that Jesus had people. Interestingly, 4 of those occurred in the temple and 6 in a synagogue. Where did the rest happen? In the normal ins and outs of life, the comings and goings of the everyday.

It brought to mind something that Lee Cooksey, Chief of Staff for the High School Ministry, said recently about the simplest possible way to launch a high school ministry. Take some friends to a high school game, or, really, anyplace where students hang out. Have conversations using whatever tool you want. Then ask to get together again to continue the conversation.

You know how to start conversations. You know how to get back together with interested people. You know how to continue gospel conversations. You know how to invite to an evangelistic study or basic Bible study. You know how to train others to reach out and gather others. That’s all launching is in it’s simplest form.

If we could say that launching new ministries can take place in different modes, the way evangelism does, we might think of what I just described as launching in the natural mode. It is similar to natural mode evangelism in which we share with others in the context of our natural connection with them.

In contrast, evangelism in the ministry mode occurs when we intentionally reach out to others with the purpose of witnessing to them. That’s how we typically think of launching with scheduling, planning, and going to a new location like I talked about in A Staff Team Pioneering a New Campus Together recently.

Why not sit down with your disciples and brainstorm an audience or community that you would like to trust God to launch through natural conversations.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

A new 31 Day Experiment.

My friend, Mark Michal, has been on the high school team in Indianapolis for fifteen years. That experience, along with his ability to communicate Biblical truth, were key in developing the Thrive Studies. Thrive is the follow up material and small group content for teenagers that students and volunteers can easily lead. They are very well done.

Mark and his team recently put together a Cru 31 Day Experiment. Complete with videos covering a passage each day, a promo video, flyers, and ways to connect with others participating, it is a great way to help students get into the Word and help them develop a habit of Bible reading.

Mark told me that we staff do a great job of communicating truth. But students often need help in building a habit of time in the Scriptures. The value of this experiment is the communal aspect of reading, learning, and sharing together. Taking ten minutes in a passage, five minutes praying, and five minutes sharing with others helps to reinforce the habit and enhance personal growth.

This Cru 31 Day Experiment begins today, Monday, January 23rd and goes through February 22nd.

Check out and sign up on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM at @CRU31DAY.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Select Next Year’s Leadership Now.

You’re kidding, right?! Now?!

Why would we select next year’s leadership with most of a semester left?

If you have leaders graduating this Spring, here are some things to consider.


Take time to think through those who already demonstrate spiritual leadership. Such leadership does not happen just by showing up or having a great personality. Leaders are developed. That happens as you delegate responsibility and watch how they bring their own vision and faith to the task. One way to make this more concrete is by considering the Visibility/Risk grid. Leadership naturally involves both increasing risk and increasing visibility.

I was recently voted in as chairman of a board. Leading up to that time, I watched the previous chairman closely and met with him for perspective and his input. When someone knows that they will be in leadership, they pay more attention to how the current leadership operates, knowing that it will be them leading in time.

If the actual transition of leadership can occur before the old leadership leaves the campus, I don’t think there is anyone better to cheer on and encourage that new leadership, as well as to offer help if they stumble, than those who just handed it off. They have a vested interest in the new team’s success. Leadership development and selection must be intentional.


One concern about turning responsibility over to new leadership is their readiness. In general, I believe we wait too long before giving responsibility to others. Yes, there are qualifications necessary for leadership. But often we neglect how much the new leader must trust God themselves. The faith factor is necessary for growth. Nearly everyone feels inadequate when they first step into a leadership position. What better place to be than to really have to trust God for wisdom and direction.

Eric Swanson’s excellent article on The Art of Delegation, offers some simple steps in delegating responsibility:

  • Decide what needs to be done.
  • Select the best person for the job. Let him/her know you believe he/she can do it. Trust is one of the highest forms of motivation.
  • Clarify and agree upon the desired result and deadline. Major on what, not how—results, not methods.
  • Define guidelines and potential pitfalls. Let him/her learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.
  • Establish level of authority, accountability, and method of evaluation.
  • Identify resources—financial, human, technical, and organizational resources that he/she can draw from.
  • Establish consequences.


We typically wait until the end of the year to hand off leadership. Those new leaders wait until next August to begin leading. That can be a rather difficult handicap to overcome given the spiritually challenging summers for many. Why not install them as leaders early in the spring when the example of the present team is still fresh in their minds. The old leadership can be there to encourage and answer questions.

Also, August is typically a high risk, high visibility time for the ministry. It is when you want your ministries to be firing on all cylinders. You want to hit the ground running in order to take advantage of that once a year opportunity of connecting with as many incoming freshman as possible. Why not use the Spring semester to help the new team function together and develop the plans that they will implement in August.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016