Christmas Advent ideas.

Today is the first day of Advent, that wonderful time in the church calendar for preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son…” NIV. God orchestrated events over hundreds of years so that when Christ entered the world, the good news could be carried everywhere.

In the same way that God prepared the world, let us intentionally prepare our hearts, and help those we work with, to celebrate.

This time of year can be so busy with ending a semester of ministry, preparing for Christmas/Winter conferences, and thinking about the spring and summer ministry opportunities. Students are preparing for finals. And we have our own checklist of Christmas preparations, parties, gift buying, decorating, etc.

Setting aside time for Advent readings and reflections helps to prepare our hearts for celebrating His coming, even in the midst of checking off our to do’s. A Google search for “Advent Devotion” reveal many options. Here are a few.

What a wonderful time of the year for sharing our faith. Here are some ideas for Christmas outreaches.

May we all find our hearts and minds stirred by the mystery of the Creator becoming a baby.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

Some ways to build student leadership.

Years ago, Walter A. Henrichsen’s book, Disciples are Made, Not Born, was big in Christian circles. It underscored the need to follow up and nurture young believers.

In the same way, leaders aren’t discovered, they are developed.

We say that ours is a student-led ministry. But when we don’t find leaders who can step right in, we staff find ourselves hanging onto leadership. It is important to be intentional about leadership development.

In the next few weeks, as you plan next semester’s ministry activities, consider how you develop your future student leaders. Here are a few ways:

  1. Freshman Takeover Night. ICYMI, I mentioned this very strategic way of helping freshmen see that they can make a valuable contribution to the movement.
  2. Group Talks. If the axiom “Involvement breeds commitment.” is true, this simple small group tactic, helps those who might be reticent to find their voice and contribution.
  3. Visibility/Risk Grid. When considering responsibilities for an event, it’s helpful to look at the amount of visibility and risk for each and matching people accordingly.
  4. Delegation. This piece by Bob Fuhs offers helpful insight into the delegation process.



Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

Freshman Takeover Night

Dave Michels, MTL in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, recently updated the information outlining their Freshman Takeover Night.

The Michigan Tech ministry developed this unique strategy in which the entire Cru weekly screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-9-27-18-pmmeeting is handed over to freshmen. They have been doing it for 15 years.

Dave says Freshman Takeover Night is one of the best things they do. It’s key in getting Freshmen/First Year students engaged in the movement early on, and they see the great contribution they can make.

The team usually has a staff member or key student help organize the first gathering of freshmen after a regular Cru meeting. They are handed two documents.

The first, a one page document describing the Freshman Takeover Night and how to plan it. For example, Dave suggests that they “gather as many freshmen to an organizational/planning meeting that have been coming…Have someone collect names and emails…Do whatever is possible to include every freshman.” Dave reminded me “Involvement breeds Commitment!!”

The second handout is on Talk Preparation.

The movement does it again second semester, with a little less guidance.  The Sophomore class is also given a night to plan each semester, but they are given the night and told to just inform the weekly meeting coordinator of their plans.

What I like about this is how Dave and his team are being intentional about giving ownership to students. It would certainly be a lot more comfortable for the freshmen, not to mention the staff, to not do a Freshman Takeover Night. But this is a great learning and developmental strategy.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

A Destino multiple movements case study.

The Destino Movement is in a significant growing phase. Sandi Ireland, National Field Director, reported that they added at least 12 new campuses to their ministry last year, and, so far this semester, have added 18 more, through both their campus teams and distance coaching. One was just added two weeks ago, bringing to over 80 total locations.

I was honored to provide some launching and building movements training to their Destino MTLs earlier in the month. Following that time, Sandi presented some case studies for discussion. Here was one, along with a summary of the discussion among the MTLs.



Destino Case Study

You have 5 campuses that you’re currently working on, and you feel stretched too thin. You have a “main campus” and a community college that feeds into it that your team spends most of its time and energy on. In addition you have added 3 “expansion campuses” each about 90 minutes from your house where you had launch weeks last semester. Now, there’s a student leader and a Bible study at each one of those expansion campuses. But meanwhile, at your two “main campuses” the numbers at the weekly meeting have gone down a bit. You’re on more campuses, but have the same number of students involved city wide. This makes the staff feel tired and discouraged. They are concerned that there are less resources available and that the big movement might die.

  1. How do you think you’d be feeling in this situation?
    • Excited, but because the other places are at the same place, its discouraging. Where do I put my time?
    • I would probably be feeling the same way: tired and discouraged. Wondering how to get the enthusiasm back up.
  2. What other underlying sources of anxiety might exist for your team?
    • Big movements ARE fun, and I’m worried that students in our dwindling movement aren’t going to have that great an experience.
    • How I determine self worth and success. I don’t see my team. Is the main movement going to keep shrinking? A crisis of belief.
  3. How would you affirm what your team’s doing in the midst of their anxiety?
    • Pray and ask the Lord to restore our joy. Remember that the size of the movement isn’t the only indicator of success…you can also define success by the number of students walking with Jesus and taking steps of faith to own the ministry. Affirm that prayer is real work.
    • Looking at Jesus’ model. Have I been explicit in the risks involved with this? What’s our timetable for success? What is the wisest use of our resources? Did we overextend? How can we be encouraged by the risks we have taken?
  4. How would you help your team thrive? Any experiments you’d want to try?
    • Honestly assess what’s going on on each campus, and ask each staff person what is most life-giving in what they do. Maybe a staff person loves discipleship at the distance campus, but can’t drive there that often. Maybe s/he should start a distance coaching strategy with Skype appointments more often.
    • Try to bring the leaders together from all campuses so that the leaders on the main campus and community college see these are real people and we are all part of the family. They can have compassion for those outside of their own campus.

Just for the fun of it, I brought the case study back and asked my team to answer her questions. Here is a summary of their insights.

  • The team is sowing broadly. They can rejoice that there was real growth from last year. God is at work.
  • Affirm that they are investing in good things—empowering students to lead, switching from staff doing to staff coaching, and finding themselves in a place of greater dependence, where they must pray more.
  • What they are experiencing is typical. Anytime we change the paradigm of ministry or the definition of success (such as “not what you do, but what others do because of what you do), there can be difficult adjustments.
  • Consider taking students from the main and community colleges on the trips to the other three. Discipleship can take place in the car. And the students gain a heart for those on the other campuses.
  • Are there volunteers, professors, etc. who can do some of the face-to-face at the main?
  • Consider the gift mix on your team. Some may prefer to disciple students on the distance campuses using Hangout. There can be other advantages of coaching the circle campuses this way.

Finally, Katie Nelson, one of our high school coaches, offered this insight: “Mark Batterson said we often overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what God can accomplish in 5 years… I think this case study, and having a greater scope in general, means trusting God with current uncertainty (not having big numbers on each campus) for future success (being present on more campuses so more students can meet Jesus).”

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

Future Teachers Living Missionally

I was out for a walk recently with my son, Rick, MTL at Florida State University. He commented about how we train primarily in ministry mode evangelism, and not enough in natural mode. He said it’s pretty dissatisfying watching people not hanging in there with friendships that don’t progress toward trusting Christ, or how to work through awkward conversations. Those who graduate from our ministry and go into the marketplace especially feel that lack of training.

At about the same time I had in a conversation with Scott Livermore, middle and high school ministry coach, and team leader for Educators on Mission. He told me that the question he screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-7-58-29-pmgets most often from Education Majors is how to help them live missionally in their future career.

His response: “Come join us this summer for the Cru Summer Mission: Educators Summer Mission. Those 15 days will set you up for a lifetime of ministry. You will create a training seminar at our high school Summer Conference. You will learn your legal freedoms as a believing educator. And, as part of a team, you will present a plan for launching a movement on a school that you can use as a blueprint for when you graduate.”

He usually has a bit more to tell them, like who wouldn’t want to spend 15 days in Estes Park, CO?  And how the team believes they have created a great blend of ministry philosophy, practical application, Cru distinctive areas, and hands on ministry leadership.

Alex is an alum of the Educators Summer Mission. He teaches art in Lincoln, NE. Concerned about getting to know his students at his new school, he decided to invite students to hang out with him at lunch. Two things happened: 1. So many students were coming each day that he had to reset his boundaries so he could get work done a couple of lunches per week, and 2. Alex soon started a weekly guys group after school to begin discipleship with them. They appreciated how he demonstrated compassion and care. He also helps out with the weekly Bible club on campus.

A few more details about the summer mission.

  • Housing will be in hotel-type rooms in the newer lodges at the YMCA of the Rockies.
  • Participants will serve as leaders for the High School Summer Conference (formerly, Rocky Mountain Getaway).
  • The cost is $1995.
  • There are also opportunities for staff to serve on the mission discipling men or women.
  • If you have questions, email Scott at
  • Here is a flyer for Educators Summer Mission.

Would you consider challenging your Education Majors to invest two weeks this summer as part of the Educators Summer Mission, thereby helping prepare them for a life of ministry?

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips

Launch and Build Bridges Movements.

In my first year on staff at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, we did a number of events with International Students. Holidays this time of the year have rich spiritual significance, and International Students are often curious about them.

If you intend to meet and engage these guests from other lands, you might be just a few steps from launching a Bridges Movement. I’ve share these thoughts before, but it might be a good refresher.


I think a lot about launching new movements. I love the “God factor” of seeing something begin where there was nothing before making it possible for hundreds or even thousands more to be exposed to the Gospel.

That’s why when I hear what others are doing to launch movements I take a close look. I was intrigued by a piece Linda Woods, Bridges International Campus Coach, shared with US and International students at the Bridges winter conference about launching movements.

What interested me were the 5 Attitudes and 5 Actions and how those fit into the various stages of a movement. Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.00.49 PMFor ease of viewing, I’ve separated the attitudes and actions.

These 5 Attitudes help us see that movement launching is not up to us. God uses our steps of faith, but in the end He is the one accomplishing this important work. We are “fellow workers” (1 Corinthians 6:1) in this endeavor.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.09.16 PMHaving the right attitudes flows naturally into the appropriate steps of faith seeing a movement launched and grow.

By way of reminder, a spiritual movement is GOD working through a team of like-hearted disciples to WIN, BUILD, and SEND toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

It is also helpful to realize that we employ different skills at different stages of movement development. Bridges International drew it out this way. You will actually find it easier to read by opening the document here.

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.19.21 PM

Thank you to the Bridges International staff, Alyson Niemann, Chris Sneller, Adam Smith, Zeke Zeiler, and Linda Woods for giving us this picture of their movement launching process.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips