Distributing ownership in Pittsburgh

Do you know what your team situation will be like next year?  Teams change from year to year.  Some years we lose more staff and interns than we gain.

During the eleven years that Chris and I were at the University of Rhode Island, we had three entirely different teams.  Two of those years we had just one other staff and we were completely by ourselves for two others.  It was during one of those years when we saw the beginnings of a great run of student leadership for the next four.  God does things when we are weak.

Kirstin Heyne, Pittsburgh Metro, and I were emailing this past week.  All of the staff and interns from last year left, leaving just her in the city.  She said, “I’m currently the only staff person on campus in Pittsburgh, trying to juggle all of our launched movements. I can’t say I’m doing it very well, but I can say that God is moving in the absence of staff. It’s great!”

I asked her if I could share what all she is doing.  I will let you decide if she is “doing it very well”.  Here is what she told me.

In reality, we have two spheres of ministry: urban and rural/suburban. It can get a little confusing.

Our ministry started with just Pitt in 2002. It was set up to function like a staffed campus. Now students from 10 urban campuses come to our metro weekly meeting, including a prestigious private school, multiple Catholic schools, an art school, a community college, a ballet theatre, small liberal arts schools, and a huge public school. The weekly meeting team and worship team are comprised of students from multiple urban campuses. We have actual movements/small groups on 5 of the urban campuses, and students from the other 5 leaderless campuses just join the existing small groups around the city for now. Pitt is one of the urban schools. It looks the most like a typical Cru movement – 80 students involved, 8 small groups, ministry teams like prayer team and outreach team, and a servant team to lead the campus.  We also have the beginnings of a Greek movement at Pitt. I coach student leaders on four of the urban campuses and volunteers coach the other two that have student leaders. Though all of the urban schools are within 15 minutes of my house, I started an every-other-week distance coaching model with them. It has freed up tons of time and saves me ~$70/month in parking.

We also have movements led by key volunteers on 3 rural/suburban campuses. I coach the volunteers (pretty loosely this semester). They’re all aligned, and we had great expectations conversations moving into the one-staff transition, so I’ve been able to sort of let them go. I visit occasionally but communicate primarily via email. Geography mandates that these campuses function independently, more like a staffed campus. They each currently have a single small group (plus a Faculty Commons on one). If they continue to grow, each campus will have its own weekly meeting, small groups, and team structure.

All campuses are invited to all events, though the rural/suburban schools choose not to come most, as their drive is anywhere from an hour to an hour and half. Most of the fun/social events in the city bring students from all 10 urban schools together. We have a monthly student leader event called Friday Feast where we feed them and provide ministry training, aligning, equipping, and inter-campus discussions. That’s generally the only time we see the urban and rural/suburban schools coming together.

In the past two years, our team cast the nets wide, making launch attempts every month. The only ones that stuck were the ones that had stakeholders in place – students or volunteers that were totally committed. Most of those stakeholders actually came to us via the ministry locator site. The ones that cared enough to take the initiative are the ones that are still standing strong in the absence of staff; all of the other launch attempts fizzled…

I found several fascinating things about what Kirstin is doing.  One, she is distributing ownership to students and volunteers.  Two, although she could drive to the campus, she coaches from a distance, both leveraging her unique contribution to the leaders as well as helping those leaders see that it is up to them.  Three, one size does not fit all and she has been intellectually flexible in figuring out what needs to happen and how to let other things go.  Four, the metro wide gatherings provide momentum and peer coaching.  There is something about volunteers taking ownership and students watching other students lead.

Thanks for your example, Kirstin.  May God give us all wisdom to be stewards of the people and vision He has entrusted to us.

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