Category Archives: Discipleship

Summer Growth Options.

Most of us are aware that Greek has two words that are usually translated into our English word “time”.

  • Chronos, χρόνος, is where we get “chronology”. It marks the successive aspect of and measurement of time.
  • Kairos, καιρός, is also translated “time”, but contains a sense of an opportune moment or occasion, such as “make the most of your time”, or “taking advantage of the opportunity”.

I’ve been talking these last few weeks about the many important priorities we have going on at this time of the year. During these weeks, we aren’t just counting down the chronos time. These are kairos moments. And we are keeping spring, summer, and fall emphases in mind all at the same time. Last week, I focused on sending seniors well (spring), and the week before on passing the baton (fall).

In today’s tip, let’s look at some summer options.

For years, we had a specific focus on summer survival for students not attending a summer mission. Some of us would hand students several pages of information about time with God, fellowship, and personal discipline. While this material is dated and there are other ways to meet these needs, some find that some of the material is still helpful.

For most of us, Summer Connect is a great way to help students grow over the summer and come back to campus in the fall with an anticipation of what God will do in and through them. Here is the promo video if you need it. This is where to register: And this is the process for joining Summer Connect.

Some of your students may be interested in putting their faith into action in a more specific way. One way is to consider ministering to high school students back home. Our high school ministry offers several ministry ideas with that in mind. High school students often look up to college students and that could be a great way for them to pass on some of the training they received from you this year.

And finally, you may be aware that InterVarsity and Cru are teaming up on a project to see a ministry launched on every campus in the country. The first critical piece in that endeavor is to prayer walk campuses with a view to seeing what God is already doing and whom He has prepared to reach their campus. The EveryCampus project will officially launch this Christmas. But our Prayer team, headed by Dave and Courtnee White, said that 340 campuses have already been prayer walked.

If you have students who would be up for prayer walking a nearby campus, they can go to the site, indicate the campus, and post their story and pics to Instagram.

As you meet with students and prepare them for the summer in these and other ways, you may be creating kairos that may have far-reaching impacts.

Previous Coaching Tips



Students learning from other student leaders.

Years ago, Sam and Danielle Shellenberger, then team leaders in Central Pennsylvania, hosted gatherings of students every two or three weeks in their home. These students would travel from near the New York and Maryland state lines to Hershey for those “Friday feasts” and a time of VHS, vision, huddle, and skills. (I said it was years ago!)

As Sam and Danielle were the only staff working with all these campuses, Sam would assign responsibilities to the students during the VHS time. He told me once that when a student stepped into leadership on a new campus, he wanted them to hear student leaders in more developed ministries share  what they were doing and how. Students watched other students lead.

The principle: Students are more likely to believe they can do what they see other students doing.

We’ve been talking over the last two weeks about setting up student leaders in the areas of Prayer, Evangelism, Biblical Content, and Community. Last week, we focused on some simple skills and resources in each of these elements of ministry.

For most of us working multiple campuses within a defined geographic scope, Sam’s practice years ago of connecting students together has great promise for us as we seek to increase student ownership and make ministry transferable.

Many of you often gather your students together for a Friday night or all day Saturday mini-retreat or summit. This would be a great time for students to meet as Prayer, Evangelism, Biblical Content, and Community leaders. Obviously you will want them to provide your own specific direction and tools to help them.

For those of you who like to consolidate leadership and have control, this could be challenging. But for those of you who think in terms of involving more students in leadership or you think about giving more students on more campuses an opportunity to say yes to Christ, this could help distribute ministry more.

Previous Coaching Tips

Prayer, Evangelism, Biblical Content, and Community

There was a lot of talk in our ministry last year about the three different Movement Leadership Forms. We’ve identified them as square, triangle, and circle movements. By way of review

  • Square—Staff TLs, staff team members, staff modeling ministry.
  • Triangle—Staff TLs, Student/Faculty/Volunteer members, and staff modeling ministry to the team.
  • Circle—Student/Faculty/Volunteer TLs and team members, staff coaching the team as it stewards the movement.

Naturally some of us find ourselves gravitating toward one form of leadership over the others. And while it takes effort to launch, but it’s important to realize that you are not expected to lead everything you launch in the same way.

But we do anticipate that most of the future growth of our ministry will lie mostly with circle campuses led by students, faculty, and volunteers.

What makes that incredibly compelling is that this future growth will increase the number of vested leaders involved in evangelism and discipleship. As we distribute leadership to more students, faculty, and volunteers more will be able to hear and respond to the great Good News.

So I think most of us agree that it behooves us to grow more circle campuses. But none of us want to see those circle campuses only be just a group of believers, not reaching out or multiplying.

I had a conversation a while back with Rob Mittuch, Mission Director for New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He’s been unpacking with team leaders some of the movement building framework described in Acts 2:42-47. The Scriptures describes Prayer, Evangelism, Biblical Content, and Community as essential for growth and development of a movement. He urges finding leaders in these four areas for every type of campus, not just the squares and triangles, but for circles as well. This offers student leaders clear pathways for engagement and equipping is more specific.

I like this. Over the next two weeks, I will unpack more of what Rob is suggesting, how it helps ensure that our DNA is instilled and how beneficial it is as students help other students lead.

Fall Coaching Tips

Developing Leaders with Different Personalities.

We are all about raising up lifelong laborers. In my experience, leaders are developed, not typically waiting to be found. For the next few weeks, I will focus on developing leaders.

Different doesn’t mean wrong…necessarily. Sometimes, different…is just different.

Consider different personalities in leadership development. For illustration purposes, I’ll use the DiSC assessment. Its four personalities make it a bit easier to see, as opposed to 16 different combinations in the Myers-Briggs, or even the 34 talents of StrengthFinders.

Scenario 1. You assign two students to buy sound equipment to use at the fall retreat. Suppose one is a D, an initiator toward tasks, and the other is an S, a responder to people.

  • The D is bold, takes the bull by the horns, figures out what to do, and is determined and decisive. They make the purchase, checks that off and moves on to the next task.
  • The S is your “steady-eddie”, the consummate team player, somewhat deliberate, someone who will research the best options for the best price, will check “Consumer Reports”, so that it will be a good purchase.

Scenario 2. You assign two students to plan a social to watch the big rivalry game this weekend. One is a high I, an initiator toward people, and the other is a C, one compliant to their own standards.

  • The I, is thinking about how much fun everyone is going to have, how people will connect, how meaningful the conversations will be. They will keep thinking of people to invite up to the last minute and it will be a great time for everyone.
  • The C, will make a list of everything needed for the party, is there enough food for everyone? are all the details thought out? is there something for everyone so that all feel taken care of?

You can draw your own conclusions about how each person’s preferred manner would be an encouragement or a source of frustration to the other. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong; it just depends on the situation. Again, different isn’t necessarily wrong. Nor is one personality type the proper leadership style for every situation. More often than not, what we think is right is really a matter of personal preference.

Just as there are a variety of leadership styles, there are also a variety of ways that leaders develop. Have you ever had someone ask you to do something? But when you did, they criticized how you did it. In your mind, it seemed like a personality difference, a matter of preference.

Now, criticism is good. Evaluation helps us all to grow and develop. Its always a good rule of thumb to offer 5 positive things for every negative one pointed out.

This brings us back to leadership development. Many of us want to shield our protégé’s from possible motivation deflating circumstances. I think often of a book written a number of years ago, by Erwin Lutzer, Failure: The Backdoor to Success. Most of us learn more through failure than we do through success. Some learn through experience. Some prefer to learn by seeing an example. Some learn by applying principles. Some are motivated by the task.

I don’t think we can say that there is one “Cru way” of leadership development. As you consider those you work with, think about their personality style as well as their preferred learning approach.

Fall Coaching Tips

Collaborative Discipleship

Have you seen the Collaborative Discipleship resource on Barry Warren, Creative Resources & Media Specialist on the Campus R&D Team, spearheaded an effort to design a discipleship resource that students and volunteers can easily use.

I like how the initial description of Collaborative Discipleship resource points out that “the one who recruits three to five others to join a discipleship group views himself or herself as a fellow disciple needing to grow just as much as the others in the group.” Discipleship is more than just Bible study. And so the “group works together to organize, teach, train, and care for others.” Those in a group can start their own discipleship group in a very short time.

One of the best features of this resource is the pathways. They were designed to put the lessons in the order that best serves the group’s needs.

The lessons are short, simple to prepare, and have the smartphone user in mind. They follow a typical flow of connect to one another, cultivate the Biblical truth and skills, and care for others around us. And like the page says, you will find that “topics like justice, life skills, and embracing our ethnicity are enfolded into the time tested subjects like evangelism, basic follow-up, and discipleship.”

Over the years, I’ve noticed that it is difficult for students and volunteers to invest the amount of time that staff typically do to prepare Bible study lessons or spend with their disciples to help them grow. While this Collaborative Discipleship resource is still being tested, I think it helps give them the tools they need to lead others well.

Why not take a few minutes today to look at the beginning page, see if there is a pathway that fits your need, and click on a lesson or two to get a feel for the flow. If you get ambitious, there are in-depth resources and ideas for immersive experiences worth checking out.

Fall Coaching Tips

Focusing on the Influencers

It’s the beginning of a new year and we are all seeking to meet and connect with as many new students as possible. But in our busyness with freshman week activities and following up as many as we can, we can easily overlook the real influencers on campus.

Steve Shadrach, Executive Director, Center for Mission Mobilization, in his ebook, Heart of the Campus: Ministry principles and strategies for focusing on student leaders, suggests that reaching leaders will actually help us have a greater impact on the campus, something we all long for. The Kindle version is available for free with a subscription to Campus Ministry Today.

Shadrach says the campus has three types of students, the influencers (about 10%), the interested (about 60%), and the isolated (about 30%). I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the each context on campus has those same three groups.

His point is that the campus ministry efforts of most organizations are directed toward the interested, while we often ignore the “heart of the campus”, the influencers. He offers 10 movement principles (pp. 13-20) in this brief booklet. I’ve listed each along with a brief excerpt for explanation.

  1. How we view ourselves dramatically impacts how others view us. “For good or for bad, the way each spy viewed himself [in Numbers 13] determined how the giants viewed them.”
  2. The mature can relate to a broader spectrum of people. “It takes a lot of maturity and confidence to believe you can relate to…any person regardless of [their spiritual, social, economic status.]”
  3. Jesus said to focus on shepherds more than the sheep. “The cry of [Jesus’] heart was for more laborers (Matthew 9:36-39). Not more followers, but more leaders; people who could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. It is not exclusivism or favoritism as to why we select and develop these types of believers.”
  4. Select individuals who can “teach others also”. “In his final letter, Paul instructed his disciple, Timothy,…to significantly narrow down the prospective pool of laborers because they not only had to be faithful, but ‘able to teach others also’ (2 Timothy 2:2).”
  5. The heart of the campus is the most unreached segment. “Many collegiate ministries seem to be targeting the same students and appear to be nibbling around the edges of a campus, focusing on interested or isolated students because it is less threatening, and they are more available.”
  6. If you win the chief, you’ll win the tribe. “Isn’t it obvious that all groups have leaders (whether they are designated or not) and that these individuals have greater influence than the average person in that group?” Many when reached want help reaching their group.
  7. The core of the movement must be made up of influencers. “…at least five to ten students have to be influencers…These “relational networkers” are the magnets who attract other influencers, as well as the interested and isolated students, to the ministry. These key leaders become the glue that causes everyone to stick together and stay a part of the ministry. If the core is primarily interested or isolated students, then a movement will never get off the ground. They will struggle with: 1) relating to each other, 2) being able to initiate personal ministry, 3) attracting others to the movement, and 4) influencing the campus.
  8. Focus on influencers and you’ll indirectly affect more of the interested and isolated. “Jesus loves all students the same and so should we, but how can we impact the greatest number of students?… consider focusing on the influencers; they will draw the others in.”
  9. Vision and boldness is built when you go straight to the heart. “…we are here to win the whole campus to Jesus Christ, and we will not stop until there are key laborers raised up and working within every segment of the campus.”
  10. If you want influential staff, you must focus on influential students. “If your ministry is full of bold visionaries who are not afraid to go straight to the heart of the campus, you will draw stronger leaders to your team. Arliss Dickerson, veteran BCM campus minister…shares, ‘You attract what you are.’”

Shadrach offers perspective on selecting students from Mike Hearon, Director of Campus Outreach in Augusta, Georgia. “He wants to reach as many students as possible on campus and believes that focusing on the influencers is the key: ‘We must see our apostolic calling and realize more people can be reached by investing in those who will be able to teach others also.’”

Regardless of your ministry emphasis, I think you will find Heart of the Campus thought provoking and immediately practical. It is a quick read; one you can finish in an hour. But as you think about reaching your campuses this year, why not consider the influencers on your campus?

Related to this topic.

Off and Running in the Fall.

Most of these tips over the last several weeks have been about ending the Spring semester well, wrapping up the year, preparing for summer ministry, and getting set to hit the ground running in the fall.

Today’s tip is typically my last one of the year. But after a two week break, I will do a summer series on some of the habits of leaders.

Today’s focus is on the importance of a strong start in August, planning ahead, being intentional about our efforts, and maximizing the single most critical week of the campus year. Not everything applies in our missional context, but this article speaks to the urgency of the first week on campus and the reality of how quickly a student determines allegiances on campus.

“Every group I’ve studied has followed roughly the same pattern.  In fact, with only two exceptions, I have never seen a campus ministry grow after the first month of the year.”

Off And Running by Mike Woodruff

Three weeks into the Fall quarter finds most students in a rut.  They’ve picked their classes, joined their clubs and scheduled every waking minute between now and Thanksgiving.  Some have carved out time for “significant others,” most will have set aside entire weekends for football, pizza and parties, and a few will even have blocked out an hour or two for class.  But by the end of the first month it’s all in stone.  And if attending your large group meeting isn’t in their schedule by then, there is little hope it will be there come May.

During my 8 years with a church-based campus ministry in Washington State, I watched student involvement at our large group meetings climb from 150 to 700.  With the exception of one small hiccup up, all of that growth occurred in the Fall.  If we ended Spring quarter with 200 students, we started back in September with 350.  That May we’d be down around 300-far from growing, every group seems to lose numbers over the year-but by the next Fall we started with 450.  We grew by starting strong.  Every other group I’ve studied has followed roughly the same pattern.  In fact, with only two exceptions, I have never seen a campus ministry grow after the first month of the year.  And that means that if you’re serious about expanding your influence you need to begin with a shout.  If ever there was a time for a home run, it’s the first meeting of the Fall quarter.

Be Ready: Of course, starting strong is hard to do because first meetings are full of early season mistakes. The worship team is rusty, the microphones are lost and no one can find a three-prong adaptor to plug in the overhead.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Use the summer to jump start the Fall.  Put summer students to work preparing publicity and drama.  Work on your first message during June and July so it’s one of the strongest you give.  Ask the worship team to come back to campus a few days early for a planning and preparation retreat.  Or hire the worship band from a local church to help you begin with a bang.  Hold a dress rehearsal the night before.  Make it a party and buy pizza for the whole team.

Additionally, apply the popular business philosophy of continuous improvement. Keep a separate file folder just for the events that occur during the first few weeks of the Fall quarter, and as those events unfold critique them.  What could we do next year?  How could we have reached out more effectively to freshman?  Should we have started the meeting earlier? Later? Gone shorter? Longer? By continually updating this file-technically called an After Action Report-you can insure that your kick-offs get better and better.

Be Visible:  If you normally meet in a church or a room that is the least bit hard to find move your first meeting.  We picked one of the most visible buildings in the middle of campus even though that meant competing with a back-to-school kick off dance right outside the door. If your school has an activity fair where you can advertise, set up the best booth and offer the most free food. I’d suggest spending up to seventy-five percent of your advertising budget for the entire year on your first couple of meetings-and be creative.  Anybody can do posters.  Try banners, balloons, sandwich boards, flyers, blackboard blitzes and, of course, personal invitations. We sent out letters to all returning students welcoming them back to school and inviting them to our first meeting.  The invitation includes the who, what, where, when, and why of every event we have planned during the first week, and ends with me egging them to invite anyone and everyone they know to our very first meeting.  If they will send me the name of someone they’d like invited, I’ll send them a letter or give them a call.  We also make a special effort to reach freshman by handing out lots of flyers around the freshman dorms and in their registration lines. I know several Christian groups whose members come back to campus early just so they can help freshman move into the dorms.  They find that by being one of the first friendly faces a freshman meets it’s easy to form friendships that might later lead to a chance to share the Gospel or invite someone to a meeting.

The Sardine Effect:  During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy’s advance man picked small high school gymnasiums for their political rallies.  He didn’t want the nicest auditorium to meet in; he wanted a place they could pack.  We’ve done the same. In fact, the room we now use seats 150 fewer students than we expect.  The fire marshal hates us, but the energy we create is incredible.

Pray, pray and pray:  But not right before the meeting.  The last place you want your leaders just before the start of the first meeting is locked up in a room with you.  They should be out inviting friends, greeting early arrivals or picking up newcomers who need a ride.  Hold your prayer meeting earlier in the week or earlier in the day. That frees everyone up to deal with last minute headaches and mingle with people.

Force Fellowship:  Helping freshmen feel welcome is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face; especially since upper-class students all gravitate to friends they haven’t seen in three months.  Place greeters at the door, plead with your Bible study leaders to befriend lost freshmen and end the meeting by asking people to find two people they don’t know and introduce themselves. I also explained that everyone-including our staff-feels like everybody here knows everybody else-except them.  The bigger the group the more of an issue this becomes and the more proactively you need to deal with it.

The Meeting:  First meetings are not for regular attendees.  Serve food, skip inside jokes, explain all terms, don’t sing any songs that you do not have the words for and otherwise bend over backwards to make visitors feel welcome.  Screen all announcements and any drama to be certain they are done well.  Seekers and nominal Christians are more likely to check you out at the beginning of the year-actually, most everyone is there to check out the opposite sex.  This is a point I make during the beginning of my talk because it’s guaranteed to prompt lots of nervous laughter-so adjust worship and your first message. Be light. Be user friendly. Be funny. Be short. Your goal is to get them to sign up for a Bible study and come back next week, not explain the finer points of the hypostatic union.

“… the first 168 hours after a student sets foot on campus represents the most strategic time for them to get plugged into your fellowship.”

Follow Up:  Life long friendships are often formed in the first few days of college, so cram as many opportunities for bonding into that week as you can.  We held a picnic the afternoon after our first meeting and sponsored a social event that weekend. Additionally, our staff worked around the clock placing people in small group Bible studies.  Our goal was that everyone who signed up for a study was contacted within twenty-four hours by his or her study leader.  That means at least one all-nighter for our staff, but it was worth it.  We wanted Bible Study leaders to be able to spend time with the members of their study during the first week.  They could meet with them at the weekend social, walk with them to church that first Sunday and sit with them at the next large group meeting.

Was all of this work easy?  Not hardly.  Trying to jump-start a college ministry is a lot like trying to kick start an aircraft carrier.  At least two or three people will nearly die of exhaustion.  But someone has to do it and without question the first 168 hours after a student sets foot on campus represent the most strategic time for them to get plugged into your fellowship.  Plan now to begin with a bang.

Have a great week summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016