Category Archives: Personal Growth

Gap Year

Starting Fall 2018, Cru is launching our first ever Gap Year missions. A Global Gap Year is a 9-month adventure that will transform lives, give opportunities to trust God in greater ways, and to share the Gospel with high school students across the globe.

Recent high school grads will spend 2 months of personal training and development in Orlando followed by 3 months each in Africa and South America, working alongside Cru high school ministries in each country.

  • Do you know high school students who would be a good fit for this mission? They can indicate their interest here and high school’s Global Missions team will provide them more information.
  • Would you be interested in leading a gap year team?

Did you know that

  • Only 56% of all students entering college graduate with a degree within six years?
  • Or that an estimated 75% of all college students change majors at least once. Many as much as three times.
  • Or that 30 % of all freshmen drop out of college after the first year?
  • (Statistics come from the collegeatlas.org and American Gap Association.)

A few colleges support gap years. According to their websites, Harvard encourages students to defer enrollment for one year to take a gap year. And Princeton offers a Bridge Year Program that allows students to engage in a 9-month University sponsored international service project.

Why a Gap Year

  • To pursue other passions.
  • A chance to regroup and rediscover.
  • Find clarity about the future.
  • Help to develop a worldview.
  • Help alleviate academic burnout.
  • Improved career opportunities.

Benefits of a Gap Year

  • Better prepared for college.
  • Better sense of self.
  • A more focused student.
  • Typically higher GPA’s.
  • Better problem solving skills.
  • Better chance of graduating in 4 years.
  • Tend not to change majors.

Obviously, the high school ministry will benefit from their participation, as they will help launch new high school movements and provide lift to existing ministries. But Gap Year team members will benefit from the training they will receive in evangelism, discipleship and movement launching, and personally from this rich development experience.

To learn more go here, to indicate your interest fill out this form, or to talk with someone about Gap Year contact Jill.johnson@cru.org.

Fall Coaching Tips

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How to Finish When You Can’t See the Finish Line.

I participate in a MapMyRun phone app challenge called “You vs. the Year.” Last year’s goal was to complete 1000KM but was upped to 1017KM this year.

At this writing, I have 200KM yet to go. Yup, I’m behind. (I’ll spare you the injury report you often get with obsessive runners.) But last year at this time, I received this notice:

“You’ve covered 900KM and that’s no joke. You’re only 100KM away from reaching the end, but we’re not here for the prizes or even for the finish line. We’re here for everything that comes before that. The beautiful struggle, the epic triumph, and the will to say you run with fight. Let’s get it done.”

We still have 6 weeks left in the semester. The goal isn’t to get through it, but to walk with God every day and see what He will do. So how do we keep the “beautiful struggle” and “epic triumph” at this point in the semester.

Sometimes when we are in the middle of the semester, it’s hard to see where we’re going. The end of the semester isn’t right around the corner.

There is still of ton of ministry to do between now and Christmas break with our Winter Conferences, FastBreaks, etc. There’s recruiting. There’s training. There’s delegation. There’s work to do on MPD. There are things that aren’t done yet, like that stack of contacts, thank you notes, that hard conversation with someone you’ve been avoiding.

How do we move forward in the face of the “woulda/coulda/shoulda’s”, the “what if’s”, and the “how am I gonna’s?” Here are a few things to keep it all in perspective. (Some of these come from an unpublished document written several years ago by a Campus Field Ministry National Team working group, Coaching to Shepherd.)

  1. Recognize the reality of fatigue, our discomfort with rejection, our tendency to compare ourselves and others, and when we have gone on auto-pilot in unhealthy ways. Simply recognizing these is a necessary first start.
  2. Keep your walk with the Lord your priority. Choose to be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We know what that means. Confessing sin and being filled by faith.
  3. Choose to take thoughts captive. A number of years ago, I memorized 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These verses help me check what I am giving thought to.
  4. Finally, trust God that you are a fellow worker with God. (2 Corinthians 6:1 NIV) You are in partnership with Him in the details of your day, every step you take and every person you talk with. God has engineered the events in your life and theirs to bring about His purposes.

Here are two helpful resources: Emotional Well-Being and Leading by Dr. Mark McCloskey and Reading Your Gauges by Bill Hybels.

The ongoing monitoring that my phone app provides has helped me run more and be more consistent. In the same way, monitoring my walk with the Lord, along with my gauges and emotional well-being are keys to what I do and how I’m doing. We can’t change the outward circumstances, but we can change how we look at those circumstances.

Fall Coaching Tips

Caring for our People.

Much of what I’ve talked about in these tips so far this year speaks to ministry and strategy. But many of us are far enough into this campus year that we want to pay attention to the heart of our staff and leaders. We’ve worked hard to follow up and involve freshmen. It is understandable if we feel tired.

Several years ago, the old Campus Field Ministry national team had a focus on coaching. Various staff worked on “coaching to strategy” tools and others on “coaching to shepherd”.

In an unpublished article, the latter group used the “cycles of momentum” to identify common and predictable emotions that teams experience throughout the year. They categorized their work by
1. Typical emotions experienced,
2. Possible root issues, and
3. Resources and responses.

Their tool listed emotions, roots, and resources for every month of the campus year. As we’re more than half way through September, I am summarizing these for October.

Possible emotions experienced.

  • Weariness / Adrenaline letdown :: Can enter a funk. Real rest needed.
  • Do I have a life? Spouse? etc. :: A proper downshift is needed, and how do I do that?
  • May stop depending on the Lord and enter into default mode.
  • Is this worth it?

Possible root issues.

  • Owning that I have perhaps ignored myself, my family, etc.
  • Identity in ministry success :: An over personalization of results defining them.
  • Short term mindset :: Comparison & frustration with results.

Responses and resources.

  • Book // In the Name of Jesus (Nouwen)
  • Helping them take time to pause, reflect, celebrate, lift eyes up.
  • Article // Reading Your Gauges (Hybels)
  • Reminder of vision from coach/leadership, and pass it on.
  • Talk // Rescue the Dying (Hutchcraft)
  • Coaching toward leaving margin for high level priorities on Position Focus (i.e. Downshift). Tool // Position Focus. Tool // Review Job Description.

If you lead any kind of team, be mindful that you must coach to strategy and coach to shepherd. You are seeking to make a difference for Christ. And you are caring for your people in the process.

Fall Coaching Tips

The Habit of Serving at the Pleasure of Others.

I’m taking a few weeks to focus on the habits of leaders. Naturally, we think about the typical spiritual disciplines. But I think there are other habits like taking time to read, listen, think, and being generous, that are often overlooked.

Today, I want to focus on serving at the pleasure of others.

For most of 17 years, Chris and I led our church’s 13-week Marriage Preparation Class. We had a great team of teachers, mentors, and others helping put on the class. It was a singular privilege for us to be involved in setting the trajectory of some 1700 couples taking that class over those years.

Maybe once a year, we shared about our work with the class in a newsletter. Many of our ministry partners saw it as an interesting sidelight to our ministry. But aside from presenting the gospel to the whole class during each course, there was little to put on a ministry report. We were, in a fact, serving another ministry outside of our own.

This fact came home to me in a very tangible way. We had a long time instructor of a particular topic and we purposed to change the content and teaching approach. To do so meant asking someone else to lead that session. Anticipating that it might be a hard conversation, I was very encouraged when he graciously responded, “I serve at your pleasure.”

I wasn’t always in charge. Like the vast majority of Cru staff, I was new staff once, with two different team leaders in three years. Then I became a team leader in Rhode Island with staff reporting to me over the next eleven years. During that time, Chris and I became active in our church. I taught adult Sunday school classes, led home groups, participated in our worship band, was a governing elder, and even directed the Easter choir musical one year!

At the end of our years in Rhode Island, we moved to our headquarters in Florida and joined the Student LINC team. Chris and I chose to repeat our church experience and got involved in a church in our new community. In this one, over 3000 attended. No teaching adult Sunday school here. The worship band was made up of professionals and had no place for me. But there was a slot teaching a 2 and 3-year-old Sunday school class.

Again, Chris and I chose to serve for two years how and where we were needed…until a former Cru staff asked if we would consider mentoring in their Marriage Preparation Class.

I did not know it at the time, by as I look back, the pattern God used throughout was one in which I learned how to willingly serving others and not just in the areas that benefit the work of our own ministry. God does a valuable work in our hearts when we seek to advance the work of others. The lessons I learned in servant leadership, others-centered service, and collaborative teamwork, were often taught in the classroom of someone else’s authority, serving their purposes, and helping reach their goals. May we develop the habit of serving at the pleasure of others.

The Habit of Generosity.

Spiritual leaders cultivate habits. We generally think about those habits commonly called spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important.

However, there are others often overlooked, such as taking time to read, listen, and think.

Today, let’s look at something a bit more others-focused—generosity. A generous person sows freely. It isn’t only with money, but with all the commodities we possess—praise, interest in others, time, energy, etc.

If a generous person is one who sows broadly, am I stingy, or am I generous? Do I offer praise grudgingly, or do I look for ways to genuinely affirm others? Do I give cheerfully? Am I free with my time and energy?

We all have constraints. None of us have unlimited time, treasure, and talent. But do I find myself hoarding and protecting, or do I distribute?

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours, Bob Emrick, suddenly passed away at 81. Chris and I knew him and his wife, Jodi, as long time mentors and part of our leadership team with our church’s Marriage Preparation Class. Those who stood to eulogize the man at his memorial service, focused on his generosity.

Bob was a star basketball player at the University of Florida and after 60 years is still one of the top 10 all-time leaders in scoring and rebounding. He was a successful businessman. Such accolades don’t usually lead automatically to the kind of reputation that Bob had as a humble, giving servant, willing to help any way he could.

After retirement Bob gave his time and talents to several charitable causes. His standard greeting to me was always, “Are you doing okay?”, automatically taking the focus away from him.

Several years ago, Bob and Jodi moved to an hour away from where we held class. But he continued to arrive by 7:30 each Sunday for set up. He made the coffee; and he didn’t even drink coffee! Bob surely was a generous man.

In today’s culture, leaders consolidate. They store up. They protect assets. But Jesus called attention to the widow with the two coins (Luke 21:2), the sinful woman anointing Him with an alabaster jar of perfume (Luke 7:36-50), and the boy with the lunch (John 6:9). It goes to the heart of who we think God is. Do we focus on how He lavished His grace upon us (Ephesians 1:3,8), or do we believe He is checking on us following the rules (Luke 19:21)?

Here’s one way we can be generous. Most of us will be eating out a lot this summer while on missions and at Cru17. Can we be a blessing to those who serve us by tipping more than what is expected?

I am certain that when generosity becomes a habit in one area of life, such as with our money, it pervades every aspect of life. And we will be more effective leaders when we are generous. Let us commit to a habit of generosity.

The Habit of Taking Time to Think.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important.

But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development. For the next several weeks, I am focusing on some of those.

I first talked about reading that which broadens and sharpens us. Last week, I focused on listening to those who challenge our thinking.

Today, let’s look at the habit of taking time to think. Richard J. Foster, in his Celebration of Discipline, devotes whole chapters to meditation, study, and solitude. The input folks love his chapter on study; introverts value solitude.

I know some of us are external and verbal processors. Some of us are more comfortable planning, thinking ahead, and dreaming. Some are reflective, we journal, and we put things in context. Some are abstract and others more concrete in how we learn and process information; some are sequential, others random.

But regardless of your particular preference, if you don’t take time to put the events of your life together in such a way as to see what God is doing in and through you, we can easily fall into the trap of thinking we are simply being tossed about by chance or other factors beyond our control. You must have time to process.

You need time unplugged. And in our world we must be intentional about unplugging. It’s not comfortable, we are afraid we will miss something, and it is easy to elevate our own importance and indispensability.

Three years ago, Chris and her brother received some inheritance money. He and his wife planned to spend a week in Sweden and take a Baltic Sea cruise. Chris is half Swedish and half Norwegian. She asked if they wanted company. Sure! So we spent most of three weeks in a part of the world where wifi is everywhere, but you had to buy a meal or a service to get it!

We actually found ourselves unplugged for a good part of our time. That was an unusual experience for me. Unnerving at first, and then eventually, quite refreshing as I focused on the history and culture, time with family, the travel exper-ience, and time to sit and think apart from concerns back home.

Chris took a number of pictures of me sitting on benches, just sitting. This one shows me overlooking an inlet on the North Sea.

They say that men have a compartment in our brains with nothing in it. However true that may be, a leader develops his or her own way of taking the time to think.

 

Charity Toward Those Who Disagree With Us.

When we think about the habits of spiritual leaders, we typically think about the spiritual disciplines—the devotional life, studying the Word, prayer, worship, ministry, service, etc. They are important. But there are other habits often overlooked in our leadership development.

I talked about reading last week. Christian biographies, the works of Christian leaders, other aspects of the Christian life, and issues facing the church today are important. But so is reading the Classics, history, science, and other academic disciplines. It broadens our minds and sharpens our thinking.

So, also, is the habit of listening and engaging with those who disagree with us. I find that most Christians today are comfortable only with reading or talking with those whom we agree. We, actually, are better when we seek out, spend time with, and befriend those not like us.

My neighbor of some 15 years voted for the other guy in every election that I’ve known him. His views and values differ from mine. He reads and gets his input from different sources than I do. We don’t shy away from those areas of disagreement, nor do they define our relationship. I consider John one of my very best friends. We run together. We watch each other’s dogs when they are out of town. We share meals together. His friendship is most important to me.

But that hasn’t always been the case. I made some mistakes years ago in thinking I could change his mind and have him see things my way. But I had to learn not to focus on the differences but on those things that bind us together. Family is incredibly important to him. John and his wife are great parents. They take pride in our neighborhood and are respectful of others. They attend a different church and have involved themselves in mission and community development.

All that to say, the differences have sharpened and expanded each of us, but don’t define our friendship.

The ability to befriend those who think differently is not all that is at stake. It’s also how we actually discuss those differences that will either deepen a friendship or lead to one fractured. Listening without responding, hearing the position and the heart behind it without being defensive, and acknowledging the unspoken feelings and perceptions without posturing are all critical to building the relationship.

We naturally want to win. And by the time we arrive at a place of leadership, we’ve usually been right a good part of the time. But in my reading the Gospels, I find that Jesus usually answers a question with a question; and especially, the challenging ones.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the lawyer wishing to test Jesus about how to inherit eternal life was answered with a question. He gave the right answer and Jesus commended him for it. But the lawyer seeking to justify himself asked another, and that’s when he told this now familiar parable. Jesus ends with another question, which one was his neighbor? Then finally our Lord says, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m struck by what Jesus did not do. He didn’t argue. He didn’t “one up” or blister him with a zinger. He wasn’t cutting or defensive.

How do others receive us? Do we have an edge? Do we need to be right? Can we be charitable with those whom we differ? Do we immerse ourselves in groupthink? Are we afraid of being tainted, or losing control?

At the same time we don’t roll over and play dead. Being confident with our own thoughts and actions while comfortably engaging with those who live and believe differently is a habit of an effective leader.

Spring Coaching Tips