Category Archives: Planning

Helping Churches Reach Students

For those of us in campus ministry, summer is a great time to have the kind of conversations we typically don’t have space for during the busy campus year. When we are home visiting partners we have an opportunity to cast a broader vision than our own work, and possibly help them take steps toward their own vision.

Here is an example. Many churches share your passion for reaching students. Often they don’t know what to do past vision for reaching lost students.

Jeff Grant, Partnership Specialist on our Student LINC Team, recently gave a metro team some practical ideas on the how and why of partnering.

Let me encourage you to go to his page and take 10 minutes to listen to three of his short clips:

  • 101 – Vision: Selling More Dresses,
  • 201 – How to Partner, and
  • 301 – Examples of Partnership.

Then before you listen to any others, consider which church might you have a conversation with about reaching out to a high school or college nearby when you visit this summer. Most of the eight clips currently available are only a couple minutes long.

Some time ago, I met with Abby and Johnny Schuler on Cru staff in Miami. They had a passion for pioneering new ministries and for engaging churches and volunteers to reach out to college campuses. They were given an open door in their own church to offer training and resources, as there was a significant core with a deep concern for college students.

The posture they took was one of “We want to help you accomplish what God has called you to do.” Such a posture lets churches see us as catalysts in their vision, and as having a kingdom mentality.

We in Cru have not always had such a partnering perspective. If we intend to see more than a million life-long laborers raised up, if we hope to give every student an opportunity to say “Yes!” to Jesus, if we hope to see movements of multiplying disciples established on every campus, and if we hope to see Christian leaders raised up in every nation, we will want to look for ways to partner with others.

Spring Coaching Tips

The First Two Weeks in the Fall.

Years ago, Eric Swanson wrote the article, “The First Two Weeks on Campus.” We still do much of what he talked about in getting ministry started in the fall. How those first two weeks go, makes a difference in the rest of the year. That’s why it is so important to be thinking now about fall ministry start-up essentials.

Read on for my distilled version of Eric’s thinking, a few thoughts of my own.

Time with key leaders

  • Ask student leaders to return before freshmen arrive on campus. It’s essential to do this before so as to maximize relationship building time with freshmen.
  • Cast vision for the year. You may need to re-align and provide motivation.
  • Involve them in dreaming about and planning for the year.
  • Walk through the key events of the first few weeks.
  • Delegate responsibilities for those events.


  • Visibility communicates that what we are involved in is significant.
  • Goal: That everyone on campus knows we exist.
  • Being attractive to students: Having fun, building relationships, involved in meaningful efforts.
  • Flyers and handouts.
    • What we hand out or post lends credibility to the more critical personal invitation.
    • Does the publicity represent us well?
    • Do students see us as the kind of people they want to be involved with?
  • Tabling
    • Surveys, sign-ups, providing information about first meeting, socials, retreat.
    • Food!
  • Socials
    • First day of school picnic, pizza party, ice cream social, etc.
    • This is your first opportunity to make a body-mode impression.


  • Principle: If you have a non-believer focus—believers will come; if you have a believer focus, non-believers won’t come.
  • Believers may be a great source of manpower. But you are looking to survey large numbers of students to find those most interested as early as you can.
  • Again, the first two weeks are most important all year.
  • Atmosphere: Students don’t feel pressured yet. They have lots of hope for what the year holds in store for them. They are seeking friendships and a place to belong. This window of opportunity will close quickly.

Conserving fruit

  • Set a deadline to follow up contacts. Contacts become cold in two weeks and dead in three.
  • Look for ways to have lots of person-to-person contact.
  • Start large open connection groups quickly. By starting too late, we lose people.
  • We can start discipleship groups later.

Other things to keep in mind

  • Train your students what to do on a first appointment
  • What about returning students?
  • Plan well your first meeting of the year.
  • Plan your first outreach.
  • Plan a movement launch.

Minister to your team

  • Since you as a team are working hard these two weeks, look for ways to affirm that work, celebrate the progress, and refresh.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

“Better than my dreams.”

Last week I mentioned that this is the time of the semester when I typically map out the rest of the year. I chose, instead, to focus on prayer and putting ourselves in a posture of receiving direction from the Lord, not just projection planning based on what we’ve done before.

Again, last year, this particular tip looked like this.

It seems appropriate to keep asking what the Lord would do. But this week, consider the dreams He is giving you.

  • What could you imagine the Lord doing if He had free reign?
  • What Scriptures are you praying about for your campuses?
  • What would your campuses look like if your dreams became a reality? (i.e., the spiritual responsiveness of non-believers, the spiritual walk of believers, the spiritual tone on campus, the character, vision, and biblical convictions of Christian students, etc.)?
  • What is the Lord showing you concerning the kind of person you’ll become in order to see your dreams fulfilled?
  • What could you imagine regarding the spiritual health and training of your student leaders and volunteers?
  • Since small plans don’t inflame the minds of men, what faith stretching events might you do in the next two to four years to fulfill your vision?
  • In light of the vision God has given you for the next two to four years, what is He showing you to do or become this year?

(These questions were adapted from “Cultivating a Vision for my Campus.”)

There’s a line in the book (not the TV series), The Virginian, by Owen Wister. It’s at the end, and I won’t spoil it for you by telling the circumstances. The Virginian repeatedly says, “Better than my dreams.” And finally he says, “And my dreams were pretty good.” What are we dreaming that only God can accomplish?

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

First, prayer.

This is the time of the semester when I typically map out the rest of the year. It’s a busy time, giving thought to ending the year well, preparing for summer, and planning out the beginning of the next fall.

Last year, this particular tip looked like this.

But I thought it might actually be good for this focus to be on prayer. That will set us up better as we lead out of this year into next.

Actually, it was my wife, Chris, who said, we can do the same things we have always done In planning and preparing for the summer and the fall. But where is the faith in that? Are we planning by experience, and then, logically, by projection? “We did thus and so…and so with what we have, we should be able to do such and such.”

No one is going to argue that we shouldn’t pray. Prayer surfaces leaders. Prayer causes growth. Prayer brings us in tune with the heart of God. Prayer opens doors. Etc., etc.

But, while we should plan ahead and do our preparation, let’s consider how we can put ourselves in a posture of receiving from the Lord as we look ahead.

You might possibly have a significant season of prayer and then come up with the same things you have always done. But isn’t it good to know that it was the Lord leading you in that?

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

A Staff Team Pioneering a New Campus Together

Last November, my son, Rick, MTL at Florida State University, told me that their team wanted to visit Valdosta State to see about launching a movement there. Could I send him some suggestions? What follows is a generic version of what I sent him.

Before the campus visit.

  • Pray. Ask God for divine connections.
  • Some virtual decoding. Purpose: Decide initial first steps in finding potential Key Leaders.
    • Look at info on
      • This looks at all campuses through the same criteria.
    • Read info on the campus’s own website.
  • Attempt to find interested students/faculty to meet with on the day of your visit.
    • Contact churches and ask if they have students/faculty that attend?
    • Ask Cru MTLs to ask their students if they have friends who attend and might be interested in Cru.
    • Ask long-term staff if they know of alumni who have moved nearby or work there.
    • Ask Faculty Commons staff if they have faculty connections there.
    • Ask our high school staff if they have alumni there.
    • Schedule meetings with any who surface to cast vision for launching Cru there.
  • Determine if you will do a table for give-aways/ informational/surveys, Soularium, etc. Schedule times for manning the table.
  • Determine the resources you will need. You are going to want to give students an opportunity to continue checking out and receiving input after you leave. This is the God factor.
  • Determine meeting places and prayer walks.
  • Schedule a campus tour. Who knows? Maybe the student conducting would be interested or knows someone.

The day of the visit.

  • Prayer Walk the campus.
  • Take a campus tour.
  • Do evangelism.
  • Meet with anyone with whom you have appointments—Faculty, Cru alumni, students, potential volunteers, etc.
  • If you intend to do a give-away/informational table/surveys, Soularium, etc., plan to divide up folks so that everyone has an opportunity to be at the table, but also has a variety of experiences throughout the day.

Following up the visit.

  • Determine if there is someone on the team that had a meaningful connection with someone that day, has the desire to stay in touch, and has capacity.
    • If there is someone, have them call all the interested students back within the next few days.
      • The Student LINC team can give training on first steps to help the students launch.
    • If there is no one able to coach the campus, collect the names of the most likely students to launch and email that info to the Student LINC team launch specialist.
  • Determine the extent and frequency of connection your team wants to have with the school going forward.
  • It is certainly permissible to hand over to Student LINC all responsibility, but we would be glad to equip you if you would like to retain it.

Staff generally enjoy doing ministry together. Pioneering can be a great staff team building event. It allows everyone with different gifts and interests to have a part and offers the potential of seeing a successful launch with far-reaching impact.

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

“This is not rocket science.”

Ben Rivera, long-time Student LINC Coach, is doing something different this year. He’s doing Google Hangouts with student leaders on several campuses for the St. Louis Metro Team. Some of their staff and interns sit in on those coaching calls.

Ben will say that nothing he does is rocket science. In fact, I suspect that after listening to his coaching those staff and interns think that they could do that, and maybe even better!

Read on for some of the key elements as Ben coaches student and volunteer leaders to reach their campus.

Ben shoots to connect with these student leaders every week or two. There are some things that he makes a point to ask about each time. And in the back of his mind, he has a set of skills and specific resources that he wants these leaders to know.

Topics for each session.

  • How is your walk with the Lord?
  • Are you living a pure life?
  • Are you praying for the campus?
  • Did you read my weekly tip? (These are specifically written for the student leader and timely based on the semester and cycles of momentum. They have a devotional or heart emphasis as well as a practical ministry focus.)
  • A passage of Scripture to look at relevant to their walk with the Lord or ministry. One example was Matthew 8:18-22, the cost of following Jesus.
  • What is one question you want to make sure we cover today?
  • We are a ministry of evangelism and discipleship. We want to multiply our lives into others so that we can give every student an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

Specific training he is systematically covering.

  • Sharing the Knowing God Personally booklet.
  • Living the Spirit-filled life.
  • Writing their testimony.
  • Taking someone through follow up.
  • Starting and leading a Bible study.
  • Forming and leading a leadership team.

Ben doesn’t assume anything. He’s making sure these student leaders know the most basic ministry skills. He asks lots of good questions to find out what is really going on with each leader and their ministry. And he is able to adjust his agenda based on how the conversation goes. You need to know that he takes careful notes on those conversations so he remembers what he talked about as he prepares for the next conversation.

But Ben has two purposes. 1. Equip these student leaders. Ben has a real heart for people and wants to see them become all that God intends for them to become. And 2. The local staff and interns see how easy and strategic these coaching calls are so that they will want to take over the coaching themselves. In fact one of the local staff has taken careful notes of her own to share with the whole team so that they all benefit.

As we think about giving every student on every campus in every demographic an opportunity to say “Yes!” to Jesus, we will necessarily have to put students, faculty, and volunteers in leadership roles and equip them to lead. Secondly, we will need to add distance coaching elements to our ministry plan. The need pushes us to consider what God might do beyond what we are able to do face to face.

Some others on distance coaching.

Fall 2016 Coaching Tips