Category Archives: Planning

Off and Running in August

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 I will have one more next week.

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 adapter 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.

Previous Coaching Tips

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CoJourneying with a Wider Audience

You’ve probably seen this Journey Grid before. It’s a construct that helps us understand where someone is on their spiritual journey. The X-axis shows the Scale of Belief and the  29354772_557753214597459_7082904714142011143_oY-axis the level of benefit they’ve received from Cru. You know someone in every audience.

Most of us tend to focus our work on the C, D, G, and H Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 11.22.03 AMaudiences. But if you are like me, you often wonder how we could do more with those who would assign themselves to the lower and left parts of the grid.

I’ve come to realize that the answer isn’t what could I do, but, rather, what could we do?

Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 11.32.11 AMWe actually have a team in Cru who specifically thinks about helping us help others progress to where they want to go spiritually. It is called our Cru Concierge. I can see skepticism right now as you’re reading these words! But, here is how Ryan McReynolds, Campus Ministry Director of Marketing, describes the work of our concierge.

“The purpose of her role is similar to a hotel concierge: to offer help so that each person can get where they want to go. 
“Cru and hotels are institutions/organizations. And many people are skeptical of institutions. It is very common to hear people say, “I’m not a fan of organized religion”. 
“However, you never hear people say, “I’m not a fan of organized medicine”. That’s because when people are in pain or ill, they just want help; and organized help is much more effective than the alternative. People are grateful for effective help and this can overcome their distrust of an institution.
“The goal of the Concierge is to offer help that is as personal and friendly as possible and yet organized to be as effective as possible to meet people’s needs. 
“Cru is so large that we have lots to offer, but it must be offered in a very personal way in order for people to trust and receive what is offered. That is the role of the concierge.”

 

Our Coaching Center team received the names of over 3500 Christians this year who attended a partnering organization’s events. We worked hard to try to find those interested Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 11.28.32 AMin starting a movement on their campus. We were specifically looking for K’s to become L’s and H’s. And we found some. But after we did our initial pass, we forwarded the lists to the Concierge. In their “very personal way” they were able to surface dozens more interested folks. And that was during April, the worst month of the year to do this!

Our Concierge uses some simple surveys and tools with a proven track record in providing spiritual input and benefit for others. And if you are using MissionHub, you already have a huge start in being able to provide continued spiritual value to those who might have “slipped though the cracks”.

Does this sound compelling to you? Maybe you are a mom looking for a way to impact students. Or maybe you want to be a better Guide to help more students in their spiritual journeys. Contact concierge@cru.org to learn more.

Previous Coaching Tips

 

Juggling in April

It’s April! There is a lot to do this month. Some campuses will be done before the end of the month. And some summer missions start the first week of May.

How are you at juggling? You have a fair amount to juggle during this last month of the spring semester. You are trying to end the semester well. You are thinking about the summer. And you are already planning for next year.

Here is a list with some helpful resources.

Spring

Summer

Fall

A few perspectives on this busy time.

Recall the old adage about how you eat an elephant—one bite at a time! You don’t want to give that whole list to your leaders all at once. You’ll want to prioritize these and then coach them through this in the time remaining this spring.

One way you can help your leaders own all that needs to be done is to have them brainstorm what they think needs to be done. That’s better than springing a list on them like I just did! Let’s just say that I gave you “The Answers”!

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Ministry even on snow days.

My brother and sister-in-law left Friday morning from Florida for their home in Pennsylvania. He texted me last night to say he always wanted to see the Blue Ridge Parkway. They drove lots of miles out of the way yesterday to see it. But he said, “I could barely see the car in front of me because the mountain was fogged in, rain and ice. Lucky me! They should rename it Black and Blue Parkway!”

Many of you have had some snow days this year. Does ministry stop on those days? I was going through my archives and came across a tip that a friend, John Mitchell, did several years ago on coaching when the weather doesn’t cooperate. He is now teaching high school science, but at the time coached campuses across New England, mostly when face-to-face ministry was not possible. Here’s what John said:

Distance Ministry Training in Evangelism and Discipleship even works on snow days!

Can you do effective evangelism and discipleship training on a snowbound day while sitting by the fireplace with a hot chocolate?

As I write this, I am sitting on the couch next to my son while he watches Thomas the Tank Engine.  His preschool was cancelled today because of snow and freezing rain.  So I can confidently answer the above question with a definite yes!  When we use distance principles to coach student leaders, we are able to increase both our flexibility and efficiency.

Over the past several years, I have come to appreciate the ease of getting a hold of many students and the more relaxed pace of some students on snow days.  However, distance coaching in evangelism and discipleship works any time of year, whatever the forecast.  Distance coaching is just like face-to-face ministry.  It is just that you are meeting together over the phone instead (or video call if you prefer).

When selecting student leaders to distance coach, 2 Timothy 2:2 offers great insight: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”  This means that the best student leaders for me to coach are reliable.  They return e-mails and/or phone calls and notify me when they can’t keep an appointment.  They are teachable and have the ability to build into others with some training.

There are some things I can do easily over the phone and other things that I do when I am with them face-to-face.

Phone appointments
After selecting a student leader, I try to use my phone appointments to focus on training in evangelism and discipleship.  I typically call them every week or two.  When I call, I take a few minutes to find out how they are and what’s going on in the ministry. Then I take around 15-20 minutes for training, 5-10 minutes for coaching related to ministry activities, and I close our appointments by praying for them and the ministry.

…I usually develop a personalized discipleship plan with the students I mentor each semester.  Each time we meet, we are either discussing a topic related to evangelism or apologetics, how to disciple or build into other students, or how they can personally grow in their walk with God.

It helps to send reminder e-mails about two or three days before my appointments with a link to an article that relates to our topic or a relevant attachment.  This helps both of us take the appointment seriously and we each benefit from these training articles and related discussions.  At times both students and I have practiced sharing the Knowing God Personally booklet to one another over the phone.  Even though this can seem awkward at first, once you have done this a few times, it becomes quite natural.

Campus visits
Each semester I seek to visit the large group meetings at the campuses I coach twice. Campus visits are the perfect time to actually do evangelism with the student leaders you mentor, so it is good to plan for your visit in advance.  (Make sure they have you scheduled to speak, have them set up a table on campus or other outreach, bring Soularium or Perspectives cards with you, set up a special meeting with student leaders for lunch or dinner etc.).  Campus visits like this provide us with a great opportunity to provide training to the ministry as a whole and connect with the whole student leadership team.

During one of my campus visits each semester, I emphasize evangelism and in the other visit the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Usually when I visit a large group meeting on campus I speak on one of these two topics.  Since I can’t go sharing with a student leader while talking on the phone with them, visiting their campus provides me with a great opportunity to do this.  Last fall I used the Soularium and Knowing God Personally booklets while meeting with my student leaders and this semester I also expect to use Perspectives cards with them during visits.

While doing distance ministry, I have noticed that some students and campuses grow quickly and effectively implement coaching and training. However, other students and campuses have struggled more or can be difficult to coach.  This is similar to my experience when I was focused on one campus.  Don’t be surprised if you experience a variety of fruitfulness from your distance ministry endeavors.  Even as you experience some disappointments, I expect that you will receive the rewards of seeing God answering your prayers as He builds new movements on your campus and on other campuses where you didn’t believe it was possible.

John knew that selection of his leaders is key no matter how near or far away that leader is.  And then beyond that, he has a plan for those he coaches.  He is intentional about what he does on the phone and when he visits the campus.  But the biggest benefit in his coaching from a distance is how the leader realizes the importance of what they are doing in seeing God’s Kingdom grow on their campus or in their community.

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December Checklist

If you’re like me, you have a ton going on right now. I’m writing this in an airport on Saturday, headed home after a four day conference. I’m watching my own to-do list grow.

Recruiting is still in full swing for the Winter conference. You might be thinking about Christmas outreaches and how to end the semester well. You know you need to think about the spring semester, Spring Break opportunities and you’re encouraging your students to ask parents over break about going on a summer mission. Oh, and you probably are working on your end-of-the-year ask, doing Christmas cards, and some shopping and parties…Gotta do the parties!

If you are trying to remember all you have to do, maybe this checklist will help.

Winter Conference.

  • Keep encouraging people to attend.
  • Help with fund raising.
  • Arrange rides.
  • Exchange email and cell phone numbers.
  • Finalize plans.

Summer Mission Opportunities.

End the semester well.

  • Christmas party. Invite International Students. It’s a great way for them to learn about this holiday.
  • Take the time to praise God for what He has done this semester.
  • Gather movement indicators and enter them.

Review plans for the Spring semester.

  • Try to reserve the same room you met in this fall for consistency.
  • Reserve a place and the time during the first week of classes to do a campus wide survey.
  • Print off posters and flyers to advertise your weekly meetings.
  • Consider an evangelistic event each month.
  • Replace leaders graduating with new ones.

Prepare students to have a regular devotionals and prayer times during the break.  

That last one is really important. You will want to prepare your students for the break and their time home. The advent season can be a very worshipful and celebratory time and a great way to have gospel conversations with friends and family as we focus on Christ’s coming on our behalf. But it can also be a time of letdown for many students if they go home to the rush-rush or less than favorable family situations. For all of us, the time spent in the Word is vital.

If this list is helpful for you, I’ve created a shareable Google Doc that you can copy to your drive and add your own tasks so that it works for you.

Fall Coaching Tips

A Launch Trip Offers Team Benefits.

For the last two weeks, I’ve talked about using the Key Volunteer Challenge. It was the primary tool teams used in different cities during the launch weeks to identify potential leaders to begin new movements. And Eric Hiett shared how it was their lead step as they visit campuses.

Then, I shared some insights Alana Schmidt, new staff participating in a launch week, had about the value of using the KV Challenge with current student leaders so that staff and leaders are all believing God for the same things.

Let me wrap up this series by offering some team benefits. The Florida State staff team spent three days last Spring away from campus and at Valdosta State with the intention of launching a movement there. I asked team leader and my son, Rick Kingsley, what he thought the benefits were of that trip.

First, it was a team bonding time. They all stayed in the same hotel, they ate meals together, and they got to hang out during down time. Even an event that didn’t pan out the way they wanted turned into time of tossing the Frisbee around. That kind of time is impossible to get during the normal schedule of ministry on location.

Second, there were training benefits. Using the Key Volunteer Challenge to surface potential leaders, meeting with leaders and faculty, taking the initiative, etc. gave the team a different type of ministry environment and focus.

Finally, Rick told me that what this did to increase their vision made the launch trip worthwhile. Seeing God do some really big things at Valdosta caused the team to go back to FSU encouraged to trust Him for similar things.

In the coming weeks you will be evaluating your fall ministry and looking ahead to the spring. Let me encourage you to consider planning a launch trip away to a campus where we currently don’t have one. Here are some helpful hints before, during, and after a visit to a campus if you do.

Fall Coaching Tips

Collaborative Discipleship

Have you seen the Collaborative Discipleship resource on Cru.org? 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