Category Archives: Trusting God

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

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Launch Week Side Benefits

Last week, I mentioned that teams of Cru staff have been visiting new campuses for the purpose of finding potential key volunteers. Six teams visited five different cities in two weeks. Every team in Florida had staff go to Miami for a second launch week, including four new staff and interns from Florida State.

My wife and I just happen to be in Tallahassee this weekend visiting our eldest son, Rick, and his family. We also happened to meet Alana Schmidt, one of those who went to Miami. She told me a little about her experience.

Alana is new staff, and just reported to campus. Ironically she spent her first week post-MPD in Miami. She pointed out to me that the Key Volunteer Challenge training emphasizes how God was already at work before we ever talk with students. She went on to say that it was a really good reminder that we are in partnership with Him, and that He continues to be at work. Because Alana had been an intern before, she experienced how easily that in the middle of ministry week after week we can forget that God is at work.

One of Alana’s takeaways is to go through the challenge with current student leaders. Her launch week experience convinced her of the importance of working with the right people, those with the right heart. The challenge helps to have conversations about what we are trusting God for together and to articulate and expand the vision of those we work with.

Finally, Alana mentioned that there are other campuses nearby. The KV Challenge could help identify student leaders on those campuses with a heart to reach their own campus. While she didn’t mention circle campuses, she did say that they would certainly need to lead efforts differently.

You can find videos of the KV Challenge, the description of Three-Thirds and more on the videos page of Expedition Teams page on Facebook.

Fall Coaching Tips

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

Andy Stanley’s Looking for the Uniquely Better

Welcome to another year of Coaching Tips. While this is a transition year for those of us in the US campus ministry, may we see God work in new and unexpected ways.

Last week, one of the teams I’m on attended Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit. We found that many of the talks applied directly to our situation. I personally walked away with enough fodder for months of coaching tips.

Andy Stanley, pastor and founder of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, mentioned that some time ago, their organization had done some analysis of their success in ministry over the last 20 years. He included the five things that they would do all over again in two podcasts entitled “Lessons from the First 20 Years.” They are, in no particular order,

  • Have a uniquely better product.
  • Maintain a culture of continual improvement.
  • Power of a clear vision and mission.
  • The value of a learning organization.
  • The people we chose is more important than the system we use.

It’s that first one on being “uniquely better” that Stanley unpacked for us Thursday. I want to pass on his most salient points and then share some of my own takeaways as we begin a new year in a new leadership environment.

North Point sought to create an engaging church experience for the family and especially for men. Today, lots of churches are doing the very things they did “uniquely better” than others when they grew so quickly. But, while it is virtually impossible today to discover that which is uniquely better, someone, somewhere is messing with the rules of the prevailing models.

Will we recognize the uniquely better ideas when they surface? Our best hope is to create organizational structures that recognize the better when surfaced. Stanley listed four ways to create a culture that recognizes the better.

1. Be a student, not a critic. Don’t criticize that which we don’t understand or can control. The moment we start criticizing, we stop learning and stop seeing the next. The next generation idea almost never comes from the previous generation.

2. Keep eyes and mind wide open. Listen to outsiders. Listen to those who don’t know what we do or how we do it. Outsiders are not bound by our assumptions. We go with “That won’t work.” because of our assumptions. Close-minded leaders close minds. If you shut eyes and minds you will shut those of others. If they have ideas they won’t bring them to us.

Some questions he asked us to consider:

  • How do we respond to staff who make suggestions based on what they observe in other organizations?
  • Can we shut down the thing inside that wants to shut down the ideas?
  • When was the last time we ran with an idea that wasn’t my idea?
  • Am I curious about what I don’t know?

3. Replace “How?” with “Wow!” Ideas die with “How?” How much does it cost to just say “Wow!”? “Wow!” ideas to life, don’t “How?” them to death. Nothing is gained when we don’t know what young leaders are dreaming about.

4. Recognize rather than resist. If we are pursuing the uniquely better, we will be pre-disposed to see it. Ask if it is unique and better.

In reflecting about this afterward, I realized that some of this is counter-intuitive to the way I think. As an ISTJ, with strengths of analytical and deliberative, I focus on the “how” and am reticent to “wow”. I do seek to position the next generation of leader, and I don’t need to be the one who comes up with the new ideas. Our team has a habit of reading a book each semester giving us new insight and different assumptions.

And while I love to read, I am quick to run ideas through my own grid. I think that is typical of many Cru staff. We are good at our ministry. But we forget that past success is no indication of future success.

In this season of our ministry may we have open minds, open hearts, and open hands to receive from the Lord what He would do in and through us.

Acclimatization.

I passed a car today with a bumper stick that read, “It’s not all so ‘bumper sticker slogan’ simple.”

That’s true in politics, business, the Christian life, and, even re-organizational design.

I’m reading the book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, detailing the 1996 expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest and the tragedy on the descent.

The month-long process of “acclimatization”, adjusting physiologically to the rarified atmosphere of high altitudes, was far from a straight line up the summit.

Krakauer was asked by the editor of Outside magazine to join an expedition to Mt. Everest, elevation 29,028 feet, and then to write an article about its commercialization. Having never ascended above 17,200 feet, he spent a year in preparation before joining the team in India in late March 1996 who would then take him to the summit.

They arrived at the 17,600 foot high Base Camp on April 12. At that altitude, the oxygen level is 50% of that at sea level. At the summit, it decreases to 1/3 of that at sea level. While the human body will adjust, it can take weeks to acclimatize. To do so they would need to reach various camps spaced about 2000 feet vertically up the mountain.

Krakauer’s expedition ascended and descended to these camps with varying rates and duration:

  • Base Camp to Camp 1, and then back to Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1 and 2, then back to 1 and Base Camp.
  • Base Camp to Camps 1, 2, and 3, then back to 2, 1, and Base.

After a series of attempts and days of rest and recovery from different altitude complications, Krakauer reached the summit on May 10, more than a month after arriving at the Base Camp. He only remained at the top of the world for 5 minutes; hardly time to bask in his achievement.

In Romans 8:12-17, the Apostle Paul says, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” NIV

Different tenses indicate past facts, present realities, and future outcomes in that passage. Past events such as Christ’s work on our behalf and our response of faith, make a difference in how we live today. And these present realities in our life of faith determine a future character and destiny. They are interconnected.

While time is linear, our walk of faith is not. We take steps forward and back, forward again two steps, then back. Sometimes we experience great strides, but other times it’s really tough slogging. There are moments of clarity, as well as dark perplexity. And we pray for times of rest and recovery along the way. But in all of that, growth is happening, “acclimatization”, if you will, is taking place, and Jesus is becoming both the object of our affection and our source of satisfaction if we take His yoke upon us.

There is joy in the journey. Do we believe that? What we are experiencing in our ministry today has required our own spiritual acclimatization. Only as we submit to His lordship and “keep seeking the things above” (Colossians 3:1) are we able to take higher ground.

And finally, from “The Valley of Vision”, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, the one entitled “Openness” reads,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

 

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

Summer Survival.

One of the many priorities we have in campus ministry at this time of year is preparing students for the summer.

“Let’s face it. Summers can pose a major challenge to our faith and obedience to Christ.

So begins the first article in the Summer Survival Guide.

Summers can be:

  • a very spiritually isolating time because you are away from the environment and friends that have helped you grow spiritually this past school year.
  • or a great experience as you see your faith tested and increased and take some key steps on your own (1 Peter 1:17)

What makes the difference? The decisions you and your students make now can put them in a position of advantage and strength going into the summer. “As a Christian, we can embrace challenges the summer brings because we recognize the opportunity to trust God in new ways and see our faith grow in ways that we would have never seen otherwise.”

The Summer Survival Guide provides perspective and resources to help make the difference. The introductory article of the survival kit tells about three essentials with practical helps and further resources:

  • self-discipline
  • the right fellowship
  • daily time with God and His Word

Personal growth happens when there is the right combination of personal desire and conducive environment. Both are needed. Many of our students will be going back into less than ideal environments. Let’s do the best job we can to prepare all of our students to grow in Christ this summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016