Keys to establishing new believers.

Many of us are familiar with The God Ask by Steve Shadrach, founder of Student Mobilization, co-founder of The Traveling Team, and currently, Executive Director of Center for Mission Mobilization.

Some time ago, I picked up Shadrach’s first book, The Fuel and The Flame. It’s a handbook on basic campus ministry and highlights the essentials of evangelism, discipleship and movement development.

His chapter “Invest Yourself in Establishing Young Believers” contains five prerequisites that were the very things I learned in the mid-70s as a student at Penn State.

1. Follow Up Is Essential

Every parent can tell you how absolutely helpless a newborn baby is. But, frankly, most parents are not prepared for what will become a life-long task of growing their baby to adulthood. Shadrach says, many of us want the glory and excitement of seeing a person come to faith, but we’re not willing to pay the price of following up with them…We can say we trust God to work in new converts’ lives and turn a blind eye to their needs, but how you pray for them and what you do with them will be critical in their initial development.” Pp. 149-50.

We know those first 24 hours are critical to get back to them with assurance of salvation. We don’t know how many doubts they entertain or the seriousness of their questions after we leave them and they start to mull over the decision they just made. They switched sides in a raging spiritual battle. Their non-believing friends will sow the seeds of doubt that the enemy will seek to cultivate.

It should be a given that we meet with them again the next day with assurance of salvation and answers to any questions they have about sin, forgiveness, prayer, etc. Get them started reading the Gospel of John and ask them to write down any questions they have for the next time.

One more thing: Have them sign up with StartingWithGod.com. That content and emails will work reinforce your own nurturing.

2. Each Individual Has Infinite Worth

Shadrach says, “it is so important that you take the lead in helping form their values and convictions—before the cement hardens.” Like wet cement, what is impressed early on will become permanent. “Consistent individual attention is key to helping them begin their new lives right and giving them a healthy long-term perspective of what a New Testament Christian really looks like. Don’t just point new Christians to large meetings or retreats, hoping that somehow they’ll find their way.” P. 154.

3. Major in Building the Basics

You know how important it is to have assurance of salvation, how to know and experience God’s love and forgiveness, how to be filled and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, how to apply the principles of growth, including Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, and putting their faith in action as they tell others about Christ. After almost 45 years of walking with Christ, I keep coming back to these in drawing near to the Lord.

I would commend the work that our R&D Team has done on a new Collaborative Discipleship process. It’s currently undergoing final revisions and is scheduled to go live May 12th on Cru.org. I encourage you to sign up to help test it and give your feedback. I also commend the Thrive Studies.

4. Use Groups to Help Establish Believers

Shadrach says, “Small groups are the backbone of your ministry…Much of Jesus’ discipleship took place in the context of a small group. P. 163. There is something about a learning environment where questions are encouraged and answers discovered together that builds faith. One of the very best things that helped seal my own commitment to Christ was going home the summer after I came to Christ and leading a basic Bible study in my church. It seems too simple to go over the basics listed above. But it is surprising how few Christians can articulate them.

5. Disciples Are Made, Not Born

This point references Walt Henrichsen’s book of the same name. When I read the book as a student, I developed a deep conviction that it isn’t the natural talent that we press into service, “not born,” but God will use us to “make” disciples. We are all in process.

I think we’ve become casual in our ministry about the critical first steps in establishing new believers in the faith. In preparing our students to be on their own for the summer, and as we plan ministry in the fall, let’s be intentional about training disciple-makers.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Another use for an effective tool.

I don’t know about you, but I can sometimes get in a rut with how I do ministry. I usually see our tools having a single purpose for which they were designed.

Recently, my wife, Chris, was on a coaching call. Rachel graduated three years ago and is seeking to live missionally in her workplace and neighborhood. Rachel leads a study of middle school Christian girls. But their behavior doesn’t always match their profession. Rachel knew they needed to understand the filling the Holy Spirit, but struggled to bring the message home to them.

Now, Chris is very creative. She is great at seeing possibilities where none appear to exist. (Oh, and BTW, I am not trying to earn brownie points here! Just telling it like it is.) Chris suggested taking the Soularium cards and asking the questions we would ask in an evangelistic setting. “What cards best illustrate your life now?” “Why?” “Which cards do you wish would illustrate your life?” “Why?” And from that discussion launch into what God would do with lives completely yielded to Him so that He could work unhindered in them, or what we would commonly say as being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

When Chris told me about her conversation, she said she knew most of us look at Soularium as an evangelism tool primarily. But sometimes we can be limiting and not see a tools’ versatility. What might God do outside the box?

Perhaps you have discovered a creative way to use one of our tools and have seen God use it. I’d love to hear about it.

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

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

  • 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.

Gathering

  • 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

Becoming not ashamed of the Gospel.

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

A good part of that preparation is helping them gain confidence in their faith and to be able to communicate it to  family and friends back home when they are away from their Christian friends.

Chris West, Student LINC Coach, led a devotion in staff meeting recently. He told us he had two verses, Romans 1:16,17, and three questions. Here are the questions and a summary of our discussion.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel,…” Romans 1:16a NIV.

1. Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel?

  • We do not understand its power.
  • The gospel is not popular.
  • Some see the gospel message is as narrow, “cultural-imperialism,”  (my beliefs, culture, and traditions are better than yours), intolerant, even hateful and “phobic”.
  • For some Christians, the message of grace is too easy and they want to add to it.
  • The Gospel clearly says that no one is good enough to earn God’s favor. This is an affront to human pride and independence.
  • Some Christians have acted shamefully.
  • We’re digging out of a hole. ie: we are starting the gospel conversation with people who already have significant beefs about Christianity.

2. What does it look like to be ashamed of the gospel?

  • Responses included: being timid, silent, fearful, powerless, private, guarded, weak. No surprises here.

(It is important to acknowledge both the normal human responses as well as the cultural climate in our society in which this discussion takes place.)

3. Helping our disciples gain confidence so as not to be ashamed of the gospel.

  • Encourage them to spend time with God in His Word.
  • Boldness grows out of strong conviction.
  • Recognize the Holy Spirit as the source of power and boldness for witnessing.
  • Connect with other believers who are not ashamed of the gospel.
  • Recognize that we are invited by God to join with Him in what He’s already doing.
  • He will reach people with or without us.
  • The mention of an atheist comedian, Penn Jillette, chiding Christians for not sharing their faith.
  • Sometimes we simply need to overcome inertia, and move intentionally toward conversations.

There was lots more discussion. But Chelsea Hengeveld, Destino Distance Coach, mentioned how she asks her student leaders to use the wondering questions as a way to start spiritual conversations. She asks them to “wonder with someone.” They could say, “We’ve never talked about this (spiritual things) before, but I wonder…”

The underlying assumption is that someone who has confidence in their faith will have a better likelihood of growing in their faith, rather than walking away from it over the summer.

Spring Coaching Tips

Selected Tips from Fall 2016

Celebrate!

How are you at juggling? Ministry during April requires a fair amount of juggling. You are trying to end the semester well. You are thinking about the summer. And you are already planning for next year.

Last year’s list might be helpful as you keep all those balls in the air.

One important aspect of ending the year well is celebrating what God has done. Jeff Grant, partnership specialist on our Student LINC team, recently shared some thoughts along these lines with me.

“The Bible says a lot about celebration, God even commands us to remember the good things in our life by throwing parties! In my own strategic, always-looking-forward mind, I often forget to stop and make a big deal about people and what they and God have accomplished. Let’s spend less time reaching for the next thing (which only God can accomplish anyway) and more time rejoicing in the people and blessings God has already given us!”

Jeff also shared an interesting article from Entrepreneur, “4 Ways Innovative Companies are Celebrating Their Employees.” and a video by Rend Collective telling the story behind their “The Art of Celebration.”

There are lots of ways to celebrate. Jason Skjervem, MTL, Northern North Dakota, offers a “toast to Jesus”.

And here is one we used when we were on campus. Okay, now, at the risk of showing my age, and before you read on, now might be a great time to cue up “Celebrate,” by Three Dog Night.

We would bring a bucket of stones from our backyard to the last meeting of the year and build a monument to what God did in our ministry that year. We started by reading Joshua 4 and talked about how the rock pile served as a visual reminder of what God had done for the Israelites. Similarly, this would be a mental monument to God’s working in our lives. After students put a stone on the pile and share what God had done in their lives and ministry, we took time at the end to thank God for what He had done.

Such times of celebration are so encouraging and lifts our eyes to what God might do next year.

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV

Now that’s worth celebrating!

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