An annual tradition on the blog – a ton of stuff you can use on campus these first few weeks. Hopefully it saves you some time or gives you ideas.

Cool Music

Here’s an all-new 2016 Spotify playlist that we use at all of our freshmen cookouts and our weekly meeting.

It’s a mix of Indie Rock, Pop/Dance, and Christian Hip Hop. This year it’s pretty much all Twenty One PIlots. But seriously.

We pay $10 for the month of August to get Spotify Premium so you don’t have annoying commercials.

glow sticks and beach balls1

As I’ve said before:

While cool, upbeat music may be #27 on the list of important things about a Cru meeting, it’s important nonetheless.

What’s the first thing students encounter when they come to your meeting? Your music that you’re playing before the meeting.

And what happens when they hear Newsboys or Rebecca St. James pumping out of your speakers? You immediately confirm their worst suspicions that you are cheezy and out of touch with their reality.

As much as I am not a big fan of hip hop nor dance music, at our weekly meeting we include quite a bit of hip hop/dance. I run the music at our regional winter conference and can conclusively say that hip hop & dance makes a marked difference on the “vibe” of the crowd. It makes your meeting a party. Literally. People dance. Especially if you add beach balls and glow necklaces (we have our first 2 weekly meetings outside – beach balls may be a little less fun indoors).

Here’s a bonus playlist – Cru Hangouts – upbeat indie music to put on at more chill events (Leadership meeting, Leadership Retreat etc).

Spiritual Interest Survey

We’ve put a lot of effort into streamlining our Spiritual Interest Survey card. We do it with 3000 freshmen/students the first week of class – so we want it to be quick and effective. Click here to download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). Click for an adapted version we use at a Community College – pdf or Photoshop. And here’s one we use with athletes for AIA – pdf or Photoshop.

1 Minute Questionnaire

And this is NC State Cru’s sharp looking survey card (click to download – unfortunately it’s in Apple Pages – so Mac’s only):

Cru Freshmen Survey Card (NCSU)

Cru Card

Our Cru Card that we use for our weekly meeting is similar but a bit different from the survey. You can download the editable PDF (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers) file here.

1 Minute Questionnaire

Simple Cru Flier

Nothing special. But I always think it’s fun to see what other campuses do for promo. Here’s the editable PDF for the first (open in Photoshop – it’s set up 4/page and it uses “smart objects” so if you edit one flier it changes all 4 fliers). And the Photoshop file for the color version.

Dorm studies 2015

generic dorm studies 2015

We used to do them in color but have found that b/w is just as sharp looking IF:

  • You print them on card stock
  • Have them “cut to bleed” (so that there is no white border)

First Week Events Flier

A few ideas from across the U.S.:


welcome week events final

Florida Cru:

cru at UF welcome week events

Christian Challenge – Chico State – Paul Worcester:

worcester first week events

Fall Retreat Brochures

Here’s our 2016 Fall Retreat brochure (designed by Cru designer Jamie Wang).

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_outside

CARK Fall Retreat Template 2016_inside

Besides the basic flier that you can edit and make your own, Jamie has a folder full of goodies: Facebook profile pics, slides, etc.

For Printing Flyers: You should be able to fit four of the flyers on an 8.5 x 11″ page. Tell FedEx it has a 1/8″ bleed.

Here’s our 2015 brochure (designed by Cru designer Libby Slaughter). And here’s the photoshop files so you can edit it and use it!

Fall Retreat outside

Fall Retreat inside

Here’s our 2014 brochure and a post with 4 different (older) Fall Retreat Brochure designs we’ve used. Photoshop file

Just front of brochure

Campus Brochures

A leaving piece that explains everything we do offer in Cru. See here for more details and to download.Arkansas brochure

Arkansas brochure inside

First 4 Weeks Calendar

Always fun to see how other ministries operate. So here’s an overview of what our First 4 Weeks calendar looks like. Here’s a template you can use.

first 5 week calendar

Other Stuff

All this stuff is from Jamie Wang that she has graciously made available to all – to edit and make your own.

From Jamie:

1. Cru Campus Magnet -I made this for Arkansas last year. This was a gift to their campus supporters.
2. Cru Main Meeting Slides -These are generic slides for a main meetings. Keep in mind the difference between 16:9 and 4:3
4. Cru Photos -to use in promo pieces for your campus or prayer letters, etc.
    – The retractable banners are all in viewing options because the files are too big
    – jpg for viewing
    -.psd file including 8 photo options for poster
-for Pages and Publisher
-Great if you need some help kickstarting your newsletters!

What about YOU?

Do you have any stuff your campus uses that would be helpful to share? Link to it in the comments!


This semester, one of the critical steps for our movement is that our students (and staff!) would spend daily time in God’s Word. Of course, you might say, that should always be a priority. But we want to make a focused push this year to see if we can reset the culture of our movement.

Our desire is to send out graduates with a conviction from Scripture for their personal responsibility in the evangelization of the world.

Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, asserts that “most of us gain our most fundamental convictions in this way— we hear them, see them to be truly revealed in the Bible, and then believe them.”

We need to help students see Christ clearly and understand the gospel deeply through seeing it for themselves in God’s Word.

My mother was involved in Cru 45 years ago. She just told me last week that the two greatest things she learned in Cru were:
  • How to have a daily quiet time (which she still does to this day)
  • And to not marry a non-Christian
I have benefited greatly from both of those. Her refusal to marry a non-Christian gave my dad a profound motivation to start going to a Bible study and to attend a Cru conference where he trusted Christ as his savior! And 45 years later he is radically impacting lives for Christ around the globe.
We want long term world changers. That will only come through deep Biblical convictions of Gospel Truths.
I’ve written a very short article that we read and discussed with our students. It’s by no means exhaustive. It’s skeletal and very practical. And hopefully it’s enough to get students pointed in the right direction and spending time daily in God’s Word.
You can download the PDF here. Or view it on Google Docs here.
One of my chief goals for this year is to read more. I wrote about why and how here: Read Less Blogs and More Books.
Very briefly-
The past couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to shift from less input to deeper reading. Why? Because my voracious reading of new blogs and articles is actually making me less wise. I’m replacing those “must read” late-breaking-this-is-going-to-change-your-life blogposts and articles with the slow, harder work of reading a book. Books make me slow down and absorb information instead of just letting information go in one ear and out the other.
  • I’m tracking how many books I read each year
  • I’ve started listening to audiobooks. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving.
  • I’m committed to reading every night before bed. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
It’s April and I’ve already read as many books as I read all last year.
One thing I’ve found challenging – where to find good book recommendations. So in the vein of “do unto others”…

Here’s a few of my favorite books I’ve read in the past year:

Historical non-fiction:

What are some of your favorite books you’ve read recently?

I recently gave a talk at our Cru meeting on Money (you can download, and freely use, my notes here).

4 Steps to Making the Most of Your Money

  1. Acknowledge your default – The American Dream
  2. Replace the American Dream with something weightier, something better
  3. Overcome any obstacle (debt)
  4. Live simply, Save wisely, and Give generously

The bulk of the talk was focused on debt – credit card and student loan debt.

I took a poll of the audience (using which worked really well for us – students could see the live results on screen as they responded). We had about 100 participate in the online poll. I thought the results were very interesting so I thought I’d share them:

expected income

62% think they will earn over $40k.

National surveys say that only 20 percent of graduates will earn over $40,000 in their first year on the job.
And only 59% will earn more than $25,000.

So our students are either REALLY gifted. Or a LITTLE over-optimistic.

scholarships pie chart

29% of our students have at least half of their college paid for.

52% have at least 1/4 paid for.

94% have at least some scholarship.

This wasn’t altogether surprising – our students tend to be pretty smart. For whatever reason we attract a lot of engineers and honors students.


giving pie chart

51% give less than $100/year.

81% give less than $300.

I admit – I thought this would be higher! Obviously something we can help our students grow in.

63% of tithers started tithing 10 percent or more between childhood and their twenties.

furture debt pie

51% will owe $0.

Only 12% will owe more than $20k

Nationally: Seven in ten college graduates have student loans. The average new graduate in 2015 walked the stage $35,000 in the hole.

Granted, I often hear from graduates that they didn’t find out until after graduation that their mom and dad took out loans for them that they themselves have to pay back. So some students may receive a not-so-fun surprise graduation gift from mom and dad.


how much current debt pie

65% have no loans.

Only 12% have more than $10k

I’m sure the Cru meeting audience skews toward freshmen (who naturally have less debt than upperclassmen). I would guess at least 1/3 of the students were freshmen.

How many hours work pie

61% don’t have jobs

Only 28% work more than 5 hours a week,

Credit Card Debt Pie Chart

92% don’t have any credit card debt! I admit. I was shocked by this number. Many said they don’t even own credit cards. Yet they don’t carry cash. Not sure how they pay for things!? Maybe debit cards?

Nationally – 68% of college students have credit card debt – with an average of $600 in debt.

The past couple of years I’ve made a conscious effort to shift from less input to deeper reading.

I’m reading less blogs, bookmarking less web pages and reading more books (yes, I appreciate the irony that you are reading this on a blog).

It started in 2011 when I read Tim Challies’ book The Next Story. He illuminated a huge idol in my heart (and I believe a chief idol of our age)- informationism:

We have begun to believe that the accumulation of information somehow leads to wisdom, that more information will solve society’s ills and improve our lives. We place our faith in information.

We find joy and life in that information – not in using that information or turning that information into useful action, but simply in its constant flow.

Without the distraction of dealing with vast amounts of information and without overtaxing our brains with hundreds of sources of information, we will have the time to know more about less.

Success in life “is not in the accumulation of facts, but in living a life marked by wisdom, by the application of knowledge.”

What we are finding is that more information does not necessarily lead to more wisdom. In fact, the very opposite may be true.

More information may lead to less wisdom.

That last sentence rocked me. My voracious reading of new blogs and articles is actually making me less wise.

I want to know more about less. It was actually the very secular BBC that reminded me that, primarily, that means I need to read less “news” and soak in God’s Word more:

One of the more embarrassing difficulties of our age is that most of us have quite lost the ability to concentrate, to sit still and do nothing other than focus on certain basic truths of the human condition. We are reluctant to admit that we are simply swamped with information and have lost the ability to make sense of it.

The prestige of the news is founded on the unstated assumption that our lives are forever poised on the verge of a critical transformation. Contrast this with how religions think of what is important. The great stable truths can be carved into stone rather than swilling malleably across hand-held screens. Rather than letting us constantly catch up on “news”, religions prefer to keep reminding us of the same old things.

It is not by reading more, but by deepening and refreshing our understanding of a few volumes that we best develop our intelligence and our sensitivity.

We feel guilty for all that we have not yet read, but overlook how much better read we already are than St Augustine or Dante, thereby ignoring that our problem lies squarely with our manner of absorption rather than with the extent of our consumption.

This clip from Portlandia was me in 2009-2013 (and probably me still!):

Here’s what that has looked like for me. I have over 3,000 unread pages saved in Pocket (a save-to-read-later service)!

Not sure when this “later” is when I’m going to find time to read them.

In 2013 I bookmarked 1,500 sites that I never got around to reading. At that point, I was literally checking 75 blogs every week. I even blogged about why you should read a lot of blogs! I still read blogs but almost exclusively blogs related to college ministry (my field of work)

In 2014, I had 1,000 unread bookmarked pages.

And 500 in 2015. If you do the math, that’s not exactly a trickle – I’m still bookmarking almost 2 pages a day. But it’s progress!

I’m replacing those “must read” late-breaking-this-is-going-to-change-your-life blogposts and articles with the slow, harder work of reading a book. Trading candy for meat. Books make me slow down and absorb information instead of just letting information go in one ear and out the other.

Randy Gravitt says:

If I could choose only one habit to pursue growth it would be to develop a love for books. Reading requires focus and commitment. But the payoff is huge. If you want to jumpstart your leadership growth, spend at least thirty minutes a day reading

A few steps I’m taking to read more:

  • I’m tracking how many books I read each year
  • I don’t necessarily want a goal of number-of-books-read because, again, the goal is not more information input. It’s deeper, slower reading. Last year I read 17 books. And I want to read more this year. But I feel like a goal will make me rush through books instead of slowly absorbing them.
  • I’m not finishing every book I start
  • I’ve found one of the easiest ways to read more is to take advantage of dead time in my schedule – like driving. 15 minutes here and there really adds up. So I sucked it up and subscribed to (a ridiculous $22/month for two books). I listen at 1.25 speed and can get through two books in a month.
  • I’m committed to reading every night. A couple of years ago my wife introduced the new rule of “no blue light an hour before bed” = no checking twitter or reading online. I’m thankful for God’s grace through her! It made me take up the habit of reading before bed every night. A great side-effect: when my head hits the pillow I’m asleep in seconds.
  • The trick is finding when to read the right kind of book:
    • In the morning I read a spiritually developmental book (right now I’m reading John Piper’s Bloodlines on ethnicity and racial reconciliation). I need to carve out more time for this category. I rarely read during the day.
    • In the car on audiobook I can’t listen to any book that I want to take notes on. I need a book that can just wash over me. That’s more of a story/biography. Shadow of the Almighty – the story of martyred missionary Jim Elliott was perfect. Though there’s plenty of quotes I’d want to underline, I’ve read it enough times that I can just let the story and Jim’s singleminded pursuit of Christ and the Great Commission wash over me. How We Got To Now was also a great one for audiobook. VERY interesting stories of the 6 most important innovations – great stuff to inspire your thinking and own innovation. But nothing much that I’d need to write down to remember.
    • At night, again, I can’t read any book that I’d want to underline or take notes on or that will get my brain’s gears turning. At night my goal is to unwind. So I stick mostly with biographies that inspire. “Readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership. Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers.” Harry Truman
    • Bonhoeffer was a great nighttime read. Or my current bedtime book- River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. On deck:
  • I’m keeping an Evernote on books I want to read in each of these categories (audiobook, morning, and night reading)

What about you? What helps you read more books?

In what ways have you bought into “informationism”?

Would LOVE book recommendations. List some of your favorites in the comments.

Fresh off the virtual press, Shane Sebastian (Cru’s Global Missions Executive Director) has released an article with a powerful vision and challenge: trusting God to send 10% of our involved students each year to bless the nations.

10% of our students each year would go to the world on vision trips, Summer Missions or STINT. If you have 100 students involved with you, 10 would go on Global Summer Missions or Vision Trips. If you have 400, 40 would be sent.

God's Heart for the World

National Current Reality= 3%

What is the current reality on your campus? What % are you sending to the world each year?

We have a tremendous stewardship to send. Laborers come from the college campus. And the U.S. campus ministry is exponentially larger than any other country.

By far, the vast majority of laborers within Cru come from within the U.S. Campus Ministry. May God use the U.S. campus ministry to send generously. To send at least 10% of our movements every year to reach the world for Christ.

Shane asked me to partner with him in writing this article and to share how sending to the world has benefited our local ministry. I echo this from Dan Higgins: “If you just go after a campus, you’ll get nothing. But If you go after the world you’ll reach the world and get the campus thrown in.” This has definitely been true for us. The campus is too small a vision for students. As we send more and more to the world, our local movement expands.

world map

I’d encourage you to read and discuss this article with your staff team and student leaders. The number one determiner of whether a school sends a lot of students to the world? Whether the staff really buys into sending. You won’t send if your staff team doesn’t bleed for the world.

Download it here:

God’s Heart for the World or here on Google Drive.

If it’d be helpful, I’d be happy to skype into your staff meeting to share some of the best practices of the best sending schools in the nation or what has worked on our campus to send more. You can email me at tim dot casteel


Top 5 Posts of 2015

December 29, 2015 — Leave a comment
This year on the blog was dominated by a series on sending. I’ve written on other topics on Collegiate Collective and Campus Ministry Today. You can see a few of my top Collegiate Collective posts here.
A few years of research culminated in a series of posts on sending in a few broad categories:
So all 5 of the top 5 posts of 2015 were about sending. Here were the top 5 in order of popularity (The top two earned FAR more views than any of the next 3. Triple and double the number of views, respectively.):

1) Cru Staff Allocation vs. the Need

Cru is divided into 10 regions in the U.S. Where is the greatest need for laborers? Where are the hardest places to grow a movement? Where are the hardest places to raise up laborers? Fascinating stuff, imho.

2) Learning From Cru’s Top Sending Campuses in the Nation

Detailed interviews with the directors of 17 of the best sending campuses in Cru. 
389 of the 918 full time laborers sent into the Cru Campus Ministry in 2014 came from just 25 campuses. So 4% of the Cru movements send 42% of the laborers.
What do the Top Sending Campuses have in common? Are they all large movements? Is it because they have large staff teams? What made students want to join the mission full time?

3) We Are Losing an Entire Generation of Laborers to Student Loan Debt

“The greatest enemy [to sending] other than Satan himself is educational debt.” Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary
Seven out of ten students that we are challenging to full time ministry are carrying a crippling weight.
Seven in ten college graduates have student loans. And their average debt is $29,400.
This post looks at the issue of student loan debt, how it prevents students from going into full time ministry, and what we (in college ministry) can do about it.

4) Stats on Cru’s Top 25 Sending Campuses

What can we learn from the top 25’s sending stats? A few highlights:
  • The Top Sending Schools Need to Send More Than They Keep
  • These are large movements. I think we can confidently say that big sending comes from big campuses
  • Make a goal as a team to send a 1 to 1 ratio for every staff on your team. Do you have 10 staff on your team? Make it your goal to send 10 students into full time ministry every year. That’s the average on these Top Sending Campuses.

5) The Top Two Barriers to Sending — Part 1: Parents

It’s been estimated that 3 out of 4 laborers come straight from the college campus. The next generation of pastors and missionaries will come from college ministries.
So what’s stopping this flood of laborers from being sent out from college campuses?
Overwhelmingly, there are two barriers holding college students from being sent into full time ministry:
  1. Parents
  2. Money (student loan debt and fear related to raising financial support)
This post addresses why parents’ disapproval is crippling to today’s students and what we can do about it.

Top 100 Songs of 2015

December 25, 2015 — Leave a comment

Our family listened to over 100,000 minutes of music in 2015 (20% more than 2014!) from 1009 different artists. Out of the 2,216 different songs I listened to I’ve narrowed it down to the top 100 songs of 2015. There weren’t any clear “song of the year” candidates this year. I like pretty much every song in the top 5 equally – it was tough to pick a #1.

In 2015, women ruled the Indie music world – with 7 of my top 10 songs. According to Spotify, Purity Ring and Chvrches were my two favorite bands of 2015. Those two female-fronted bands (as well as Grimes!) have a huge presence in my top 100 and were easily my favorite groups of 2015.

Biggest shocker – a Mumford song in my top 5 (for most of the year it was my #1)! Totally risking my indie-street cred.

Speaking of which, if you follow indie music at all, you’ll find that most “Top Songs of _____” are trying really hard to be cool and prove their hipster-ness.

My Top Songs list is Indie Music for the Masses – Indie Music that’s actually enjoyable to listen to (not grating avant-garde or sleep-inducing-singer-songwriter).

Most of these songs are Indie-pop, Indie-rock, or Indietronica.

To further explore amazing music, here are a few bonus lists:

Click “Follow” at the top of Spotify if you want to add any of the playlists to your sidebar of lists.

Here are my 100 favorite songs of 2015 (click to play individual tracks or here to play the full list in Spotify): 

100. Beautiful Words – Oscar

99. I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around – Chromatics

98. New Emotion – K.I.D

97. Sparks – Beach House

96. Do You Remember – Jarryd James

95. Higher – Kwamie Liv

94. Armor – Illuminine, I Will, I Swear

93. Hideaway – Ten Sleep

92. Dancing On Glass – St. Lucia

91. Beyond Love – Beach House

90. Radar – GRRL PAL

89. Too Much – Geographer

88. Fool for Love – Lord Huron

87. The Chase – Future Islands

86, I’m Ready – Geographer

85. Keep Your Lips Sealed – The Dø

84. Evening Ceremony – Active Child

83, Sunshine on My Back – The National

82, Superego – Leyya

81. The Game – Priest

80. America – XYLØ

79. Black Sun – Death Cab for Cutie

78, begin again – Purity Ring

77, Tide Teeth – Night Beds

76, Rich (feat. Anndreyah Vargas) – Radio Edit – Cosmo Sheldrake, Anndreyah Vargas

75. True Affection – Father John Misty

74. Realiti – Grimes

73, Bros – Wolf Alice

72. Red Shifting – The Helio Sequence

71, The Fool – Ryn Weaver

70. Wild Horses – Bishop

69. Hello – Adele – not too cool to put this song on here

68. heartsigh – Purity Ring

67. Until We Can’t (Let’s Go) – Passion Pit

66, Clouds – Cut Ribbons

65. Sister – The Japanese House

64. California – Grimes

63. flood on the floor – Purity Ring

62. Home – Madeon

61. Fourth of July – Sufjan Stevens – great song. A little too slow and depressing to get much play time on the ol’ minivan stereo

60. Make Them Gold – CHVRCHES

59. PPP – Beach House

58. Upward Mobility – The Helio Sequence

57. Patience – Geographer

56. Take Care of Me – Briana Marela

55. Queen Of Peace – Florence + The Machine

54. The Emotion – BØRNS

53. Leave A Trace – CHVRCHES

52. Delirious – Susanne Sundfør

51. I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler – YACHT – this song sums up my youngest child (and many college students!) perfectly. Always bored in a futuristic world. A la Louis CK’s “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy”

50. Highway Patrol Stun Gun – Youth Lagoon

49. Sagres – The Tallest Man On Earth

48. Don’t Need Nobody – Ellie Goulding

47. Heart Is Full – Miike Snow

46. repetition – Purity Ring

45. Towards The Sun – From The “Home” Soundtrack – Rihanna

44. When Your Love Is Safe – Active Child

43. Falling Apart – Geographer

42. Scud Books – Hudson Mohawke

41. Dreams – Beck

40. Running With The Wolves – AURORA

39. TURN AWAY – East India Youth

38. Holes In The Sky – From The “Insurgent” Soundtrack – M83, HAIM

37. The Guest – Geographer

36. Carry Me Home – From The “Insurgent” Soundtrack – SOHN

35. Mountain At My Gates – Jono Ma [Jagwar Ma] Mix – Foals

34. Gosh – Jamie xx – Give this song a chance. Incredibly infectious.

33. Lost It To Trying – Paper Towns Mix – Son Lux – one of my girls’ favorite songs of 2015

32. Warm Blood – Carly Rae Jepsen

31. AhHa – Nate Ruess – probably my kids’ favorite song of 2015. Bonus points for randomly quoting a e. e. cummings poem during the chorus

30. Levitation – Beach House

29. Never Let You Down – From The “Insurgent” Soundtrack – Woodkid, Lykke Li

28. Sugar Pill – The Japanese House

27. Loud Places – Jamie xx, Romy – my #1 most-listened-to-song over the last few weeks. If I’d found it earlier in the year, it may have been higher up.

26. Animal – HAERTS

25. The Dreamer – Anna Of The North

24. Water – Ra Ra Riot, Rostam

23. stillness in woe – Purity Ring

22. Butterfly – Grimes

21. dust hymn – Purity Ring

20. At Once – Beirut – a great song from a disappointing album (was really looking forward to this album from one of my favorite bands)

19. John My Beloved – Sufjan Stevens – A sincere, longing song about Jesus. You don’t hear that much in the indie world. Sufjan wrestling with whether Jesus is just a myth or alive and active. 

18. Let It Happen – Tame Impala

17. Letter By The Water – The Japanese House

16. sea castle – Purity Ring

15. Easily – Grimes

14. Clearest Blue – CHVRCHES

13. Sedona – Houndmouth

12. Keep You On My Side – CHVRCHES

11. Come Find Me – Emile Haynie, Lykke Li, Romy

10. Eventually – Tame Impala – a great, sincere breakup song

9. Flesh without Blood – Grimes

8. Never Ending Circles – CHVRCHES

7. Space Song – Beach House

6. The Thunder Answered Back – Eskimeaux – super quirky and really good. 

5. Snake Eyes – Mumford & Sons – was my favorite song of the year for much of the year 

4. Belly of the Beat – Grimes – it was hard to pick my favorite Grimes song. In the last couple months, I’ve had Grimes on repeat. She’s super talented – she plays and produces everything you hear on the album (instruments and vocals).

3. Lemon Eyes – Meg Myers – really wanted to put this one at #1. Amazing debut song for her and best indie rock song of 2015.

2. stranger than earth – Purity Ring

1. Down Side Of Me – CHVRCHES


The only concert we went to all year – Chvrches in Kansas City!

Would love to hear – what were your favorite songs of 2015??

Top Albums of 2015

December 19, 2015 — 1 Comment

Here are my favorite albums of 2015. I’d love to hear from you what your favorite albums were.

Here’s my top albums from previous years: 2014201320122011 and 2010

Click links to play in Spotify

Tame Impala

tame-impala-currents6. Tame Impala – Currents

Had only had a little exposure to Tame Impala before this album but they definitely took it up a notch with this album. A couple great songs on this album:

sufjan carrie5. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

I actually loved (and still listen frequently) to Sufjan’s experimental electro-album Age of Adz. So I was a little disappointed to hear that he was returning(regressing?) to a more stripped down acoustic sound. The verdict? In my opinion, not as good as Adz. Especially in terms of repeat listens. It’s a beautiful, dark, honest, depressing album about Sufjan coming to grips with the death of his mom (who abandoned him as a kid). But I don’t find myself going back to it very often. It’s just not very fun (at all). But there ARE some hauntingly beautiful songs. Part of the reason I don’t get to listen to it very often – my kids and my wife hate it. So our minivan is rarely blessed with the beauty of Sufjan. A couple of the best songs on the album:

A sincere, longing song about Jesus. You don’t hear that much in the indie world:


depression cherry4. Beach House – Depression Cherry

A chill album. Minimalist and beautiful. So many great songs. Not fun. But moving. Their music makes you feel like you are floating in space or relaxing in a hammock by the ocean.

A few of the best:


Grimes wins weirdest cover art of 2015. About half the songs are too weird to enjoy. The other half are amazing indie pop. She is one talented woman – she plays and produces everything you hear on the album (instruments and vocals). These are definitely my most listened to songs of the last few months:

purity ring2. Purity Ring – another eternity

It was very difficult to decide #1 and #2. Both amazing indie-pop albums packed with incredible songs. Chvrches just has a little more realness and emotion and depth. But Purity Ring has better beats. A tremendous improvement in this their second album (their first album had a few good songs and lots of bad ones). So many great songs. Hard to pick even a few to mention since they’re all so good:

chvrches1. Chvrches – Every Open Eye

Chvrches first album was really good. This one is bigger and deeper – a more expansive and polished sound. Not a bad song on the album. Definitely my family’s favorite album of the year (I was a little more divided between Purity Ring, Chvrches, and Grimes).

Some standout songs:

Would love to hear – what are your favorite albums of 2015?

As we head into the final weeks of the fall semester in college ministry, it’s a great time to step back and evaluate.

I wanted to share a few resources that have been helpful for our team as we seek to figure out if we have set our ladder against the right wall; to figure out what we should be focused on in the spring, and beyond.

We send out two evals to our team (just sent it out last night) to do on their own so we don’t have to take time during staff meeting to eval (we will compile all the evals and just read them together as a team). We do 2 evals since we have several AIA staff on our team and most ministry-strategy-stuff doesn’t relate to them. Here’s what I sent my team:
  • “The All Staff eval is SUPER short. It’ll take you 5-7 minutes.
  • The Cru Team Eval (AIA doesn’t need to do) will take a little longer – maybe 30 minutes”
Aside from those surveys that we send to our staff, a couple other helpful resources to help you evaluate your ministry:
  • We ask each of our staff to do the first part of this eval with each person they disciple: Evaluating the Quality of Your Discipleship (I believe this was developed by Roger Hershey). The second half of the Discipleship eval is good for each staff to do as they think through everyone they are discipling:  Which of your disciples is presently multiplying? And of those who are not multiplying, what are the barriers?
  • Cru Press Green (via Collegiate Collective!) has a great set of Eval questions
Here’s the agenda for our three days of December planning. Hopefully you can take some of this to use in your planning.


Day 1 of Planning:

Goal of week – To chart our course for the near future.  To set our direction.  And to be totally prepared to get started when we get back on day before classes start – Mon, Jan. 18
We spend the semester furiously climbing a ladder
Planning is a time to stop climbing and assess whether our ladder is leaning against the right wall, to re-evaluate where we’ve been and whether we are headed in the right direction
“The organizations that matter are busy being run by people who figure out what to do next” – Seth Godin
Some of what we will accomplish this week:
  • The first 6 weeks of Spring mapped out (and broadstrokes for whole Spring)
  • A thorough plan for each Critical Path Step for the spring
  • Winter Conference details nailed down (campus times, etc)
  • Leadership Retreat at beginning of year planned out
  • Our evangelistic strategy mapped out for Spring
  • Connecting with one another
Today= Where we are headed and where we are (Current Reality)
Go thru compiled evals 
In light of those evals, what should discuss/figure out this week:
Current Reality (reality is our friend)
Numbers in Bible studies
how many freshmen involved
How are we on our goals for this year?
Count # of students who have shared their faith
5 year Dream
We just diagnosed where we are
Where are we going?
Where do you want to go?
What would it look like to have faith and trust the Lord for more?  Let’s go for it!  Where are we going? Have we lost vision for reaching the whole campus?  Reaching all of the pockets?
Ministry vs Movement

A ministry can mean you’re doing great stuff – connecting the lost to Jesus and seeing lives change.But if we stop there, we just have a ministryA ministry is content with haphazard, dead end, life change.Dead end in that students rarely multiply their lives.Haphazard in that we’re content with seeing random students experience life change but they never are called to work together to a greater purpose, a mission, a cohesive vision for something bigger than themselvesA movement is going somewhere together through multiplicationSpecifically – a ministry becomes a movement when people begin to multiply their lives into others AND they are moving somewhere togetherNot just scattershot. But multiplication in a particular direction. Specifically for us, our vision is that everyone on campus would know someone who passionately follows Christ. So we want students multiplying their lives until everyone on campus hears about Christ from a friend.

Read 12 year planlink
Where are we at on the 12 year plan?

Brainstorm: Where do we want to be by 2020 [for frame of reference, our previous 5 year plan)?

DEVO – Jesus is better than ministry success or lack of success!
Devo – the gospel – succeed or fail – we have Jesus – our identity in him
Luke 10:17-20
We need to remember that our identity is in Christ – not in ministry success/failure
Psalm 4:7-8
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.CH Mackintosh in his commentary on Exodus:
“The one who will present Christ to others must be occupied with Christ for himself. Happy is the one who ministers in this way, whatever be the success or reception of his ministry. For should his ministry fail to attract attention, to command influence or to produce apparent results, he has his sweet retreat and his unfailing portion in Christ of which nothing can deprive him. Whereas the person who is merely feeding upon the fruits of his ministry, who delight in the gratification which it affords or the attention & interest which it commands, is like a mere pipe conveying water to others while retaining only rust for himself. This is a most deplorable condition to be in, and yet it’s the actual condition of every servant who is more occupied with his work and its results than with the Master and His glory.”

No matter how the fall went – fail or succeed, I have Christ.

Paul David Tripp has said, “It is very tempting to try to get your identity from your ministry success.” And the opposite is true as well – it’s very tempting to let ministry “failure” define you and shape your trust in God.I’ll let Tripp continue to preach (from his excellent book Dangerous Calling).

He identifies several things that pastors uniquely struggle with. #1? I LET MINISTRY DEFINE MY IDENTITY.

“Because you have a secure identity as a child of God, you don’t need to seek identity from the success of your ministry. You can do this because your standing with God is not based on your performance but on the perfect obedience of Christ. You need to preach these truths to yourself daily, because in ministry you either seek to get identity from your ministry or stand firm and secure in the identity you have been given in Christ.”

“Human beings are always assigning to themselves some kind of identity. There are only two places to look. Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that getting one’s identity horizontally is a particular temptation for those in ministry.”
“The success of a ministry is always more a picture of who God is than a statement about who the people are that he is using for his purpose.”


Day 2 of Planning:

Prayer – For the Day, Wisdom, Pray for Winter Conference
5 Year Dream follow up convo
Good springs lead to good falls
Ask-> What would make a good fall (especially in terms of student leadership)?
When it comes to the fall, it’s all about manpower. If it’s just your staff team and 4 student leaders pursuing freshmen, you have a long road ahead of you. But if you line up 60 students in the spring who will focus on reaching freshmen, the fall will be good.
So the spring is the time to get your “reaching-freshmen-team” together. And to build consensus that we MUST reach freshmen.
And all this happens largely by raising up as many Community Group Leaders as possible.
So everything you do in the spring should contribute to assembling this team of leaders (tomorrow I’ll share some of the changes we made to be more focused on this with our spring).
  • #1 goal = getting students signed up to be CG leaders
  • January = getting people into CG
  • February = Discipleship/identifying future multipliers
  • March = Getting CG leaders for fall
Come up with Spring Plan

Based on current reality, what do we need to do?


Day 3 of Planning:

Leadership Retreat Plan

  • Leadership Retreat – coed, FUN, elements of content, overnight, just for leaders, Free!
Talk through each of our Critical Path Steps as it relates to the Spring
Eval Cru meeting
  • What do we want to keep doing?What do we need to change?
What do days look like during Christmas Break
You’re working full time (just not on campus)
Look at schedule 9-5

What you could spend time on:

  • Vision Dinner- Table Host and Silent Auction
  • MPD
  • New Staff Development
  • Meet with students
  • Winter Conference job
  • Any Admin wrap up
  • Take your vacation time if you have not already
Pray together over Spring
Recap what we accomplished this week
Sharing as a team about what each of us are doing over Christmas