Archives For August 2011

I wanted to share a few things we’ve used at our Cru meeting that you might be able to use.


Opener Video

Here’s a video we show at the beginning of our meeting. It serves two purposes:

  1. It functions as a cue to sit down and be quiet (we show it most every week)
  2. It communicates a little about who we are and what we’re about

We just put it together last week, so I’d love any constructive criticism (especially on how to improve any wording to make it more powerful).

Update: There is blank space at the beginning to give everyone a chance to sit down. And outro music at the end to give time for the MC’s to come up with some backing music (the sound guy can fade it out as they start).

Fall 2011 – Cru Intro Text Video from Tim Casteel on Vimeo.

Shout out to our intern Michael Allen who did the bulk of the work! Michael is splitting his time doing 50% campus work and 50% video for us.


For those of you out there that know a thing or two about video editing, I would HIGHLY recommend buying the Motion app for the Mac (a steal at $50) and then using the amazing pre-made templates (where we got this video) at

It will enable you to make slick text based videos.


To download the hi-res video for use at your meeting, click here (I changed the end to a generic “college students” so it wouldn’t have anything Arkansas specific).



While cool, upbeat music may be #27 on the list of important things about a weekly 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, at the weekly meeting we tend to be hip hop heavy. I run the music at our regional winter conference and can conclusively say that hip hop makes a marked difference on the “vibe” of the crowd. It makes your meeting a party. Literally. People dance.


So here’s a playlist we’ve used this fall for our cookouts and Cru weekly meeting.

You’ll need Spotify to use it/listen to it. If you need an invite, leave a comment and I’ll send you one. It’s worth a little effort to

1) Not pay a dime for new music and

2) Not be left to the whims of your soundguy’s ipod.



For those of you who don’t have Spotify, here’s the playlist:

Phoenix – Lisztomania

Passion Pit – Sleepyhead

Trip Lee – The Invasion (Hero) Ft. Jai

Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun

Lecrae – High Ft. Suzy Rock

Muse – Starlight

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

Flame – Joyful Noise

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Vampire Weekend – Run

Lecrae – Walking On Water

Lecrae – 40 Deep Ft. Tedashii & Trip Lee

Phoenix – 1901

Cults – You Know What I Mean

Jason Derulo – Whatcha Say

Robyn – Dancing On My Own

The Shins – Sea Legs

Paper Route – Last Time

Jimmy Eat World – A Praise Chorus

Young the Giant – My Body

Matt & Kim – Daylight

White Rabbits – Percussion Gun

Shout Out Louds – Walls

Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill

Cults – Go Outside

Jónsi – Go Do

Peter Bjorn And John – Young Folks

Passion Pit – Moth’s Wings

Capital Cities – Safe and Sound

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are A Tourist

Jimmy Eat World – Pain

M.I.A. – Paper Planes

Tapes ‘n Tapes – Freak Out

Yeasayer – Madder Red

Broken Bells – The High Road

Rogue Wave – Good Morning (The Future)

Vampire Weekend – Horchata

Dashboard Confessional – Don’t Wait

The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

Animal Collective – My Girls

The Dodos – Fools

Broken Bells – Vaporize

Scissor Sisters – Fire With Fire

Freelance Whales – Hannah

Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed – Jakwob Remix

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

Sufjan Stevens – I Walked

Vale la Pena

August 26, 2011 — 16 Comments

Every fall, I find myself asking the same question about college ministry:

Is it worth it?

The first three weeks of the fall are incredibly draining both emotionally and physically.

You are on your feet and meeting students from 9am until 10pm multiple days a week. 60-80 hour work weeks. Dripping with sweat as you stand in the mid-day sun at a survey table.

But beyond the physical exhaustion and lack of sleep, the most trying part for me is the sometimes humiliating work of college ministry.

There’s something incredibly humbling about having a too-cool-for-school 18 year old freshman smugly shut the door in your face as you attempt to tell them about Cru and how they can pursue God in college.

Not how I’d choose to spend my day.

But we do it. We endure contempt and rejection multiple times, every day, for weeks on end. Why?

Because there are students who moved into the dorms this week who don’t know Jesus and this morning are rolling out of a stranger’s bed, hung over and regretting already decisions they have made in college. Who in the next few years will be used by God to transform this campus and be sent out to change the world. We’re trusting God for complete life transformation.


Just yesterday, a student who just the previous day  answered:

  • 2 (on a scale of 1-5 how interested are you in exploring spiritual matters in college)
  • no (are you interested in more info from Cru on how to grow spiritually in college)
  • no (would you like more info about a small group Bible study)

trusted Christ after a couple guys in U of A Cru shared the gospel with his roommate.


In spanish, if something is “worth it” you say it is “vale la pena”.

Literally – “worth the pain”.

It is worth the pain of enduring humiliation and contempt so that hundreds and thousands of future world changers can encounter Jesus.


“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – I Corinthians 4:17


What makes the first few weeks worth it for you?


photo courtesy of wallyg

Fall Retreat Brochures

August 25, 2011 — 11 Comments

Just wanted to share the past few years of brochures/branding for Fall Retreat for anyone to use. No sense making your own stuff if you can use ours!

Below are our last 4 years’ Fall Retreat brochures. For each year, there are also name tags, programs, powerpoint slides, Facebook stuff, websites, etc. that you can have.

If you want to use any of them, just leave a comment and I will give you more details (on how to print them – linen cardstock, cut to bleed, etc). We print the brochures at a local print shop and they look very professional (full bleed, scored down the middle). They end up costing around 25 cents each.

You’ll have to have Photoshop to adapt them for your campus – or if you ask real nice, I bet our campus could edit them for you with your info and send you a PDF.

2011 (bi-fold brochure)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

graphic via the amazing church website: Stuff I Can Use

2010 (bi-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

unfortunately I can’t recall where I found those two pictures or I would give credit!

2009 (vertical bi-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

 unfortunately I can’t recall where I found the background textures or I would give credit!

2008 (accordian z-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside


 colored circle image from

Great to keep in mind as we start the fall semester and work long hours to reveal God’s glory to thousands of college students:

So all our missional efforts to make God known must be set within the prior framework of God’s own will to be known. We are seeking to accomplish what God himself wills to happen. This is both humbling and reassuring. It is humbling inasmuch as it reminds us that all our efforts would be in vain but for God’s determination to be known. We are neither the initiators of the mission of making God known to the nations nor does it lie in our power to decide how to the task will be fully accomplished or when it may be deemed to be complete. But it is also reassuring. For we know that behind all our fumbling efforts and inadequate communication the supreme will of the living God, reaching out in loving self-revelation, incredibly willing to open blind eyes and reveal his glory through the treasures of the gospel delivered in the clay pots of his witnesses.

– Christopher Wright, The Mission of God, p. 129, 130 (quote via Z)

I love reading articles together as a staff team. There are few better ways to align your team and learn to speak the same language.

They’re short and to the point (at least the good ones are!).

And the articles can be the bad guy- they can speak authoritatively on a topic and staff don’t hear “my director is trying to get us to _____ (share our faith more, do more work)” they hear “that author who is infinitely wise is saying that we should ______”.

Whether your senior staff are reading these ideas for the 10th time or it’s a new staff reading it for the first, foundational ideas need to be over-communicated repeatedly.

It doesn’t always have to be articles, I’ll often print up a bog post (even my own!) to read with our team.

Here are some of the staple articles that have shaped our team (and that we’ll likely be reading this fall):

  • The First Two Weeks– our team reads this every year in preparing for the fall. Really short and to the point. Sets your team’s expectations for the first weeks (16 hour work days!):
    • Gathering Christians, reaching non-Christians…or both?
    • What to do on appointments
    • What to do with returning students
  • Building Movements this article has shaped our movement more than any other. Jim Sylvester shares his considerable wisdom in what it takes to build a thriving movement.
  • Going from 20 to 200 – a shorter and easier to read version of Jim’s principles. 5 principles to grow a small ministry into a thriving movement. This one might be better to read with your team or students than Jim’s.
  • Hearing the Music Of the Gospel – a longer article but so good. Are you carried along by the rhythm of God’s Spirit through his Word or doing the mechanical dance steps of behavioral change? This is a good one to have your team read over an hour of time with God and then come back and discuss as a team.
  • Empowering Staff thru Staff Jobs– great wisdom from Eric Swanson on empowering staff to lead as directors. This fall we just quoted from this article and used the ideas as we communicated to our team on staff jobs – but a great read for team leaders.
    • “Each job is “director level” in that the other staff are subordinate to him or her in this area.”
    • “Each job is “owned” by the staff in charge and is autonomous in its responsibility. If the staff does not carry it out or motivate others to do so, it simply doesn’t get done. No one bails him or her out.”
    • Each staff is expected to be an “expert” in his/her job. He needs to read books, articles, magazines, listen to talks, and interact with other staff from other campus to develop expertise. He or she becomes a resource for the other staff in their area of expertise. You and the other staff may be purposefully ignorant: “I don’t know, but Rabs is the expert in that area.”

What are some of your favorite articles?

Part 3 of a series on Planning for Year 2023 – click to read parts 1 & 2

“Without specific team goals, team members become confused and revert only to what they like to do or want to do. Goals that motivate always contain a ‘stretch element’ to them. In other words, they go beyond what you did last year and cannot be accomplished by simply plugging in last year’s methods and strategies. Most staff would rather fail at attempting something great than to succeed at something mediocre that just feels like failure.”
Eric Swanson

As a new staff, I always found the setting of our team goals to be rather arbitrary:

Team Leader: “OK, we had 50 coming to Cru last year, what should our goal be this year team?”

Staff 1: “I think we’ll have 75 this year”

Staff 2: “Why?”

Staff 1: “I don’t know – because 75 is a little more than 50?”

Staff 2: “Where’s your faith? Let’s add a zero! We’re going to have 500 this year!”

Staff 1: “You’re an idiot”

Staff 2: “No, I have faith”

Team Leader: “Ok, 60 it is.”

Staff 3 (me) texts to staff 4: “SMH” (that is, if we’d had cell phones back then)


So how in the world do you set goals that are full of faith AND realistic?

We’ve found the steps Jim Sylvester lays out to be very helpful. We rely VERY heavily on this model for our yearly goals. And it’s uncanny how accurate it has been for us, year after year.

At the end of his (119 page!) article Principles God Honors, Jim lays out a Step By Step Growth of a Movement.

Jim’s proven timeline has helped us set incredibly faith-stretching goals that are based in reality.


I’ll list out the years (with his descriptions of each year) below. A couple questions to ask yourself/your team:

  • What year are we currently in?
  • What should be our goals for this year be?
  • What will it take to make those goals a reality?


I would love to know – how does your team determine numerical goals?


Jim Sylvester’s Step by Step Growth of a Movement

His caveat: “This is merely a model from our campus at Ohio State. This is to he adapted to each unique campus. On a campus where Greeks are the most dominant social group, one would target Freshman Greeks very heavily. On our campus we found the dorms and RAs as the dominant social group, so we started there.”


Year One

  • Staff Team – Make sure staff team is on board in areas of ministry philosophy and commitment level.
  • Commitment – make sure staff are using their time wisely (i.e. 35 “hot hours”)
  • Reality is my friend. Time is my friend.
  • Working with students is messy. Since we are committed to working with students, we are willing to live with messy.


Year Two

  • Create a socially sharp atmosphere. Seek to bring leaders and other socially sharp individuals into the movement. Socially sharp individuals visible at meetings; make the atmosphere attractive and comfortable with quality activities. There has to be an atmosphere where men feel comfortable – AIA emphasis etc.


Year Three – Foundational Freshmen Class

  • These will be the leaders of the movement in 2-3 years. The entire movement is focused on the Freshman class.
  • Freshmen class of 80
  • This takes 120 Freshmen entering Freshmen studies in September
  • The gospel shared individually with about 1,500 Freshmen.
  • In the first 4 weeks, staff share Christ with 50 new students.
  • A student planned and student run movement


Year Four – Movement Maker Class

  • 80 freshmen who will return 40 strong as sophomores
  • 120 or more students attending weekly meeting.
  • Send 25 students on summer projects. (High percent from foundational class.)


Year Five – The Over-the-Hill class

  • 100 freshmen in discovery groups by the end of the year.
  • Cru meeting over 200.
  • Presence in all the dorms.
  • Movements starting in the Geek system, athletes, band, international students, and ethnic minorities.
  • 40 Students going on summer projects.
  • 40 + Students leading successful small groups.
  • Expansion campuses a major focus; they feel absolutely a part of the whole.
  • Hearts that pray – a prayer movement in place.
  • Ownership and love for the partnership country.
  • Students want and value training. 60-80 students come to training.
  • Student ownership runs deep.


Year Six

  • Win a Freshman class of 160
  • 300 people at Cru meeting.
  • 300 students involved in small group Bible studies.
  • Daily Prayer drawing 25 students; as large as 50 for Praise God Its Friday.
  • 50 students going on summer projects.
  • Students involved from every segment of campus.
  • Expansion campuses now flourishing, we’re now on 1 campus for every two of our staff.
  • A rich love for Jesus permeates movement.
  • Students are sacrificial for the cause.
  • Movement has a heart for laborers.
  • Praying for awakening and God’s hand in our movement.
  • Burdened for the lost and the needs of the world.
  • Model student leaders and spokesmen.
  • Students are captured by the campus vision & our potential for impacting the world.


Year Seven

  • 400 + at Cru.
  • 400 students in small groups.
  • Win a freshmen class that will return 100 involved sophomores (i.e. 200 freshmen in groups in April)
  • 60+ students going on summer projects stateside and worldwide.
  • Our expansion campuses have movements of over 50 and feel a part of the whole.
  • 10 seniors graduate and come on our staff or go on stint, 5 other students go into full-time ministry or seminary.
  • Continue previously mentioned health characteristics.
  • Major presence in the Greek system, with athletes, African Americans, Internationals.


Year Eight – The Saturation Freshmen Class

  • Win the Freshmen Class of 300 that will return 150 sophomores
  • Unless you are on a campus of greater than 40,000 students, this class will see the campus reach saturation before they graduate.


Year Nine

  • Win a freshman class of 400 (200 return as sophomores)
  • In every segment of the university
  • Totally visible throughout the university community.
  • Present in the areas of influence of this university.
  • 75 Seniors – 20% graduate into full-time Christian work, 100 jrs, 150 soph, 400 fish
  • Touching the world; laborers going to every culture.


Year Ten

  • A freshmen class that returns 250 sophomores
  • 80 seniors, 150 juniors, 200 sophomores, 500 freshmen
  • 200 students seeing multiplication
  • Impacting the entire State
  • Each of our classes is growing because evangelism is extensive throughout University
  • 100 students meeting daily for prayer


Year Eleven

  • 150 Seniors
  • 240 Juniors
  • 275 Sophomores
  • 600 freshmen (1265 in small groups)
  • Saturating Greek system, dorms, athletes, internationals, African Americans


Year Twelve – The Dream Come True

  • Cru: 1,000
  • 200 seniors, 250 juniors, 300 sophomores, 600 freshmen
  • 40 students going into full-time Christian work, 20 of those joining staff/going on stint
  • 80 graduating satellite campus students, 20 of whom go into full-time Christian work.


photo courtesy of Untitled blue 

Part 2 of a series on Planning for Year 2023 

Read part 1 to catch up on an intro to long term planning

Click to read part 3 – how to set faith-stretching yet realistic goals

Why does having a numerical goal (connected to a long term plan) change things?

1) It forces you to plan differently

2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision


1) It forces you to plan differently

What happens when you realize that you need to not just reach freshmen but need to reach 80 of them?

It forces your team to think in new ways – to try things you’ve never done before.

It takes “reaching freshmen” from an abstract idea/wish to a concrete reality that needs to be planned.

It makes you realize:

  • We’re going to need more than just our staff team of 3 in order to make this happen.
  • We’re going to need 20 freshmen Bible study leaders (paired up, leading 10 studies) in order to make that a reality
  • We’re going to have 120 in freshmen studies by the end of the fall in order to have 80 still in studies by the end of the spring
  • So we need to figure out a way to have conversations with 400 freshmen (if 1 in 5 will get involved in a Study)
  • So we’d better get in contact with 800 freshmen


2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision

Having numerical goals that fit into a long term plan turn ordinary, mundane tasks into vision-enfused opportunities.

Scope is demotivating if you don’t have a long term plan to accomplish reaching the entire campus.

It’s really depressing to constantly hear “we want to reach the whole campus, every single student with the gospel” and then look around the room and see you have 50 students involved. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that ain’t gonna happen this year.

But when your staff and students see a bigger picture for HOW we really are going to reach the entire campus, AND how their hard work this fall fits into that big picture, their work becomes meaningful, full of purpose.


Our staff and students need to know that we’re not just involving freshmen to make our name great, to enlarge the Cru kingdom. We have a long term plan to raise up enough equipped laborers that we will eventually share the gospel with every student on campus. I’ll only work so hard for an organizational vision, for Cru. But I will work tirelessly to spread His fame.


Tomorrow: How we set goals that aren’t arbitrary guesses about the future

(Hint: a 12 year step-by-step plan from Jim Sylvester has been enormously helpful)


How has having specific, faith-stretching goals forced your team to plan differently?

photo courtesy of danorbit

Part 1 in a series on Planning for Year 2023. Click to read parts 23

“More happens in five years than you and I would ever dream.  Less happens in one year than we would ever hope. In building a movement, time is our friend.”

Jim Sylvester

Having a 12 year plan has transformed our ministry.

The tendency in the fall is to plan the urgent.

There are fliers that need to be printed, rooms that need to be reserved, retreats that need to be planned.

But how does this fall fit into your long term plan?

A long term strategy keeps us from bouncing around to a different strategy every year.

We actually plan in 5 year chunks- in 2005 we set some goals for 2010. And this year we set goals for 2015. But it all fits into a longer-term, 12 year plan (more in a couple days, on “Why 12 years?”).

Every fall our strategy is the same:

  • Reach a progressively bigger freshman class
  • In order to build a bigger movement
  • In order to eventually reach the campus

We’re serious about reaching the entire campus with the gospel.

And we’re serious about doing it in a relational way (students hearing the gospel from a friend).

In other words, we’re serious about this vision:

“That everyone would know someone who passionately follows Jesus”


Of course everyone in college ministry is aiming to reach freshmen. But not all succeed to the same degree.

So “reach a bigger freshmen class” is not real helpful.


But for some reason, when you put a number on it, a goal, things start to change.

“We want to involve 40 freshmen this year in Bible studies”

And even more important is the overall context in which that numerical goal fits:

“We want to involve a freshman class of 40 this year, and next year we want to reach 80, and a couple years later 100, and eventually we hope to have a movement of the size and maturity to be able to TRULY reach every student on this campus.”


Why does something as small as a numerical goal for freshmen change things?

1) It forces you to plan differently

2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision


More thoughts on each of those tomorrow.


How would you sum up your long term strategy to reach the campus?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping a long term plan?


photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds

I’m really liking Spotify – a new music service that debuted in America this summer (it’s been a huge hit in Europe). It gives you access to millions of songs you can stream for free.


If you haven’t joined yet, click here for an invite (or message me on Twitter for one). Unfortunately it’s invitation only right now. So exclusive.


I’m currently just using the free service. I still plan on mostly buying albums.

But what Spotify allows me to do is try before I buy. I’ve bought several albums this year that I wasted my money on. I wish I’d listened to them a few times through. Spotify lets you do that.

I know this may not seem amazing to some of you young whippersnappers. But I remember spending many weekends in high school driving up to Blockbuster Music to sit up at the “music bar” where they would let you open CD’s and listen to them. Yes, I’m that old – before the internets.

So streaming albums for free still blows my mind!


But I really like the idea of sharing playlists with friends.

It’s the Mixtape for the new Millennium.


Here’s a few of my playlists:

The profiles of users is also a good place to find out what music people are checking out. I have a “Songs I want to listen to, to see if I like them” list as well as some albums I’m checking out to see if they’re worth buying (Manchester Orchestra, Lykke Li, TV on the Radio)


I’d love to hear your playlists or your favorite new songs/albums – even if you aren’t on Spotify!

Share them in the comments.


On a side note, here’s some good music to check out:

  • The artist, Lenka, with a great cover of one of Arcade Fire’s best songs- Deep Blue (click to go to Lenka’s site, or listen below).
  • I have to hand it to my wife. When she first heard Arcade Fire’s song Sprawl II she immediately said – that sounds just like Blondie. Well, someone thought the same thing. Here’s a great mashup of Blondie and Arcade Fire (click to download it, or listen below).

  • Amazon has their new edition of Artists on the Rise (a monthly list of free songs from up and coming artists) – including a great Wye Oak song.
  • And finally, a beautiful violin cover of Bon Iver’s song Perth.

I’ve posted thoughts on this before, but this is really good:

(via Matt Perman)

Quotes from it:

  • I read one or two leadership books a month out of sheer discipline
  • I don’t ask myself if I feel like reading another book
  • I NEED to read
  • I have to take responsibility
  • I have some people that I have been given charge to lead well
  • I have to read to get better as a leader
  • I’m asking you: Take responsibility for your leadership development and read more
  • I’m asking you to get around other leaders who are better than you
  • Every 30 days, ask “who can I get lunch or dinner with?”
  • “Who can I get around who’s been where I haven’t been. And how can I ask them the right questions to stretch myself and get better?”

A few takeaways:

  • I need to figure out how to do this better – I think maybe cutting out internet before bed. For some reason the Kindle app on the iPad has helped me do this more (read instead of surf).
  • I plan on having my team watch this – to continue to reinforce a culture of self-development. I talked to a Cru staff member this summer who read 20 books on building movements last fall (in one semester!)! He takes this seriously.
  • I try to seize opportunities to meet with leaders during the summer (especially at Staff Conference) but I wonder what this looks like during the busyness of the year?

What do you think? What are your takeaways?