What are We Marketing- Jesus or Cru?

February 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

This is the 2nd post in the series “Marketing Jesus on the Quad”. Click to read the 1st post.

I know. I don’t like the thought of “marketing Jesus” either.

But in this age, “all communication will be perceived as marketing. All self-presentation, even church advertising, will be perceived as branding. And all outreach will be viewed as sales. There is nothing we can do to change this context.” –  Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

So for simplicity, I’ll use the term “marketing” (my goal is not to split hairs over semantics but to think through how we can better communicate the good news to this generation of college students).

As I’ve chewed on the implications of horizontal marketing for college ministry (see my initial post for an intro), I keep coming back to: we’ve got to figure out what we’re “selling”.

What ideas are we hoping students will spread?

What exactly do we want students to talk about?

We want students to talk about Jesus.

But, there’s really TWO things we want students to talk about:

  • Jesus AND Cru (for the sake of brevity I will use “Cru” throughout, but I really mean “Cru or whatever org/church/ministry you’re a part of”)

Think about it: why don’t we just put up posters on campus that say “Come become a follower of Jesus – 8:30 – Tuesday nights”?

Why is our lead foot often to “sell” Cru? And is that wrong?


We are unapologetic in wanting to students to passionately promote Cru.

Because we know that through getting involved in a movement like Cru, students will encounter Christ and join His mission to seek and save the lost.


Seth Godin captures this thinking well in his book Tribes. It’s essentially a how-to book on how to create a movement that will change the world. And what is the main ingredient? “Humans need to belong . . . and connect around an idea”.

David Mays has a thorough summary/key quotes from Tribes here


A movement like Cru provides the key ingredient that will get over student’s indifference and/or antagonism toward God: belonging.

Getting swept up in a movement of peers who love and wholeheartedly serve Jesus.

Many students need to belong before they believe.

Dallas Willard echoes this in his thoughts on evangelism: “Many people will be drawn in without any special strategy but simply by the health of the people.”


Seth Godin poses what I think is THE question for horizontal marketing:

“How can we make it easier for people to talk about what they’re up to and what they care about?”


The solutions we’re looking for seem to break down into two categories:

  1. How do we make it easier for them to talk about Jesus?
  2. How do we make it easier for them to talk about Cru?


And I think both are legitimate (and two pretty different) things:

  1. We want to help our students learn, especially in a new world of social media, how to easily share with their friends what is most important to them (Jesus).
  2. But we also want to make it easy for students to passionately persuade their lost friends to join a movement of believers (Cru) where they will encounter Jesus.


So I would love to take on each of these in separate posts in the next few days in hopes that, together, we can figure out how to better accomplish each.

What are you thoughts? What are we marketing- Jesus or Cru? Is there room for both?



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  • Andrew Wise

    Good post, good things to think through. Two thoughts:

    1) It will usually be easier to market Cru than Jesus, because the Jesus message is a “weightier” topic and forces people to consider their most deeply held convictions; it’s also often perceived as offensive in a culture where “beliefs” are not welcomed as public but rather relative to each individual; personal and private. Students, in the flesh, will usually be much more willing to talk about Cru than Jesus because it is a step more distant from actually considering what the Bible says about Jesus and is more about “exploring spiritual community, etc..”
    On the flip side, this could be a great way to progressively lead people to consider Jesus – start with the easier message, etc… I think, though, students will have to be continually challenged to present the message of Jesus when it is by comparison much easier to talk about Cru.

    2) I agree that when people see what the kingdom of God is like, they will often be attracted to it. But I think we need to think harder about what it means for students to join that community. The community of Jesus is the church, represented visibly by local churches. Cooperative ministry efforts like Cru exist when people from the church work together for the church’s mission. When students see the community of Cru, they are only seeing a part of Jesus’ community – like if all your kids knew of another neighborhood family were the kids the same age as them when they went to school. So when we talk about students wanting to belong in a community, we should remember that their belonging in Cru is not the same as their belonging to the church.

    Cru is more like a sports team, less like a family. Check out this awesome analogy:

    Looking forward to the upcoming posts.