Archives For August 2014

This year we are totally restructuring our Community Group system.

For decades we’ve had a pretty typical model – Freshmen studies, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors.

From talking to Florida Cru, we really liked how their small groups are structured (with 650 students involved in 50 Community Groups, they must be doing something right!):

  • Intergenerational studies (freshman-senior all together)
  • Every group has a target area
    • A lot of them are dorms (80%)
      • The whole Community Group focuses on that dorm all year
      • Most will meet on campus in the dorms every week
    • Others are formed around affinity groups: Epic, Marching Band, Bridges, Greek, AIA teams, Majors (Kinesiology, etc)
  • Freshmen Groups meet for first 6 weeks then gets absorbed into an intergenerational Community Group
    • Freshman and CG’s meet at the same time and night

Intergenerational Community GroupsA few things we really like:

  • Our students leaders will just be in one Bible study – currently, all of our leaders are in a study AND also lead a study.
    • It looks more like life after college (mostly in that you are just in one study – even if you leading it, you can still grow from the community and be challenged by the Word as you process it together)
  • Everyone is engaged in pursuing freshmen (or other affinity group)
  • It makes it easier for students to invite their friends from their classes to the study they’re leading (because it’s not just for freshmen)

For us, what really prompted the change is that in the past few years are number of CG leaders has dramatically increased (like 4x as many), but the number of students in CG has not grown much. We want to be more effective in helping as many students as possible to experience life change through Community Groups.

Specifics on how the leadership of the groups is structured:

CG Coach (usually seniors)

  • Primary job= Coaching their 4 CG Leaders
    • Coach the CG they’re in as well as one other CG
    • Two separate coaching appts/month
      • With the 2 CG leaders  from their study & then 2 CG leaders from the other study they coach
  • Just show up to CG – Don’t necessarily lead – can lead in vision and mission and shepherding the group, but not the content and details of the group
  • Why Seniors?Wisdom and Experience

CG Leader (usually Juniors)

  • Primary Jobs= pursuing upperclassmen and leading the Community Group
    • in Content of the study
    • to stay on Mission (e.g.- reaching the Quads and upperclassmen peers)
      • set direction and plan details of outreach
  • Why Juniors?
    • Experienced leaders but not as much future pressures as seniors (not as focused on post-graduation yet)
    • More focused on what areas they desire to make an impact in while in college

Freshmen Leader (usually sophomores/first time leaders)

  • Primary Jobs= pursuing freshmen all year and being trained to lead CG next year
  • Lead the first 6 weeks of freshmen studies
  • Focus on freshmen throughout the year – connecting them to the Cru movement, doing follow ups, relationally pursuing them all year
  • Why Sophomores or First Time Leaders?
    • most connected relationally to on-campus
    • most excited and passionate, energy
    • Closest to just have gone through what it’s like to have been a freshmen (sophomores)

We’re hoping it gives sophomores a trial run at leading so they will be really effective leaders their junior year. And it gives our seniors a crucial role (instead of slowly fading out).

Here’s a one page summary of the intergenerational model.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes for us this fall!

What are your thoughts on this intergenerational model?



The Critical Event

August 20, 2014 — 2 Comments

“The Critical Event” – a trained person taking a non-trained person to share their faith.

For Montana State Cru, The Critical Event is the most important measurement of staff’s success on campus. It’s what they celebrate.

click to read more about their Cru movement. 

Ever since I heard that concept from Montana State, it has shaped much of our philosophy of ministry in regard to evangelism.

The Apostle Paul wrote that the role of a Christian leader is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4:12.

On our team we talk about success for our staff is getting as many students as possible onto the playing field. We want to help as many students as possible to experience being used by God to change someone’s life.

79 students who shared the gospel in 2013-14This last year we’ve taken strides to better measure how we’re doing on The Critical Event (because how can you celebrate something you can’t see?).

So last year we kept track of how many students had the opportunity to share the gospel. We saw 31 different students share the gospel in the fall. And a total of 79 over the entire school year. 79 students – many of whom had never shared the gospel before in their lives. Unbelievably encouraging for our staff and student leaders to see that!

Imagine the ripple effect of that…

Now, sharing the gospel one time definitely doesn’t make you an expert. But it gets you on the playing field. And it’s the first step toward building the skill and confidence to be a life-long evangelist.

So that’s the back end of the Critical Event – an untrained person getting taken to share the gospel. This year we are trying to be even more intentional in measuring the front end of The Critical Event. We identified a list of students whom we are calling “Trainers”- students who can confidently share the gospel and can take other students with them.

Day 1 on campus, our first priority for our staff will be to take each of these Trainers out to share the gospel. For our staff to model boldness in sharing the gospel. To get these Trainers back on the playing field, first thing in the fall (to shake off the rust of summer).

On that appointment, after we share with a couple freshmen, we are going to challenge the student Trainer to embrace his/her crucial role in The Critical Event and to live out Ephesians 4:12. The unbelievable opportunity they have to take other students to share the gospel for the first time. To model boldness to their fellow students.

Typically, the first few weeks on campus, our staff are out there following up freshmen like crazy. Alone. This year, our hope is that these student Trainers will mobilize a whole team of students to share the gospel with freshmen.

Our hope is that by the end of the year, our list of Trainers will grow dramatically as more students grow in their confidence and ability to share the gospel.

So that everyone will hear the good news…

What do you think about the Critical Event? Is it a good measurement of ministry success?


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 2014 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.

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 3 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).


Cru Intro Video

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

  1. It functions as a cue to sit down and be quiet (there is intentionally space at the beginning to give everyone a chance to sit down, and music at the end to give MC’s time to walk up).
  2. It communicates a little about who we are and what we’re about

To download it: click the Vimeo logo to go to the site.

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 photoshop file so you can edit it to fit your needs. 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 photoshop 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 it is in Photoshop if you want to edit it and use it on your campus: Cru & Bible Studies (2 separate files)

Cru and dorm studies - blog

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.:

Florida Cru:

cru at UF welcome week events

Christian Challenge – Chico State – Paul Worcester:

worcester first week events


Fall Retreat Brochures

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

Download here- Photoshop

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 Cru-Year_at_a_Glance_Brochure1

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

What about YOU?

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

The absolute best thing our Staff did this past year was implement a once a month checkpoint with our Community Group leaders (we got the idea from University of Florida Cru).

Here’s why it was so helpful – our monthly CG coaching meeting kept our most important leaders motivated and missional all year long. As I said in a previous post, Community Groups are the backbone of our ministry. So if our CG leaders are dying on the vine, the fruit of changed lives will not happen.

Many (most!?) times in our monthly checkpoints, we’d meet with CG leaders who were about to throw in the towel. They had zero people coming. And they were tired of pursuing flaky freshmen. Or they had 2-3 freshmen coming to studies and had given up hope of getting a more robust study. Our staff meeting with them help them recalibrat their dreams to keep pursuing freshmen so that freshmen could experience a more healthy community of 6-8 peers.

In 2013 we lost 30% of our Community Group leaders over the course of the year. This year we only lost 5% on the women’s side and 17% on the men’s side.

In 2013 we lost 55% of our freshmen from December to May (260 freshmen in CG’s in December 2012 – by May 2013 we had 117). In 2014, we only lost 1% of our freshmen (160 freshmen in December to 158 in May). Obviously the Monthly Coaching Appointment wasn’t the only factor in retaining freshmen in Community Groups. But it definitely helped that 1/3 of our leaders didn’t quit (like the previous year).

Here’s how we set up the appointment with CG leaders:

  • We are committed to helping you succeed as a Community Group leader. I want to meet with you and your co-leader to help you think through where your study is headed and work alongside you to help your study thrive!

The general flow of a monthly CG coaching meeting:

  • Time in the Word
  • Who/Where/When
    • Who
      • Write down who’s coming to their group and talk through next steps for them:
        • Verbally process through – where are each of them are at spiritually –
          • “Are there any guys/girls in this group who you don’t know where they’re at spiritually?”
          • “who from this group have you already met with?”
          • “who is on the fringes/not connecting?”
        • Prioritize meeting with those guys/girls and sharing the gospel with them
        • Who do you want to start pursuing as a possible disciple (make sure you communicate: “don’t commit yet!”)
    • Where are you meeting (give them suggestions – meet on campus! meet in a key person’s room)?
    • When are y’all meeting? Is that time working well?
  • How are you doing in each of the 4 areas?
    • Content (if upperclassmen – what content are you doing?)
      • How is it going in cultivate self-discovered learning (discussion oriented vs lecture)?
      • Do not preach at them –make sure that as a leader, you are not doing the majority of the talking!
    • Mission (how can we help you grow your study?)
      • Get on Mission Hub during your appointment and show them how to look up guys/girls in their dorm checked – “I want to be in a Bible study”
        • Encourage them to call these people
      • Right before your study: MAKE PHONE CALLS/TEXT AND KNOCK ON DOORS (College students are FLAKY.)
      • Keep an updated contact list and include everyone on a group reminder text the morning you meet. You want to do this every week the rest of the semester.
      • Take solid freshmen girls to do follow up with you
      • Encourage your freshmen to invite their friends to CG
    • Prayer
      • Ideas: pray for the world, prayer walk, pray through scripture, prayer requests, prayer partners, fasting
    • Community – do you feel like people are starting to connect?
  • What are next steps in each of these 4 areas?
  • Plan the next month
  • End on vision
    • Encourage them – what you’re doing is significant!
    • It’s a slow process of investing on a weekly basis in these guys/girls. The little things will begin to pay off (the texts, little conversations, times to hang out). God is using you to change their lives!!
    • If there’s no one coming to their study – there’s 300 girls in the Quads who need to know Christ! Keep going for it. It’s worth it!!

We ended up meeting twice a semester with our CG leaders.

Here’s notes from each from each meeting:


We’ve discovered that sustained spiritual growth does not happen in an environment where people simply sit in rows, listening to messages in complete anonymity. Sustained growth takes place where people are personally challenged and encouraged in their relationship with God and with others. – Andy Stanley

On our staff team, we talk a lot about how Community Groups are the backbone of our ministry.

It’s how we measure success – “how many got plugged into CG’s thru Cru?”, “How many got in a CG thru our first 4 weeks outreaches?”, “How many freshmen are involved in CG’s?”

Why? Because It’s where life change happens. And it’s where students come to Christ.

Community Group small squareOn our campus, the vast majority of students consider themselves “Christians”. So the typical student has been inoculated to the gospel and is now resistant to the real thing. It takes a semester (or longer!) of hearing the gospel of grace taught and discussed for it to really hit them – “I’m not a Christian – I’m just a moralistic deist.” And it’s usually not a one time “conversion experience” but a gradual sinking in.

We’d rather have 100 people in Community Groups than 300 at our weekly meeting.


I usually say something like this at the first Cru meeting:

9 times out of 10 you’re not going to be able to grow in college unless you do it together with friends. If you don’t have friends that help you process what it looks like to pursue God in college, you’ll really struggle with how to work what you’re learning about God into your life. Unless you have some friends who are a couple steps ahead of you spiritually – and a couple friends right with you spiritually – and a couple friends behind you spiritually – you won’t grow.

That’s why we say – If you’re not in a Community Group, you’re not in Cru. I would highly recommend you checking out a Community Group – try it out. Commit to a group for 4-6 weeks. Give it time – time to connect with the others in your group. Process what you’re learning about God together with friends. Let’s do this together.  [basically an adaptation of part of a Tim Keller sermon]

What role do small group Bible studies play in your ministry?

Do you agree with – “If You’re Not in a Community Group, You’re Not in Cru”?

Just front of brochure

I’ve linked to our Fall Retreat Brochures before that you can use for your campus.

This year we upgraded and outsourced the creative work to Libby Slaughter (who also designed some amazing tri-fold Cru-at-a-glance brochures for everyone to use).

It’s a bi-fold brochure – we usually print them at a local print shop on linen cardstock, cut to bleed, scored down the middle, etc. They end up costing around 25 cents each. Final size (after folding in half) is 5.5″ x 4.5″

Download here- Photoshop

Fall Retreat general outside

Fall Retreat general inside

If you don’t have Photoshop, just leave a comment and our team will see what we can do to edit it for you to fit your campus’ needs.

If you use the brochure, leave a comment or tweet at Libby to let her know how much you appreciate her gifting and generosity!

For literally 10 years our team has lamented, “If we only had a leaving piece for students that will tell them all about our ministry and opportunities for involvement…”. We’ve just never taken the time to put one together.

Thank God for Libby Slaughter (who I went to school with at Texas Tech!) who designed this great tri-fold brochure for our campus to use this year!

The best news – it’s free for anyone to use!

This is the generic version for any campus – InDesign – PDF (non-editable) – Photoshop(coming soon!)

FRONTCru local brochure

Cru local brochure page 2BACK

And what our campus’ brochure looks like:

Arkansas Cru-Year_at_a_Glance_Brochure1 FRONT

Arkansas Cru-Year_at_a_Glance_Brochure2BACK 


If you don’t have InDesign or Photoshop, just leave a comment and our team will see what we can do to edit it for you to fit your campus’ needs.

If you use the brochure, leave a comment or tweet at Libby to let her know how much you appreciate her gifting and generosity!

The weekly meeting is not the most important thing we do. But it helps us, in a big way, do the important things.

But what is the purpose of our weekly meeting? Who is the weekly meeting for – Christians or non-Christians? What is the role of student leaders in our weekly meeting?

I’ve put together an article that pieces pieced together what I have found to be the most helpful ideas on weekly meetings. Few of these thoughts are original to me, but my hope is that by compiling them in a (fairly) short article, this will be useful to many campuses and ministries.

It’s something your team could read together and discuss – “What are we trying to accomplish with our weekly meeting? In what way does our meeting make ‘outsiders’ feel uncomfortable? Do guys find our meeting attractive?” Our team of students who run our Cru meeting will read and discuss as they start to plan for the fall.

Maximizing the Impact of Your Weekly Meeting

weekly meeting article snapshotHere are the main points:

  • The Purpose of the Weekly Meeting
  • Who is our Audience? (non-Christian or Christian)
  • Be New Guy Friendly (HT: Bob Fuhs)
  • An Environment of Inclusion (Purge any hint of insider-ism)
  • Who Speaks at the Meeting?
  • Student Ownership (having a student-run meeting)
  • Meeting Elements [Tips on each part of the meeting: No skits! Lots of testimonies. Why announcements are crucial (and should be sparse)]

Would love to get feedback on the article and ways it can be improved (or important concepts to address that I’ve missed).


This is a great short video that explains Mission Hub – an app developed by Cru to make it easier to organize your thousands of spiritually interested contacts. As I explained in Leveraging Technology to Further the Mission, MissionHub has been an invaluable tool for us in making sure no students fall through the cracks.

To get your organization started on MissionHub (for non-Cru folks), just contact

Thanks Ryan McReynolds and the MissionHub team for putting this video together!

What does it say about our philosophy of ministry if we spend 45% of our week prepping for a 25 minute event?

That event must be CRAZY important. Our whole ministry must hinge on whether those 25 minutes go well.

Thom Rainer asked pastors – “How Much Time Do You Spend Preparing a Sermon?”

  • He found that 70% of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours prepping a sermon.

I would guess that number is pretty accurate for college ministry staff as well.

cruIs it the best use of our time to spend 2 days off campus prepping a talk? I would guess that the average college meeting has 50 students. Just a guess. But even if you have 200, is it still wise to spend 45% of your week every week on a talk?

Do we think that our campus will be changed through Cru talks?

What would it look like for our calendars to reflect the reality that our campus will be changed by small groups of students multiplying their lives in their spheres of influence?

How would we spend our time if we really believed that?

To take it one step further, there are some campus ministries that don’t need a weekly meeting. Across St. Louis Cru’s campuses, the Cru ministries only have weekly meetings if they have more than 40 students involved (thanks to Matt McComas for his research).

For some of you, one of your best contributions to reaching your campus with the gospel is your amazing speaking ability. For many of you, it is not.

I speak at 2-3 Cru meetings a semester. Our staff men average about 1 meeting a year.

None of our staff ever speak during the first 3 weeks on campus. It frees me up to focus on helping our staff/leaders follow up freshmen instead of working on a talk for 12 hours/week.

Every semester we bring in great speakers/pastors to speak at our Cru meetings (I will say that we are blessed to have a wealth of great pastors and speakers in our area). Not only does it free our staff up but it helps our students connect to local churches as they hear pastors from 5-7 local churches which is a HUGE win.

What do you think? What are some of your concerns with bringing in outside speakers or speaking less?