Stop Speaking at Your Weekly Meeting

August 6, 2014 — 6 Comments

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?



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  • Clayton Bullion

    Great article! We starting partnering with several other ministries to do our weekly night meeting. We all share the teaching time, so I only speak 1 week every month. It really freed up my schedule to be more available to students. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    • Sasha Hallock

      Tim, I appreciate your thoughts. Here’s my feedback:

      1. If staff are spending 45% of their week preparing a talk, that probably isn’t the best use of our time, agreed.

      2. Getting students connected to the local church is a HUGE win and essential.

      3. I think it’s important to evaluate how we spend our time.

      We’ve seen our weekly meetings in Rochester grow and develop over he past few years. One big change we made a few years ago was actually having ONLY staff speak at weekly meetings. We did this for a few reasons.

      1. It helped us standardize our communication. We are a metro team serving on three campuses. We now give the same message on all the campuses three days in a row. All of our students hear the same message each week and we are able to craft the themes, topics and trajectory of the semester according to our vision.

      2. It helped us communicate our values and Cru distinctives. Vulnerability, honesty, gospel centered, etc. We developed a speaking criteria that we wanted each talk to contain and created feedback forms for each talk.

      3. It helps students know their staff better.

      I think the time component is a big reality. Experience + gifting help with this, but you are right, if speaking isn’t your passion, it could suck up a lot of time preparing for a talk unnecessarily.

  • Jeff Woolstenhulme

    The work I have been doing is going into year two and in year one we did not establish a critical mass of 30, but a group of 10. Hypothetically let’s say we launch a meeting and run 50 every week. Is there something to be said about early movement fragility? If we march out a new speaker every week couldn’t there be some trust lost and they will be unsure if they should bring their friends? I’m just wondering how much hinges on the speaker up front.

    Tim do you find that your most committed students are the ones that are most committed to small groups? I want to create a small group culture at my campus, and am wondering why people go and participate in the large group setting. Is it to see friends? To learn? If it’s just to see friends then it doesn’t seem like who’s up front matters too much, but if it’s truly to learn then won’t they want someone they know and identify with? It’s like going to a church that has no main teacher each week but a new one. Who do people identify with?

    Lots of questions up there. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Keep posting. This all is super great stuff!

  • Micaiah Wilmoth

    This asks such a great question!

    “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?”

    The question for me is not only how do we get students multiplying, but what are they multiplying? This leads me to ask a different question.

    What environment has the greatest potential for influencing the greatest number of students with the best possible content?

    For our ministry this is the weekly meeting. This is where we create the context and culture for everything else that happens in the ministry. This is where students hear and see our values displayed and repeated. This is where student pick up the shared vocabulary that will be repeated in their personal ministry environments

    I love the idea of connecting local churches to our movement by sharing the teaching role with these pastors, but even if each of these pastors bring similar values they communicate with such diversity of language that our students are often unable to keep up. I do some occasional invites for the purpose of featuring these great Bible teachers, but it is the exception and not the rule.

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

    For me, it looks like 15 hours of talk preparation during most weeks of the year. It is during these talks where my most effective discipleship happens. This is where students leaders return to the simple truths. This is where new students hear a clear call to making disciples. This is where lost students are given an opportunity respond in faith.

    The weekly meeting talk is the place where we cast vision for multiplication and most of all where we constantly refocus on what our students will be multiplying in their spheres of influence.

    What do you think?

    • timcasteel

      Great questions Micaiah. I think another thing to consider is there are some who 1) really enjoy speaking and 2) are really gifted. They should speak more often.

      I just think you can accomplish a lot of the vision through outside speakers. And then you can invest that time on the field modeling – how to disciple, how to share the gospel, etc.

      I’ve definitely been humbled in this area – a couple year ago we were wrestling with how to mobilize more men to do evangelism. My idea: lets get our key guys together weekly on Sunday nights and cast vision and talk about evangelism and read a book about evangelism. Our AIA staff (trying not to laugh) said, “uh, I think the way to get people to share their faith is to take them into the dorm cafeteria at lunch and walk up to people and share the gospel. Action>talking about action.”

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and talk that through. Great thoughts.

      • Micaiah Wilmoth

        Thanks for getting back to me! I totally agree that giftedness is a key component to this discussion.

        I’ve only been following your blog for the past month and have found myself referencing it often to our team and student leaders. Thanks for making it happen!