Top Sending Campuses – Cal State-Chico

February 13, 2015 — 4 Comments

chico state

This is part of a series on Learning from the Top Sending Campuses in Cru.

See the intro for a full list of all the campuses profiled (and links to each). 

Quick facts on Chico Cru:

  • 120-130 in movement
  • Cru meeting – 1st meeting 205; Last meeting 105
  • 6 full time staff – 8 interns
  • In 2013 they sent:
    • 3 STINT
    • 7 Interns
    • 0 staff
  • In 2012 they sent:
    • 1 STINT
    • 7 Interns
    • 3 staff

I had a theory going into this research – big movements produce a lot of laborers. If I had to guess, I would have said that would be the number one cause of sending a lot of laborers. And to a large extent, I found that to be true.

Of the top 25 sending campuses in Cru, the average movement size is 362 students! Clearly, most of these movements are very large.

But a few campuses among the Top Sending Campuses in Cru really intrigued me. There are a few Cru movements that send a LOT of laborers from not-large movements. These are not small movements by any means – but they have less than 150 students involved (so smaller in contrast to the other gigantic Cru movements).

One of those campuses is Cal State – Chico.

Josh Otto has been at Chico for 10-11 years and been the MTL (Missional Team Leader) there for 4 years.

My main question for Josh was –

What do you think contributes to Chico Cru sending such a large percentage of your seniors?

Campus dynamic is key

  • We’re a state school – anyone can get into it
  • They’re at Chico because they wanted to party or they didn’t get into their #1 school because of grades or they did not have a plan for their life – they have no clue
    • Chico is known nationally for its partying
    • There is no middle ground – it’s black and white
    • We have a lot of dramatic life change – this is where I was, this is where I am now
  • Students have no career plan, no internships
  • It gives us the ability with a clean slate to cast vision for Summer Missions, Internship, and STINT
  • Most students come from Bay area – sacramento – the campus is pretty homogenous
  • Most come from families that have money – they can go to Fall retreat, Summer Missions, Winter Conference
  • Our campus really lends itself to mobilizing people
  • It’s not like UCLA where everyone is preparing for med school, $50k in debt
  • It’s a really relational place with not a lot of purpose
  • When people find purpose, they’re able to adjust quickly and change life plans
  • All that gives us the platform to send people

Our strategy

  • Our strategy as staff is to connect closely to students, to bring them in close to us
    • They’re in our homes
    • It’s much more of a family feel than a business feel
    • The mission is relational
  • The town of Chico is smaller, a total college town
  • 16,000 students at Chico
  • Hanging out with them – really befriending students
  • Students who make it to the end, feel very personally connected to us as staff
  • It has worked since our movement is smaller, we can give more attention to students
  • There is a high level of relational trust
  • When they’re getting toward senior year, we ask them to consider interning with us
  • They’ve been a part of a movement – so when they graduate they’re equipped to come on staff
  • Summer Missions have been huge – getting key students on Summer Missions
  • We really try to champion 100% Sent so that it doesn’t seem like all we care about is people coming on staff
  • The drum we beat all year is “surrender” (we have a lot of non-Christians and non-surrendered Christians at Chico)
  • A few years ago I read Good to Great and we talked about as a team – “What can we be the best in the world at?”
    • Our answer= Authentic Community that challenges students to surrender fully to Jesus
    • “Chico Cru could be best in the world at creating authentic, raw, and safe community by which non-Christians and unsurrendered Christians are innovatively and relentlessly challenged to respond to Jesus and abandon all else.” [they have a one page document that sums up this ministry philosophy].

God brought a couple key students who really changed the culture. They really elevated the whole culture as students. Then they interned and they paved the way for others.

Our question:

  • Are these people interning because of the mission or because of the relationships?
  • Our team is compelling
  • They see a good fruitful, working situation and say, “I want that. That looks fulfilling. That looks fun”
  • And with a culture of sending they’ve seen other friends do it (intern) and they want to do it
  • Especially when it comes to support raising you can tell that they sometimes lack vision (when they cast vision to supporters, sometimes they’re lacking in missional emphasis)
  • I worry about how lasting our sending fruit is
  • With interning, we’re trying to figure out how much do you throw them out to the wolves to learn for themselves vs. giving them easy/fun jobs
  • How do we increase their vision/understanding?
  • It will be interesting to see if our current interns join staff
  • On a scale from 1-10 spiritually when they came to Chico, our students come from a really low starting place
    • Most of our students are an average of 3 coming into school (2 for capacity to be missional)
    • So when they graduate they may be a 6 or 7 but they still have a ways to go to be spiritually and missionally mature


What are your big takeaways from Chico Cru? What was most helpful? What clarifying questions do you have?


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  • John

    Hey Tim! Thanks for all the really great research you are doing. I work in a metro setting in New York. One correlation I see between all the schools you have listed is a central campus where staff devote most of their time, develop relationships with students and probably model healthy community. I see students desire for community playing a strong role across the examples you have mentioned. Thoughts?

    • timcasteel

      Good insight John – I definitely agree. Seems like “wanting to be a part of a family” is the number one motivation for students wanting to join us.

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