Top Sending Campuses – Northwestern

April 1, 2015 — 3 Comments



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).

Northwestern is an Ivy League level private school who’s alumni include many Fortune 500 CEO’s, notable politicians, and entertainers such as Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Zooey Deschanel.

I talked to Kim Johnson (an Ohio State graduate) who has been at Northwestern for 18 years and led the team there for many years.

Quick facts on Cru at Northwestern:

# on staff team – 22 total

Avg Cru meeting size – 160             First Cru= over 200

Students in Community Groups – 180 students

Students at school – 8,000

Partnership – Desert Springs and Breakthrough (Middle East/Central Asia)


Sending Stats Last year:

  • STINT – 10
  • Intern – 10
  • Over last couple years – 14 joined staff – 12 of them didn’t know Jesus when they came on campus
  • About 30 on SM (Kim has led Ocean City for the last decade) and Breakthrough
    • A little more than ½ to Ocean City; little less than half overseas
  • 170 on fall retreat

How did you become a sending campus?

  • We are seeing students come to know God and then join staff.
  • Last year we had 30 seniors involved in Cru – 20 of them are either STINTing or Interning.
  • Probaby five years ago we had our first significant foundational freshman class – it went from seeing a chunk joining with us to 80-90% join with us
  • Most of the people we are seeing intern with us didn’t know Jesus when they came to college.
  • Of our 22 staff and interns on our team, 18 of them didn’t know Jesus as a freshman.
  • For last couple of years – 90% of students who intern or STINT have joined staff with us after they interned.
  • A student said to me the other day – “But if I intern, I’ll have to join staff” and I’m saying “no, you don’t have to!” but that’s how much it is in the culture
  • What do you attribute that to?
    • I really don’t know
    • There’s the God factor
    • We’re a high vision/high challenge movements
    • It’s a high filter
    • We practice selection
    • Once they’ve made it to junior/senior year they’re all in
  • We’ve always been a high vision/high challenge movement
  • Over the last few years we have doubled in size (our movement)
  • Our students are seeing their friends graduate and do this and now it’s in the water – it’s just momentum

Sending from an Elite, Academically Rigorous School

  • You have to get it out of your thinking that “it’s just different here”
  • You can’t go in with the mentality that it won’t work here – you’re lowering your faith – “Oh, my students are different so it just won’t happen here”
  • You have to look at it – “Oh, I have more potential than other campuses because once they buy in, they’re all in”
  • We’re at an advantage at an academic school, because if they really make Jesus Lord of their life they’ve bought all in
  • The cost of education at Northwestern is $250-$300k(!)
  • So these students who are joining Cru in full time ministry are having very difficult conversations with their very successful parents
  • They’re counting the cost
  • They’re willing to have the hard conversation with the parent who just invested $250,000 in their education
  • I’ve heard from parents: “Going on staff is for community college students, not for my child”
    • I’m thinking – “What I’m hearing you say is the gospel and Jesus is not for successful, intelligent people”
    • Your son or daughter could be so influential for the kingdom, that they need to steward that all the more!
    • I am so encouraged when I hear people like Ravi Zacharias or Tim Keller who are brilliant – it raises my faith
    • Our students have the potential to be brilliant Christian leaders like that
  • They’re natural leaders
    • We get to shape whether they’re leaders for eternity or just for themselves – being a CEO of a fortune 500 company
  • Once they buy in, they are all in
  • One staff, both of her parents are doctors, she scored perfect on the MCAT, and turned down med school to join staff
  • Most of our students are in the engineering program so they are offered huge salaries (Mechanical, Biomedical engineers)
  • Getting them on Summer Mission is huge – seeing other campuses – that this is normal
  • We tell them: Mormons give up a year or two for a lie, what will you do for the truth
  • It’s a rare day that I can overchallenge a Northwestern student
  • What I feel like, is a lot of people recruit in a narcissistic way – you can be developed if you intern with us
  • We recruit in a way – Jesus is worth it. It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus

What advice do you have for a campus that wants to grow from not much sending to being a sending campus?

  • Honestly I think we’ve had a lot come from just seeing lives transformed – we’ve seen a lot of people join staff who were not Christians when they arrived in college
  • Nothing groundbreaking, but it starts with sowing broadly and raising up a freshman class and getting them on Summer Missions
  • And I would say that not all Summer Missions are created equal
    • Get them to a Summer Missions where it will train them toward mission and sharing their faith
    • They are experiencing that they really are God’s plan A to reach the world. They get to see God use them
  • It doesn’t have to be a monstrous freshman class – but just start with a few
  • When students experience the gospel, how can you not want to turn around and share it?


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  • Pete Youlden

    Hey Tim, I am really enjoying these posts. Thanks for your research!

  • Travis

    You are helping us over in East Asia think through how we do ministry. Thanks for all that you are sharing about sending. it has been helpful. I wanted to ask if you have looked at any catalytic ministries that have done sending and if they work?

    • timcasteel

      That’s great to hear, Travis! I haven’t really looked at too many catalytic ministries -there’s only a handful in the top 25 sending teams: Boston Metro, Sioux Empire Team, St. Louis Metro, and Western Michigan team. Of those, St. Louis consistently sends the most.