Recently my bosses came into town for a campus visit. As we gathered, my team shared about what God is doing. They also shared of their need, their desires, and their pursuits.
Our staff team is made up of 4 independent, contextualized teams (see this excellent video from Intervarsity on contextualized movements). So on our team of 9, we actually have 4 teams:
- 3 CFM staff (Campus Field Ministry – focused on the general population at the University of Arkansas),
- 3 Athletes in Action staff,
- 2 Bridges staff (International Students),
- and 1 Impact staff (focusing on students of African descent).
The AIA, Bridges and Impact staff are Cru staff but they focus on athletes/international/African American students full time. They don’t come to our weekly meeting or fall retreat. They don’t do anything that doesn’t help them reach their respective audiences.
Even though we have a good size team of 9, every contextualized team feels small. And they acutely feel the need for more laborers. And in some ways, that’s really good. We only change when our current reality is painful enough to make us do the hard work required to change. Each contextualized team badly wants new laborers.
As they shared what they are doing to raise up new laborers, it hit me – it’s not up to me (as the team leader) to raise up an AIA female staff. Or an Impact staff or a Bridges staff. They’re doing it. They’re flying people in for vision trips. Not me. They’re taking key volunteers out to dinner, challenging them to join Impact staff. I din’t have to ask them to do that – I didn’t even know they were doing those things! They are truly leading. And (Lord willing!) laborers will be multiplied.
A couple weeks ago we had 3 separate thanksgiving meals that were a good snapshot of the exponential effect of multiple movements. Instead of one big meeting or dinner where maybe 100 CFM students would’ve gathered, we had:
- 40 international students at the Bridges dinner
- 30 athletes at the AIA dinner (which is low for them – they typically have 50-75)
- 60 African american students at the Impact dinner
And in CFM, 200 students gathered in Community Groups across campus for thanksgiving parties and bible studies.
And that’s just on our campus. Across the globe, in East Asia we have 5 Razorbacks who hosted East Asian students for Thanksgiving. 5 sent staff who are very motivated to recruit laborers to join their team in EA.
Up until 2012, for the first 44 years of Cru at the University of Arkansas, we have had one team with one focus- reaching the majority culture at the University of Arkansas. In 2012 we had our first contextualized team – Athletes in Action – and we began to reach students at two nearby campuses (a four year university and two year college). This year, in 2016, our team spawned two more teams to focus exclusively on international students and African Americans.
Here’s how “ sending out” staff to reach new areas affected our staff team. Looking at the past decade of our staff team size, there are successive waves of increasing amplitude.
The seasons of lack actually seem to cause longterm growth. Why is that?
Pastor JD Greear puts it well – “But here’s a principle we’ve learned that sustains us when our courage flags: sending out leaders creates more leaders. What you send out inevitably comes back to you in multiplied form.”
A small team forces you to do the things you want to do anyway – to avoid Ken Cochrum’s Two Movement Killers:
- Movement-Killer #1 – Hasty (or No) Selection
- Movement-Killer #2 – Staff Filling Their Schedule with 1-1 Appointments
Ken says that need is “a leadership vacuum that demands new leaders (& gives real leadership experience to many)”. That has definitely been the case for us.
And it has come from:
- sending first
- sending our best
- and sending until it hurts.
Four years ago we had 12 staff. Out of those 12, we “sent” 3 to do Athletes in Action full time (on our campus) and 2 began to heavily invest in launching other campuses – which means the next year we had 7 staff focused on CFM (the core movement) of the campus.
Last year we had 13 CFM (core movement) staff and 4 AIA staff. Out of those 13 CFM, we sent:
- 2 of those to East Asia
- 2 to do Bridges (international students) full time
- 1 to do Impact (African American students) full time
- 1 to do JESUS Film
We had several others finish their Cru internships or leave staff, which left us with 3 CFM staff on campus. 3 staff predominantly focused on University of Arkansas (with 1 of those staff spending one day/week launching at a school 1 hour away; and another staff spending some time at a local Christian college to try to mobilize students to go to the world).
So the (unintentional!) pattern over the last five years has been:
- two years of plenty resulting in sending
- a low year
- two years of plenty resulting in sending
- a low year
On the CFM side, going from 13 to 3 has been a little painful. 3 is a little small – I think 7 might be healthier (I don’t think much is gained in a staff team growing from 7 to 13, besides a temporary bump that can be dispersed to contextualized teams). But I think 3 has created space – a leadership vacuum that is sucking in new leaders. We don’t have any women staff. It’s looking like the result will be that next year we will gain several female interns.
So sending out leaders has created space for more leaders.
But here is one major caveat – one reason we can lead a good-size CFM movement with only three staff is that we have developed an established core of student leaders. We have 65 students leading Bible studies. For us, a solid hub movement has been the key to spinning out laborers to launch new movements. Bridges has successfully launched this year and has been very effective in reaching international students because we sent out 2 staff and 4 of our best student leaders from our core Cru movement. Our core Cru movement has suffered a bit from that loss of key leaders, but others hopefully will step up to fill that gap.
For many years Jim Sautner led Destino (focused on reaching Hispanic students). Jim has built movements and launched many kinds of contextualized movements. His advice to me:
“You need critical mass to produce laborers and launch new movements. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t give laborers to reach and launch if you don’t have any.”
We must build movements that plants new movements.