Archives For College Ministry

Another great reason to be doing college ministry:

canaryMillennials are the canary in the religious mine. We can ignore them…but if we do that, we lose our ability to engage future generations. We need to pay attention to the millennial concerns. Not because the church needs to be hip. But because they grew up in postmodern culture. Engaging postmodern religion through the lens of the millennials will help the church of 2020 proclaim the Gospel to a complex and confusing world.      – John W. Hawthorne

We are doing ministry on the cutting edge of culture (as I posted last week re: Tim Keller’s belief that the future leaders of the church should be trained through doing College Ministry).

We are working with college students who are natives to a rapidly changing America where Christianity is no longer a moral majority. This generation will play a significant role in leading the Church into a new era of proclaiming Christ in a increasingly complex culture. Why? Because they are in their natural habitat. They know no other America than the one we are currently living in. Not that our culture is any less “complex and confusing” for Millennials – just that they are fluent in  complexity. They don’t have to “learn a new language” – the complexity is normal to them and thus easier for them to lead in.


HT: @DavidRobbinsCru

photo courtesy of Michael Sonnabend

Great insights from Tim Keller on how College Ministry is the best way to equip leaders who will impact our nation, from a post on

Keller paints a bleak picture of where America is as a culture: “This is an unprecedented time in human history…What’s new is the breadth of conviction that there is no such thing as truth. There have never been whole societies built on that idea. Never.”

“Everyone knows that younger people are far less religious than the generation before … and despite all the things that we’ve been doing for the last 30 years, we’re losing them.”

According to Keller, if you’re on a college campus, you’re on the culture’s cutting edge. It is, he says, our best leadership development pipeline. By exposing people to the cutting edge of culture where they have to deal with the modern mindset, where they have to deal with non-Christians — that, in Keller’s opinion, is the best way to develop pastors and lay leaders.

Read the whole article here – worth the read for Keller’s insights on where our culture is headed and what we need to do about it.

HT: @stephenlutz

I shared this with our Leadership students this last week and I think it was really helpful in clarifying what we want them to accomplish.


Quick background: We’ve noticed that our student leaders are great at doing ministry but not great at recruiting new leaders to join with us (whether that’s to Winter Conference, Summer Project, to our weekly leadership time, or even initiating with new people at Cru).


So we’re seeking to create a culture where Leaders not only do ministry but act as mobilizers.


Kind of like “Teach them how to fish”,

Be a Barnabas” is sticky – it vividly and memorably captures what a leader does.


Just wanted to share for others to be able to use/adapt for their leadership times.

Here’s my notes:

  • Tell me everything you know about Paul [greatest missionary ever, wrote most of the New Testament, persecutor, dramatic conversion, etc.]
  • Now tell me everything you know about Barnabus [not much- the only response from students: “he was an encourager”]
  • Lets read Acts 9:26-31; 11:19-26
    • What did Barnabas do in each of these situations?
    • Barnabas sought out Paul, Barnabas brought Paul to stuff
    • He saw something in Paul that others did not
    • He gave Paul his start and connected Paul to a missional community that eventually sent him out to become the greatest missionary the world has ever seen
  • Paul’s influence/impact far exceed Barnabas’
  • God may have you here at the University of Arkansas, leading a freshman Bible study, to raise up 3 missionaries to Ethiopia. To raise up the next great leader whom God will use to bring revival to this campus.
  • Your job as a leader is to get as many people on the playing field (doing ministry) as possible.
  • To not only lead for Christ but to raise up as many leaders as possible.
  • To be a Barnabas – To raise up the next Paul.

“Sir Humphry Davy was a distinguished chemist of the nineteenth century. When asked late in life what he considered to be his greatest discovery, he replied, ‘Michael Faraday.’

Davy had found Faraday, the ignorant son of a blacksmith, taking notes at his lectures and longing to study science. As Davy began to teach young Faraday, he found a brilliant mind that promised to eclipse even his own achievements. He knew that no one discovery of his could possibly compare with the many discoveries Faraday would make.”

– From Tim Elmore’s book Nurturing the Leader within your child


What sticky metaphors/ideas/phrases do you use to create a missional culture?


photo courtesy of  Lawrence OP

Teaching How to Fish

January 13, 2012 — 1 Comment

A conversation I had this summer with my brother-in-law:

Me: “How was fishing this morning?”

Brother-in-law: “Um, it was fun in a different way. It was a lot of work.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Brother in law:

“Well, I never got to fish. I took a friend and his kids out fishing.

They’d never been fishing before so I spent the whole time baiting their hooks, netting their fish they caught, retrieving fishing poles the kids dropped overboard. So it wasn’t fun per se. More rewarding than fun- but so fun to see their faces as they caught their first fish.”

What a great metaphor for ministry.

I told my team that story and we used it all fall: “Remember, teach students how to fish even if it means that you don’t get to fish much yourself.”


I’m convinced that staff’s primary job is not to do ministry but to equip others to do ministry.

But the problem is that most staff go into full time ministry to fish not to make fishers of men.


If you’re interested you can read more thoughts here on how staff’s job is to get more people on the playing field (and how empowered leadership is what Millennials crave). [Update: apparently that linked post no longer exists. I’ll work on getting it back up]


What that’s looked like for us:

  • In the midst of a crazy first week of following up thousands of contacts, Jon (one of our senior staff) spent his first day of follow up with 4 new Community Group leaders walking through how to call contacts and what to do during follow up. He “lost” a valuable afternoon of follow up but was able to equip and mobilize 4 students to pursue freshmen.
  • Staff never share their faith alone. Staff Success in evangelism= sharing the gospel while a student leader watches/learns.


What has “Teaching How to Fish” looked like for you and your team?


photo courtesy of Tassava

Great quote from Brian McCollister, Cru director at Ohio University:

 If you’re not growing the number of small group leaders:

    • You either have a problem on the front end – involving more freshmen
    • Or on the back end – of identifying and developing leaders


I think the converse holds true:

If you’re not growing the number of freshmen involved, you are not raising up enough small group leaders (we count “involved” as # of freshmen in Bible studies).


Either way, the focus remains: I think the primary win for the spring is growing the number of small group leaders who will lead in the fall (here are some thoughts on how we plan to do that).



Let’s say we want to involve 80 freshmen in the fall. We need to work backward from there:

  • If an average study has 6 students in it. . . we need 14 successful freshmen studies
  • If each study has 2 co-leaders, at the very least we need to have 28 students leading freshmen studies
  • So our goal for the spring should be to raise up 28 freshman Bible study leaders


It’s been said: “Good falls begin in the spring.”

Would love to hear: What is your team doing this spring in order to have a good fall?

Top Posts of 2011

January 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

I started blogging to share. As I stated in my first post:

“Inspired by others who have taken the time to share their thoughts/learnings/resources I thought I would stop mooching and start contributing to the conversation.”

 And blogging has been a better investment than I initially could have imagined. Definitely worth the time.


Especially for those of you in college ministry, I’d encourage you to consider how you could contribute to the conversation in 2012. I’d love to see more staff in Cru sharing – always love to see what other campuses are doing and learning. You can read my recent post,

Shares Well With Others, on CruPressGreen for more thoughts on Sharing.


With that being said, here’s a look back at what were the

12 most popular posts on my blog in 2011:


#1 – Everything you need to know about the Cru name change

  • By far the most visited post of 2011 – more people looked at that post than the rest of the top 12 combined. Still don’t understand what the big deal is re: the name change . . .


#2 – Stuff you can use for your weekly meeting

  • An intro video and music playlist to use at a weekly meeting.


#3 – How to start well with your staff

  • Practical thoughts on what to cover during staff planning


#4 – Should we do more ministry online?

  • Should campus ministers incorporate online presence into our work schedule? Should we ever spend “hot hours” (afternoon hours) online?


#5 – Why you shouldn’t go to seminary

  • Aside from the Cru name-change post, this is probably the post that gets the most google search traffic. Proof that sensationalist titles work  : )


#6 – Vale la pena

  • Is college ministry worth the pain of enduring humiliation and contempt so that hundreds and thousands of future world changers can encounter Jesus?


#7 – 5 Things we want every student to experience

  • Great 2 part guest post on narrowing the focus of what we do with students in discipleship. If you only had 5 appointments with a student, what would you do with them?
  • Part 1  and  Part 2


#8 – How we do ministry

  • A one page summary of how we do ministry on our campus. Our ministry philosophy and what we are seeking to accomplish.


 #9 – The Generation changing the world.

  • It’s an exciting time to be working with this generation of college students. 2 Posts on this world-changing generation:
  • Post 1 – This generation of Millenials (age 10-30) is the largest American generation (larger than the Baby Boomer generation). They and their global counterparts will change the world.
  • Post 2 – The role of young people in changing the world in 2011


#10 – Blogging, Ministry Growth and Ambition 

  • How do you strive for excellence, success, and growth in ministry (and blogging) while remaining humble and God-honoring?


#11 – Planning for Year 2023 – Goals

  • How does having a numerical goal (connected to a long term plan) change things?
    • It forces you to plan differently
    • It gives your staff and students hope/vision


#12 – Raising AND lowering the bar

  • “We’re constantly raising the bar of what it takes to be a leader, and lowering the bar on what it takes to get involved”


photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds

The Leadership Pledge

December 15, 2011 — 2 Comments

Continuing a series of posts on putting together a Spring Gameplan. Click to read Post #1 on our Timeline for the Spring and #2 on a couple of shifts we made to better raise up a reaching freshmen team.


One of the most effective things we did last Spring was something we dubbed the Leadership Pledge.

Hopefully it’s helpful, if only for the thorough description of how to set up a good 5 Things Discussion (at the bottom of the post).


Here’s how the Leadership Pledge worked:

  • We had a speaker from the Travelling Team speak at our first Cru of the spring on how God has used college students to change the world.
  • After the talk I stood up and gave a short 3 minute challenge to the effect of:
    • Hudson talked about young people who have been used greatly by God
    • They put their yes on the table
    • This semester you have things pulling for your time and attention
    • Will you allow God to use you in the lives of students around you?
    • Would you be willing to be used by God here at the U of A?
    • Hudson asked the question, “will you be used by God?
    • If you’re willing to say yes to that, please sign your name
    • That you would lead on this campus for God
    • If you sign your name, one of our staff or student leaders will meet with you one on one to help you figure out how you can lead for God on this campus
      • If you have a vision for how God can use you here, we’d love to hear it and help you use your passions for God
      • Or if this is a new idea and you’re still trying to figure out how God is going to use you in your next 2, 3 or 4 years on campus, we’d love to come alongside you and help you figure out your next step.
    • Don’t check it if you don’t want to talk to a staff!
  • We passed out VERY simple cards and gave students a minute in silence to sign if they wanted to.


What we did for follow up:

  • We trained staff and key student leaders in how to use the 5 Things – what to say to start the conversation (after small talk), what parts to emphasize, what questions to skip, etc (for more on that, I included detailed notes at the bottom of the post)
  • We made a Google Doc with all who signed the Pledge and let trained student leaders and staff assign themselves to follow up with students
  • We set up 1on1 appointments with every student who signed. Ideally, we take a student we’re discipling to do the appointment with us (Because we want to connect these students to other key leaders. So it will be 2 on 1)
  • The Goal of the appointment – Give them vision for living missionally using the 5 Things pamphlet and find out where they’re at in regard to that
  • Actions Steps  –
  • If you discern that they’re not ready to lead (spiritually, socially, maturity, etc) – Strongly encourage them to get in a Community Group where they can grow (help them find a group that works for them)
  • If they could be a Key Leader:
    • Job 1: Get a 2nd appt with them
    • Job 2: Use your discernment as to the next step.  You’re options (in order of priority):
      • Get them on Leadership Retreat (say, “I’ll bring you next week”)
      • Invite them to Leadership Hour (say, “I’ll bring you next week”)
      • Invite them to M29 Evangelism-Track


A couple notes:

  • We intentionally didn’t put Cru anywhere on the Pledge card nor did we push Cru when we met one-on-one. We really hope to be able to help students connect with God’s mission, not ours.
  • The 5 Things is really good at setting up all that Cru offers.
    • For example, it clearly communicates the need for equipping. “So you want to be equipped? We just happen to do a weekly equipping time on Tuesday nights you should check out!”
    • It keeps a Kingdom focus and then we offer Cru as a solution to helping students make an impact for the Kingdom, which is exactly our role. Getting “plugged into Cru” is not the end, but a means to an end- equipping and mobilizing laborers for God’s glory.


Here’s what we did to equip our staff and student leaders to lead a 5 Things Discussion (I think this is pretty helpful):

  • The 5 Things is a pamphlet designed to help students figure out what it would look like for them to have an impact for God on campus and for the rest of their life
  • Click to view the trainer’s guide on Facilitating 5 Things Discussions
  • Don’t have an appointment until you read thru the trainer’s guide and are comfortable going thru it
  • The best way to open the conversation (included in the guide):
    • “I’d like to go over 5 key principles that when applied to your life help you figure out what it would look like for them to have an impact for God on campus. And not only that but I believe these 5 things lay the foundation for knowing and serving God for a lifetime.”
    • Before you get into The 5 Things, talk about Surrender (there’s a how-to on that in the Guide). I would use the verse – “you are not your own – you have been bought with a price” I Cor. 19-20 and ask some of the questions from the guide
    • Before you get into the first Thing – Kingdom Vision, I would steal some of the content from the Discipleship Challenge and ask:
      • Before we get into our vision for our lives, what do you think is God’s vision for our lives as believers?
      • His final words on earth are found in Matt 28:18-20 – let’s look at that
      • That is God’s will for all Christians that they would spend their life making disciples of all nations
      • So any plan we have for our lives needs to fit into this greater plan

Shifts in Focus in the Spring

December 14, 2011 — 4 Comments

part 2 of 3 in a series on Spring Ministry – click here to read posts 1 & 3

Yesterday I shared our Spring Timeline – our game plan for the entire spring semester.

The conviction behind it is this: The spring is the time to get your “reaching-freshmen-team” together and everything you do in the spring should contribute to assembling this team of leaders.

So last year we took a hard look at our spring and thought through what we needed to drop and what needed to add so that when August rolled around we would have a huge team of equipped students who want to invest themselves in reaching the freshmen class. Increasing our leadership base both in quantity and quality.

So here’s some changes we made in terms of:



We stopped passing out FSK’s in the first week of the spring. I may get kicked off Cru staff for saying that. FSK’s are a Cru staple- a laundry bag filled with a Bible, a book, and some other swag- that we pass out in order to do spiritual interest surveys and generate new contacts.

  • But Staff and student leaders have limited time. And we decided that we could either invest our first 3 weeks of the spring in following up FSK contacts OR spend our first 3 weeks surfacing the next generation of leaders. It’s definitely a tradeoff.
  • But we have a semester worth of new people who attend our weekly meeting. Instead of running around crazy trying to turn over new rocks, why not invest heavily in those who are already in our ministry.
  • I’ll share tomorrow one of the primary things that helped us surface that next generation of leaders – the Leadership Pledge.



In thinking through what new CG leaders have to be good at, we arrived at this:

  • Primarily they need to be good at doing follow ups and initiating with freshmen. They need to be gospel pursuers. And we’d love for them to be adept at this before the craziness of the first weeks of the fall
    • So during the second half of the spring, we committed to taking every new Community Group leader (who will be leading a study in the fall) out to share their faith at least once (preferably twice).
  • Second, they need to know how to lead a study
    • We required all new Community Group Leaders to take a 5 week course- “How to Lead a Bible Study”
  • Third, they need to be good leaders
    • We implemented an application to lead and a one page leader expectation sheet
    • Staff interviewed every applicant one-on-one and had hard conversations with those who may not be quite ready to lead a study
The result?
Last spring was we doubled the number of Community Group leaders compared to the year before (without sacrificing quality) which has resulted in a lot more freshmen’s lives being changed this fall!


What do you think about staff focusing on raising up laborers the first 3 weeks of spring instead of a more outreach focus?

photo courtesy of ihtatho

Spring Timeline

December 13, 2011 — 5 Comments

part 1 of 3 in a series on Spring Ministry – click here to read the follow up posts 2 & 3

We just wrapped up planning for Spring 2012 and one of my favorite things we did is lay out a timeline for the spring. I know many campuses lay out a detailed timeline for the first four weeks of the fall.

In many ways I think the spring is more important to get a timeline down than the fall.

When it comes to the fall, it’s all about manpower. If it’s just your staff team and 4 student leaders pursuing freshmen, you have a long road ahead of you. But if you line up 60 students in the spring who will focus on reaching freshmen, the fall will be good.

So the spring is the time to get your “reaching-freshmen-team” together. And to build consensus that we MUST reach freshmen.

And all this happens largely by raising up as many Community Group Leaders as possible.

So everything you do in the spring should contribute to assembling this team of leaders (tomorrow I’ll share some of the changes we made to be more focused on this with our spring).

So here’s our playbook for the spring. Not all of it will make sense or be helpful. But I’m hoping it helps give you ideas and you can take what we’re doing and improve on it.

I’d love to see what your timeline looks like for your campus – share it in the comments below or send it to me.

Also – if you want more details on any of this please either comment or email me: Tim dot Casteel at


Here are our key dates for the spring:

  • Jan 16 – MLK day – Staff planning all day
  • Jan 17 – First Cru & M29 [our weekly leadership and equipping time]
    • At M29: Vision for Reaching Freshmen and planning for the spring
    • At Cru: Talk on “Challenge to Reach the Campus”
      • Leadership Pledge – interested students sign a card saying “I want to be used by God at the University of Arkansas”
  • Jan 18-Feb 1 – Staff and student leaders make it their top priority to follow up on one-on-one with Leadership Pledge students – using the 5 Things
  • Jan 24 – Start M29 equipping levels (how can these levels contribute to reaching freshmen?)
    • Leadership Development
    • How to share your faith
  • Jan 27 – Leadership Retreat (how can this contribute to reaching freshmen?)
  • Month of February – staff are meeting with students to challenge them to lead Bible studies for the fall
  • Feb 2 – At staff meeting, Staff team brainstorms potential Community Group leaders for the fall
  • Feb 21 –
    • Cru Talk on leading Community Groups at Cru
    • At M29 – Vision for the importance of Community Groups
      • Student leaders recommend students they would think would be good to lead community groups in the fall
      • Students can start applying to lead a community group for the fall
  • March 1 – Community Group leader Application Deadline
  • March 6 – Start second set of M29 levels
    • 5 week training at M29 on how to lead a Bible study (mandatory for all CG applicants)
  • March 19-23      Spring Break
  • April 1 – *** Have Community Group Leaders for the Fall nailed down ***
  • April 2, 3, & 5
    • Staff Planning for the Fall from 9-noon
      • Where we take care of “early planning for the fall” – stuff that needs to be planned before May so students can be aligned before they leave
  • April 17 & 24
    • Planning with our student leaders for the fall (we do this in place of M29 the last 2 weeks in the Spring)
      • Crucial for getting student ownership
      • Students plan and volunteer to lead things for the Fall (Student Joe – in charge of dorm #1 cookout; who’s on Joe’s team to help him make that happen?)
  • April 22 – Men’s/Women’s dinner for new Community Group leaders (for vision and to connect)
  • May 1 – Legacy Dinner (end of year party to send out graduating seniors and honor CG leaders)
  • May 4 – Dead Day
  • Staff Planning for Fall (5 days) à Thursday May 3, Mon-Thurs, May 7-10

photo courtesy of  midmophil

Money to Fund the Mission

December 12, 2011 — 1 Comment

Mark Driscoll tweeted this weekend about a video in which he describes THE game changer in the history of Mars Hill.

A single thing that took them from 40 people to 800. A turning point that made the difference between their church shutting down and being the global influence that it is today through the Acts29 Network and Mark Driscoll’s teaching.

It wasn’t hiring a key staff. Putting on a big outreach. Giving a great sermon. Getting a new website. Him yelling at a bunch of men (that was a different video).

It was money.

A gift from a generous couple – a $200,000 gift that was 100x greater than any gift they’d ever received.

As ministry leaders we spend countless hours thinking through how to reach more people with the gospel. We plan ways to raise up new leaders. Get excited about new books/ideas that could be gamechangers. Dream of new websites that will singlehandedly reach the campus with the gospel. But we rarely think of money.

We just finished a week of planning and money didn’t come up once. I like to think that we can just suck it up and make do with what we have. I rarely, if ever, think “if we had all the money we needed, what would be the most effective way to reach this campus?”


Bill Hybels in his book Courageous Leadership calls the lead pastor (and in my case Campus Director) the CRR (Chief Resource Raiser).

He recalls when he first realized the necessity of money to fund the mission: “my romance with the notion of building an Acts 2 church had blinded me to the harsh realities of funding one.”

He goes on to say:

Theologian RC Sproul once asked me how much ministry I thought I could do for a hundred bucks. I assumed he was hoping for some deep theological response, but before I could think of one he answered the question himself, “You can do about a hundred dollars worth.” He was simply making the point that a fruitful ministry requires resources.

Be as theological as you want to be, but the church will never reach her full redemptive potential until a river of financial resources starts flowing in her direction. And like it or not, it is the leader’s job to create that river and to manage it wisely.


I just wonder what would change if our ministries and staff were abundantly funded. Imagine what God could do.


photo courtesy of Sprengben