Archives For College Students

I recently gave a talk at our Cru meeting on Money (you can download, and freely use, my notes here).

4 Steps to Making the Most of Your Money

  1. Acknowledge your default – The American Dream
  2. Replace the American Dream with something weightier, something better
  3. Overcome any obstacle (debt)
  4. Live simply, Save wisely, and Give generously

The bulk of the talk was focused on debt – credit card and student loan debt.

I took a poll of the audience (using which worked really well for us – students could see the live results on screen as they responded). We had about 100 participate in the online poll. I thought the results were very interesting so I thought I’d share them:

expected income

62% think they will earn over $40k.

National surveys say that only 20 percent of graduates will earn over $40,000 in their first year on the job.
And only 59% will earn more than $25,000.

So our students are either REALLY gifted. Or a LITTLE over-optimistic.

scholarships pie chart

29% of our students have at least half of their college paid for.

52% have at least 1/4 paid for.

94% have at least some scholarship.

This wasn’t altogether surprising – our students tend to be pretty smart. For whatever reason we attract a lot of engineers and honors students.


giving pie chart

51% give less than $100/year.

81% give less than $300.

I admit – I thought this would be higher! Obviously something we can help our students grow in.

63% of tithers started tithing 10 percent or more between childhood and their twenties.

furture debt pie

51% will owe $0.

Only 12% will owe more than $20k

Nationally: Seven in ten college graduates have student loans. The average new graduate in 2015 walked the stage $35,000 in the hole.

Granted, I often hear from graduates that they didn’t find out until after graduation that their mom and dad took out loans for them that they themselves have to pay back. So some students may receive a not-so-fun surprise graduation gift from mom and dad.


how much current debt pie

65% have no loans.

Only 12% have more than $10k

I’m sure the Cru meeting audience skews toward freshmen (who naturally have less debt than upperclassmen). I would guess at least 1/3 of the students were freshmen.

How many hours work pie

61% don’t have jobs

Only 28% work more than 5 hours a week,

Credit Card Debt Pie Chart

92% don’t have any credit card debt! I admit. I was shocked by this number. Many said they don’t even own credit cards. Yet they don’t carry cash. Not sure how they pay for things!? Maybe debit cards?

Nationally – 68% of college students have credit card debt – with an average of $600 in debt.

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

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

Mid Year Evals

November 29, 2011 — 2 Comments

As we head into the final weeks of the fall semester in college ministry, it’s a great time to step back and evaluate.

I wanted to share a few resources that have been helpful for our team as we seek to figure out, as Stephen Covey says, if we have set our ladder against the right wall.





There are three evals that we do every December with our team:

  • Evaluating the Quality of Your Discipleship
  • Ministry Evaluation
  • Personal Evaluation

I’ll link to the Ministry and Personal Eval tomorrow.

Today, here’s an overview and link to the Discipleship Eval.

Evaluating the Quality of Your Discipleship

(click here to download the Word document) 

I believe this eval was developed by Roger Hershey. This tool is invaluable in evaluating two very important things:

Are we (staff and student leaders) doing the

1) Right Things with

2) The Right People?


Our staff and student leaders sit down and do the first part of the eval with every student they disciple (addresses the Right Things) – the student they are discipling is evaluating them:

How would you evaluate me in the three areas of discipleship:

1. Feeding them the Word          1 2 3 4 5

2. Building a relationship with them          1 2 3 4 5

3. Training them in ministry          1 2 3 4 5

What is the best thing we did or you experienced in our discipleship together this semester?

What do you wish we could change or what could I do better?


The second part of the eval is for each of our staff to do on their own as they evaluate whether they are investing in the Right People.

1. Which of your disciples is presently multiplying ?

2. At the end of the year, how many potential multipliers will you be replacing yourself with?

3. Of those who are not multiplying, what are the barriers?

Lack of desire, no vision or heart for multiplication

Lack of Biblical conviction about discipleship

Just too young spiritually (need time to grow)

Unable to emotionally or socially

Does not want to (opposed to multiplication)

Lack of Lordship with their time, a relationship, etc. (unwilling to die to self)

Legitimately can’t because of time (work…)

Called to another ministry

Lack of walk with the Lord

 [As a team we talked through which of these are “deal breakers” – I’ll leave that up to you and your team to decide that!]

4. What can you do to help them overcome the barriers?

5. Are there any changes you need to make in your multiplication chain?

Students who are not following through on a commitment they made

Students who do not want to multiply or do not want to be a part of the movement


What Evals do you use on your team? Would love for us all to share the wealth!


image courtesy of kanelstrand



I wanted to share a few things we’ve used at our Cru meeting that you might be able to use.


Opener Video

Here’s a video we show at the beginning of our meeting. It serves two purposes:

  1. It functions as a cue to sit down and be quiet (we show it most every week)
  2. It communicates a little about who we are and what we’re about

We just put it together last week, so I’d love any constructive criticism (especially on how to improve any wording to make it more powerful).

Update: There is blank space at the beginning to give everyone a chance to sit down. And outro music at the end to give time for the MC’s to come up with some backing music (the sound guy can fade it out as they start).

Fall 2011 – Cru Intro Text Video from Tim Casteel on Vimeo.

Shout out to our intern Michael Allen who did the bulk of the work! Michael is splitting his time doing 50% campus work and 50% video for us.


For those of you out there that know a thing or two about video editing, I would HIGHLY recommend buying the Motion app for the Mac (a steal at $50) and then using the amazing pre-made templates (where we got this video) at

It will enable you to make slick text based videos.


To download the hi-res video for use at your meeting, click here (I changed the end to a generic “college students” so it wouldn’t have anything Arkansas specific).



While cool, upbeat music may be #27 on the list of important things about a weekly meeting, it’s important nonetheless.

What’s the first thing students encounter when they come to your meeting? Your music that you’re playing before the meeting.

And what happens when they hear Newsboys or Rebecca St. James pumping out of your speakers? You immediately confirm their worst suspicions that you are cheezy and out of touch with their reality.


As much as I am not a big fan of hip hop, at the weekly meeting we tend to be hip hop heavy. I run the music at our regional winter conference and can conclusively say that hip hop makes a marked difference on the “vibe” of the crowd. It makes your meeting a party. Literally. People dance.


So here’s a playlist we’ve used this fall for our cookouts and Cru weekly meeting.

You’ll need Spotify to use it/listen to it. If you need an invite, leave a comment and I’ll send you one. It’s worth a little effort to

1) Not pay a dime for new music and

2) Not be left to the whims of your soundguy’s ipod.



For those of you who don’t have Spotify, here’s the playlist:

Phoenix – Lisztomania

Passion Pit – Sleepyhead

Trip Lee – The Invasion (Hero) Ft. Jai

Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun

Lecrae – High Ft. Suzy Rock

Muse – Starlight

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

Flame – Joyful Noise

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Vampire Weekend – Run

Lecrae – Walking On Water

Lecrae – 40 Deep Ft. Tedashii & Trip Lee

Phoenix – 1901

Cults – You Know What I Mean

Jason Derulo – Whatcha Say

Robyn – Dancing On My Own

The Shins – Sea Legs

Paper Route – Last Time

Jimmy Eat World – A Praise Chorus

Young the Giant – My Body

Matt & Kim – Daylight

White Rabbits – Percussion Gun

Shout Out Louds – Walls

Sleigh Bells – Rill Rill

Cults – Go Outside

Jónsi – Go Do

Peter Bjorn And John – Young Folks

Passion Pit – Moth’s Wings

Capital Cities – Safe and Sound

Death Cab for Cutie – You Are A Tourist

Jimmy Eat World – Pain

M.I.A. – Paper Planes

Tapes ‘n Tapes – Freak Out

Yeasayer – Madder Red

Broken Bells – The High Road

Rogue Wave – Good Morning (The Future)

Vampire Weekend – Horchata

Dashboard Confessional – Don’t Wait

The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio

Animal Collective – My Girls

The Dodos – Fools

Broken Bells – Vaporize

Scissor Sisters – Fire With Fire

Freelance Whales – Hannah

Ellie Goulding – Starry Eyed – Jakwob Remix

Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks

Empire Of The Sun – Walking On A Dream

Okkervil River – Lost Coastlines

Sufjan Stevens – I Walked

Vale la Pena

August 26, 2011 — 16 Comments

Every fall, I find myself asking the same question about college ministry:

Is it worth it?

The first three weeks of the fall are incredibly draining both emotionally and physically.

You are on your feet and meeting students from 9am until 10pm multiple days a week. 60-80 hour work weeks. Dripping with sweat as you stand in the mid-day sun at a survey table.

But beyond the physical exhaustion and lack of sleep, the most trying part for me is the sometimes humiliating work of college ministry.

There’s something incredibly humbling about having a too-cool-for-school 18 year old freshman smugly shut the door in your face as you attempt to tell them about Cru and how they can pursue God in college.

Not how I’d choose to spend my day.

But we do it. We endure contempt and rejection multiple times, every day, for weeks on end. Why?

Because there are students who moved into the dorms this week who don’t know Jesus and this morning are rolling out of a stranger’s bed, hung over and regretting already decisions they have made in college. Who in the next few years will be used by God to transform this campus and be sent out to change the world. We’re trusting God for complete life transformation.


Just yesterday, a student who just the previous day  answered:

  • 2 (on a scale of 1-5 how interested are you in exploring spiritual matters in college)
  • no (are you interested in more info from Cru on how to grow spiritually in college)
  • no (would you like more info about a small group Bible study)

trusted Christ after a couple guys in U of A Cru shared the gospel with his roommate.


In spanish, if something is “worth it” you say it is “vale la pena”.

Literally – “worth the pain”.

It is worth the pain of enduring humiliation and contempt so that hundreds and thousands of future world changers can encounter Jesus.


“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – I Corinthians 4:17


What makes the first few weeks worth it for you?


photo courtesy of wallyg

Fall Retreat Brochures

August 25, 2011 — 11 Comments

Just wanted to share the past few years of brochures/branding for Fall Retreat for anyone to use. No sense making your own stuff if you can use ours!

Below are our last 4 years’ Fall Retreat brochures. For each year, there are also name tags, programs, powerpoint slides, Facebook stuff, websites, etc. that you can have.

If you want to use any of them, just leave a comment and I will give you more details (on how to print them – linen cardstock, cut to bleed, etc). We print the brochures at a local print shop and they look very professional (full bleed, scored down the middle). They end up costing around 25 cents each.

You’ll have to have Photoshop to adapt them for your campus – or if you ask real nice, I bet our campus could edit them for you with your info and send you a PDF.

2011 (bi-fold brochure)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

graphic via the amazing church website: Stuff I Can Use

2010 (bi-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

unfortunately I can’t recall where I found those two pictures or I would give credit!

2009 (vertical bi-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside

 unfortunately I can’t recall where I found the background textures or I would give credit!

2008 (accordian z-fold)

photoshop inside – photoshop outside


 colored circle image from

I love reading articles together as a staff team. There are few better ways to align your team and learn to speak the same language.

They’re short and to the point (at least the good ones are!).

And the articles can be the bad guy- they can speak authoritatively on a topic and staff don’t hear “my director is trying to get us to _____ (share our faith more, do more work)” they hear “that author who is infinitely wise is saying that we should ______”.

Whether your senior staff are reading these ideas for the 10th time or it’s a new staff reading it for the first, foundational ideas need to be over-communicated repeatedly.

It doesn’t always have to be articles, I’ll often print up a bog post (even my own!) to read with our team.

Here are some of the staple articles that have shaped our team (and that we’ll likely be reading this fall):

  • The First Two Weeks– our team reads this every year in preparing for the fall. Really short and to the point. Sets your team’s expectations for the first weeks (16 hour work days!):
    • Gathering Christians, reaching non-Christians…or both?
    • What to do on appointments
    • What to do with returning students
  • Building Movements this article has shaped our movement more than any other. Jim Sylvester shares his considerable wisdom in what it takes to build a thriving movement.
  • Going from 20 to 200 – a shorter and easier to read version of Jim’s principles. 5 principles to grow a small ministry into a thriving movement. This one might be better to read with your team or students than Jim’s.
  • Hearing the Music Of the Gospel – a longer article but so good. Are you carried along by the rhythm of God’s Spirit through his Word or doing the mechanical dance steps of behavioral change? This is a good one to have your team read over an hour of time with God and then come back and discuss as a team.
  • Empowering Staff thru Staff Jobs– great wisdom from Eric Swanson on empowering staff to lead as directors. This fall we just quoted from this article and used the ideas as we communicated to our team on staff jobs – but a great read for team leaders.
    • “Each job is “director level” in that the other staff are subordinate to him or her in this area.”
    • “Each job is “owned” by the staff in charge and is autonomous in its responsibility. If the staff does not carry it out or motivate others to do so, it simply doesn’t get done. No one bails him or her out.”
    • Each staff is expected to be an “expert” in his/her job. He needs to read books, articles, magazines, listen to talks, and interact with other staff from other campus to develop expertise. He or she becomes a resource for the other staff in their area of expertise. You and the other staff may be purposefully ignorant: “I don’t know, but Rabs is the expert in that area.”

What are some of your favorite articles?