Archives For Discipleship

If you’re anything like our team, after all the hard work of the first weeks of the fall, you feel like:
  • We worked our tails off reaching out to freshmen and, honestly, the results are not what we had hoped
  • Where are all the guys? We are terrible at reaching sharp, male leaders.
  • Our weekly meeting numbers are not what I hoped they would be at this point in the fall.
I think it’s the amount of work in relation to the payoff. The excitement and crowds of the first few weeks always seem like they will pay greater dividends than they inevitably do. We’re four weeks into the year and it seems like we are not having any effect on our campus.


The high energy of large numbers at our first week events (and the ensuing, inevitable numerical downturn) can cause us to forget what matters AND what ultimately will impact the world.


masterplanJesus’ “concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.” Dr. Robert Coleman – The Masterplan of Evangelism


Movements are not built in the first few weeks of the fall. They take years. Movements are not built by the masses. Movements are built on the efforts of a small group of passionate followers of Christ. It only takes a handful of students to change the world.


Robert Coleman reminds us that Jesus’ first few years of ministry “had little or no immediate effect upon the religious life of his day, but that did not matter greatly. For as it turned out, these few early converts of the Lord were destined to become the leaders of his church that was to with the gospel to the whole world.”


In the fall there are two important stages of ministry –
    1. The first few weeks of reaching freshmen
    2. Selecting who you will invest in this year


Now is the time for Stage 2.
In light of that, this week in staff meeting we read this article by Brian McCollister- Going From Launching to Building Reproducing Movements (and here’s an abridged version I edited down to read in one sitting with my student leaders).


Brian is one of the best college ministry strategist in the world. Almost everything we do in reaching freshmen the first weeks is based on his model from Cru at Ohio University. It’s not a short article- we are reading it over two weeks at staff meeting – but it’s the perfect topic for your staff and student leaders to be talking through right now.


In addition to this article, this fall all of our staff are taking their disciples through The Masterplan of Evangelism. Here is a link to a week by week discussion of Masterplan.


What is your team talking about and doing right now?


Some great wisdom from Brian McCollister here.

3 Keys for the First Week on Campus

    1. students on denver campusStaff must lead in evangelism. All else must suffer for the sake of getting face to face with freshmen. I tell our staff that your first six discipleship times of the year must be primarily spent in evangelism. If your upper classmen balk at this then that is evidence that you may not be working with the right upper classmen. There ought to be time to develop and teach but evangelism has to happen those 6 times.
    2. If you pay the price in the first six weeks of the year you will reap the rewards for the next four years. If you blow the first six weeks you will pay the price for the next four years. I can tell how well we did in the first six weeks of the last four years by looking at the size of our classes.
    3. Directors must mobilize their best people assets into evangelizing/gathering freshmen into freshmen groups (staff/ student leaders).

We teach that discipleship is doing the right things (doing ministry together, time in the Word, relationally connecting) with the right people (faithful, available, teachable).

Here’s the key: those three things – Ministry/Word/Relationship – don’t have to happen evenly over the year. In other words, the first 6 weeks of the year will be HEAVILY weighted toward doing Ministry together. Talking about life and their summer and the new year as you walk on the way to share your faith. That’s one reason a Leadership Retreat before move-in week is so crucial. It gives your staff time to connect relationally with student leaders before you jump in the trenches together.

I always try to grab one-on-one lunch (Relationship) with each of my staff guys in the calm before the storm of the first 6 weeks because I know that August and September will be heavy on doing ministry together and lighter on Word/Relationship.

What are your thoughts on Brian’s 3 Keys?


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Cru we talk a lot about “movements everywhere”.

This is great insight from Ed Stetzer on how movements happen:

Actual movements are tricky things, but the word has never been more popular.

Three things that I believe we need to spark a movement:

  1. The comfortable do not create movements. We all need a cause bigger than ourselves, which can drive us to action with a holy dissatisfaction.
  2. Everyone loves a movement, as long as it looks great, but costs them little. A true movement will have a steep price, but those who are a part of it will recognize the immeasurable value.
  3. No Christian movement can be birthed without discipleship. It is impossible.

So, what needs to happen and what needs to change? Well, there are many things, but let me suggest one big idea for now.

Get dissatisfied.

Start with an unreasonable and sacrificial passion for discipleship that leads people to “no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:15).


The whole post is worth reading.

HT @missioeric


photo courtesy of Peter E. Lee

Continuing our series on Focus in Discipleship. Click to read the other posts in the series: What We Talk about, They Talk About, 5 Things We Want Every Student to Experience, and Risk of Getting Too Fancy

1. When we make it about them

  • What are we all really good at? Thinking about ourselves!
  • And yet what do many discipleship appointments focus on? Ourselves!
  • My dating. My personal sin. My personal goals. My development.
  • One of our primary goals in discipleship should be to help students “To live not for themselves but for Him who died for them” II Corinthians 5:15
  • We should be constantly pointing them toward Christ, toward His mission, AND away from themselves
  • So sitting every week in a coffee shop for 2 hours talking about the girl they have a crush on this week IS NOT discipleship.
  • And it could actually be worse than not meeting at all (as it only feeds selfishness)
  • A simple step forward we’re taking: Moving all our appointments into the dorms, engineering buildings and fraternities. And out of Chick-Fil-A and Coffee shops.
  • Putting ourselves in a position to do ministry together.

2. When we make it about us

  • Discipleship can become about me being their functional messiah:
  • They bring me a list of problems – I email them some verses to fix their problems. They come up with more problems and bring them to me
  • When either 1) We leave or 2) They graduate – they are unable to walk with God on their own
  • Tim Henderson, Cru director at Penn State, puts it this way:

“Typically, students in Cru get increasing attention over time culminating in the greatest attention their senior year. Then the day after graduation, it all suddenly goes away.
A friend of mine who works with graduate students observed to me that in graduate school, where the plan from day one is to create independent adults, they increase independence over time, not attention. In this way the newest, youngest grad students get the most attention to lay their foundation, and the oldest grad students function independently. The day before graduation is little different from the day after graduation since they have been steadily moving towards greater independence.
It seems that we have something to learn from this system.”

Discipleship is constantly pulling them away from themselves and toward Christ and His Mission.

What has helped you in discipleship to not make it not about you or them?


photo courtesy of stahrdust3


Continuing our series on Focus in Discipleship. Read Tim Norman’s first two posts in the series: What We Talk about, They Talk About (the most viewed post I’ve ever had on my blog!) and 5 Things We Want Every Student to Experience.

Based on this idea of exposing your team to great leaders, I asked Dan Allan (Cru director in St. Louis) to come spend two days with our team and students (and speak at our weekly meeting). It’s been phenomenal.

Dan’s focus in discipleship is two-fold:

We must delight ourselves in Jesus and His gospel

From Dan: “We talk about what we like. I like Cardinal baseball so I read about it. I talk about it. I don’t know everything there is to know, but I engage in conversations all the time. This is the environment for multiplication. We must feed them the gospel in such a manner that they are captivated by Christ and talk of Him everywhere.”


We must persist in sharing our faith

“One of our great challenges is getting out of the coffee shops and back into the student unions to meet with students and do evangelism during our appointments.

It’s the thing we’re tempted to talk about a lot, but when it comes to doing it, we don’t do it. As staff, we need to go share our faith with students.

I prefer “filtered” evangelism through a friend’s network of relationships, but we want to share our faith however God opens the doors.”

Dan and his team aim for shorter content during their appointments so that they have time to share the gospel at least once every two times they meet with a student.

On a side note, it’s Dan’s aim to take his staff guys out sharing EVERY time he meets with them (Confession: something I NEVER do).


I love the simplicity and focus of this. I love the Gospel focus. It meshes with this idea of what “Going Deep” means.

Dan and his team are intentionally narrow in focus. They fight the temptation of “Getting Too Fancy”.

Dan- “We are simple. Our systems have to be simple in order to be reproducible by students and volunteers.”

What do you think about Dan’s two things?
How do you keep focus in discipleship?

This is part 2 of a guest series on Focus in Discipleship by Tim Norman. To catch up, read his first post: What We Talk, They Talk About.

Today – Tim Norman’s thoughts on 5 Things We Want Every Student to Experience.

For those of you who just want to get the highlights, I’ll list Tim’s 5 Experiences in brief at the top and then you can read the description of each one further below:

In an earlier post, I talked about the need for focus in personal discipleship. I operate under that premise that I have limited time with a person to help them forward in their relationship with God. For the vast majority of students I will sit down in a one-on-one setting fewer than 10 times. Some, I will only get together with a few times. What will I talk about during those times?

I’ll share with you five things that our ministry team wanted every first-year student to experience during their involvement with us. This was our attempt to answer the question, if a freshman has been involved with us what can I assume that have experienced? These are experiences and exposure to content. They are not necessarily the values and convictions we wanted people to hold. That would be a slightly different list.

  1. Share the gospel with the person using the Knowing God Personally booklet.
  2. Share with the person about the role of the Holy Spirit in their life.
  3. Talk with them about having a personal time reading God’s Word.
  4. Talk with them about sexual purity and God’s desire for them.
  5. Give them an opportunity to see the gospel shared with another person.

So, many things we offer students could easily experience somewhere else. But, friends, modeling conversations that share the gospel is one of our distinct contributions.

[Note: This was the key insight for me as CCC staff- There’s a lot of places students can get this stuff but we are one of the only places where they will get this: a chance (and training) to share their faith. They feel like they should share their faith (but no one told me how) – so they’re loaded up with guilt. We say, not just “do it” but “let’s do it together”.]

Those are five things I wanted our students to experience. Perhaps, I’m assuming others. I know that I wanted people to go to church or get connected with the movement. But, honestly, I so rarely saw people that were not getting that invitation that I didn’t feel it necessary to beat that drum. I’d love to hear from you.

What key experiences do you aim to give those who come in to your movement?


Here’s a fuller description of each of the 5 from Tim:

1) Share the gospel with the person using the Knowing God Personally booklet.

We want people to experience the joy and freedom of knowing God through his gracious provision for us. Some students come to our movements as believers in Christ. Some are non-believers. Some are make-believers. I found that I didn’t want to assume that just because someone had come to a Christian event that they were a believer.

Last year, I talked to a freshman defensive lineman who came out to the first few FCA meetings of the year. When I asked if Anthony would like to get together to talk about how to grow in a relationship with God, he eagerly said yes. When I sat down with him, I started walking through the Knowing God Personally booklet assuming that he already believed it. Why else would a NCAA Division I athlete show up to a Christian meeting the first few weeks of the school year? To my surprise, Anthony said, “I’ve never heard this. I just thought that I should give this religion stuff a look.” A few weeks later, Anthony trusted Christ. Don’t assume that because people come to a Christian meeting they know what it means to have a relationship with God. They may be just like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and be seeking to see Jesus.

Also, I want people to know that what we are excited about as a movement is Jesus and what he does in our lives through the gospel. Too easily we can preach the gospel of Cru or the gospel of our church and not the gospel of Jesus. What I mean is that we meet a student and we tell them how great Cru is, how great the worship is at our church, how great our small groups are, etc. But, I want people to know, we’re pretty excited about Jesus; he’s a big deal to us. Such a big deal that we talk to others about him.

But, what about someone that you are confident is already a believer? I still say share the gospel with them. I grew up in a church that fervently talked about the importance of sharing the gospel with others. They exhorted me to share Christ with someone every week or 60 times in 60 days. I always signed the dotted line saying that I would do it. But, I never saw anyone else do it. To someone whom you know to already be a believer, say “I know you may already know this, but I’d love to share it with you with the goal that God would use you to influence others.” Also, it helps clarify what we are about to others.

2) Share with the person about the role of the Holy Spirit in their life.

I’ve done this a number of ways, including the Satisfied? booklet, a couple of basic Bible studies that are part of the Life Concept Series, or just walking through passages like Galatians 5 or 1 Corinthians 2. Ultimately, I want people to grasp that the truth expressed in the following statement from the Satisfied? booklet:

“The essence of the Christian life is what God does in and through us, not what we do for God. Christ’s life is reproduced in the believer by the power of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be directed and empowered by Him.”

3) Talk with them about having a personal time reading God’s Word.

I’ve written about this on my blog, The Exchange.

4) Talk with them about sexual purity and God’s desire for them.

I will write more about how I go about this in a future post.  The issue of sexual purity is as pressing today as it was in the first-century Greco-Roman world in which the epistles in the New Testament were written.

Many people have never heard what God desires for them in the area of purity or their understanding of how to go about it is littered with misconceptions. I came to a place where I assumed that the people I knew were struggling with this area of life until I knew otherwise.

5) Give them an opportunity to see the gospel shared with another person.

I want people to experience the joy of being used by God in his plan of bringing the world to himself. I want to help people get over the misconceptions and fears they have of sharing their faith with others.

Several years ago, I was meeting with a freshman named Jared. After we had sat down a handful of times, we began talking about God’s desire to use Jared to reach others with the gospel. I could see that Jared wanted to share his faith. One afternoon Jared and I shot some pool in his lobby and walked up to his room.  When we got up to his room, his roommate was unpacking his bag from the day. I knew from Jared that his roommate most likely wasn’t yet a believer. I took the opportunity to ask his roommate a few questions and share the gospel with him. Jared jumped in the conversation a few times. That may have been the first time he was able to share his faith, but it wasn’t the last.

I would have given anything as a high school student or a young college student for someone to model for me what it looked like to share the gospel. I wanted others to know Christ, and I had a desire to be used by God. But I wasn’t certain what to do in a conversation. My conversations ranged from heated arguments to monotonous soliloquies.

photo courtesy of kylesteed


Part 1 of a 2 part guest post by Tim Norman. Read the excellent follow up post here

Last fall Tim Norman (our new regional director) came to visit our team and he shared some insightful thoughts on meeting with students (and being VERY intentional about what we do and do NOT talk about). I’ve asked him to share those thoughts over a couple posts (in the first-ever Guest Post for this blog!).

Tim just started blogging and I encourage you to subscribe to his feed. Tim’s a critical thinker – you will benefit from his wisdom and insight.
The Apostle Paul motivates many of us who attempt to influence others to follow Jesus. Some things he had to say are pretty challenging. He said, “To live is Christ; to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). To be honest, many days it would be a stretch for me to say that for me to live is Christ. I have wondered if some things that Paul says are somewhat off limits for me to say.

One of the other things Paul said that I thought was out of bounds for me is “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
One night, after a discussion at Applebee’s on which translation of the Bible was the best (did we know how to have a good time or what?), I went home and thought, “Everything that was being said around the table at Applebee’s was something that those guys heard from the guys that are discipling them.” I had heard the entire discussion before; the difference was it had come out of someone else’s mouth.

After going to my apartment, I had what I now refer to as the post-Applebee’s epiphany.

As someone who is trying to influence others for Christ and take up the task of making disciples, people will imitate me.

I accepted that I cannot alter the fact that people will imitate me. As a leader, I will influence others. Those that I begin to disciple, they will imitate me.

I made a choice to be intentional with what I will talk about others with. There are certain things that I want to pass along to them. Initially, there are few convictions and motivations that I hope to pass along. I’ll post an entry later this week on a few of the key things that I seek to pass along to students that I disciple.

I also embrace that I have limited time with someone. For the vast majority of students I will have only sat down in a one-on-one setting fewer than 10 times. Some, I will only get together with a few times.
What will I talk about during those times? What do I want them to imitate?

I do not care about which translation of the Bible the guys I disciple use. For the most part, I do not even talk about it.  Some of my theological positions or proclivities don’t fall into those few times.

What I did talk about initially was the gospel and the greatness of Jesus. I’ll share more about that later. Even accepting that I’ll likely need to talk about it more than once makes me keep my list short. After all, in most cases we are hoping for total worldview overhaul. And that may take a pass or two at a topic.

So, even if I had 40 times with a student over 2 years, I would still have to bring focus. I asked myself, what experience and training can I give them that they likely won’t receive somewhere else?

I encourage you as a leader to take stock of what you want others to imitate from their encounters with you. As a leader, you will influence their lives. That’s what leaders do. What will characterize that influence? Do they come away knowing that you are someone who can chat it up about the ESPN highlights? Do they know you have theological superheroes, past or present, that make your heart quiver? Do they begin to see that you are captivated by the magnitude of Jesus and his call on your life?


What are the top 5 things that you want to make sure you pass along?

photo courtesy of colindunn