Archives For Empowering students

50 Dollar Party

January 21, 2015 — 1 Comment
This spring we’re giving each of our Community Groups a $50 bill to use to throw a party (an idea we stole from some other Cru movement – can’t remember who!)


We encouraged our leaders to take the $50 to their group and allow the group members to help decide how to invest the $50. It’s a fun, tangible expression of “we want our Community Group to be on mission to reach this campus.” The hope is that it will challenge freshmen to step up and take ownership of the party and catch a vision for God using them to reach their dorm. 


All we asked is:
  • This is not $50 to throw a party just for your group – it should be held in the dorm that your group is connected with (or with the segment on campus, like a party you are inviting all civil engineers to) and it needs to be outward focused.
  • Take a picture of your outreach party and tag us on Instagram, post on the Facebook leadership page, etc.
What are some creative ways you have resourced students to live on mission?


photo courtesy of tenaciousme

One of the biggest adjustments we have made in recent years is leveraging technology to make our staff and students more effective in ministry.

All of the technology adjustments follow this principle – Build Webs not Wheels.

“We must foster environments of interdependence where folks are not just allowed, but encouraged to seek help from any and every source. A mentor of mine used to tell me that the job of a leader is to build ‘webs, not wheels’– an ever-expanding web of interconnected, interdependent parts, not a wheel where all the spokes connect back to me at the center” Jon Hietbrink (Intervarsity Regional Director) – source

For years, I would get multiple, daily emails/texts along these lines:

  • “Do you have the evangelism training notes we used last fall?”
  • “Who is in charge of reserving the Quads for the cookout?”
  • “Do you have Joe Freshman’s phone number?”
  • “Hey, where is staff meeting this week?”
  • “Do we have enough money to give students $100 for their dorm outreach?”

See the pattern?

I had created wheels of knowledge/information with multiple spokes that all ran back to me as the hub. It prevented our staff and students from really leading. And it sucked a lot of my time- chasing down old files and responding to unnecessary texts.

Here’s the technology tools that have really helped us in the past couple years:

Google Drive

Getting our whole team (and student staff) to use Google Drive this year has been a game changer. Everyone has access to all of the files – they’re no longer locked on my hard drive where only I can access them!

    • Everyone can see the budget. Everyone can see who’s discipling whom, who’s leading a Bible study in the Quads, what content we’re going to cover at our upcoming student Leadership meeting.
    • Google Drive is especially helpful for multiple people updating a document simultaneously. My co-leader/MTL couldn’t live without it in our weekly planning meetings as we both edit the staff meeting document. Our team uses it extensively in the months leading up to our Fellowship Dinner as everyone can update the same RSVP and Silent Auction spreadsheets (simultaneously!).
    • For Cru staff, this is a no-brainer because your team is already all signed up for Google Drive thanks to our switch to Google last year.

google drive


MissionHub helps us make sense of piles of contact cards AND mobilizes students to pursue evangelisticMissionHub appointments. MissionHub allows us to quickly search, keep notes on, and message hundreds of students (through group texts or emails).

You can, at a glance, see the spiritual progression of a student as they connect with various students and staff.

I’ve written more about MissionHub here: The Secret to Keeping Students from Falling Through the Cracks.


Google calendar

Keeping a team calendar has really helped increase our communication. Staff REALLY like to know what is coming up on the calendar (especially their release date in December/May!). Everyone knows where staff meeting is going to be. When the deadline is for STINT applications. When fall retreat is (and what time staff need to be there). We don’t (yet!) use this for student events, but it’s been invaluable in making all the J‘s on our staff team happy and decreasing unnecessary texts.

Team Calendar - sept2013


Facebook Leadership Page 

We have a private Facebook group for our Cru leaders with two aims:

    • Students sharing stories of God at work across campus
    • Students encouraging other students to engage in the mission

Here’s what it looks like as students share about God at work and challenge their friends to join in:

Facebook Wall

And this is what happens every week after our Cru meeting:

    • A few student leaders type all the contacts from Cru cards into MissionHub
    • That night, a student leader posts on our private Facebook Leadership page:

facebook mission hub post

Within 24 hours our student leaders are doing incredibly strategic and timely follow-up (which is 100% student-led).


If you want more info on how we use any of these tools, just ask in the comments.

What technology has your team found useful?



In Cru, we talk a lot about being “Student Led, Staff Directed”.

But I fear that staff communicate to students, often more by actions than words: “We staff would love to reach this campus on our own but since we don’t have the manpower to do it, we’re gonna need some of you students to help us out.”

bleachersBud Wilkinson, legendary former head coach at OU was once asked, “what contribution does professional football make to the fitness of America?”

He answered: “A professional football game is a happening when 50,000 people desperately in need of exercise sit in the stands watching 22 people desperately needing rest”

I wonder how similar our ministries are to Bud’s description of a football game: Staff running around frantically trying to share our faith, put on weekly meetings, lead 2 Bible studies while students applaud from the sideline.

What’s at stake is more than ministry effectiveness on our campus. We are training students in the Biblical Priesthood of Believers for a lifetime of effective ministry. Is ministry just for an elite, professional class? Or is every Christian a minister/priest/ambassador?

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

So what exactly is the role of staff in a Student Led ministry?

The Apostle Paul wrote that the role of a Christian leader is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” – Ephesians 4:12.

On our team we talk about success for our staff is to get as many students as possible onto the playing field. We want to help as many students as possible to  experience being used by God to change someone’s life.

As Steve Sellers said at the National Cru Staff Conference: “Students can do ministry. We can help.”


In what ways do you think we, as staff, communicate: “staff can do it, you can help”?

What are some ways your team helps students get onto the playing field?

photo courtesy of Johnny Lucus 

One of the greatest challenges in leading in ministry is finding the balance between planning/strategy and empowering/releasing. I don’t like messy. But I wholeheartedly believe that you have two options: You can either Control or Empower. You can’t do both. Control is orderly. Empowerment is messy.

There’s a lot of wisdom on this topic in a recent post by Jon Hietbrink:

surfingMany organizations run like machines–they thrive on alignment, order, discipline, and consistency, but movements are like organisms–they feed on change, complexity, empowerment, and freedom.

Most of the ministries we lead are some combination of both organization and movement.

I cringe at the inference that anything planned or organized is somehow less influenced by the Spirit [love this sentence!]. That said, I’m increasingly aware of our need as leaders to become experts at calibrating the edge of chaos–we’ll never catch a movement by hanging back in consistently safe places devoid of risk and adventure, but we’ll also never see exponential growth if we go boldly careening over the edge of chaos and into the abyss of confusion and disorder. How then do we navigate this tension? How do we surf the edge of chaos?

As a leader who actually tends toward order and structure, it’s been important for me to embrace the chaos as appropriate and good. If we want movement, it won’t be easy, clean, or predictable, and part of the journey for us as leaders is settling this in our souls–our tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty has to increase.

We must foster environments of interdependence where folks are not just allowed, but encouraged to seek help from any and every source. A mentor of mine used to tell me that the job of a leader is to build “webs, not wheels”– an ever-expanding web of interconnected, interdependent parts, not a wheel where all the spokes connect back to me at the center [great metaphor- webs, not wheels!].

I encourage you to read the whole thing here.


How are you learning to surf the edge of chaos as you lead a movement?


photo courtesy of chausinho

“We as staff need to learn to become experts in helping students reach their own campuses and the world they enter into after graduation.”Brent Trickett


Valeree Joy Rillon, Cru staff in Manila, Philippines, wrote a brilliant post on Ken Cochrum’s blog on what she’s learned adjusting from staff-led to student-led.

students on denver campusTRUST GOD and TRUST THE STUDENTS.

We need to TRUST God that He has already prepared “harvesters” even in an untapped campus and it’s just for us to intentionally find where they are and are just waiting to be coached. We need to TRUST even a single committed student to OWN the VISION for his/her campus and rallying it to become a reality in his/her own strategies aligned with the principles of how God distinctively called CCC. Students feel how we view them. Honestly, I was so high-controlling before that my disciples viewed my personal strategies as their principles. They were boxed how I do things that they never even reflected on why they are doing what I was doing. But when I learned (and am still learning) to let go and gave them the freedom to strategize how to reach their campus, OWNERSHIP increased and their LEADERSHIP got more empowered.

Success in seeing STUDENT-LED MOVEMENTS is simply taking the initiative to challenge students to build spiritual movements in the power of the HOLY SPIRIT and leaving the results to God! To God be all the glory!


Read the rest (it’s short and well worth reading in its entirety – we will be reading it as a team this week during planning)


What do we as staff need to do to become experts in helping students reach their own campus and the world they enter into after graduation?


photo courtesy of University of Denver

We Need a Bigger Table

September 4, 2012 — Leave a comment

Table of Salt

This is a great illustration from Tim Henderson at Penn State Cru:

Think about a table you are pouring sand onto. At some point the sand won’t pile any higher and it will start spilling off the edge. The only solution is to enlarge the table.

In our case the sand represents the students in the movement and the table represents our leadership. We will never have enough staff to form a table of the size that we need. Instead we need to free up and empower more students to be the table, while the staff function as the legs of the table. We will be here to support you, but it’s your movement; you are the leaders.

While we hope that the staff have been and will continue to be a significant advantage to you, in some ways our structure has limited your ability to own and lead.

Great vision to use with your students as you enter the fall.