Archives For Jim Sylvester

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 (all found on CruPressGreen) that have shaped our team (and that we’ll likely be re-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 on a Staffed Campus – 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. An abridged version of Jim Sylvester’s epic source material on how to do College Ministry. Principles God Honors, the original, is 134 pages of wisdom on how to build a movement that will reach an entire campus with the gospel. Building Movements on a Staffed Campus is 8 pages and a great introduction to this phenomenal material.
    • Two shorter adaptions of Jim’s wisdom:
      • Going from 20 to 200 – Bob Fuh’s 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.
      • Brian McCollister offers a slightly different take on the same principles here.
  • 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?

Part 3 of a series on Planning for Year 2023 – click to read parts 1 & 2

“Without specific team goals, team members become confused and revert only to what they like to do or want to do. Goals that motivate always contain a ‘stretch element’ to them. In other words, they go beyond what you did last year and cannot be accomplished by simply plugging in last year’s methods and strategies. Most staff would rather fail at attempting something great than to succeed at something mediocre that just feels like failure.”
Eric Swanson

As a new staff, I always found the setting of our team goals to be rather arbitrary:

Team Leader: “OK, we had 50 coming to Cru last year, what should our goal be this year team?”

Staff 1: “I think we’ll have 75 this year”

Staff 2: “Why?”

Staff 1: “I don’t know – because 75 is a little more than 50?”

Staff 2: “Where’s your faith? Let’s add a zero! We’re going to have 500 this year!”

Staff 1: “You’re an idiot”

Staff 2: “No, I have faith”

Team Leader: “Ok, 60 it is.”

Staff 3 (me) texts to staff 4: “SMH” (that is, if we’d had cell phones back then)

 

So how in the world do you set goals that are full of faith AND realistic?

We’ve found the steps Jim Sylvester lays out to be very helpful. We rely VERY heavily on this model for our yearly goals. And it’s uncanny how accurate it has been for us, year after year.

At the end of his (119 page!) article Principles God Honors, Jim lays out a Step By Step Growth of a Movement.

Jim’s proven timeline has helped us set incredibly faith-stretching goals that are based in reality.

 

I’ll list out the years (with his descriptions of each year) below. A couple questions to ask yourself/your team:

  • What year are we currently in?
  • What should be our goals for this year be?
  • What will it take to make those goals a reality?

 

I would love to know – how does your team determine numerical goals?

 

Jim Sylvester’s Step by Step Growth of a Movement

His caveat: “This is merely a model from our campus at Ohio State. This is to he adapted to each unique campus. On a campus where Greeks are the most dominant social group, one would target Freshman Greeks very heavily. On our campus we found the dorms and RAs as the dominant social group, so we started there.”

 

Year One

  • Staff Team – Make sure staff team is on board in areas of ministry philosophy and commitment level.
  • Commitment – make sure staff are using their time wisely (i.e. 35 “hot hours”)
  • Reality is my friend. Time is my friend.
  • Working with students is messy. Since we are committed to working with students, we are willing to live with messy.

 

Year Two

  • Create a socially sharp atmosphere. Seek to bring leaders and other socially sharp individuals into the movement. Socially sharp individuals visible at meetings; make the atmosphere attractive and comfortable with quality activities. There has to be an atmosphere where men feel comfortable – AIA emphasis etc.

 

Year Three – Foundational Freshmen Class

  • These will be the leaders of the movement in 2-3 years. The entire movement is focused on the Freshman class.
  • Freshmen class of 80
  • This takes 120 Freshmen entering Freshmen studies in September
  • The gospel shared individually with about 1,500 Freshmen.
  • In the first 4 weeks, staff share Christ with 50 new students.
  • A student planned and student run movement

 

Year Four – Movement Maker Class

  • 80 freshmen who will return 40 strong as sophomores
  • 120 or more students attending weekly meeting.
  • Send 25 students on summer projects. (High percent from foundational class.)

 

Year Five – The Over-the-Hill class

  • 100 freshmen in discovery groups by the end of the year.
  • Cru meeting over 200.
  • Presence in all the dorms.
  • Movements starting in the Geek system, athletes, band, international students, and ethnic minorities.
  • 40 Students going on summer projects.
  • 40 + Students leading successful small groups.
  • Expansion campuses a major focus; they feel absolutely a part of the whole.
  • Hearts that pray – a prayer movement in place.
  • Ownership and love for the partnership country.
  • Students want and value training. 60-80 students come to training.
  • Student ownership runs deep.

 

Year Six

  • Win a Freshman class of 160
  • 300 people at Cru meeting.
  • 300 students involved in small group Bible studies.
  • Daily Prayer drawing 25 students; as large as 50 for Praise God Its Friday.
  • 50 students going on summer projects.
  • Students involved from every segment of campus.
  • Expansion campuses now flourishing, we’re now on 1 campus for every two of our staff.
  • A rich love for Jesus permeates movement.
  • Students are sacrificial for the cause.
  • Movement has a heart for laborers.
  • Praying for awakening and God’s hand in our movement.
  • Burdened for the lost and the needs of the world.
  • Model student leaders and spokesmen.
  • Students are captured by the campus vision & our potential for impacting the world.

 

Year Seven

  • 400 + at Cru.
  • 400 students in small groups.
  • Win a freshmen class that will return 100 involved sophomores (i.e. 200 freshmen in groups in April)
  • 60+ students going on summer projects stateside and worldwide.
  • Our expansion campuses have movements of over 50 and feel a part of the whole.
  • 10 seniors graduate and come on our staff or go on stint, 5 other students go into full-time ministry or seminary.
  • Continue previously mentioned health characteristics.
  • Major presence in the Greek system, with athletes, African Americans, Internationals.

 

Year Eight – The Saturation Freshmen Class

  • Win the Freshmen Class of 300 that will return 150 sophomores
  • Unless you are on a campus of greater than 40,000 students, this class will see the campus reach saturation before they graduate.

 

Year Nine

  • Win a freshman class of 400 (200 return as sophomores)
  • In every segment of the university
  • Totally visible throughout the university community.
  • Present in the areas of influence of this university.
  • 75 Seniors – 20% graduate into full-time Christian work, 100 jrs, 150 soph, 400 fish
  • Touching the world; laborers going to every culture.

 

Year Ten

  • A freshmen class that returns 250 sophomores
  • 80 seniors, 150 juniors, 200 sophomores, 500 freshmen
  • 200 students seeing multiplication
  • Impacting the entire State
  • Each of our classes is growing because evangelism is extensive throughout University
  • 100 students meeting daily for prayer

 

Year Eleven

  • 150 Seniors
  • 240 Juniors
  • 275 Sophomores
  • 600 freshmen (1265 in small groups)
  • Saturating Greek system, dorms, athletes, internationals, African Americans

 

Year Twelve – The Dream Come True

  • Cru: 1,000
  • 200 seniors, 250 juniors, 300 sophomores, 600 freshmen
  • 40 students going into full-time Christian work, 20 of those joining staff/going on stint
  • 80 graduating satellite campus students, 20 of whom go into full-time Christian work.

 

photo courtesy of Untitled blue 

Part 1 in a series on Planning for Year 2023. Click to read parts 23

“More happens in five years than you and I would ever dream.  Less happens in one year than we would ever hope. In building a movement, time is our friend.”

Jim Sylvester

Having a 12 year plan has transformed our ministry.

The tendency in the fall is to plan the urgent.

There are fliers that need to be printed, rooms that need to be reserved, retreats that need to be planned.

But how does this fall fit into your long term plan?

A long term strategy keeps us from bouncing around to a different strategy every year.

We actually plan in 5 year chunks- in 2005 we set some goals for 2010. And this year we set goals for 2015. But it all fits into a longer-term, 12 year plan (more in a couple days, on “Why 12 years?”).

Every fall our strategy is the same:

  • Reach a progressively bigger freshman class
  • In order to build a bigger movement
  • In order to eventually reach the campus

We’re serious about reaching the entire campus with the gospel.

And we’re serious about doing it in a relational way (students hearing the gospel from a friend).

In other words, we’re serious about this vision:

“That everyone would know someone who passionately follows Jesus”

 

Of course everyone in college ministry is aiming to reach freshmen. But not all succeed to the same degree.

So “reach a bigger freshmen class” is not real helpful.

 

But for some reason, when you put a number on it, a goal, things start to change.

“We want to involve 40 freshmen this year in Bible studies”

And even more important is the overall context in which that numerical goal fits:

“We want to involve a freshman class of 40 this year, and next year we want to reach 80, and a couple years later 100, and eventually we hope to have a movement of the size and maturity to be able to TRULY reach every student on this campus.”

 

Why does something as small as a numerical goal for freshmen change things?

1) It forces you to plan differently

2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision

 

More thoughts on each of those tomorrow.

 

How would you sum up your long term strategy to reach the campus?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping a long term plan?

 

photo courtesy of Leo Reynolds

Matt McComas’ comment on a post earlier this week made me think of the phenomenal “Principles God Honors” article by Jim Sylvester (possibly the world’s longest “article” at 145 pages!).

Matt works with Cru in Portland and commented “Totally dealing with the drift toward ease [in discipling whomever] with our staff. Especially in light of launching a new ministry and selection is pretty limited.” I can only imagine, in a city with very few Christians, it would be easy to settle.

Here’s Jim’s brilliant insight:

Here is an important Concept: “More happens in five years that I could ever imagine, but less happens in one year than I would hope”.

When developing a new staff member who is beginning a brand new ministry, or someone who is opening up a new campus, I would often explain that the first stage is to simply find one person. That will be a successful step forward. It may take you a whole year to find one person, and that is okay. This has been a marvelously successful year if you have found someone who shares your love for the Lord and your heart to see the campus reached.  Your second step is to find a second person. This will also be a marvelous step forward if at the end of this period of time, be it a year or more, you have found a second person who is on board. This person shares your vision for turning lost students into Christ-centered laborers. He or she wants to be a part of it and is willing to make sacrifices to do so. The next step is to find a third and fourth person, and the step after that is to find the eighth, then the sixteenth person.  Frankly, I believe the next step is to find the fortieth person.

As I’ve observed, it takes a ministry as much effort to go from one to two as it does to go from two to four, from four to eight, or from sixteen to forty. It seems like each of those steps involves the same amount of time and effort to grow at that pace. You can see how this relates far more to a long-term plan that builds upon itself in consecutive years as opposed to a short term plan.

I’ll try post more thoughts from Jim’s article in the coming weeks. So much gold in there.