Archives For Staff

The absolute best thing our Staff did this past year was implement a once a month checkpoint with our Community Group leaders (we got the idea from University of Florida Cru).

Here’s why it was so helpful – our monthly CG coaching meeting kept our most important leaders motivated and missional all year long. As I said in a previous post, Community Groups are the backbone of our ministry. So if our CG leaders are dying on the vine, the fruit of changed lives will not happen.

Many (most!?) times in our monthly checkpoints, we’d meet with CG leaders who were about to throw in the towel. They had zero people coming. And they were tired of pursuing flaky freshmen. Or they had 2-3 freshmen coming to studies and had given up hope of getting a more robust study. Our staff meeting with them help them recalibrat their dreams to keep pursuing freshmen so that freshmen could experience a more healthy community of 6-8 peers.

In 2013 we lost 30% of our Community Group leaders over the course of the year. This year we only lost 5% on the women’s side and 17% on the men’s side.

In 2013 we lost 55% of our freshmen from December to May (260 freshmen in CG’s in December 2012 – by May 2013 we had 117). In 2014, we only lost 1% of our freshmen (160 freshmen in December to 158 in May). Obviously the Monthly Coaching Appointment wasn’t the only factor in retaining freshmen in Community Groups. But it definitely helped that 1/3 of our leaders didn’t quit (like the previous year).

Here’s how we set up the appointment with CG leaders:

  • We are committed to helping you succeed as a Community Group leader. I want to meet with you and your co-leader to help you think through where your study is headed and work alongside you to help your study thrive!

The general flow of a monthly CG coaching meeting:

  • Time in the Word
  • Who/Where/When
    • Who
      • Write down who’s coming to their group and talk through next steps for them:
        • Verbally process through – where are each of them are at spiritually –
          • “Are there any guys/girls in this group who you don’t know where they’re at spiritually?”
          • “who from this group have you already met with?”
          • “who is on the fringes/not connecting?”
        • Prioritize meeting with those guys/girls and sharing the gospel with them
        • Who do you want to start pursuing as a possible disciple (make sure you communicate: “don’t commit yet!”)
    • Where are you meeting (give them suggestions – meet on campus! meet in a key person’s room)?
    • When are y’all meeting? Is that time working well?
  • How are you doing in each of the 4 areas?
    • Content (if upperclassmen – what content are you doing?)
      • How is it going in cultivate self-discovered learning (discussion oriented vs lecture)?
      • Do not preach at them –make sure that as a leader, you are not doing the majority of the talking!
    • Mission (how can we help you grow your study?)
      • Get on Mission Hub during your appointment and show them how to look up guys/girls in their dorm checked – “I want to be in a Bible study”
        • Encourage them to call these people
      • Right before your study: MAKE PHONE CALLS/TEXT AND KNOCK ON DOORS (College students are FLAKY.)
      • Keep an updated contact list and include everyone on a group reminder text the morning you meet. You want to do this every week the rest of the semester.
      • Take solid freshmen girls to do follow up with you
      • Encourage your freshmen to invite their friends to CG
    • Prayer
      • Ideas: pray for the world, prayer walk, pray through scripture, prayer requests, prayer partners, fasting
    • Community – do you feel like people are starting to connect?
  • What are next steps in each of these 4 areas?
  • Plan the next month
  • End on vision
    • Encourage them – what you’re doing is significant!
    • It’s a slow process of investing on a weekly basis in these guys/girls. The little things will begin to pay off (the texts, little conversations, times to hang out). God is using you to change their lives!!
    • If there’s no one coming to their study – there’s 300 girls in the Quads who need to know Christ! Keep going for it. It’s worth it!!

We ended up meeting twice a semester with our CG leaders.

Here’s notes from each from each meeting:


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?



I want to wrap up the series on Large Cru Movements with 2 posts on my Top Takeaways. Click for Part 2 (click here for the Intro of the series)

If you want to go back and read about each campus here are the 8 Cru Movements I profiled:

Part 1 of Top Takeaways is mostly just a step back to see what patterns emerge from the Large Movements series. An attempt to distill:

  • What do Staff Do?
  • What do MTL’s Do (MTL = Missional Team Leaders = Directors)?
  • What contributed to the growth of these large movements?

Part 2 will be some of my personal thoughts and favorite takeaways.


What do staff do?

In most of these large movements, staff:

  • Oversee a ministry team: Weekly Meeting, Prayer, Outreach
  • Disciple key student leaders (and take them out to share their faith)
  • Lead a Bible study
  • Empower students lead as much as possible


Some notable thoughts:

  • NC State
    • Each of key staff leaders is like a mini-MTL – each run an area of campus or a distinct ministry (AIA, Bridges, etc)
  • Cal Poly SLO
    • This movement can survive without a weekly meeting, social and the events
    • But the backbone of our movement is evangelism and discipleship and small groups
    • That’s your job
    • Staff got a little off and thought coaching these teams is more impt
      • It’s public, so they spend more time on that
      • They want to feel like they are contributing
      • It’s easier to buy groceries
      • And maybe they don’t know what to do with discipleship
  • Ole Miss
    • Main question – how are you going to reproduce yourself?
  • Penn State
    • If our students are going to lead, what does that leave staff to do:
    • 3 things:
      • Set direction (“this is where we are going”)
      • Resource (skills, tools, money)
      • Develop
  • Montana State
    • Their primary job is to be in their target area, sharing their faith, with student leaders
  • Florida
    • Staff don’t lead any Bible studies – instead they coach 5 Bible studies (10 leaders)



What do MTL’s do?

Most MTL’s:

  • Lead staff meeting
  • Lead Leadership Meetings
  • Focus on staff Care (they meet with every senior staff every week)
  • Cast vision for the mission
  • Only disciple 1 or 2 students
  • Spend at least one day on planning
  • Rely on their Senior Staff to coach younger staff/interns.

Some teach every week at their weekly meeting, others hardly at all.

A few MTL’s lead studies but several do not.


Some notable thoughts:

  • Penn State
    • My job is to keep my staff happy so they’ll stick around and grow up to be MTL’s
  • Miami (really the whole post is worth reading if you want to learn how to be a good MTL)
    • The role of the MTL is in between student leaders and staff leaders
      • Lead the student leadership team and lead the staff team
      • Constantly trying to balance the tension
      • If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on letting students lead
    • I’m constantly thinking: How can I push more and more leadership away from myself?



Contributors to growth

I was struck by how diverse the 8 movements are – definitely not cookie cutter ministries.

But despite the diversity here are some consistent threads that contributed to growth:

  • The director had been there for a long time(except for one campus – for over a decade)
    • Take Miami’s two directors for example:
      • Mark Brown – 20 years
      • Jane Armstrong – 32 years
    • I heard this quote from Jim Sylvester repeated multiple times: “More happens in five years that I could ever imagine, but less happens in one year than I would hope”.
  • God decided to move/Prayer
    • I think this quote from Ken Cochrum applies here: “True spiritual movements are both intentional and organic (grown by God)”
  • Strong Community Groups
    • These large movements were not just a huge weekly meeting. Most had just as many in CG’s as at their weekly meeting.
  • Growing the number of Core Leaders–Doing the right things with the right people
    • Brian Langford at Michigan State:
      • I was trying to change things from up front but Hersh encouraged me that as long as I was doing the right things with the right people, things would change
      • He encouraged me to grow the number of core leaders (and make sure they are multiplying their lives thru discipleship)
      • “I took 12 guys to disciple, the strongest leaders. And that changed our movement. Every single guy leader in the movement [the next few years] came from those 12”
    • Montana State:
      • 5 or 6 years ago we really began to take spiritual multiplication seriously and asked “Are we really preparing people for a lifetime of ministry?”
      • Multipliers/Spiritual grandchildren.
      • Are there students involved in our ministry who are really helping students have a ministry?
      • “The grandchild has to be sharing their faith” – the litmus test of the leader
      • We work really hard at this and the number is still really small
  • A good overseas partnership
    • From Miami-Ohio:
      • It gives students a big picture and they get to share their faith
      • 24 Miami students in Fiji saw 100 students trust Christ the first week – how can that not change you?


As you learned about these movements, what are some common threads you saw?

What are your main takeaways or favorite thoughts?

Montana State

This is part of a series: Learning from Large Cru Movements- a look at 8 of the largest Cru movements in the U.S. Read the Series intro here.

Overview of the Cru Movement at Montana State

Movement stats as of 2011

  • 13,000 students enrolled at Montana State (3,500 in dorms)
  • Typically 6-10 staff (that includes 0-3 interns)
  • 335 students in Bible studies
  • 425 at the weekly meeting
  • 285 at Fall Retreat
  • Bob Schwahn is the Director. He’s been on staff 19 years. 15 years at MSU (13 of those as Director). Came to Christ at MSU.

Movement History

  • Since 1999, they’ve taken a movement from 50 to about 500 involved
  • Since 2006 they’ve gone from 15 students living out Win/Build/Send to 150 this past year
  • They’ve sent out staff to lead Cru ministries in Seattle and Portland
  • What contributed to their growth [with some great candor]:
    • Not sure!
    • Our meeting was really cool, fun students involved in our ministry (great personalities involved who were cool and fun who were in the band or MC’s)
      • Wow, this looks like a fun group
      • I don’t think they necessarily were getting involved in a movement
      • We were more about talking about the mission than doing it
    • I don’t think I did a great job (I was just trying to keep my head above water) at thinking strategically


Key Points

  • Even in the early days, when there were a lot of people coming, our “movement” was actually really pretty small – maybe 10-15 people who really got WBS, actively sharing their faith
  • Our “movement” is now 125-150 people (students who are sharing their faith)
  • What contributed to THAT growth (of your core)?
    • 5 or 6 years ago we really began to take spiritual multiplication seriously and asked “Are we really preparing people for a lifetime of ministry?”
    • We got dialed in on evangelism – which is really difficult to help staff remove everything off of their plates so they can focus on evangelism
    • When we really set out to make spiritual multipliers/grandchildren, we found out, “this is slow!”
    • It actually takes years
    • “Less happens in one year, more happens in five years” from Jim Sylvester
  • We have a big emphasis on encouraging our students to move back into the dorms (even in groups)


Success for Us

  • We track/measure two things the most:
  • How many people are actively involved in sharing their faith (that’s our top goal)
    • We want 125-150 people who are regularly communicating their faith (at least once a month) – not just telling someone they’re a Christian but bringing people to a point of decision
  • Multipliers/Spiritual grandchildren.
    • Are there students involved in our ministry who are really helping students have a ministry?
    • We’re pretty focused on it and work hard at it, but that number is pretty small
    • 17 is the most we’ve ever seen – students who are shepherding people who are having a ministry
    • We had 9 this year
    • “The grandchild has to be sharing their faith” – the litmus test of the leader


What do staff focus on?

  • Their primary job is to be in their target area, sharing their faith, with student leaders
    • We call it “The Critical Event” – a trained person taking a non-trained person to share their faith
  • Our staff share their faith A LOT
    • That’s what we ask them to do, day in/day out
    • Because they’re thinking multiplication, every appt they have to have a student with them (we think the best training for students is to watch someone else share their faith) as they share their faith
    • It’s usually said “I’m pouring my life into someone” – but we say “I’m trying to pour my life through someone” – anything I do with a student, I ask them “who’s someone you can do this with?” or “who’s someone you could tell about this?”
  • Every staff have a residence hall they’re focusing on (focusing on freshmen)
    • Every staff person is over prayer, outreach, etc
    • Every staff is a MTL over their area:
    • They build a team of leaders to reach their area
    • “How are we going to reach this dorm?”
    • Each area does their own prayer, socials, outreaches, etc
  • As we look at why staff say they don’t share their faith, they legitimately may not have time to do it because they have so much on their plates
    • They’re spending all their time doing socials, planning meetings
    • It’s unfair to ask staff to do everything they’re doing AND share their faith
    • How do I take those things off their plate?
    • Students will figure out how to do socials, what they’re not going to figure out is how to build an evangelistic movement and share their faith
    • We just decided, “how are we going to focus on this one thing”
    • And what do we need to say no to (aggressively)?
    • We made the decision to relentlessly take things off their plate that are not
      1. Evangelism
      2. Following up New Believers
    • The reason we see a lot of students come on staff, is they’ve gotten to share their faith a ton as students and seen life change, and they think “why would I not want to do that for my job?”


Ministry Structure

Leadership Development/Training

  • We used to have a weekly leadership meeting but we killed it
  • But this last year we didn’t have a single leadership meeting
  • We have one overnight leadership meeting per semester
  • Each staff person does leadership training in their own area
  • We do some training corporately in how to share their faith – the week after the fall retreat
    • We essentially make it a part of the fall retreat, “we’re going to come back and get trained and get mobilized”
    • Monday right after fall retreat (for 2 hours)– students are at the peak of their excitement about who we are and what we are about
    • The main goals are:
      • Teach them the Knowing God Personally booklet
      • Get them to really think thru how to ask question to get into spiritual conversations
      • Assign them to a staff or student leader who are very skilled at sharing their faith (who will then take them out sharing 3-4 times in the following weeks)
        • Apart from modeling, they’re not going to get it (how to share their faith), so we don’t do much in the classroom
    • We give them just enough to get them out there and get killed : )



  • We don’t have any committees (prayer, evangelism, etc)
  • Everything just operates in areas – each area/dorm does their own prayer, socials, outreach, etc.


Weekly Meeting

  • We have a weekly meeting team but staff don’t meet with those students
    • They do everything
    • We just provide the teachers


Bible Study Structure

  • 45 small groups
  • about 335 people in small groups (early in the school year)
  • Studies are both student and staff led
  • They’re all team led (2-4 leaders)
    • One facilitates content, the other 2 or 3 think thru how to meet personally with each student how to share their faith


What are your biggest takeaways from learning about the Cru ministry at Montana State?


photo courtesy of jimmywayne

Just sharing a small idea that’s been a big Win for us recently:

Every week we start our staff meeting with sharing: “How have you seen God at work on campus this week?”. Always my favorite part of the meeting! But we recently realized that most of that good news of God at work is staying within the four walls of our staff meeting.

As we celebrated how God is working, we never took the time to pass on our excitement to the students whom God is using.

So recently we tweaked our schedule a little:

  • After we spend about 30 minutes sharing
  • we praise God in prayer for a bit
  • THEN we spend 10 minutes texting students our team has shared about.

And we make sure that someone other than the staff that’s discipling them (or knows them best) texts them. Hopefully they’re frequently hearing encouragement from their discipler but sometimes it means even more coming from someone else.


An example that I texted to a student this week:

“Hey man. We were just celebrating as a team what God is doing on campus and Jon shared how encouraged he’s been by your passionate perseverance in prayer! So cool that you sacrificially serve in praying for Cru every week (and that you’re leading so many to pray with you)!”


This small investment of time has been huge in helping us be more intentional in encouraging students and saying “what you are doing is significant”.


Would love to hear from you other ideas you have to be intentional in encouraging those you serve in ministry.


photo courtesy of Stephan Geyer