This is part of a series on my thoughts from the Indigitous Conference. The topic was creating, sharing and inspiring digital strategies to help reach North America with the message of Jesus.
One of my initial questions in hearing about this digital strategies effort within a subset of Cru was to ask the question, “what’s the end goal?” Are we heading in the right direction of making disciples or are we simply excited to gain more likes and followers in our digital kingdom? I am motivated by seeing lives changed and people encounter Jesus, not by my Klout score…which is a measly 57 if you’re interested.
For a long time my dabbling, experimenting and documenting digital strategies in campus ministry has felt like I’m a fish swimming upstream. It’s not that our organization doesn’t believe there is ministry opportunities to be had in the digital realm, but perhaps we (myself included) fail to understand what the right opportunities are and lack the technical skill to take advantage.
I’m hopeful that the organizational culture is changing dramatically within my organization. Right now staff pioneers are leading the charge all over the world and in various pockets in the United States to pioneer a new understanding of digital strategies for campus ministry. People are using tools we’ve never had to engage people that we’ve never had access to before with the message of Jesus. We are finally starting to get a grasp on the idea that digital strategies can fuel what our local ministries are trying to accomplish.
On thing is clear though, as Ken Cochrum (founder of Indigitous) mentioned over and over again, it’s all about making disciples. (Here’s a slideshow of the values of Indigitous).
The direction is set. Now we just need some creativity and strategy to harness all the tools available to us to engage in the ministry of making disciples. Anyone want to help?
I want to hear from you. What’s your experience with digital strategies for ministry? Are you excited or hesitant?
“Indigitous gathered strategists, creatives, and coders at The Tannery in Waterloo, Canada for the sake of sharing, inspiring, and creating digital strategies to help reach North America.”
Last week I spent 3 days in Waterloo, Ontario at the first ever Indigitous conference. It was an energizing time of learning, dreaming and creating. I’m so thankful to have gone and I’m more convinced than ever that campus ministry requires intentional thought in the area of digital strategies to maximize their efforts.
More to come on my takeaways over the next couple of days.
These are all high quality websites that have significant followings. They provide real value and are incredible resources. The wide acceptance of these sites as learning tools and resources makes me wonder how much effort we should put into creating digital materials or experiences that students and faculty can use for training and equipping in campus ministry.
How can we get better at creating online platforms that train and equip in evangelism and discipleship?
Lamenting the barriers of scheduling and geography led our team to try something new for training and equipping our students in some basic ministry skills. We launched an online training (for face to face evangelism) last tuesday as a beta test to see how well it would be received. It was a primer on the heart of evangelism and the explorer role of the Cojourners evangelistic framework. Here’s what we did…nothing rocket science here.
We announced it at our Fall Retreat three days prior and cast some vision of pockets of students around the city meeting up to engage in the content. This seemed to be a great launching pad for this type of thing.
I set up an info page on our website. Really basic…not very pretty. The idea is that they would watch the live feed, engage in comments on our Facebook page while watching, then fill out a google form indicating five people they were going to begin to pray for and their step of faith to initiate two spiritual conversations in the next two weeks.
The event was held at 8 pm on a Tuesday night via a Google+ hangout on air. This technology is free. It provides the opportunity for 10 screens to be in the “room” and then broadcasts to an unlimited number of viewers.
General feedback was really positive. Numerous students asking us to do training like this in the future. We had three groups of students watching at three different campuses, plus a handful of random people watching from various locations. One group bought pizza and another projected it up on a screen. It would have been really difficult to get all of those students in one place.
Interaction online was positive and lively. It was unintentionally visionary for students to hear comments and questions from other campuses. 280 people saw the Facebook post with the link to the feed and the post had 53 comments over the course of the hour.
Only about a third of the students who watch filled out the google form. I’m not sure if this really matters at not, because almost everyone who watched is in a discipleship relationship that will check in with them on the content.
I don’t think I’d do this format weekly. It worked well coming after our Fall Retreat…high momentum. I think it could work for various content, like the Spirit Filled life, how to lead a small group, etc.
The technology seemed to work well, although it’s seems as if navigating Google+ hangouts is the most unintuitive process ever. The nice thing is that the broadcast is automatically recorded and posted to your youtube account.
I could imagine a day when we have an online ministry equipping course very similar to the format Google provides for Google analytics.
If I was gathering a group of college ministry practitioners (Cru particularly) who minister primarily in the city, here are some of the resources I might look at and some of the themes I might discuss.
(I believe college ministry must be connected to a greater understanding of God’s heart for the city, for our own benefit and for the benefit of students we work with)
College Ministry Case Studies
Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis – These 3 case studies give a great view of the spectrum of urban college ministry strategies tweaked to fit the identity of their city.
Questions to answer
There is no perfect ministry structure that will fit all of our cities, and yet there are things that we want to be true everywhere. How do we manage the tension of building campus ministries with our unique DNA but with a posture of contextualizing in our city? How do we get better at this?
What does discipleship/spiritual multiplication look like in an urban context with it’s unique characteristics (church involvement, geography barriers, consumerism, general distractions, etc.)? How do we become experts at raising up the next generation of spiritual leaders in a city?
The scope is so large, how do we help our city teams define scope better? There is so much we could do, how do we know what to say no to?
What are the things that have helped our city staff flourish? How do we make it easier for staff to make the jump to ministering in a city?
That is a brief brainstorm. Any other things you’d cover if you had 30 leaders in a room for a couple of days?
Great video describing Cru’s efforts (beyond students) in cities. This video highlights the strategy of ‘gates’ which have historical significance in ancient cities. They are the entry points into the city. The only change I might make is to make college students a gate (at least in Portland). What do you think?
Montreal (just for kicks to get a Canadian perspective)
I learned a ton from interacting with the various leaders within these Cru movements during these interviews. Generally speaking I’m encouraged by the leadership of these cities and what they’re trusting the Lord for. They are stepping into uncharted territory in the midst of an ever changing culture. The sheer scope of what these leaders are going after is mindboggling. Think about it…the seven cities I looked at represent more than 3 million students. 3 MILLION!
We have a long way to go in seeing all the various ministries of Cru flourish in cities, but I’m happy to report that we’re engaging in the conversation about cities and there are great pioneers leading the way.
The biggest lesson I learned is that each city is unique and thus will have a unique ministry structure and ministry flavor. Each city’s geography varies (Boston is 59 sq. miles and LA is 500 square miles). Each city has unique cultures, types of schools and number of schools. We can not expect to design a perfect Cru structure and then franchise it throughout the largest metro areas of the world. The leaders who are seeing the most growth in their ministries have become students of the city they’re in and and have formed the ministry to fit their city.
I tried to summarize a number of takeaways below. These are not the last word on cities, but these things resonated with me in my context of Portland, Oregon.
Here are a few things that are contributing to the depth and breadth of ministry in cities that we could try:
Developing Spiritual multipliers. I love Chicago’s commitment to developing spiritual multipliers, and I love Boston’s commitment to developing teams of spiritual multipliers. Both have committed to becoming experts at raising up the next generation of spiritual leaders.
Target Areas. Many teams bring laser focus to target areas for their staff. This helps when the scope is so large and everywhere you look there is work to be done. Help your team know when to say no to ministry opportunities.
Helping students reach their 20. In Chicago, students are challenged to keep track of 20 friends, family or classmates that they are intentionally engaging with the gospel. Staff often help students reach out to their 20, which gives the students training in evangelism principles that will hopefully last a lifetime.
“Staff coached and student led”. With a gigantic scope comes the reality that staff can’t do it all. I like how St. Louis values their student leaders with the utmost respect. The student leaders know they are responsible for the movements they are leading.
Excellence in ministry training. Almost everyone has a significant value of training their staff and students in evangelism and discipleship. These teams are not afraid to challenge their students to learn to be confident and competent at various ministry skills.
Sharp communication. There is so much noise in cities that how we communicate matters. Being able to communicate about why students should be involved with us in a way that cuts through the noise is vital.
Help your staff team flourish. Making your staff team a place where staff can develop and flourish is of the utmost importance. Also, multiple teams talked about making sure every staff person has responsibility on a campus that has a significant campus movement already. This is where they can get practical discipleship and evangelism experience.
But after all those helpful things isn’t it just like me to remind us that there are often more questions than answers. We still have a long way to go in our understanding of college ministry in metro environments….
Here are some things we (Cru) still have questions about in regards to cities:
The complexity of having multiple teams who share the same geographic scope, but who do not share the same leadership is confusing for many people. This is true especially amongst Ethnic Field Ministry (EFM) teams and Campus Field Ministry (CFM), but also a topic when you have multiple hub teams in a city or have an international student ministry. How do you manage the tension of unity and diversity of those teams for the good of the city?
Having our EFM teams be a part of the conversation about Cru in cities. Ethnic minority students are increasingly within our metro areas. We need better collaboration between EFM and CFM when we talk about how to tackle our cities.
Ministry in Community. I was challenged by Bostons thoughts on the value of community. They expect evangelism and discipleship to happen in the context of community, where people are fully known. When students who don’t know Christ see Christians living in transformational community it’s a powerful apologetic for the gospel. We need to develop this thought more in the context of the evangelism and discipleship of our post-christian metro ministries.
City life for staff. The cost, the traffic, the unknown, the overwhelming number of schools! All of those things came up as a barrier to helping Cru staff live in cities. It was mentioned a number of times how having a stable base of senior staff helped their movements grow over time. Having staff who have tackled the learning curve of living in a city and still have the capacity to serve is a big deal. There are numerous questions about making it easier for a new staff person to jump from a traditional college town to ministry to a city.
Student availability. Across the board the lack of availability of students was an issue. Whether they’re working or locked away in their highly fortified dorm, it is harder and harder to get access to students in cities. We need creative thinking to engage the next generation of freshmen in cities.
Is there anything else you found helpful from the series. Any other questions you have concerning Cru in cities? What are you doing in your city?
This is part of a series: Learning from large Metro/City Cru Movements. Read the series intro here. These are notes from my interview of Andy Smits who helps lead the campus team in Montreal.
Montreal Metro – 3.8 million people, 260 thousand students.
Overview of Cru (Power to Change) presence: Although not the largest Cru presence in cities I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone who has launched a ministry in an urban and very secular context in the last 10 years. Plus Andy and I are basically neighbors this summer.
3 campus teams in the city: French universities, English universities and CEGEPS (university prep campuses).
About 180 students involved. Largest movement about 50 students. Currently on 4 university campuses and 3 CEGEPS.
Very post-modern environment and students are often angry at the church. Catholic roots but only .5% evangelical.
Have downtown urban campuses and traditional campuses farther out.
History of movement:
Nothing until 9 years ago. 4 of us launched the team.
Launched on two campuses the first year (traditional campuses).
What has contributed to growth?
Helping students to engage their peers with the gospel, rather than just hit and run evangelism. Working to provide training based on that principle.
Getting sharp staff on our team that love the city.
What does evangelism look like?
A lot of the believing students involved have had door to door type evangelism experience growing up. We try and teach them to engage their peers in a way that’s helpful.
Increasingly trying to build in 1st and 2nd contact events into our ministry and hold them at equal value.
Have a place where people that are investigating can plug in.
Cegeps are a unique schools, kind of in between high school and college experience. This is where students have their freshman experience and we’ve begun to target these specifically.
Structure of Cru (Power to Change) presence:
Each of our 3 campus teams have 5-7 people on it, including a leader.
We do a lot of interaction between campuses along language lines. I,e. we have a French and English fall retreat.
We have a centrally located office that is a great home base for our staff. Staff from all the teams see each other often.
Weekly citywide staff prayer out of the office regularly. We share stories and prayers that reinforce our vision.
Teams have their own weekly staff meetings.
Once a month a citywide social event.
How do staff spend their time?
On the French schools staff spend most of their time engaging the lost and bringing believing students along with them.
English ministries are more developed so staff do more coordination of events and discipleship.
Team leaders try their best to give lift to the work of staff and students: provide leadership, vision, direction.
Team leaders also try to do a lot of ministry with their staff to foster development.
We’ve mandated that all staff live within two metro stops of each other. Proximity to each other has really helped with adjusting to life in a city.
Most students in our downtown schools had a life outside of school already. We had to work really hard at clarifying the value of getting involved in Cru. For them to get involved we (staff and involved students) needed to be able to clearly communicate why they should get involved. “We can help you learn how to engage your peers with the message of Jesus”.
We cannot get away with a sort of looseness in how we communicate about our ministry. Everything has to be razor sharp. Our staff and hopefully student leaders have to be able to communicate why students should get involved.
It’s been really helpful to challenge students to time activated things. Come be involved in this 5 week study!
Recently we surveyed a bunch of incoming freshman and gave them an option of volunteering at a homeless shelter. This was well received.
Some of the most difficult things about our context are that parachurch organizations aren’t well received by the local church and often students have a tainted view from their church experience. Church partnerships are limited…we need to figure this out.
We don’t do anything intentional over the summer except host a summer project. We found that a good summer project is more valuable than trying to limp something along in the summertime.