Return to filtered list

Sending leaders creates more leaders

January 22, 2017

Recently my bosses came into town for a campus visit. As we gathered, my team shared what God is doing. They also shared with us their needs, their desires, and their pursuits.

Our staff team is made up of four independent, contextualized teams (see this excellent video from Intervarsity on contextualized movements).

So on our team of nine people, we actually have four smaller teams:

  • Three Campus Field Ministry (CFM) staff – focused on the general population at the University of Arkansas
  • Three Athletes in Action (AIA) staff – focused on athletes
  • Two Bridges staff – focused on international students
  • One Impact staff – focused on students of African descent

The AIA, Bridges and Impact staff are Cru staff, but they focus on athlete, international, and African-American students full-time. They don’t come to our weekly meeting or fall retreat. They don’t do anything that doesn’t help them reach their respective groups.

Even though we have a good size team overall, every individual team feels small. And they acutely feel the need for more laborers.

In some ways, that’s really good. We only change when our current reality is painful enough to make us do the hard work required to change.

As they shared what they are doing to raise up new laborers, it hit me—it’s not up to me (as the team leader) to raise up an AIA female staff. Or an Impact staff or a Bridges staff. They’re doing it.

They’re flying people in for vision trips. Not me. They’re taking key volunteers out to dinner, challenging them to join Impact staff. I didn’t have to ask them to do that. I didn’t even know they were doing those things! They are truly leading. And—Lord willing—laborers will be multiplied.

For Thanksgiving this year we had three separate meals that were a good snapshot of the exponential effect of multiple movements.

Instead of one big meeting or dinner where maybe 100 CFM students would’ve gathered, we had:

  • 40 international students at the Bridges dinner
  • 30 athletes at the AIA dinner
  • 60 African American students at the Impact dinner

And in CFM, 200 students gathered in Community Groups across campus for Thanksgiving parties and Bible studies. That’s just on our campus.

Across the globe in East Asia we have five students who hosted East Asian students for Thanksgiving—five sent people who are very motivated to recruit more leaders to join their team in EA.

Up until 2012, for the first 44 years of Cru at the University of Arkansas, we’ve had one team with one focus: reaching the majority culture at the University of Arkansas.

In 2012 we had our first contextualized team—Athletes in Action—and we began to reach students at two nearby campuses.

In 2016 our team spawned two more teams to focus exclusively on international students and African Americans.

Here’s how “sending out” staff to reach new areas affected our staff team. Looking at the past decade of our staff team size, there are successive waves of increasing amplitude.

The seasons of lack actually seem to cause long-term growth. Why is that?

Pastor JD Greear puts it well:

“But here’s a principle we’ve learned that sustains us when our courage flags: sending out leaders creates more leaders. What you send out inevitably comes back to you in multiplied form.”

A small team forces you to do the things you want to do anyway, such as avoiding Ken Cochrum’s Two Movement Killers:

  1. Hasty (or no) selection
  2. Staff filling their schedule with 1-1 appointments

Ken says that need is “a leadership vacuum that demands new leaders (and gives real leadership experience to many).” That has definitely been the case for us. And it has come from:

  • Sending first
  • Sending our best
  • Sending until it hurts

Four years ago we had twelve staff. Out of those twelve, we “sent” three to do Athletes in Action full-time on our campus and two began to heavily invest in launching other campuses. This meant the following year we had seven staff focused on CFM (the core movement) of the campus.

Last year we had thirteen CFM staff and four AIA staff. Out of those thirteen CFM, we sent:

  • Two to East Asia
  • Two to do Bridges full time
  • One to do Impact full time
  • One to do JESUS Film

We had several others finish their Cru internships or leave staff, which left us with three CFM staff predominantly focused on the University of Arkansas. One of those three was spending one day a week launching at a school one hour away. Another one was spending some time at a local Christian college to try to mobilize students to go to the world.

So the pattern over the last years has been:

  • Two years of plenty resulting in sending
  • A low year
  • Two years of plenty resulting in sending
  • A low year

On the CFM side, going from thirteen to three has been somewhat painful.

Three is small. I think seven might be healthier. My reason for this being that I don’t think much is gained in a staff team growing from seven to thirteen, besides a temporary bump that can be dispersed to contextualized teams.

But I think three has created space—a leadership vacuum that is sucking in new leaders.

We don’t have any women staff. It’s looking like the result will be that next year we will gain several female interns.

So sending out leaders has created space for more leaders.

But here is one major caveat: the reason we can lead a good-size CFM movement with only three staff members is that we have developed an established core of student leaders.

We have 65 students leading Bible studies. For us, a solid hub movement has been the key to spinning out laborers to launch new movements.

Bridges has successfully launched this year and has been very effective in reaching international students because we sent out two staff and four of our best student leaders from our core Cru movement.

Our core Cru movement has suffered a bit from that loss of key leaders, but others hopefully will step up to fill that gap.

For many years Jim Sautner led Destino, a ministry focused on reaching Hispanic students. Jim has built and launched many kinds of contextualized movements. His advice to me:

“You need critical mass to produce laborers and launch new movements. You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t give laborers to reach and launch if you don’t have any.”

We must build movements that plant new movements. God will bring new leaders into your ministry if you faithfully disciple and send the ones you have.