Oct 19, 2015


Can your ministry reach other campuses?

Steven Crawford of The Navigators at USC writes about how their ministry became a hub for reaching other campuses.

We weren’t ready.

We needed a more established ministry. It was too soon. Our campus was special—it required a lot of staff. We were barely getting everything done as it was! We needed more staff, more student leaders, more time, more money, more resources.

This what I told myself when I was first challenged to use the campus ministry I was pioneering as a hub to reach other campuses. The structures I was used to implementing were pretty top-heavy and required a lot of investment from me and my staff team. I had spent two years of 50-60 hours a week just planting the ministry I was running!

But the idea stuck in my mind and I started to pray. I read through the book of Acts and was struck by how quickly Paul planted his churches—sometimes in as little as a few weeks or months. As I prayed, the Lord began to make it clear. There were hundreds of thousands of college students in Los Angeles. They are beset by cults and false religions and the empty promises of wealth and materialism. The need was there! I needed to figure out how to reach these students! I started to pray “Lord, send out laborers into your harvest field everywhere in this city!”

The Lord had called me to multicampus ministry. Is he calling you? Is your vision bigger than your campus? Will you pray about where God might be calling you to go? Let me tell you what I have learned along the way.
Pray and survey the land

I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do or where to go. One day a week? It was impossible! And I was right. But our God is the God of the impossible. So I started to pray.

  1. Start praying and fasting and getting a team of prayer supporters behind any launch that you want to do. Pray daily in the months leading up to the launch.
  2. Figure out as much as you can about the campus. Meeting with another ministry leader at the campus is usually helpful. Walk into the student affairs office and introduce yourself.
  3. Questions to ask:
    1. What sort of presence can I have without being recognized?
    2. Where do the students congregate? Where do they hang out?
    3. What times and nights are good for meetings?
    4. What is the relationship between the religious clubs and the administration like?
    5. Any mistakes to avoid?
    6. Don’t be frightened by the giants! During the survey, the campus may seem intimidating or difficult. Sometimes other ministries have had difficulty getting traction. Don’t let this alarm you! God is BIGGER!

Be willing to keep looking until you find the leaders

The first few students that came around fulfilled the main criteria I had—that they be breathing and willing to talk to me. But as I tried to invest in and develop leaders, I couldn’t get any momentum! If I was there only one day a week, I needed to find students that needed a little bit of vision and someone to get the ball rolling.

  1. The pioneering model here is Paul, who went first into the synagogues. These people already were prepared to receive Christ and expand the kingdom in their city. They needed to hear the vision and be empowered. This is how Paul was able to launch churches after only spending a few weeks/months in locations. He quickly empowered leadership teams.
  2. In your promotion and recruitment you need to be upfront about what you are looking for. “Interested in starting a gospel movement?” is better than “Interested in joining a fellowship?”
  3. Commit to looking for a team of leaders until you find it. Don’t have the mentality of “let’s see who shows up and go from there.” Don’t spend a lot of time in one-on-ones at first. This may go against a lot of Navigator training, but it is right in line with the principle of selection.
  4. Keep the recruitment mindset going until you have a team of committed people. Be empowering them quickly. “What do you guys want to see God do through YOU?”
  5. Never empower just one person. Make sure the power is shared by the team and that multiple people are involved with decisions.

It takes money

I didn’t make a banner because I felt silly making a banner before I had any students around. My flyers were printed out day off at Office Depot. I wanted a satellite but I didn’t really want to invest in it because I didn’t want to look silly if it failed.

Half-hearted launches are unsuccessful launches. Commit to a launch in every way—spiritually, physically, and financially. Have attractive looking flyers. Have a nice banner. Bring food to your first few meetings.
Donors love to give to launches and new ventures. It is more exciting to help launch a brand new campus ministry than to our 7th annual T-shirt giveaway.

Be bold and think big

It seems like every year, every semester even, I needed to remind myself of what God is capable of. It was so easy and so tempting to think small! What could God really do with just a few hours a week? Small vision means the structures I am building are small and I am reproducing people who think small.

  1. What do you want to happen at your new satellite? A small little Bible study? A couple additional bodies at your fall retreat? The ability to say “I have a satellite?” Or do you want a multiplying Holy Spirit-empowered evangelistic ministry that is reaching thousands?
  2. Cast a big vision with the students. Put into place structures that have multiplying potential. Pray for the Holy Spirit to blow! Set high expectations for you student leaders! Trust that the Lord can do more than you would expect!
  3. Think from the very beginning about how it will grow. Train your leadership team from the beginning with what they will need in order to see it grow.

If possible find local partners

Students with the right vision have powered movements of the gospel for the last 2,000 years. But even the most zealous among them needs wisdom and experience. They need help with money and dating and character; things that can be hard to develop from a distance. It started with connecting students to trusted churches. I am praying that our partnerships will expand.

  1. The best option here is a mid-sized local church. Larger churches will not need you and will probably see themselves as doing you a favor, if they bother to think about you at all. Another option is local families with Nav background.
  2. You will need local partners that are ok with you setting the vision of the ministry and are willing to come alongside and provide local connections. The wrong kind of local partners, however, are MORE harmful than not having local partners.

Get out of the way but stay connected

I will be honest, we have gotten to what I would think of as a mature satellite. So some of this is me looking ahead. But I know that for some reason satellite campuses attract cults and false teachers in unusual numbers. We need to launch students but not abandon them.

  • If the students remain dependent on staff, the satellite will never launch. If nothing happens unless you are there, your strategy needs to be adjusted because you are now a bottleneck! Perhaps you need to keep looking for new leaders. Perhaps you need to ask your leaders to step up.
  • Perhaps you need to empower them. But somehow, you need to be moving yourself out of the way.
  • You need to stay connected so that:
    • You can continue to cast an outward focused vision (entirely student-run ministries tend to gradually lose an outward focus)
    • You can be on guard for false doctrine and wolves
  • The ideal satellite is a 4-hour a week commitment, including travel time! Estimate an hour for travel time and three hours with the student leadership team or with a key leader.

Where do I see this going? I am asking the Lord for more. He knows every college student in Los Angeles! How can they hear unless someone is sent to them? O Lord, send forth the laborers!

about the author

Steven Crawford

Steven Crawford works with the Navigators at USC and several others campuses in the Los Angeles area. He is hoping to see God plant many more student-led ministries throughout Southern California.