Afraid in Public

This is the eleventh post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff

Fear is a frequent companion in ministry.

We fear rejection.
We fear failure.
We fear persecution.
We fear shame.

And when we're afraid, we often hide. We hide by not doing. We hide by putting on masks. We hide in busyness and laziness and hyper-spirituality. In this, InterVarsity Staff are exactly like everyone else.

One of the most difficult tasks of a minister is to be afraid in public.

Today, our ONS group worked on an evangelism project. We learned how to use a new tool, thought about God's role in evangelism, and actually went out and talked to people about Jesus.

That's right, we actually went out and talked to strangers.

I was terrified.

I don't feel comfortable talking to strangers at parties, much less on the streets of mid-sized, Midwestern Madison. My mother taught me not to talk to strangers (unless they said our secret password ... which was "jellybean").

On top of this, I found myself paired up with a friend, who is a new Staffworker in my Region. What would she think of my fear?

I considered backing out, pairing her up with someone else and spending the afternoon just praying for our Staff as they went out and talked to people.

I considered faking a false confidence, putting on a character and detaching myself from the real people we were meeting. A salesman, a clown.

I considered pretending to be sick, claiming to have too much work to do, walking and talking very very very slowly.

At the end of the day, today, I managed to share my fear, to move forward in the face of fear, to be afraid in public.

I think it helped my friend.
I think it helped the people we talked to.
I know it helped me.

What do you think would happen if more ministers felt more comfortable to authentically share their fear?

The Multi-Ethnic Journey is not Optional

This is the tenth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff 

Paula Fuller addressed the ONS class this morning.

She talked about our value for evangelism and encouraged us to celebrate the thousands of students who have started following Christ over the last several years, a number that grows larger and larger with each year.

She talked about our value for planting and building ministry in every corner of campus, working with athletes and arts students, Greeks and ... well ... students from Greece.

She talked about multi-ethnicity.

Talking about multi-ethnicity is a tricky thing. Some hear it and feel like we're trying to be PC. Some hear it and feel shame and guilt. Some hear it and feel frustration that everybody doesn't already know this already.

But mostly, some hear talk of multi-ethnicity and feel that this is an optional value.

We would never say this about evangelism. Or about growth.

Why does multi-ethnicity feel optional?

For many of us, we didn't grow up hearing about multi-ethnicity as a biblical value. We would be hard-pressed to point to a passage that speak directly to God's perspective on ethnicity. And if we don't see that ethnicity matters to God, why should it matter to us?

Here's an video conversation our new Staff engaged today, showing some of God's value for ethnicity and how this influences our ministries ...

Ethnicity Matters from InterVarsity twentyonehundred on Vimeo.

Give Rest, Teach Rest

This is the ninth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff 

Today is the Sabbath day for our New Staff.

Giving our Staff a day off in the middle of ONS is an incredible thing.

We fly them in from all across the country. We only have a limited amount of time to equip them for the rigors of ministry on campus and in God's kingdom. Every minute counts.

On top of this, every minute costs. Every day these Staff are at ONS costs money. Housing and food. Salary. When you're talking about 160 people, these charges add up.

Rest is inefficient.

I thought, for a minute, what if they just shortened ONS? What if we were only here for 9 days, instead of 10? What if we just powered through and made it work?

Rest feels like weakness.

Immediately, the practical implications of cutting the Sabbath jumped out at me. Staff would be too tired to get all the content. Staff would start pulling away from each other relationally. We would have to take it easier on the other 9 days. It would take Staff longer to recover after the ONS experience and get back to fund development and ministry on campus, delaying application and diminishing the impact of the training.

Rest is starting to look better and better.

And then I thought of one more reason to keep the Sabbath day. Sabbath is a gift from God, a gift infrequently unwrapped in the world of American ministry. We have a habit of harvesting our fields all the way to the edges.

Student work is never done. Fund development is never done. You could always do more. By taking a day off, here in the middle, before the work is done, we're teaching these young Staff how to live with that tension.

Last night, as I was sending my Small Group off for the Sabbath, I remembered the words from this Psalm:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
The builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
The watchmen stand guard in vain.
In vain you rise up early and stay up late,
Toiling for food to eat,
For the Lord gives rest to those he loves.

Intentionality is Love

This is the eighth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff 

How do you express love?

Spontaneous acts of brilliant thoughtfulness ... that can be love.

But intentionality can also be love.

Taking the time to think through an approach
Taking the time to plan out your words
Taking the time to anticipate questions
Taking the time to lay the groundwork for a response


It looks like love in fund development.
It looks like love in evangelism.
It looks like love in preaching.

Why does intentionality get such a bad rap?

Not Going to Make it Without a Church

 This is the seventh post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff  

We spent some time this morning talking about church partnerships.

Partnerships should be two way.
Look for common priorities.
Go beyond finances.

These nuggets of wisdom will be really helpful for our new Staff.

But one idea really jumped out to me ...

Almost as an aside, Tony Gatewood commented:
"You will not survive in ministry without the church."

In a room full of young, apostolic leaders, it can be tempting to score points with the crowd at the expense of churches ... we exist because churches aren't doing what they're supposed to do ... that kind of thing.

But we don't do that. At least, not when we're at our best.

We love our churches. And we need our churches.

Our churches take care of us. They nourish us spiritually. They develop us along our journey with Jesus. They hone and sharpen our theology. They walk with us through emotional ups and downs.

But there's more.

Partnership with churches is necessary for our mission. Churches have resources we need: people and money and expertise. Churches are the source of many of our best leaders and the optimal destination for all of our alumni. Churches reach farther and deeper into the world than we ever can, for longer than we ever will.

I've never met someone who's ministered to students long-term without a deep relationship with a church. And I don't ever expect to.

If our Staff ignore their churches, they won't survive in ministry.

Cultural Adjustment Map Applied to Fund Development

This is the sixth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff  

Tony Gatewood, a chapter planter from Iowa, gave a great challenge to our new Staff today.

"Step out of your comfort zones"

And one way he challenged them to step out was to apply their cross-cultural ministry skills to their practice of fund development.

Our students get trained in cross-cultural ministry. Missions, evangelism ... heck ... life in ivory towers requires a great deal of cross-cultural competency. So we train and train and train.

One of the main tools we use is shown in the picture below:

The famous Cultural Adjustment Map
This tool is called the "Cultural Adjustment Map." People often refer to it as the entry-posture diagram because it show how your "entry-posture" to a cross-cultural situation deeply influences your results.

Come into a situation that causes you to experience dissonance and crisis and the way you respond will reflect the set of assumptions you bring to the experience.

Start with trust and crises will produce empathy.
Start with suspicion and crises will produce isolation.

We can't always control how we enter situations. Some of us come from justifiably suspicious backgrounds. But what little God does put under our control can make a big difference.

One example that was mentioned today ...

Imagine the "crisis" of presenting your ministry to a potential donor and having them immediately start talking about another ministry that does work similar to yours. If you enter the situation with trust and openness, you can see this as an opportunity to connect more deeply with the potential donor, as a way they're trying to connect with you. If you enter the situation with fear or superiority, however, you might walk away discouraged or start speaking poorly about that other ministry (which never helps anyone).

Just as fund development sharpens our skill for ministry, the ministry training we've already received can help us with our ministry of fund development. We just need to look for it.

Have you ever experienced a time when you saw that your approach impacted your response to a crisis?

4 Benefits of Fund Development

This is the fifth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff 

Last night, Donna Wilson shared four significant benefits of fund development

Fund development grows ministry resources

This is the "No, duh" benefit, but it's important to mention. We need resources for our ministry: money, volunteers, in-kind gifts. And this is what we usually think of when we talk about fund development.

Sometimes, campus ministry Staff will ignore this benefit, pretending that things like money don't matter. But people see through this inauthenticity. We do fund development because we need resources for the ministry. Let's not shy away from it.

Fund development grows ministry skills

What does it take to be a good campus minister?

Boldness, risk-taking, hospitality, time management, prayer, communication skills, resilience, creativity, dependence on Jesus. These are some of the things my Small Group came up with.

And these skills all show up in our fund development. Grow in your capacity for fund development and you'll grow in your capacity for great ministry. It won't give you everything you need. But it will help.

Fund development grows God's kingdom

You never know how God will use your work of fund development.

Last night, we heard stories of donors who grew closer to God as they gave. Donors benefited from being part of a ministry community. People experienced healing, restoration and fresh vision for God's work.

We should expect those who support our work to experience more and more of God's kingdom as they partner with us in ministry.

Fund development grows us spiritually

Donna described the work of fund development as a tornado that whirls its way through our spiritual lives, kicking up all the dirt and grit that's been hiding. Tolkien might call it a eucatastrophe, a crazy but good narrative plot that changes the direction of the story.

The crisis of fund development forces us to depend on God. It forces us to work through our issues. It grows our faith and grows our relationships.

Fund development is good for us.

How do you think this view of fund development would change the way we approach this part of our ministry?

Love the Pond

This is the fourth post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff

During his vision talk this morning, InterVarsity President Alec Hill shared one of our core metaphors.

This metaphor tells you almost everything you need to know about what makes us distinct as a campus ministry.

God calls his disciples to be fishers of people. And we work with students.

So in the metaphor, our students are like fish. This makes the university the pond.

Some look at the pond and see something scummy and slimy, a dark or dangerous place. They love the fish and try to get them out of the pond.

But we don't just love the fish. We love the pond.

We care about the ecology of the pond. We want the water to be clean and clear, healthy and whole. We want the rocks and plants and birds and ... yes ... even the fish to live in harmony with each other. The ecosystem matters to us.

As Alec said today: "We are both para-church and para-university."

The university is our home. We care about the academy. We thrive on college campuses.

We love the pond.

Getting in Sync

This is the third post in my series reflecting on ONS. For more posts in this series, check the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff.

I've learned something recently about Latino leadership.

Latino teams function best when everyone is in sync.

On my LaFe teams, we'll spend a good portion of our meetings catching up, listening to each other, just spending time together.

From the outside, this may look inefficient, like wasted time. But once we're all in sync, we work phenomenally well together.

Why is this? (and what does it have to do with ONS)

Latino culture is a highly communal culture. We pick up on what other people are feeling and thinking. We listen. We share. And that's the environment where we're most comfortable: where everyone speaks their mind and everyone listens.

But creating this environment requires a lot of trust. To enable honest sharing, it's very important for Latinos to have confidence that, if they share, they will be heard and will be shown respect.

Building trust takes time. By listening to what's going on in your life, I communicate that you can trust me to listen when our conversation shifts to work and you're sharing your mind.

The process of syncing up provides the foundation for great teamwork.

That's why we had such a long Small Group time at ONS last night. There are 8 of us in our Small Group and 5 of us have some sort of Latino ethnic background. We're going to cover a lot of ground during our 10 days together. We need to be in sync.

Have you ever experienced a long syncing up process on a team? How did it feel? Do you think it helped or hurt your team dynamic?

New Staff, You Belong

This is the second post reflecting on our experience at ONS. For more posts in this series, check out the series frontpage: InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff

127 new Staff. Gathered from around the country. Nervous. Excited.

What would we choose for our first words to you, new Staff?

Would we cast a vision of where we'd like to see InterVarsity grow?
Would we remind you of the tremendous need on campus?
Would we celebrate the wonderful things God has been done through us?
Would we dive right into training, sharing and teaching our useful ministry tools?

We will do all these things over the course of our 10 days together.

But, tonight, we want to focus on something very simple.

New Staff, you belong. 

You belong in our community.
You belong on your campuses.
You belong in ministry.
You belong to Jesus.

You don't have to earn anything.
You don't have to prove anything.
You don't have to work for anything.
You already belong.

Staff life can be difficult.
Staff training can be exhausting.
Staff work is a calling from Jesus.

If you don't already know that you belong, you'll miss so much of what God has for you over the next 10 days. In our hugs and food and smiles and Small Group time, dear Staff, please hear from us that you belong.

We are so glad you're here.

Series: Orientation for New Staff

Amy and I (and Will) are up in Madison, WI this week for InterVarsity's Orientation for New Staff.

This year, we're training 127 new Staff from around the country.
[For more on this year's class, check out this infographic]

Amy and I will be leading a Small Group at ONS, shepherding a group of 8 Staff through our week together. I'll also be contributing some insight into the Latino fund development section, the Latino church partnership section and the social media section (as well as helping out with LaFe fellowship times and the multi-racial Staff lunch).

I went through ONS as a new Staff 7 years ago.

I remember feeling really nervous about the fund development and evangelism components. We were going to call potential donors and talk to people on the street about Jesus. I'm not sure which adventure made me feel more nervous.

ONS is also where I first connected with InterVarsity's LaFe (Latino Fellowship). Orlando Crespo invited me to a gathering of new Staff and, even though I didn't think I was Latino enough to participate, I went. My life, marriage and ministry have been deeply impacted by that decision. I'm so grateful for that connection.

Over the next 10 days, I'll be posting short reflections on our time together.

If you subscribe to YoSteve via blog reader or e-mail, I hope you enjoy the semi-real-time updates from my experience at ONS. And I apologize if I flood your inbox.

I'll be posting links and short summaries of my posts here, if you want to check back ...
[this is the same style of posting I did during the last Urbana]

New Staff, You Belong

If I could write a letter to new Staff as they start ONS, this is what I might say.

Getting in Sync

Small Group, community and one gift of Latino leadership

Love the Pond

Our core metaphor for campus renewal

4 Benefits of Fund Development

God uses fund development for us, in us, for his kingdom and for our good.

The Cultural Adjustment Map Applied to Fund Development

Your on-campus ministry training can bless your fund development

Not Going to Make it Without a Church

We desperately need church partnership

Intentionality is Love

Take the time to show you care

Giving Rest, Teaching Rest

We rest because God is at work

The Multi-ethnic Journey is not Optional

We wrestle with this together because it matters to God

Afraid in Public

What happens if you choose not to hide from fear? What happens if you choose not to hide your fear from others?

Drawing Your Way to Effective Ministry Strategy

This is the final post in a Short Series: Drawing in Ministry

A whiteboard is a portal to a better future.

When you gather your team around a whiteboard and grab a handful of markers, you're beginning a powerful process. Strategy sessions can shape organizations, ministries, even cities.

Yet they often fall flat. The conversation solves nothing and only generates lists. Members of your team disengage out of boredom or frustration. Opportunities slip off into the night.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

I've noticed that drawing - the simple act of shifting from word and lists to word-pictures - has had a huge impact for my teams.

Here's what drawing can do for your strategy development ...

Focuses the conversation

If you have a busy and active ministry or business, I'm sure you can find a dozen topics to talk about in a strategy session. Kicking ideas around. Brainstorming. I love doing these things. But they can pull a team off topic.

One of the major reasons people hate developing ministry or business strategy is because you have a lot of conversations that lead to very little action. Talk and talk. You get out the ingredients to make a dozen meals, but don't put anything into the oven.

Drawing pictures provides a visual focus for the conversation. The whiteboard becomes an anchor. If the conversation starts to drift, a squiggly line or a circle or a question mark can bring it right back.

Pictures are also a little more concrete than conversation. Pushing your team to draw problems and solutions forces them to be more descriptive, more in depth, more creative.

[For an illustration of this, check out my post from last week: A Simple, Sample Strategy Session]

Includes the whole team

Anyone can grab a marker.  And this is a wonderful thing. Strategy sessions shouldn't have spectators. We want everyone engaged.

Participation can be free flowing, various members jump up and draw as ideas come to them and as the conversation rolls around. This works great on creative teams.

But participation can also be solicited.
  • How should we draw X? 
  • Mark where on the graph you'd place yourself.
  • Grab a marker and rank our options
Provides deeper insight

This is something we all need. Deeper insight. Into our problems. Into our options. Into our pathways forward.

Drawing gives you visual markers to see where your conversation has gone (and where it hasn't). Drawing helps you explore multiple lines of action at once (like in the strategy session and the Mega versus Missional conversation). Drawing can also help you choose the right next step (as Andy Stanley said "A good step is easy, obvious and strategic).

What's keeping you from drawing in your strategy sessions?

A Simple, Sample Strategy Session

Here is what happened when I grabbed a whiteboard, some markers and my excellent leadership team from Florida International University - Biscayne Bay Campus ...

How do we grow our ministry on campus?

These represent two options going forward: a missional discipleship model and an attractional large-scale model. In the missional discipleship model, leaders pass on what they've learned to folks who can lead others also. In the attractional large-scale model, the professional leader teaches a large group of people and hopes that one of them becomes a professional leader some day. Both models are good!

How do we decide which model to use? Look at the problem. We have 4 current leaders. We're on a campus of 10,000 students. We want everyone to have a chance to connect with Jesus.

How would the missional model do in our pursuit of our goal? The leader who multiplies multiplies according to this formula: x + 2x. That is, if we have 4 leaders and each mentors 2 people, we will have 12 students involved. If they then become mentors, the group will grow: first to 36, then to 108, then to 324 and so on.

How does this map over time? A new student this Fall who gets involved in a chapter that uses a missional discipleship model could see the chapter grow from 12 to 26,244 before they graduate (if the system works perfectly). We know this is a fantasy situation.

But what about the attractional large-scale model? There are some mega ministries in our area that have 200 and even 300 students involved. They look very successful and are making a huge contributions to God's kingdom. Why shouldn't we do what they're doing. The answer: scale.

So, we give up on the megachurch model. It's great, but not for us.

So, how do we do it? How do we disciple and mentor people?

Here's one model: care, train, coach.
And that, friends, was a great strategy session!

Reading List: March, April and May

Here's what I've been reading recently, summed up in 140 characters or less.

On the Priesthood by John Chrysostom

This early church father makes withering observations about the trials of the priesthood even while commending it. So well written.

"All's Well the Ends Well" by William Shakespeare

"A good wife, who can find?" says the Proverb. This is a story about a good wife who keeps on finding her man, who doesn't appreciate her.

The Road to Missional by Michael Frost

I rarely read book-length rants nowadays. This was an exception. Funny. Authoritative. Frost motivates us to keep moving toward "missional."

Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers

Pornography has a significant effect on the male brain. Struthers explains the science behind what happens and what we can do about it.

Singles at the Crossroads by Al Hsu

Not a book on dating. Best book on singleness I've ever read. Theological, insightful and practical.

Mealtime Habits of the Messiah by Conrad Gempf

40 vignettes on the life of Jesus. Professor Gempf approaches the Bible from wonderful and unique angles, really bringing him to life.

Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels

We all experience barriers to prayer. Hybels chooses two or three and demolishes them: why pray, getting started, keeping it going

Matthew by Stanley Hauerwas

A gritty, academic, poetic, neo-Mennonite commentary. Hauerwas writes like a Church Father born into a family of Texas bricklayers.

The Republic by Plato

Pure classical philosophy. featuring Utopian social constructions, rich metaphors and the definitive example of the Socratic method.

Books I'm currently reading:

A Call to Spiritual Reformation by DA Carson
The Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch
You Lost Me by David Kinnaman
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
The Consolation of Philosophy Boethius

What have you been reading?

Drawing Your Way to High-Impact Training

This post is the fourth post in a five part series. For more posts on this theme, check out Short Series: Drawing in Ministry

Can you teach people to do what you do?

I struggle with this so deeply. So much of what I do is intuitive. I stumble as I try to transfer my skills to others. And so I've had a lot to learn.

The practice of drawing has helped me recently. It forces me to focus my training, helps the people I'm training understand the concepts and ... if that wasn't enough ... drawing makes it possible for the people I train to train others.

Mentoring Training
Here's a diagram I use for Mentoring Training

Here's how it works ...


Do you always have too much material? For us Learners, our horizons keep on expanding and this makes it tough to know what to pass along. Much of ministry is intuitive. We've synthesized concepts from a bunch of places and lose track of where the ideas came from. This is a recipe for confusion.

The process of choosing illustrations forces me to focus. Drawing a picture serves as an anchor. The drawing grabs hold a solid, stable place and helps me train one thing well (rather than 100 things poorly).

And if you can't communicate your concept in a picture, it might be too fuzzy.

Choose a few images, no more than 3 or 4.
Choose images that focus the conversation.
Choose images that you can draw quickly and confidently.


The trainer's best insights often fall on deaf ears. People nod and smile and forget. Some even take notes before they forget.

Don't take it personally. But don't ignore it.

Drawing pictures is one way to work around the deaf ears. Drawing pictures engages the eyes. And for those who take notes, drawing pictures in their journals or notebooks engages their imagination.

Images will help with memory ... sure. But it goes deeper than that. Verbal training is great for teaching scripts. But if your training requires people to adapt, problem solve or think with any complexity're going to need a bigger boat. The translation from words to images stands as a solid symbol for the bigger work of translating from the training space to the real world.

Choose images that you can draw while talking.
Choose images that they can draw while listening.
Choose images that spark some imagination.


I love it when the people I train can pass the training on.

Drawing pictures makes this possible. A training element that is simple and understood (concentrated and comprehended) can be transmitted again and again. Your anchors become buoys that people can return to time and time again. 

Think about the example of evangelistic diagrams from a few posts back. I was taught these diagrams years ago. And I teach them to my students. They are easy to transfer. I was taught lots of other ways of talking about the gospel (the Romans' Road, for example), but the pictures are just easier to remember, easier to use, easier to learn and easier to teach.

Choose images that are easy to remember.
Choose images that are easy to draw.
Choose images that clearly connect with the core concepts.

Have you ever tried using pictures to increase the impact of your training?