A Few God Moments at Cru19

Moby Gym at Colorado State University

In many ways, this year’s Cru staff conference was similar to previous ones. We met at Colorado State University. There were lots of people. There were lots of meetings with some great and inspiring speakers. We saw old friends and made a few new friends.

However, the things I remember most about our time at Cru19 are the ways in which God seemed to meet us right where we’re at, in our present life situation.

Bob Beaton (left), 1959 Graduate of the US Naval Academy, has worked with Midshipman at his alma mater for nearly 20 years!

Early in the conference Jen and I received a text from a person Jen works with in her side role of National Leadership Development. He wanted to connect us with a man he knew named Bob Beaton who is on staff with Cru at the Naval Academy. I texted Bob and we arranged to meet. It turns out, Bob is a 1959 graduate of the Naval Academy and after a long military career, joined Cru’s staff in 1994. In 2000, Bob started the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy and while he stepped down from leading the movement a few years ago, Bob is still active in ministering to Midshipmen (aka “Mids”) at the Yard (the US Naval Academy Campus).

Not long after that, Jen and I bumped into one of our former UC Davis students in the lobby of our hotel (one of the fun things about these conferences is running into people you haven’t connected with in a while). Her husband mentioned that they personally know the Cru Director at the Naval Academy and they introduced us to Kyle via text. Kyle and I were able to meet a few days later during an afternoon break.

After sharing introductions, I asked Kyle if he knew anything about our family. He said he only knew that we had a son who was entering the Naval Academy. I began to share a bit more, including the fact that Jacob has a twin brother, Joshua, who is at West Point.

Kyle Sponaugle (right) has been the director of the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy since 2008.

At that point, Kyle interrupted me and quickly pulled out his phone where he pulled up a photo and said, “I think I’ve already met your son.” The photo showed about 15 Plebes (that is what they call 1st year students) who were at the first Cru Bible study just a few weeks prior. Jacob was front and center in that photo. Kyle then went on to share that Jacob had talked with him after the group time and asked for prayer for his twin brother who is at West Point. Jacob never shared that his parents are on staff with Cru and that he is a staff kid.

It was amazing to find out that Jacob has already been pursuing a spiritual community on his own and we were able to connect with the leaders of that community at our national conference.

Jacob (Front Row, 4th from the right) at the Cru Navy Bible Study

A few days into the conference, we were scheduled to get phone calls from both Jacob and Joshua, ON THE SAME DAY! There are limited opportunities to talk to our boys during the summer training so we were pretty excited to hear from them. The problem was we had no idea the exact time they would call….we only had a Cable TV-like window of 5 hours where we knew a phone call would likely take place.

Joshua was all smiles on his FaceTime call to us during Cru19.

As it turned out, Jacob and Joshua both ended up calling us AT THE SAME TIME! It was a bit of a panic but we ended up getting them on our different phones where they were able to talk to each other via speaker phone. I think it was just what they both needed since the biggest challenge for them is that they are away from each other for the first time in their lives.

In the end, God provided inspiring and visionary speakers, just as we expected. He also refreshed us by connecting us to friends and colleagues we had not seen in a while. But the bonus was providing those moments that calmed our hearts as parents, allowing us a glimpse into what He’s doing in the lives of our sons who are no longer with us. Thank you for your continued prayers. They mean the world to us!

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 2

From the outset of our ministry a few years ago, the number one question we are asked is “How do you find the Young Professionals you will work with?” It’s a great question, because we’ve wondered that ourselves. When we worked with college students, we had no problem finding them. We just walked onto campus and there they were! We had proven methods and strategies for engaging with students and finding those who were interested spiritually.

But finding Young Professionals is more difficult. There is no central place, like a campus, where they congregate. We have to find different ways to locate them and engage with them.

One of the primary ways we’re meeting Young Professionals is through networking and referrals. Jen met with Rayna, a recent college grad who is living in Orange County, after we got her name from one of the local Cru campus ministry leaders.

It turns out that the way we’re finding Young Professionals is through networking. Like many other fields and industries, we are building our ministry by utilizing our existing network of relationships and seeking to expand our network through the people we meet and the relationships we are developing.

Let me share an example. Over the summer, I contacted one of our local Cru campus teams about meeting up to share with them who we are and what we do. (see our newsletter from last month – Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1).

We set a date to meet, but in the mean-time, I asked them to let us know if they had any recent grads who were living and/or working in Orange County with whom we could connect. I got an e-mail back with the name of a gal who had recently graduated and was living back at home in Orange County.

Jen arranged to meet with Rayna, who, as it turns out, lives very close to us. Jen explained what we’re doing and how we’re seeking to help Young Professionals stay connected to Jesus and live with purpose. Jen invited Rayna to be a part of a new Leadership Development Group that she is starting up. Rayna was excited to be a part of the group and began recruiting other women in the area whom she knows to be a part of the group with her.

Rayna invited some friends from her own local network to join her in being a part of Jen’s new Leadership Development Group

Rayna then told Jen about her college friend Chris who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

I met with Chris and shared about what we’re doing, inviting Chris to be a part of my next Leadership Development group. Chris was not only interested but suggested I talk to his friend Arthur about the group.

Rayna connected Dave with Chris, a college friend who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

The next week, I met with Arthur, heard his story, shared about our ministry and invited him to also be a part of my next group.

One simple e-mail and question ultimately led to us connecting with over half a dozen new people.

Chris introduced Dave to Arthur, a friend from a small group who is recent grad, living in South Orange County and working in Irvine.

While it may not be as easy to meet new people as it was when we were on campus, we’re starting to see the fruit of our networking efforts, as more and more Young Professionals are engaging with us and connecting us to their relational networks.

We are so grateful for your partnership which enables us to meet with people like Rayna, Chris and Arthur and others. Please continue to pray that we would connect with even more Young Professionals as our extended network continues to expand.

Fishing For Friends!

Almost 20 years ago, Jen and I were officially challenged by our regional leaders to move to Davis and pioneer a new Cru ministry on the campus there. We excitedly said yes and moved to Davis the following summer of 1998. We were there for 10 years and it was an exciting time of tremendous fruit for us.

June, 1999a handful of students gather to celebrate our first year of Cru at UC Davis!

When we walked on campus that very first day, we had exactly ZERO students involved. By the end of the first year, we had 10 committed students involved. When we evaluated the makeup of those 10 students who were involved, we asked ourselves, “where did these students come from?” We wanted to know which of our events and activities were the most effective in attracting students.

What we realized is that our students came from everywhere. We met one student as the result of a spiritual interest questionnaire we conducted during orientation week. Another student came up to a table where we were passing out Freshman Survival Kits. Another student saw our info table during the first week of school. Two students saw a flier and came to a weekly meeting on campus later in the year. Another student was invited by a friend.

The reality for us in starting and building the ministry at UC Davis is that no one event drew all of the students who got connected to us. Each event & each activity yielded small results, which, when added together over time, developed into a growing core of committed student leaders.

When we transitioned to working with Young Professionals, we would often be asked, “How will you find Millennials?”

It’s a fair question and we wondered ourselves how things might develop.

One thing we learned from our campus days that we’ve applied to our current situation is that building anything of significance takes time. The work is long and hard and progress is often incremental. But after a while, when a solid core foundation is established, you eventually reach a point of critical mass, where things begin to take on a life of their own and you’re struggling just to keep up with all that’s happening.

Robert (left) connected with us through our website: ocamplified.com, while we met Tim (right) at the Epic Winter Conference.

For the last year or so, we’ve been working to build our foundational core group.

Just like our first year in Davis, we’re evaluating where our group members have come from. One guy is a former student from Davis who lives in the area. Another Young Professional contacted us through our website. We connected with one of the women in our group from a Cru conference last fall. Another gal was urged to contact us by her parents who are friends of our ministry.

The entry points are varied, but we know that at some point, our network will get to the point where things will begin to grow exponentially because of the combined relational networks of those involved.

Hundreds of people stopped by our booth at FishFest in order to spin the prize wheel!

Last month, we had the opportunity to host a booth at FishFest. FishFest is a large all day concert hosted by 95.9, The Fish – Southern California’s largest Christian radio station.

We thought an event like this might draw a lot of young people whom we might not encounter otherwise.

It was a fun event to do together. It was long and very busy at times, with a lot of people approaching our table to take a spin of our prize wheel.

In the end, we met a few Young Professionals, but not nearly as many as we had hoped we might. But that seems to be how things work. No one event is the silver bullet that magically transforms the ministry into a massive movement.

Please pray that Young Professionals like these would get connected to our network as a result of our time at FishFest.

Our hope though is that next year, when we’re evaluating our group’s makeup, we’ll have a few people connected to us whom we met through FishFest.

In the mean-time, we’ll continue to press forward in meeting Young Professionals in any way we can and seeking to connect them to our network, while helping them to thrive spiritually and live missionally.

Thanks for your continued prayers for us and for being a part of our building process.

And as a reminder, if you know a Young Professional who is living and/or working in Orange County or the surrounding area, let us know. We’d love to meet them for coffee or lunch, tell them about who we are and what we’re doing and see what happens!

 

P.S. Check out this One minute video highlighting some of the action at our FishFest 2017 booth!

Crossroads, Chicago and Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Chicago was cold but it was fun to see the city and also connect with some of our colleagues from around the U.S.

At the beginning of December, Jen and I got a chance to spend a few days in Chicago with some of our Cru colleagues from around the nation who are also reaching out to Millennials in their respective cities.

It was bitterly cold, but it was a great time of connecting and learning from one another as we’re all in various stages of pioneering this new venture to reach and minister to Young Professionals.

The headline on this newspaper aptly describes how our ministry feels.

Ironically, one morning as I was waiting in the lobby to meet someone, I noticed the title of a newspaper, which read, “Chasing The Millennials”. Sometimes, that’s what it seems like we’re doing. We’re chasing the Millennials and we’re not quite sure where to find them or how to catch them when we do encounter them.

One of the questions we have been frequently asked since starting this new venture is: how are you going to find Millennials? It’s a good question.

When we were working on campus, it was easy to find students. We just showed up on campus and there they were. It was simply a matter of engaging with them and seeking to connect them to our specific campus community.

But reaching Millennials in Orange County is more complicated. There’s no “campus” where they all naturally congregate. There’s no Student Union where they all relax and hang out. They’re everywhere and nowhere at the same time. For us, it’s a matter of finding the natural places where they live, work and recreate and engaging with them there.

We believe that our ministry is going to grow through the natural relational networks that already exist among Millennials. For that reason, we’ve been focusing efforts on meeting and connecting with as many Cru grads as possible who are living and working in Orange County. The hope is to connect with Young Professionals in our area who already have a familiarity with Cru and then expand by tapping into their relational networks.

Attending the Crossroads conferences allowed me to connect with students and many staff friends, including former UC Davis students Paul (left – San Jose State), Chris (Univ. of Arizona) and Josh (right – Chico State).

Right before Thanksgiving, I attended Crossroads, a yearly conference for Cru juniors and seniors designed to help them navigate life’s choices as they seek to pursue Christ while making decisions about their vocation.

Being at the conference gave us a first-hand opportunity to talk to students and share with them about our ministry in Orange County. Perhaps the biggest benefit though was connecting with many of the campus staff we’ve known throughout the years. Many of them were reminded of grads who are now living in Orange County whom they can connect us with.

One of our former students who is now directing the Cru ministry at UC Irvine and Chapman invited me to dinner to hang out with his team. While there, I met Jeff, a recent Cru grad who is serving as an intern with Cru here in Orange County. Jeff expressed an interest in what we’re doing because he works with students all day and he wants to have more community with guys who are in a similar life stage.

Jeff, far right, not only won our Ugly Christmas Sweater contest, but he connected us with (left to right) Josh, Andrew and Tim.

I invited Jeff to come to our Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. To my surprise, Jeff not only came but he invited some of his cycling buddies to come as well.

Through a series of natural relational networks, I met Jeff who then introduced me to Tim, Josh and Andrew.

Our hope and prayer is that the scope of our impact will continue to expand as we tap into the natural relational networks that already exist here in the OC. Please pray with us as we continue to reach out to Young Professionals and seek to help them thrive spiritually and live missionally!

Story of a Changed Life

Jennifer and I were on staff with Cru at the University of Arizona for our first couple of years of marriage, so we have an affection for the ministry there. In addition, one of our former UC Davis students and his wife are the directors of the ministry there now. So it’s always fun to see what the Lord is doing on the campus there through some of our former leaders.

Here is a short video, highlighting a student who came to Christ through the Cru ministry at the University of Arizona.

Derecognized!

This morning I went to the first Bible Study gathering of the New Year for the men at our church. We’ve been traversing through the book of Daniel in a series our pastor has entitled “Under Pressure.” We’ve been looking at Daniel as an example of someone who met the challenge to respond in a godly way to the personal and cultural challenges which he faced.

In Daniel chapter 6, Daniel’s enemies are looking for a way to find a charge against him because they were jealous of him. Because he was a person of great integrity, they could find nothing. So they went to the king and convinced the king to issue a decree that for the next 30 days, the people in his kingdom would not be allowed to pray to any god but the king himself. The plan was to cause Daniel to compromise his standards or face the consequences. Of course, we know that Daniel was unwilling to pray to the king and kept his practice of praying 3 times a day to the God of Israel, the God of the universe.

That act of integrity got Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. Fortunately, the Lord honored Daniel’s faith and saved him from harm. In the end, those who brought an accusation against Daniel were themselves thrown into the lion’s den and their fate was not as positive as Daniel’s. The king was so impacted by Daniel’s faith and deliverance that he issued a decree that only the God of Daniel could be worshiped, “for he is the living God and he endures forever.”

As we were reflecting on this passage around our table, we were discussing the tendency we have as frail humans to compromise our standards in order to gain favor with men and avoid unpleasant circumstances. I began to think about many of our campus ministries, especially those on our Cal State campuses.

Paul-Jaimie-2014
Paul & Jaimie Nunez were students involved in our ministry at UC Davis. They now lead the Cru ministry at San Jose State University, which has recently been derecognized by the campus administration. Click their photo to read their letter about being derecognized.

If you weren’t aware, about a year ago the Chancellor of the Cal State University system made a decision that dramatically impacts religious groups on Cal State campuses, particularly Christian groups. The Chancellor decreed that all groups need to allow open access for any student to become a leader within that group. So Christian groups such as Cru or InterVarsity that have enacted biblical requirements and standards for potential leaders are being derecognized for imposing leadership standards and thus, not adhering to the new policy. Click here for an article relating to this.

Being a recognized group on campus has many advantages. For one, recognized groups can secure meeting rooms for free. Additionally, official groups are able to publicize their activities on campus more freely and may even have access to funds to help their group promote an activity or scholarship students to leadership retreats.

Despite the many advantages of being a recognized group on campus, none of our local chapters has adjusted their constitution in a way that would satisfy this new decree. In short, we believe that while anyone can be involved in the group as a whole, the leadership of the group must be selected among those who hold to biblical convictions and have demonstrated a biblical lifestyle. For that reason, nearly all of our chapters within the Cal State system have been derecognized as official campus organizations. Our campus groups will continue to exist and will continue to reach out to students on campus but the task will become more difficult and more costly. Please pray for our campus groups to persevere in the midst of opposition and adversity and pray that their faith would lead to revival!

In 2 Corinthians 4.2, Paul says that “it is required for those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Dave and Jen - Christmas 2014
Dave and Jen – Christmas 2014

I’m not quite sure what the Lord has in store for any of us in 2015, but my prayer is that like Daniel, we would be people of extreme integrity when faced with personal and cultural challenges where we might be tempted to compromise our faith. As our culture continues to shift our prayer for you is that you would
remain faithful. Would you please pray that for us?

We are grateful for you and pray that you experience the Lord’s richest blessings in this New Year!