So, we get this question a lot as a staff member with Cru – “Since you primarily work with college students, what do you do when they are gone for the summer?” This is a great question and hopefully this blog post will provide some clarity.
For most Cru staff, summers are spent in 1 of 4 ways (there are a few others that I am not listing here but they are more the exception than the rule):
1. Sabbatical – Cru suggests that you take a sabbatical after every 7 years we are on staff. It is a time to rest, reflect, re-evaluate, be refreshed by the Lord, and learn. We took one a few summers ago and seriously LOVED it – we loved the slower pace, concentrated times to be with the Lord, and time to reevaluate things.
2. Seminary Classes – As staff members with Cru, we are required to take certain seminary level courses such as Inductive Bible Study, Old Testament, New Testament, and Church History. We either take these in Orlando or Colorado – Colorado if it is the year we are having our bi-annual staff conference or Orlando on the alternate year.
3. Ministry Partner Development – This means the summer is spent growing our team of ministry partners and working towards full support so we can remain on campus full-time.
4. Summer Missions – This is what the majority of staff do during the summer and one of the things we love to do the most during the summers.
Summer missions are an opportunity for staff and students to see God move with their own eyes and through their own lives. Cru full-time staff missionaries lead the trip, which usually consists of anywhere between 10-80 college students from around the country, and they focus on pouring into the students by guiding, training, and encouraging them, so that the students can pour into others, both for the summer and once they return to college.
I think that our summer missions are like a spiritual greenhouse because students get one-on-one discipleship, community with a body of believers, involvement in a local church, and get to engage in a common mission as they reach out to others who don’t know the Lord. It is very, very rare to hear of students attending these summer missions and not seeing the Lord use them to reach others or grow in big ways in their own lives. For most students, these summers shape who they are for the rest of their lives.
Summer missions can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 weeks in length, and can consist of students getting jobs (their main ministry is to their co-workers) or not getting jobs (their main ministry is evangelism on campus in a culturally relevant way). Summer missions are held all over the US and all around the world. If the missions are longer and the students get jobs, the staff will leave halfway through the trip and turn leadership of the summer mission over to the students, which is a great way for them to grow in leadership.
Ed and I both attended Gatlinburg summer mission as students and for me, the Lord used the summer to give me confidence in sharing my faith, to humble me (I shared a room with 3 others girls and worked at a restaurant where I wore these hideous old women dresses to wait tables), to teach me about grace, and to teach me how to lead others well. As staff, we have led numerous other summer missions throughout the years and each one is challenging, rewarding, and oh so good. I have attached a few pictures from some of our summer missions through the years, minus Russia because I couldn’t find pictures from there 🙁
in 2009, we were in Santa Cruz. The first picture above is one of our Duke students working in his job on the boardwalk. The next picture is our students at an outreach event at their hotel where they invited their co-workers and one of our students shared their faith story after dinner.
We spent two summers (2010-2011) helping to start and lead the Historic Charleston summer mission. Above is a picture from a beach social we did. The next picture is us with our students who attended the project from Kentucky (where we were on staff at the time).
In 2012, we did a training for the summer for new team leaders since Ed was just starting to lead the team in NC. In 2013, Ed went to Senegal to lead a two-week summer mission and then we took seminary classes in Colorado. This is a picture above of him and some students (the white guys) with the guys he met in Senegal.
In 2014, we were on the NYC summer mission where Ed helped to provide leadership to the project. This is a picture of our students having a spiritual conversation with NYC college students using a picture survey. In 2015, we took sabbatical which was very needed after a hard few years ministry-wise in NC. In 2016, we did Ministry Partner Development to grow our team so we could move to NYC.
This summer, Ed is helping to lead the NYC summer mission. The students just arrived last week and today is their first day on campus having spiritual conversations. Although Ed and the other leaders have been planning the last few months for this summer mission, it has really been more of an afterthought to me. Even two weeks ago, when they were planning at our apartment, I realized that I have a tendency, after this many years, to slip into the habit of it feeling like “just another mission trip.”
It really hit home for me as I was reading the blog post of a guy named Ben, who is student with us this summer. My mom actually brought it to my attention that Ben is the brother of my brother’s old college roommate. Small world, right? As I was reading his blog and hearing the story of how the Lord led him to be in NYC this summer, I realized that each of these students has a story of the Lord leading them to be a part of this summer mission trip. I also know that the Lord could really use these students to make a difference here in NYC for the summer and on their campuses when they go back in the fall. Not to mention the growth He wants to happen in their lives. I was so thankful for the Lord helping me to realize my “just another mission trip” feeling and Him helping me to change that to excitement for what God can and will do through this summer!
Please pray for the students as they take huge steps of faith, as they open up their lives to one another, as they serve in a local church, as they navigate a new city for 5 weeks without their parents, as they deal with things like stolen backpacks and roaches in their room, as they live in rooms with one another and have to deal with conflict resolution, as they see the Lord use them, as they have grace with their imperfect leaders, and as they realize that they can be life-long laborers for Christ long after graduation. Please pray for us as we lead these students, as we balance kids in school with summer mission demands, and as we continue to deal with sicknesses (I was just diagnosed with strep throat yesterday 🙁 ) and big decisions in our family in the midst of summer mission. Thank you for joining with us each and every summer!