Month: February 2012

Double Life

The following is a reprint from an article in Worldwide Challenge Magazine for March/April, 2012. I met the student in the article, Ethan, three years ago during his first week of college. With my colleague Todd, we’ve walked through life with Ethan. Ethan has joined Malisa and me on summer missions projects the last two summers. He and I meet up weekly to open the Bible and to do life together. Here’s the article:

Ethan, Todd, Brian, Cory, and Joe connecting with Freshmen

Ethan came to Boston University wanting to explore “all it meant to be a college student.” He had accepted Christ into his life as a young boy, but when he arrived on campus, his plans didn’t include pursuing a relationship with God.

Yet after filling out a spiritual interest survey that fall, Ethan got a call from Cru staff member Todd Williams, who invited Ethan to have coffee and discuss spiritual things. “When Ethan and I first met, I didn’t think it clicked,” Todd says. However, at Todd’s invitation, Ethan began attending a Bible study on campus.

“I was initially drawn to the idea of community in the group,” says Ethan. Still, there was conflict going on in his heart. “I was living a double life between my rebellious heart and giving Christianity another try.”

As the battle raged, Ethan decided to attend a Cru student conference in Boston. After receiving training in how to tell others about the gospel and participating in an outreach during the conference, Ethan knew he needed to make a phone call. He called his girlfriend to tell her what God was doing in his life. He was surprised as she opened up about her own spiritual journey.

Ethan put into practice what he had been learning and explained the gospel to his girlfriend. She prayed with Ethan and invited Christ into her life. “Suddenly the gospel came alive for me,” says Ethan. “Up to that point, I took it for granted.”

Since that evening two years ago, Ethan, now a junior, has continued to give the gospel away. He has participated in two mission projects and lives in an area of campus where he can more easily reach out to others.

-Nick DeCola


How Creative Evangelism ideas can help you reach your campus

friends pic2
By Amber Kinneer

6 February 2012

“My grandparents were praying for me to find a group on campus that I could be involved with,” says Arianna King, junior nursing major at Simmons College in Boston.

“Once I got involved with Cru, joined a Bible study and got involved in Christian community, that’s when I developed more of a relationship with God and began growing closer to Him.”

That’s what Arianna and the other six student leaders at Simmons want for all the students on campus. They are implementing and brainstorming creative ways to reach students with the message of Jesus.

On University campuses around the country, there is a great need for Christian students to creatively engage their peers in spiritual conversation.

The student leaders at Simmons meet weekly to plan outreaches, study the Bible and have one-to-one spiritual mentorship with a Campus Crusade for Christ staff member.

They use resources like CruPress Green to help spark ideas for outreaches and supply material for Bible studies.

Staff member Malisa Ellis leads the Boston Metro teams. She has been working on the campus at Simmons for three years and is excited about the student leaders there.

“The highlight of Simmons is that the leadership girls are creative,” she says. The leaders are “inviters” – really great about inviting new people into their community. “They are great about pulling people in,” says Malisa.

At the beginning of each school year, students with Cru at Simmons gave away 120 bundles of clothing hangers at the student activities fair. Interested students could stop by the Cru activity table, fill out an informational survey and receive the hangers. “Traditionally, students have a very low spiritual interest,” says Malisa. But in 2011, 90 students indicated on their survey that they wanted to hear more about Jesus.

Tori Mead, a junior Psychology major and student leader at Simmons, remembers how easy it was to get involved. She visited the Cru table at the activity fair during her first week of school. In no time, she was helping lead the Cru movement at Simmons.

The atmosphere at Simmons is like many liberal arts colleges: very accepting of many truths and lifestyles. “Once you say the words, ‘God or Christian,’ walls go up,” says Arianna. “There’s a lot of negative connotations associated with Christianity on campus.” Much of the student leaders’ focus on campus is to debug those assumptions. “We are trying to break down those walls,” says Arianna.

Because of their involvement and training with Bible study and coaching from staff members, the student leaders have been able to spark up conversations with non-religious friends. “I have the courage to go out and talk to people,” says Arianna.

“My relationship with God has transformed me,” says Arianna. “It would be great to bring God to students and give them that opportunity, especially here at Simmons.”

So that is what the leaders are doing: bringing God to students any way they can.

“I’m on the softball team and I’m a Residence Advisor,” says Arianna. “I have a lot of opportunities to talk with people. Being a leader, people feel more comfortable coming to you about certain issues… it makes it easier to have those conversations, past the surface level questions.”

One girl from Arianna’s softball team came to a movie night, then stayed and asked questions. That same girl started coming to Bible study the rest of that semester. “She is very interested in God and spiritual things,” says Arianna.

“Reaching out to a campus can seem like a big task,” says Tori. Here are some ideas for outreach opportunities the student leaders in Boston are implementing:

  • Set up a table at the Student Activity Fair each semester. “Have a jar of sweethearts and let people guess how many are in it,” says Tori. “Give the winner a gift card or something fun.”
  • Sell raffle tickets and give away prizes.
  • Use Soularium cards to spark spiritual conversations.
  • Once a month or more, go door-to-door, offer cookies and popcorn, start spiritual conversations.
  • Have a weekly Bible study in the lobby of the largest Freshman dorm on campus. “One night we had a short film movie night with a popcorn machine,” says Tori. At the end, people broke into groups and discussed the films.
  • Have a girls night function: make your own bath salts, demonstrate makeup tutorials, paint nails, hand massages, etc., “Students wander down from their dorms because they are interested in what we’re doing,” says Tori. “It’s a great way to meet people.”
  • Host a bake sale. You can raise funds for your ministry or to send students on mission trips, but also get people interested and educated about what your ministry is doing on campus.
  • Give away hangers or recycled grocery bags with a ministry website on them.
  • On colder days, set up a table with hot apple cider or hot chocolate for a study break in the dorm lobby.
  • Host a sugar cookie decorating party around Christmas and other holidays.
  • Host a craft night. Make your own bath salts, greeting cards, etc., “This can be a great time to talk with students, asking about special celebrations, traditions, and family,” says Tori.

An important factor for all of these outreach opportunities is fun. “Do something fun and interesting,” says Arianna. “Something that sparks interest.”

For example, Tori and Arianna are working with the other leaders to plan a Hipster Tea Party this semester. “We don’t really even know what that means yet,” says Tori, “but we are trying to do things that appeal to a wide range of students by offering different or new options.”

Try to organize events that are low commitment and not intimidating. “Focus on building relationships,” says Tori. “Keep it simple. You don’t have to host a huge concert or invite every single person on campus, but create a space where people feel comfortable to talk and have deeper conversations there or later that week.”

Listening Well to Jesus

I was shocked but said anyhow, “Emily, do you realize what you just said?”

“Yes, I know God wants me to Go,” Emily responded with a shy smile.

We were talking about plans for Emily’s summer but more importantly, we were talking about how to let God do the leading and directing of those plans.

Emily lost her mom when she was in high school. One of the ways this tragedy has played out in her life is that she feels responsible for everyone in her family. She cares deeply for her younger sister and for her dad. But the care doesn’t end with her family; Emily cares so deeply for others that it’s normal for her to talk to others about Jesus too.

Last year, she shared about her relationship with Jesus with her roommate Taylor. Taylor became a believer and started inviting friends from her major to our discipleship group. This year, Taylor has really begun to grow in her own walk with Jesus.

For Emily, the hard part of decision making or planning comes when she thinks that she might be letting someone else in her life down (I’m sure many of you can identify with that).

Emily and I were talking that afternoon about what she was going to do with her upcoming summer. She had two main options before her:  (1) should she go home to small town New York  or (2) should she go on a summer long mission trip?

Honestly, as I was preparing for our time together, I was really conflicted. In so many ways it makes sense for her to go home for the summer; however, I really didn’t want the process of making a decision for the summer to just be about that. I wanted Emily to learn to listen to the Lord and discern where He was leading her. For the rest of her life, she will be making choices and decisions and I pray that those would be made in light of God’s leading in her life not just what she wants to do.

So as we walked through all the options, Emily said, “I know God wants me to go on a summer project.”

I was shocked but said anyhow, “Emily, do you realize what you just said?”

“Yes, I know God wants me to Go,” Emily responded with a shy smile.

I’m encouraged Emily isn’t just making a choice about this summer but she is practicing a lifelong skill of listening to Jesus.

Please join me in praying for Emily as she continues to listen to the Lord. Please join me in praying that women like Taylor, Caitlyn, Alex, Rebecca, Adrienne, Andrea, Benita, Aly, and Kerry who are all in a small group with Emily and me would learn to listen to where Jesus is leading and directing in their lives. Some of those women don’t yet know Christ; two are struggling to let the Gospel sink into their hearts; several have just taken faith steps to go on mission trips either this spring break or summer.

This is just one of the sweet highlights of my week: meeting with these women to help them listen well to Jesus. Thank you so much for being part of building into this group of women in Boston.

Loving our Adventurous Lord,

Brian and Malisa

Ellis Family Corner

We thought we would start a little update section for our family. We are so grateful for how you partner with us as a family to help reach others for Christ, disciple them in the Word, and help send them out to the nations.

A big part of our ministry is also inviting them into our family to experience what God is doing amongst the three of us. In so many crazy ways, Sydney is a connector to many students who otherwise wouldn’t open up and talk with us. This past week while sitting on the floor with 250 other students one of the non-believing students came up to Sydney and me and begin to play with Sydney and chat with me.  Wow! That conversation opened so many doors into what is going on in her heart. Thanks for being so fun and playful, Sydney. As a family, we are having a blast enjoying some of the “first” things for Sydney. The first sleigh ride down our snow covered street, the first bite of pumpkin muffin, and on Feb 18th the first birthday including a fun pink and red party.*