How Frustration Paves the Way for Breakthrough

  • by Aaron Rivera

Explore the powerful story of Cru’s Expedition Teams & Opportunities with Cru

I was frustrated and sad.  Where had we gone wrong?

I was part of an Expedition Team with Cru, tasked with spending a year travelling to campuses that have no Cru staff in search of students who are excited to tell others about Jesus. We were looking for leaders, people we call Key Volunteers.

Our team spent a month investing time and energy in Christian students in Eastern Europe, inviting them to take the lead on their campus. But people were not accepting the challenge.

My team and I were battling a sense of failure.

After struggling in successive cities, we went back to the drawing board and came up with the ‘Key Volunteer Challenge’ (KVC) in September 2015.

As we prepared to train the next Expedition Team and we felt a sense of urgency about helping them learn from our experiences. The success of our mission depends on finding people willing to take ownership in their specific location of the task God has called all of us to. But people like these have become harder to find in recent years.

What did we need to do differently to find the right kind of people, the needles in our haystacks?

Wrestling with that question lead to a method for challenging students to leadership that’s now being used on campuses in multiple countries.

The Key Volunteer Challenge is based on a simple idea: God is at work and has prepared students to lead. Our task is helping students identify their vision and take steps of faith towards fulfilling it.

We invite a student to draw out their vision, then write down five names of Christian friends they want to challenge in the same way. As we go through the KVC with a student, it becomes clear whether they are a potential leader or not. If the student is having a really hard time coming up with a vision, they might not be ready to be a key volunteer but will still be involved in the movement. If the student is not engaging with the Bible verses in the KVC, we might pause and share the Knowing God Personally booklet with them to clarify their understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God.


If the student doesn’t want to meet again, or isn’t interested in learning how to share the gospel, maybe they’re not your key volunteer but will be involved in another way. While you’re going through the challenge, it’s crucial you ask God to give you discernment on your next steps with each individual student.

The Key Volunteer Challenge enabled us to separate students who occasionally shared their faith from the few who were willing to truly lead in building a community centered around telling others about Jesus.

This picture was our evidence that God was using the KVC.

We trained the outgoing Expedition team on the KVC and within weeks they sent me a selfie of a student in Eastern Europe who had gone through the process. 

We believed that this simple approach to uncovering leaders could be used anywhere, so we made the tutorial video that unpacks the process in a clear and compelling way.

Hundreds of Cru staff and volunteers face the same challenges we faced in finding leaders. The video, now available in multiple languages, is our way of turning what felt like mission impossible into a process that can be used by anyone anywhere.