Starting a Ministry

Cycles of Campus Momentum

Eric Swanson

Whether your campus utilizes the traditional two semester terms or three quarter terms, an invaluable way of looking at your school year is to divide it into four quadrants that reflect the natural flow of the school year.

The First Quarter begins a week or so before school begins and ends at the Fall Conference. The Second Quarter begins after the Fall Conference and terminates with the Winter Conference. The Third Quarter begins when school resumes in January and concludes at Spring Break. The Final Quarter starts after Spring Break and finishes with the completion of the school year.


Within each Quarter there is a natural “cycle of momentum.” That is to say, each Quarter begins with some type of evangelistic outreach, involves a time of consolidation and momentum, and then concludes with an opportunity to raise the level of commitment and involvement of students--normally at a conference.


Each Quarter has a distinct emphasis and goal. The Emphasis of the First Quarter is CONTACT -- exposure and evangelism--gathering as many bodies as possible and getting them into group studies.

During the First Quarter, students are generally more open to talking about spiritual things or taking a survey. All Quarters are not equal in this regard. If you had as your goal to initiate with 1,000 students per staff this year, most likely you would not try to reach 250 per Quarter. A good 40% of the yearly initiative and evangelism takes place during the First Quarter. Hence, you need to plan accordingly. This is why mid-year evaluations can be deceptive. At the time it appears that you are well over half-way in reaching your numerical goals. When the truth of the matter is the majority of your evangelism has already been done.

Although the First Quarter has proven to be an effective time for evangelism, you may want to consider the merits of focusing on the Christians on campus during the First Quarter. The University of Missouri calls this their “Christian Rush.” They amass their labor force for the rest of the school year during this First Quarter. Since few other Christian groups are doing evangelism they wait until the Second Quarter before really having an evangelistic emphasis.

Because movements are built around continually reaching the Freshman class and assimilating these first year students, we must be very intentional about targeting and assimilating Freshmen.

By scheduling your open, large group (even co-ed) Bible studies before the year begins, you have something to invite the students to as soon as you meet them. The advantage is that you don’t have to wait until you get all of their schedules and find a common time before you begin. If a student can’t come to your study, you can give him or her the time of another study. This open Bible study also frees up your leadership students to meet other students and share their faith rather than preparing for Bible study.

A major objective of the First Quarter is recruiting for the Fall Conference. The objective for each of our conferences differs. The Fall Conference is usually by state or campus. It’s at this time where students begin to get a picture of what Cru is and an introduction to the Winter Conference and projects. This is where we “run the flag up” regarding who we are as a movement and some of the things we are committed to. This is why we usually have a staff member as our conference speaker. On the positive side, this is where many students say to themselves or to the Lord, “This is what I want to be involved in.” On the other hand, some students will conclude that Cru isn’t for them.


The emphasis of the Second Quarter is probably on CONSOLIDATING the fruit of the First Quarter and going after the friends of those who got involved the First Quarter. This paves the way for training opportunities. We make certain that all of the Fall Conference students are in groups and group leaders are trained in exactly what to do. Large group Bible studies can be replaced or augmented with small groups and Action Groups. Momentum is built as we look forward to the Winter Conference.

The Winter Conference is comprised of students from several states and it is the largest conference of the year. Many students are impressed by the number of Christian students present. The emphasis is always on going to the world. An overwhelming majority of the students who go on summer missions or develop into your leaders will be at this conference.


The goal of the Third Quarter is to CAPITALIZE on the momentum of the commitments made at the Winter Conference. At Winter Conference your students will be challenged to reach their campuses for Christ and take the gospel to the world. By faith, many of them have made fresh commitments to the Lord and are ready to be challenged. You cannot return from the Winter Conference with a “business as usual” attitude. For this reason, it is usually a good idea to plan a high momentum outreach of some type that will stretch the faith of your students during the Third Quarter. Classics, Team Meeting Emphasis Weeks, a large College Life, etc. are excellent ways to make it easy for your average student to have a ministry when he returns.

Your job is to give your students avenues to express their faith. Schedule events that they can invite their non-Christian friends to. It is during the Third Quarter that you challenge your students to move into or remain in the dorms. Together, you are looking forward to your Spring Break. Spring Break is usually held by campus and the emphasis is on outreach. For many campuses, it is the time to be involved in another country of the world. Opening a new campus ministry in Juárez, showing the JESUS film in Mazatlan, or sharing your faith on a ski lift are all ways that can galvanize the faith of your students. You probably want to schedule your best and most creative social events during this Quarter since momentum can wane.


The goal of the Fourth Quarter is CONTINUATION -- preparing the students for the summer. This is the shortest of all Quarters (normally only 4-5 weeks) but an important one. Planning for the impending school year, room scheduling, etc. must be done before you and your team leave for the summer. After Spring Break is not the best time to be setting major goals. Your momentum activities are finished for the year.


Planning is simplified by using the Quarter System. Using yearly planning goals and objectives does not serve the average team leader or Campus Ministry because it is so difficult to measure real progress toward the goal. For example, if your evangelistic goal for the year is to, in some way shape or form, initiate with 1,000 students, anything you do in one of the 24 weeks on campus doesn’t seem to amount to much, either positively or negatively. If I don’t do any evangelism, I can always say, “Well, I have 22 more weeks to make up for it.”

The Quarter System is different. Because each Quarter is only 5-7 weeks long, each of those weeks is important in the accomplishment of your goals. You, as the team leader can set weekly goals and emphasis to move you toward the accomplishment of your vision. To accomplish your yearly goals you work toward accomplishing your Quarterly goals. You work toward accomplishing your Quarterly goals by setting and working on your weekly goals. This contributes to you taking an active role in leading your team. You need to know when to have an evangelistic push and when you need to take a break. You set the pace for each Quarter by communicating with your team what needs to be done this week.

When the Quarter ends, so do your goals. Whether you reached them or not, there is no carry-over in your numerical goals. Send information to each uncontacted student along with an invitation to your weekly meeting. You learn from your mistakes and begin anew by setting new goals for the impending Quarter.


Each week at staff meeting you need to be asking “What did you do?” and “How did it go?” We are looking for responses that reflect our values of faith, growth and fruitfulness.

If you still are not getting the results you want, you need to evaluate if you are doing the right thing. What you evaluate is what you are accomplishing together as a movement--the sum total of individual effort and activity. Whose lives are we corporately reaching and changing? This means you’ve got to work together to accomplish your goals.

At the conclusion of each Quarter is a time for evaluation and planning. This time gives you a little breathing room and time to honestly evaluate and plan before diving into another busy week. Because plans are only as good as the information they are based on, you are in a much better position to plan the specifics of the Second Quarter after the conclusion of the First Quarter.

See the chart for a helpful overview of the cycles:

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