Step 3: Prepare Your Team

Eric Swanson


The leadership team (those primarily responsible for the mission of reaching the campus with the gospel) can look different from campus to campus and different from year to year.

Your leadership team could be comprised of 5 or 6 Cru staff members. It could be you, a local youth pastor, a volunteer, and a three-legged dog named Chip. Whatever the make-up of your team, we call it a missional team, as you are teamed up for the sake of a common mission.

What is critical here is to gather together any and all of the non-student laborers in the ministry for a time to pray and plan before the year kicks off.

Of the many things you might accomplish during this time, here are the most important: you want the team to reconnect relationally; you want to engage in Strategic Planning together; you want to divide up the key jobs and responsibilities of the first few weeks on campus; and you want to connect with the Lord in prayer and time in the Word.

To accomplish all of these objectives often takes a couple days, so if possible you want to find a pretty place where the team can stay overnight or over several nights.

What follows is an article describing a pre-school year staff retreat. Even if your missional team is not comprised of Cru staff, the principles and points are relatively transferable.


Perhaps one of the toughest jobs a team leader has to do is that of preparing their team for the school year. Yours is a difficult task--that of building a family and preparing and equipping an army. What you do with your team during the days preceding the school year will largely determine the quality of your team relationships and the preparation of your team for the task ahead.


Normally you should ask your staff to be back in town two weeks before your first major event – either Freshman orientation week or the actual beginning of school. You cannot do what needs to be done in less time. If there are senior staff who have support to raise they should still be required to report back to their assignment along with the rest of the team. They can return to support raising a month after the school year gets going. You need all the laborers that you can get. If they are not there to help you with the work that must be done, guess who will end up doing it?


If there is one person who needs to be prepared for the year, it is you as the local leader. The time for you to prepare is not when the team returns but before they return. Most ministries are the extended shadow of the leader’s life, vision, and walk with the Lord. You need time alone to personalize the plan you and your leadership began developing last Spring. You need your spiritual batteries recharged – your inner man nourished so you will have the resources to give to your staff. Get into the Word, read books, get around resourceful people, spend time in prayer. Remember you are not doing this exclusively for your benefit, but also for the sake of those involved in your ministry.

It is a safe assumption that you are the only person on your team who has given any real thought to your ministry over the summer. So make sure you are.


You can pretty much assume that most members of your team return willing and able but not very motivated and with little or no vision. Summer can drain the spiritual life out of a person and those who went on a Summer Project may simply be exhausted. It’s all part of the spiritual battle so don’t let this take you by surprise. Think through the make up of your team and what their needs will likely to be.

Most team member report back to campus with a suitcase full of real and felt needs. Their real needs have to do with having clarity of direction and clarity of their job. This is what it means to be a part of an army. They need to have their “call” reaffirmed. They need to know that what they are giving themselves to is ultimately significant and worth all of their heart, soul, and strength because that is probably what it will cost them. Their felt needs have to do with a sense of belonging to a family. Am I really an important and an integral part of the team? Is my contribution and input valued? Does anyone really care about me? Do I really like these people? Do I really know them? They need to know that they are working with loyal friends and no matter how difficult the task, you can do anything with your friends. thinking about it. The better mentally and spiritually prepared you are, the better you will be able to minister to your team and make quick and healthy decisions regarding the ministry. Make certain you take at least one full day with the Lord to regain your vision and perspective.


Vision and motivation are the products of knowing where you are going (real needs) and the quality of your relationships (felt needs). After the team has a day or two to settle in you may want to immediately jump into the work that needs to be done. This way they’ll feel like they have accomplished something and will be less anxious during your social and fun times together. This will be the entry point from their vacation back into the ministry. If you have all your recreation and fun times up front, people tend to feel anxious over how much there will be to do after the fun stops. Getting to work will also provide something to think about and discuss during their free time or social times. Honor them by giving some closure.

After a couple of days of work, some of the best leaders will reserve a day or so for an extended time together – water skiing, picnics, climbing a mountain, waterslides, bike trips, a retreat up in the mountains or at the lake – something enjoyable and relaxing. One Local Leader put it this way, “If they enjoy the team they work with, they’ll enjoy the work.” It is best if you intersperse your planning and work with your fun and recreation. Because your team members need time to renew their call and vision, you also need to give them some extended times alone with the Lord. Remember, the better job you have done planning in the Spring, the less stress this time will be for your team. Major jobs such as designing the brochure or poster, printing the registrations surveys, etc. need to be delegated in the Spring so that staff can accomplish them at their own leisure over the summer.

The following items may serve as a partial checklist of what you need to do before the year begins:

  • Go over the campus plan that all of you worked on in the Spring.
  • Go over the campus calendar and weekly schedule.
  • Review each team members Position Focus
  • Review policies and guidelines. The clearer these are at the beginning, the fewer hassles you will have during the year. Policies and guidelines could include campus hours, attendance at Cru meetings and functions, etc.
  • Review communication modes--cell, texting, e-mail and meetings.
  • Have them submit their personal semester plan.
  • Re-invite students to the leadership retreat.
  • Plan leadership retreat.
  • Make detailed plan of the first 2-4 weeks.
  • Assign or review delegated responsibilities
  • Meet with your Co-Director if you have one
  • Minister to the team from the Word
  • Get all printing done.

You can count your time successful if the team have gotten to know each other, they know what they have needed to know, and are prepared for the first events of the year.


There are three levels of orientation required for every new member of the Missional Team: Orientation to the team and work environment, orientation to the policies, norms, and local distinctives, and orientation to the job that needs to be done and their specific responsibilities and expectations in fulfilling that job. If this orientation is done well, then your new team member will have a firm foundation on which to build for the future.

1. Orientation to the team and work environment. Shortly after arrival, give each team member a call. Teammates should drop by and offer any assistance they can to help others moving in. For new team members someone needs to show them around and orient them to the campus and town. Where is the bank? Where’s the K Mart? Where do you get your car fixed? Where’s the golf course?

In orienting new members of your team, what will be most helpful for them is to hear from other teammates how they spend their time: what their typical day looks like, how they accomplish their ministry, responsibilities, when they arrive and leave campus, what they do are in their off hours, etc. This can be accomplished formally at a Missional Team meeting or retreat or casually in running errands those first few days.

Ideally each new team member will have someone assigned to them who will be responsible to coach and orientate them. If they are new to the campus then it’s a good idea to have them tag along with their “coach” or another teammate for the first two weeks of the school year.

The initial student leadership meeting or retreat is typically the best time to introduce a new staff, intern, or team member to the key leadership students involved in the ministry, and for you as the team leader to introduce them in a way that platforms them and sets them up for success. Do everything within your power to “sew” them into the existing fabric of the ministry.

2. Orientation to Team policies, norms and local distinctives. This is where you discuss:

  • “How things are done around here.”
  • When and where you have your meetings as a Missional Team
  • Team retreats
  • Vacation policy
  • Campus hours
  • Team Bible studies
  • Weekly schedule
  • Expectations in evangelism
  • Preparation for your Team meetings
  • Small group system
  • Your vision and philosophy of ministry
  • Your local values and distinctives--what makes your ministry distinct

3. Job Orientation.  This is where you define what it is you are trying to accomplish on your campus. This is probably the only thing you or your co-leader must do personally with new members of the team. It is essential that he or she hears this from you – the campus ministry is an extension of your vision and what God has entrusted to you.

  • Go over your campus plan, or at least review it individually to give time for any questions he might have. Always explain “why you do what you do.”
  • Go over their position focus. Don’t forget this important aspect of orientation.
  • Help them to set realistic goals and prayer targets.
  • Emphasize the importance of his or her first two years of ministry training.
  • Discuss expectations, your and theirs. Clear up any misconceptions. Help them from the very beginning to live in reality.
  • Let him know what will be evaluated at the end of the semester/year.
  • Make sure you have agreement on the job they will be expected to do.
  • Help them to see the balance of grace and truth within their job expectations.


In order to get to know your new team member you may also want to put together a brief “fact sheet” for him or her to fill out and talk about during your personal times together. Areas you may want to cover are:

  • Spiritual background
  • Short and long range goals and aspirations
  • Spiritual history
  • Hobbies
  • Three people they admires most
  • What motivates or demotivates them
  • Family background
  • Ministry strengths and weaknesses
  • Work habits and preferences
  • Spiritual gifts, temperament, etc.

The better you know your new team member the more effectively you can minister to and motivate them. You know you have been successful in orienting them when they feel like they know what is going on, know what they are expected to do, and that they are an integral part of your team.

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