Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A great place to work

CCO has been named one of three Ministry of the Decade by the Best Christian Work Place Institute. It is a privilege to work and serve with some amazing people in an organization that strives to grow in faithfulness to God and its mission of Transforming College Students To Transform The World. Check out the write up on the award here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

12th Annual Kayak-a-thon

Last Saturday was the 12th Annual Winter Kayak-a-thon, a fund-raising event for CCO Experiential Designs and our personal ministry account. It was the first time we had to navigate post-hurricane conditions. All in all, it was a great day. Probably the coldest event in history, but also the shortest because the rivers were moving so fast.
This year's 10 brave paddlers
Check out this video - It's not too late to make a donation!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Behind the scenes...

Hi friends!

Whatever illusions I had that after the orientation season life would slow down have quickly been revealed as just that! After four orientation events in August, we quickly launched into fall programming. We are now halfway through the 14 events planned between the beginning of September and the end of October. This is very exciting and the folks that make up the CCO Experiential Design (XD) resource team have been criss-crossing the region, facilitating student retreats and outings. 

While the work happening with college students is the reason we get up in the morning—and is often the subject of our updates and blog posts—none of it would be possible without the quiet, behind-the-scenes work that goes on in the CCO office. A couple weeks ago, Josh Hayes, one the XD resource staff, facilitated our 40 CCO office staff in a day-long retreat. It was inspiring to be in a room with the folks who every day quietly do the work necessary to support our ministry on campus.(here's a picture of that group doing a video spot forPittsburgh Day of Giving.)

In our own department, Joy occupies that kind of position. She has been working tirelessly during this season, pouring over budget spreadsheets to close out the fiscal year in a way that facilitates the work of our accountants. While our staff people are out with students every weekend, Joy is the one who keeps all the budgets, reimbursements, and invoices straight. She manages risk management plans and equipment rentals and purchases, all the while trying to build systems and processes that assure our continued operation and growth! To accomplish this, Joy works closely with Jamie, the XD administrator, serving as a coach to help Jamie grow into the potential of all the gifts God has given her to serve Him and the CCO. 

This is a work of service that is often overlooked, and yet little ministry would happen on campus or in the woods without it. Joy often longs to be on the front lines, leading trips and developing student leaders. But she knows that she brings a depth of experience and a mindset that is essential to making the work of our campus and resource staff possible. More importantly, she models a heart of service and patience that has made her valued across the CCO.

God could transform college students to transform the world without the CCO, but the CCO and the ministry of Experiential Designs could not happen without all the service and work that goes on behind the scenes. Thank you for your prayers and financial contributions that make our work with the CCO possible.

Francois, Joy and Annelise

Monday, August 20, 2012

First year student orientation season

Which bar can I get served at?

Which house has the most outrageous parties?

Where's the best place to hook up?

Students come to college with lots of questions. Drinking and partying spots are often what freshmen want to know as they get to campus. However, first year college students will intentionally or unintentionally answer the following questions as they transition from high school to the college campus and the rest of their life.

Who am I?
Why am I here?
What company shall I keep to get there?

A good bit of academic research and personal anecdotes have shown the power of first-year orientations to help freshmen have more successful transition into their first year of college (especially, ones that take students outdoors and off campus). So it is with excitement that we and the rest of the CCO's Experiential Designs (XD) team jumped into this year's orientation season.

The second set of questions, inspired by Steven Garber's book, The Fabric of Faithfulness, guide the discussions and activities of the orientations that CCO XD leads for several schools during this season. This year our team will be involved in five orientation events. The three of us (Joy, Francois and Annelise!) spent last week at Seneca Rocks with 5 student leaders and 41 students from West Virginia Wesleyan College (pictured above). This week Francois and the rest of the XD team are at Hocking Hills State Park with 55 Ohio Wesleyan University freshmen students and 16 student leaders (pictured below).

Through games, adventure and service activities, we help students build relationships with the people that will influence the kind of person they become over the next four years. We encourage them at this time of transition to take a step back to consider the big questions- the questions that are at the heart of their view of the world and ultimately at the heart of the image they have of themselves and the image they have of God.

Some people call it pre-evangelism. Others call it being a good partner to the institutions of higher education we see as our mission field. Ultimately it is an opportunity to help students orient themselves to the most transformative period of life.

Please pray for us and for all the first year students coming onto campus in the next few weeks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stories from teaching (II)

"You have no idea how your class changed my life!" Linda Ference said as I passed her going into the dorms. Linda is a CCO campus staff ministering to students at Indiana University of PA. Linda, along with 15 CCO staff, had just completed the class called, “Design and Integration” which Sean (left), Paul (right) and I team taught at the CCO's annual Summer Institute.

The class was three intensive days geared towards helping campus ministers think about experiential design and ministry. We asked,

“ How does the way you plan ministry events reflect the richness of God's creation?”

If most of communication is non-verbal, did the design (the environment, the sequence of activities, etc...) of their bible studies, their leadership meetings, or their fall retreats match the words students would encounter during those events? Did the design of the events support their intended goals and testify without words to the redemptive story of God's work among us?
The class participants heard Sean Purcell share his doctoral work on the Christian imagination. Paul Harbison who is the director of the CCO' s experiential ministries taught on models of integration, the result of over 30 years of thinking about faith integration in experiential education.

Already the CCO staff who were part of the class are applying what they learned. On Monday I will have a meeting with a CCO staff at Youngstown University to talk with him about how to design a student panel on sexuality he is planning for this fall.

Thanks be to God for eager learners and a chance to equip staff that love college students and yearn for them to know Jesus.

Thanks for your prayers and continued support.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Spring into summer (I)

How did it get to be mid-July already!? We hope you are enjoying the beginning of this summer despite the record-breaking temperatures. 
This transition of spring into summer has been filled with many good things in life and ministry for us. To spare you a newsletter of so many pages that few of us would have the time to actually read it (!), we decided to do a series of short blogs to give you a glimpse into the ministry and join us in thanking God for his faithfulness this season. For those interested in reading more details, in each of these posts, we will include links to longer writings. 

At Jubilee keynote speaker Bob Goff encouraged students to seek a God who is active and at work in this world. His recent book, Love Does, captures some of the inspiring stories he shared with students at the conference. Bob talked about seeking the "evidence of Jesus" not as a theological exercise but as an affirmation of God's redemptive work in this world. In that spirit, we hope the emails we will send over the next few weeks can serve for you as they have for us as "evidence of Jesus".

Here are the highlights of the next few posts:
- Going on a pilgrimage (I)
- CCO's Outdoor Leadership Institute (II)
- Submission of the Wilderness Education Association accreditation self study (II)
- The Alpine Pilgrimage (III)
- Transformative Summer Opportunities (Peru, Canada, Wyoming) (IV)
- Stories from teaching (Principals Leadership Institute, CCO's Summer Institute) (V)

Going on a Pilgrimage: a guest entry
Nancy Franson attended Penn State University in the early 80's. It was there that she met her husband, Mark. It was also there that her faith was shaped by God as she got involved in the CCO ministry on campus. The CCO staff at PSU at the time was Dan Dupee, who is now the president of the CCO. Several years ago Dan took a sabbatical to recover from his first seven years leading the CCO and to seek God for what would come next for him and the CCO. During this time he took his family on a hiking trip with the Fransons in Glacier National Park. The sabbatical was powerful and restorative for Dan- the kind of quadrant two experience that Covey claims is crucial for leaders.

So when Dan told Nancy and Mark that the CCO was offering a trip inspired by his sabbath experience, they were interested. The Alpine Pilgrimage was started a few years ago as an opportunity for friends of the CCO to engage in the reflective and restorative spiritual discipline of pilgrimage along one of the world's most beautiful trails, the Tour du Mont Blanc. Nancy is a very talented writer and when she and Mark decided to go on the Alpine Pilgrimage, she began to blog her journey. While not an exercise-fiend by any means, Nancy saw in this trip an opportunity to invest in their marriage and do the hard work of "staying in love". By clicking on this link you can read more about why she and Mark decided to go hiking in the Alps and how she prepared her self to see what God would have for her in the mountains. As Nancy points out, we daily have the opportunity to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the laying down of our lives in service of others. Stay tuned to hear more about Nancy and the other 16 participants whom we had the privilege of walking alongside on this year's pilgrimage.
Today we head off to the CCO's Summer Institute, the annual week-long, organization-wide training event. For the next 5 days we will hear from speakers, gather with the whole experiential ministry team, plan the end of summer and fall ministry schedule with our staff, and co-teach a class for CCO staff on designing experiences that testify to God's redemptive story. It will be a very full week indeed.
Please keep us in your prayers and thank you for your continued support of our ministry. We could not do this work without your faithful prayers and contributions.
To God be the glory, 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Reforming Higher Education

The CCO has always been a campus ministry organization that seeks to be part of God's work on campus not just with students. The transformation of institution is one reason the CCO works in partnerships. Click here to find out more about CCO partnerships.

Recently several former CCO staff and students have launched a project to respond to the crisis in higher education. They are seeking to start a new college here in Pittsburgh. It will be called the Saxifrage School.

A short animated video captures their dream.

The Saxifrage Idea from Saxifrage School on Vimeo.

The founders of the school (Tim Cook and Andrew Heffner) led a seminar at Jubilee this year. The room was full of students and professionals committed to higher education. I think this points to the desire to hear new ideas about how to transform higher education.

As the above poster notes, I (Francois) will get the chance to speak at one of their events next month. My topic will be the difficulty of change as it relates to health as flourishing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photos of some XD staff on Spring Break

Students are back on campus after spring break and photos of their trips are being posted all over the web. Here are couple from staff Joy and I supervise to start us off:

Jeremy Stoltzfus led two trips this spring break. On the first trip he was canoeing in the Florida Everglades with Juniata College. During that trip he apprenticed Lisa Hershey, CCO staff at Juniata. Lisa has been working with students at the Standing Stone Coffee House, a coffee house run by former CCO staff, Greg Anderson. Lisa is starting an outdoor discipleship program at the college and will be leading the CCO's 40-day expedition in the wilderness of Wyoming.
Jeremy's second trip was on Suwanee River in Georgia with students from Georgia Gwinnett College. Jeremy was invited to lead this trip by the outdoor program director who had been discipled by Jeremy when she was a student at Messiah College. Here are some photos to enjoy:
Jeremy is a XD program resource who will be leading several trips to Alaska this summer for friends of the CCO.

Jamie Zackavitch was hiking at Cumberland Island (also in Georgia) with students from Ohio Wesleyan University. Jamie was mentoring a student leader who is involved with the Outdoor Ministry Team at OWU. Here are the photos from her trip:
Jamie is the XD administrator. She keeps us running! She will also be heading to Wyoming this summer with Lisa to lead the CCO's Leadership and Discipleship in the Wilderness 40-day expedition.

As I was writing this, I started thinking about Genesis 5 and 11 and spiritual genealogies. Jeremy and Jamie are leaving legacies. They themselves where "begat" and through their work such as their leadership on the recent spring break trips, they will "begat" students who will themselves become witnesses. But I think that's the topic for another blog post... later...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Spring Break Season 2012

That rite of passage time is upon us once again. The time from which stories will be retold for years to come and that is caricatured in countless bad Hollywood B-movies. It's spring break time again!!!
But for a number of students involved in CCO ministries, spring break does not mean hitting the beaches and the booze. They have chosen instead to join a small group of peers to build a community seeking adventure with a purpose (as my friend Ryan Carlson likes to say). They will be heading out to the wilderness to be stretched. In taking a sabbath from classes, they seek deeper connections to each other and to God. All while discovering a new adventure activity that will take them outside their comfort zone. They understand that in leaving the comforts of campus and civilization, one has the opportunity to see life a little more clearly and  the things that really matter come a little more into focus. So please pray for them over the next two weeks and for their CCO instructors who are shepherding them through these potentially life-changing encounters. Pray for the CCO Experiential Designs trips: Westminster College in rock climbing Colorado, Juniata College canoeing in the Everglades, Geneva College and Waynesburg University sea kayaking in the Everglades, Ohio Wesleyan University backpacking in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and on Cumberland Island, Georgia and Georgia Gwinnet College canoeing in Northern Florida. Pray also for the many CCO/ Habitat for Humanity trips that will also be heading out for spring break all over the Southeast.