Valley Cru Update: January/February

Ministry Update:

What college student doesn’t love to hear the words “free food!”? JMU Cru was able to utilize free food to spread the gospel around campus. How did they do it? Text 4 Cookie. Text 4 Cookie is an outreach event that gives students incentive to ask questions about Christianity. Students in freshman dorms were given the opportunity to text in questions which were later answered by Cru students and staff members. The students were incentivized by receiving a small bag of cookies for texting in a question! The first Text 4 Cookie outreach was held on January 17th and then another was held on February 27th.

Not only does Cru focus on on-campus outreach, we also focus on equipping students to do God’s work all over the globe. JMU Cru is sending out two missions teams over spring break; one stateside and one international. The stateside group will be going to Philadelphia, PA to work with Mission Liberti. For the entire week, our students will be working in inner city Philly to show God’s love to the locals by serving in the surrounding area. This trip is also a “sneak preview” of what it’s like to go on a summer mission through Cru. The other team will be going to North Africa. This team will be exploring the culture of the area and getting a taste of what it would be like to serve with Cru for a year after they graduate.


Series Recap:

JMU Cru has started off the year with a bang! Coming directly out of the Baltimore Cru Winter Conference, JMU Cru began January with a large group series called “Go, Do, Say, Give”. This series encourages students to Go where God wants you to go, Do what God wants you to do, Say what God wants you to say, and Give what God wants you to give. Each of these can be applied to going on missions, giving money or time to the church or friends in need, telling a coworker about God, and many other actions.

In the month of February, we got to hear one of our staff members, Grace speak on the idea of rest. She did an excellent job describing that we need to give ourselves a “sabbath” even if it is not in the exact same meaning as in the Old Testament. Take a nap, watch a couple of your favorite episodes of Friends or The Office, or get some coffee with some friends. Make sure you take some time out of your schedule to breathe and spend time with the Lord.

Also, the day after Valentine’s Day JMU Cru had an a guest speaker. We welcomed none other than Cru Staff member Shelby Abbott. Shelby spoke on sex and dating, but with a unique focus. The main topic was not sex and purity (though, those ARE important), instead he focused his time on speaking about technology and how it is affecting today’s relationships. Ladies and fellas, get off of those devices and talk to one another FACE TO FACE.


Staff Spotlight: Sara Beth Scaife

Sara Beth Scaife is the Ministry Team Leader of Cru here at JMU. 

She is also a wife and mother of an adorable daughter. In case you have not met her, she is pretty awesome. Here are some facts about her so that you can get to know more about her time at Cru and her background.

How long have you been on staff with Cru?

This is my 8th year on staff with Cru. I joined in April 2010 as an Intern.

How much of that time has been with JMU Cru?

I started on staff at Radford University and then was asked to come to JMU. I started on campus at JMU in November 2012, right after my honeymoon. Kyle and I got married in late October 2012.

Why did you join the staff?

I had several job offers graduating college, one of them being Cru. I considered my strengths and the things I enjoyed most. During college, leading a small group and discipling women was my favorite thing to do. A job that allowed me to do that full time seemed like a really fun job! I love developing Christian leaders and seeing students grow in their faith!

What is your favorite thing about being on staff with Cru?

I love the mission and seeing God change the lives of college students. I love seeing students learn how to share their faith, allowing their friends and classmates to come to know Jesus. I love answering students questions about God, life, and what their purpose in life is.

Where did you go to college? What did you initially study in college?

Radford University, I was a student there for five years getting a double degree in Accounting and Business Finance.

Were you involved in Cru as a student? If so, for how long and how did you get involved?

I got kind of involved my Fall semester Freshman year, by joining a small group. But I didn’t take it seriously until Spring my freshman year when an upperclassmen asked me to join their Servant Team.


Meet the 2018 Servant Team!

The Servant Team provides students with the opportunity to utilize their passions to serve God and the JMU community. In January, Cru staff chose the new Servant Team for the 2018 Spring/Fall semesters. Within Servant Team there are six sub teams led by students.  According to Robert VanGee, the servant team director, the vision this year is, “to grow and maintain a healthy, effective, and spirit-led leadership team by equipping individual leaders and the Servant Team as a group both spiritually and practically.”

Meet the leaders:

Top: Jake Austin- Community Team, Robert Vangee- Servant Team Director
Left to right: Haley Conner- Conferences Team, Cassie Raymo- Outreach Team, Adriana Nicely- Prayer Team
Bottom: Gabby Santiago- Community Team, Allison Gooden- Communications Team, Peyton Moore- Productions Team


This post was written by the JMU Cru Media Team- a group of students dedicated to sharing the love of Christ through media on JMU’s campus.

Joe Slater and JMU Cru

Joe Slater recently shared with me about his experience as a student involved in JMU Cru. If you haven’t been following our little series, we have been talking to former students and Cru staff who were a part of this ministry over the years.

First off, I need to tell you about Joe. Before I moved to Harrisonburg, at least three different people told me that I absolutely MUST meet Joe Slater. Man, were they right. More than most of the people I met in the community, Joe made an effort to get to know me, pray for me, and encourage me in my ministry. This is particularly remarkable to me, because Joe is the campus pastor for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at JMU. RUF is a fantastic ministry of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) that seeks to “help students fall deeper in love with Jesus and develop a lifelong faith.” This demonstrates something I really appreciate about Joe. He has chosen to see other campus ministries as friends and allies rather than competitors. Learn more about Joe and his awesome ministry here.

Long (really long), before Joe was working with RUF, he was a student at JMU and involved with Cru. In fact, I was born while Joe was a student at JMU (1985-88). Somehow, this reality has not stopped certain students from responding with shock when they discover that Joe and I are not the same age (cough cough… Nate Szarmach).

The biggest difference between JMU Cru then and now is that there were no staff on campus back then. Instead, a couple of Cru staff named Bill and Linda White would drive over the mountain from UVA to meet weekly with the student leaders. Besides these weekly check-ins, the students ran everything.

I asked Joe what the highlight of his time involved with Cru was: “High points for me were just being with a community that genuinely loved each other and took seriously their walk with Jesus. I was at a fork in the road with my faith at the time. Was I going to play games with Jesus and my faith or was I going to surrender everything to follow Him? God, in His kind mercy, used Cru and the people of Cru to push me to follow Him.”

I also asked Joe about some of the challenges he and the ministry faced during his time: “We had the usual challenges of staying focused on mission, of balancing school with serving our campus, and trying to daily maintain a walk with Jesus. I think we also had the challenge of young and immature leadership. We had 21 and 22 year olds leading the movement. God was extraordinarily kind to keep us out of some serious weeds despite our immaturity. I also think we very much undervalued and underemphasized the importance of the local church. Maybe some more mature leadership would have helped us correct that.”

Joe, what was the most life changing moment of your time with Cru? “I was standing at the door (of our weekly meeting) to greet newcomers and in walked this beautiful transfer student who would become my wife! Isn’t God good??!!”

Indeed he is Joe.
Contributed by Jerry Riendeau

Shelby Abbott and JMU Cru

Welcome to part two of our series on the history of Cru at JMU. In this post we have the privilege of hearing about the experience of Shelby Abbott who was on staff with Cru at JMU from 2000 until 2007.

If you have any connection to Cru, Shelby doesn’t really need an introduction; he is the definition of a “cru-lebrity”. When I was a freshman at Virginia Tech way back in 2005, I knew Shelby as the loveable and hysterical emcee of the two biggest conferences I went to that year: Cru Winter Conference and Big Break. Twelve years later, he is still faithfully playing both of those roles. Shelby is the author of Jacked, I am a Tool, and I’m Awkward, You’re Awkward. Shelby currently works for Cru’s publishing arm, Cru Press. You can find Shelby’s Blog, as well as more information about his books here.

I asked Shelby how God was using Cru to reach the campus of JMU during his time. Here was his reply:

God did a lot in those years at JMU. There were a lot of specific strategies that both staff and students came up with to reach the campus—some good, and some not-so-good. We did an “I agree with Russ” campaign, which worked out really well, and what the students called a “door holding ministry” where we positioned ourselves around buildings on campus and held open doors for people…which was not so effective. People shared the gospel a lot in those days, and many people were trusting Christ on campus.

Ok, so if you’re not super familiar with both Cru and JMU, a couple of things won’t make sense. First of all, the “I agree with” campaign was a big deal back in the day. This was an evangelistic outreach where you would flood a campus with the slogan “I agree with… (fill in the blank of a particular student. For this example, we will say Russ)”. You’d put up posters, put an add in the school newspaper, and most importantly, wear t-shirts. Lots and lots of t-shirts. Everyone’s t-shirts would say “I agree with Russ”, except for one t-shirt which would say “I am Russ.” Then, at the end of the campaign, there would be a big event in which Russ would share the Gospel. The other thing you need to know is that students at JMU pride themselves on holding doors. I know… you just have to accept it.

Next I asked Shelby how God was using JMU Cru to reach the nations. Here is his reply:

We sent a lot of students overseas, both for summer missions and for Stints. I led a team of all JMU students and staff to Central Asia for a summer mission. There were 4 staff (myself included) and 14 JMU students. There was a lot of momentum for reaching the world in that time.

Eighteen JMU representatives on a single international summer mission? Incredible! But what was Cru’s weekly large group meeting like? After all, that is the face of the movement. Shelby’s response to this question was so unbelievable that I am still having trouble believing his answer. Shelby says that when he arrived there were about 75 students attending the meeting in 2000. By 2005, there were over 700. That is nearly a growth of 10 fold in just five years. During this time, God blessed the movement with incredibly talented speakers, band members, and emcees. All of this together created an environment where people were attracted to the community and heard the Gospel proclaimed boldly.

Ok, one last thing you need to know about Shelby’s time at JMU. His Bible study guys started the White House. The White House is a “Cru House” where 12 JMU Cru men live in semi-peace every year. The White House is still going strong today and remains a center of JMU Cru social life.


Contributed by Jerry Riendeau

JMU Cru and Tim Henderson

College ministries are funny creatures. I have rarely seen another community where the people involved (the students) are as concerned for maintaining tradition. It is not uncommon for a sophomore, when hearing about a potential change to an annual conference, to respond “but that’s how we have ALWAYS done it!” Nevermind that this sophomore has only seen this tradition occur one time. I remember doing the exact same thing when I was a student.

Ironically, these communities also have very short corporate memories. Skip a tradition one year and it will disappear forever. Come back and visit two years after graduating and you will find that you have been all but forgotten.

Case and point: as one of the directors of Cru at JMU, I know almost nothing about the history of our movement. When did it begin? No idea. Who have been the other directors over the years? I only know of two others.

In the hopes of filling in these historical gaps, I have been reaching out to some former JMU Cru staff and students and asking them about their experiences involved in the movement. Over the next few weeks (our new baby willing) I’ll be posting some of their responses here.

The first person who responded to my email was Tim Henderson. Truth be told, Tim has become a bit of a legend in Cru far beyond James Madison. Tim served for a number of years as the director of Cru at Penn State, and it feels like every single student and staff he ever worked with has become a significant leader in either Cru or their local church… or both. Tim and his wife Kellie now serve as the executive directors of the Blue Ridge Fellows. In a nutshell, “the Blue Ridge Fellows are college graduates who begin their professional careers through an integrated, community-rich, nine-month program, learning to live out seamless faith in Christ.” You can learn more about the fellows here. You can access many of the amazing resources Tim has created here.

Here are a few things I learned about JMU Cru from Tim:

Tim was involved as a student at JMU Cru from 1988-1992. Fun fact, during Tim’s freshman year the “Computer” was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. This was also the first year that a CD player was sold, but only in Japan.  Most importantly, Tim tells me that this was the first year that there were JMU Cru staff. The ministry had existed previously as an exclusively student-led entity.

The first campus director was apparently named Chris Willard. This means that the first guy who had my current job started when I was 2 years old.

So what was the movement like back then? Believe it or not, they did not meet in ISAT. In fact, that building was still 9 years away from being constructed. Instead, they simply met in the “mezzanine of the student center”. Yeah, I don’t know where that is either. Here is the amazing part: Tim’s freshman year there were about 30 students involved. By the time he graduated there were more like 150.

As a student, Tim went to Camp Overlook for fall retreat, which is the same camp that we still went to up until this year. Tim remembers fall retreat his sophomore year as the turning point of his time involved with Cru. “It was where I really became part of the community,” he says.

Many other things were similar about JMU Cru when Tim was involved. Students went on summer mission (Tim went on an international summer mission to Central Asia), people were sharing their faith in dorms, and occasionally the staff team and student leaders miscommunicated. I guess some things never change.

“It was a glorious time,” Tim remembers. Let’s pray that it continues to be such a great experience for many more students.


Contributed by Jerry Riendeau


Welcome to the new Shenandoah Valley Cru blog! This blog is primarily written and edited by JMU Cru’s very own Media Team. Each post features an update on Cru’s local ministries, a recap of recent events or outreaches, and other specialized content that varies month-to-month. This blog is updated monthly, so be sure to check back frequently to keep up with what’s happening here in the Shenandoah Valley!