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