Author: jmucru

Join a “hyper local” church

by Jerry Riendeau

Several years ago, I was serving on staff with Cru at a large state college. About 30 minutes down the road was another college in another college town. There was a wonderful church in that town. This church had great preaching, talented musicians, and a wonderful set of ministries. Not surprisingly, some students from our college ministry began to drive to that town to worship at that church on Sunday mornings.

Here is what was surprising. When our staff invited that pastor to speak at our weekly Cru large group meeting, he told our students to stop coming to his church. Why in the world would he say that? These students were not being disruptive. In fact, they were wonderful contributors to that church. The church wasn’t running out of space. So why did he tell them to stop coming? Because, as he said, they were driving by too many other good churches to get there.

Over time I have come to agree with that pastor. 

There are a lot of important things to consider when picking a church as a college student: Do I agree with them theologically? Are they a loving community? Do I connect with their worship and preaching? I’d like to add another variable to the mix: how close are they geographically?

Notice, I did not say “how convenient are they to get to?” For some of us, especially those who grew up in a large suburban community, 30 minutes away feels almost as convenient as five minutes, especially if there happens to be a Starbucks drive-through on the way. I am asking you to consider how physically nearby the church is.

I am not telling you that this is the only variable you should consider. Rather, I want to argue it is a variable that should carry more weight than most of us naturally give it.

What do I mean by hyper local?

Mostly I just mean “very close by”. I felt the need to add the adjective “hyper” because the term “local church” does not mean the same thing to everyone. For some of us, the term “my local church” has come to mean “the church I go to on Sunday,” regardless of its proximity.

So when I say, “you should go to a ‘hyper local church’”, I am just saying that you should go to a church that is very close by. When you are considering two churches, both of which check the most important boxes, I think you should put greater weight in your decision-making on the one that is closer. Buy why?

1)      Evangelism

One of the best ways to introduce friends to Christ is to invite them to your church. For someone who does not have a background in the church, this could be a very intimidating prospect. One of your responsibilities when introducing people to Christ is to, as far as it is within your power, remove obstacles. The gospel of Jesus Christ has enough obstacles of its own. Let’s not add to them. If your friend is on the fence already about going with you, telling her that it will involve an hour of driving might just be the excuse she needs to bow out.

This may be even more true for college students than for some other demographics. College students are less likely to have cars than some other groups. In addition, college students often identify very strongly with their own college and college town. They may even feel rivalry with another college town.

The point is, in most cases, someone would be more likely to accept an invitation to a nearby church than one that is farther off. Additionally, our hope in evangelism is that our non-believing friends would eventually commit their lives to Christ and join a church family. Let’s set them up well to continue to attend, meet other believers, and Lord willing, be discipled as new believers.

2)      Discipleship

You will be discipled more effectively in a church that is close by. This means that a church that is close by will be better able to help you grow in your faith. This is true for at least a few reasons.

  • Attending bible studies, worship nights, etc. will be easier, and therefore you will probably do so more often.
  • Most churches design their ministries to meet the needs of the community they are in. Therefore, the closer a church is to your college, the more likely it will be designed to minister specifically to you as a student.
  • Churches that are close by are better able to keep you accountable. This is the least fun reason to go to a church close by, but it is very important. One of your church’s jobs is to help you walk with Jesus in your everyday life. However, if you are 30 minutes away from your church, there is less opportunity for people from your church to be a part of your everyday life.

As Matt Smethurst of The Gospel Coalition sums it up, “church membership is a whole-church commitment to oversee one another’s profession of faith. That becomes impossible if you’re not meaningfully seen and known throughout the week. It comes down to what membership is. Just an agreement to attend a weekly event? Or an agreement to lock arms with a specific body in order to live the Christian life together?”

This means that having the ability to rub shoulders with your fellow church members during the week at coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. is not a fringe benefit to church, but of central importance to your discipleship.

3)      Being a Blessing

Joining a “hyper local” church enables you to more effectively be a blessing to two groups of people. Those within the church and those in the community in which the church resides.

Matt’s quote above illustrates how going to a nearby church helps that church bless you, but the logic works both ways. As you are meaningfully seen and known by those in your church, those same people are meaningfully seen and known by you. In Ephesians 3 Paul compares the church to a physical body. In order for this body to function properly, all of its parts (its members) need to work together. The end result is that “the body grow(s) so that it builds itself up in love (Eph 3:16b).” What does this have to do with how far away your church is? If you are not able to take part in the life of the church due to your distance, you are depriving the rest of the church from a critical element that they need to build themselves up in love: you.

There is another group of people that you more effectively bless when you join a church that is nearby: the people in the community where the church resides. When the Jewish people were sent into exile in Babylon, God gave them a command through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jer 29:7).”

This command continues to have application today. One purpose of the local church is to be a blessing to the community around it. This can take many forms. Churches can determine what practical needs a community has and try to provide some of those, such as food kitchens, narcotic anonymous meetings, counseling, child care, etc. In addition to these and other practical blessings, the greatest blessing a church can offer a community is to continually make Christ known to people who live in that community. To put it frankly, you cannot help your church bless the community around them as effectively if you do not live in that community. 

So in conclusion…

Go join the closest church to your apartment. Just kidding, that might actually be a terrible idea. Unfortunately not all churches are created equal. You need to find a church that takes the Bible seriously, preaches the gospel regularly, and loves people well. You also may have some convictions about issues such as baptism or church governance that cause you to prefer some churches over others. These are good things to consider when picking a church. My hope is that when given the choice between joining a good church in your neighborhood, or joining one you like slightly better 20 minutes outside of your neighborhood, that you would give serious consideration to being hyper local.


Jerry Riendeau is one of the directors of Cru at James Madison University. He is married to Katherine. Together they have three children five years old and under. You can contact Jerry at Follow him on Twitter at here.

Valley Cru Update: April

Ministry Update:

The month of April is always jam-packed with events, keeping our students and staff extremely busy as the semester comes to a close. This month, our staff hosted the fifth annual Fellowship Dinner, and our students hosted the annual semi-formal dance.

The Fellowship Dinner is a time to celebrate what God has done over the past year in Cru and a time to share vision for the upcoming school year with local supporters. According to Jenny Smith, one of our staff members, this dinner “[Is] a chance for the JMU Cru community (pastors, parents, ministry partners, campus faculty/staff, alumni, community members, etc.) to come together to glorify God by sharing stories of what has happened in the lives of college students through Cru.” In addition to celebration, it is also a fundraiser dinner that helps raise money for the goals the staff and students have set for the next year. The staff invites the local JMU Cru community to partner with them as they raise funds to make their vision become a reality for the movement.

This year, they had a JMU Cru Alumni, Lindsey Spurlock come to speak about her time in JMU Cru. People came from all over to hear her speak and it became like an alumni reunion for those who knew Lindsey or were involved with Cru in the past. This, among other things, was a unique and special part of this year’s fellowship dinner.

Lastly, our very own student-led Community Team hosted our annual spring semi-formal. The event took place on campus and was a night of good music, dancing, and food. It is always an event that the whole Cru movement looks forward to, and this year did not disappoint!


Series update:

The spring semester is wrapping up and so is our series on the continuity of the gospel in the Bible. This month, Jerry spoke about the Garden, the Fall, and the Promise. During these talks, Jerry explained how sin affects every aspect of our lives but through Jesus, we are redeemed and able to have a relationship with God. The beginning of the series explained the relationship between Adam and Eve with God before they sinned. The next talk explained the consequences of their sin and how we are separated from God and unworthy of his grace. The final talk was about how God promised Abraham that his descendants would fulfill the promise of a savior to redeem the world and restore the relationship with God.   

The most recent talk featured two of our seniors, Robin and Cassidy. Robin focused her talk on going on global missions and how God’s work isn’t done until we fulfill the Great Commission. Cassidy followed up by reminding us to bring the gospel home and share it with our family and friends, no matter how hard it is to do so.


Our seniors are awesome and we’re so thankful for all the time and effort they put into leading this ministry! Thank you, Class of 2018 and good luck with your next steps! Please enjoy these superlatives nominated by students in JMU Cru and voted on by seniors.

Aaron Bryant: Most likely to never ever wear shoes

Abby Bennsky: Most likely to be one with the Brits

Aby Klansek: Most likely to avoid all responsibilities and lay and bed and eat skittles and claim “I’m getting my life together”

Callie Hughes: Most likely to rock red lipstick

Cassidy Fleming: Most likely to be screaming “Yassss”

Cassidy Limer: Most likely to own 15 dogs

Catie Broyles: Most likely to be a human Rosetta Stone

Christian Okada: Little Drummer Boi

Eli Butters: Most likely to win the lottery and lose the ticket

Erin Shively: Sweeter than a chocolate river

Megan Holland: Quietest but sassiest

Jessi Mongold: Most likely to own Disney World

Josh Legge: Most likely to be expert on all Rock Band songs

Julia Hutchens: Most likely to win Survivor

Kalen Bushong: Most likely to be huntin’, fishin’, and lovin’ everyday

Kelsey Terry: Most likely to have a laugh that could also be mistaken for a squeak toy

Kori Mayhugh: Most likely to make you laugh so hard you pee yourself

Lakin Simmons: Most likely to tell Aby Klansek to chill

Lauren Obaugh: Most likely to wear flip flops in snow

Lex Mazczak: Most likely to campaign for women’s rights

Mallie Ziglar: Most likely to brighten up your day

Mary-Kate Mulvaney: Most likely to be loved by every single person she meets

Natalie Wainner: Most likely to bench press more than the rest of the seniors combined

Nick Diaz: Most likely to pick a fight with Jerry

Robin: Most likely to cuss out the ref without cuss words

Sage Wright: Most likely to become a famous musician

Sydney Smith: Most likely to have an awkward story to tell you about her day

Tanner Clark: Most likely to be every freshman girls’ crush

Yasmine Vaughan: Most secretly savage

Zach Mullin: Most likely to be Christian Okada


Which JMU Cru staff member are you? 

Do you ever lie awake at night wondering which JMU Cru staff member you would be? Now you can find out! Take this quiz and post your results and tag @JMUCru!

Valley Cru Update: March

Ministry Update:

Cru had some exciting things going on during the month of March! We started the month with our students serving on two missions trips. One was to North Africa, and gave students a taste of what it would be like to do long-term missions work there. The other was to Philadelphia, PA and the students partnered with Mission Liberti to serve the inner-city population of Philly.

There were also some exciting things that happened in Cru’s weekly ministry. Jerry Riendeau, one of the Ministry Team Leaders, came back from sabbatical and kicked off a large group series on how the Bible tells the same story from start to finish. In it, he discussed the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and how the tree of life in the garden is also mentioned in the last book of the Bible, which was written thousands of years later.

Lastly, a new classroom-style series started last week before large group. This series, called Sunday School Revisited, features pastors from local churches coming to JMU’s campus to teach willing students about classic “Sunday school” stories in the Bible. Last week, Pastor Chris from Aletheia Church taught about David and Goliath. The main takeaway? That this story isn’t about an underdog named David, but is instead about a sovereign and mighty God who fights on behalf of his people. (Also, books are given away at every session so come on April 5 and April 12!)

Spring (Break) Into Action:

Over spring break, five JMU Cru students attended the trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to spread the gospel to the students and community living there. They went to the campuses without a Cru movement to ask people if they would be willing to partner with Philly Cru to start one at their school. Later that week, students and staff traveled to Gloucester, New Jersey to volunteer with service projects with a pastor planting a church there. The students worked with the church to repair homes for people who were unable to do the repairs themselves.

Adriana Nicely (junior) enjoyed using a tool called perspective cards to start a discussion with college students at Drexel University:

“It was so awesome to really lean into God’s strength, goodness, and faithfulness as we shared with the students on the campus…Sharing on Drexel’s campus made me even more excited about sharing here at JMU.  Philly was awesome, there were so many testimonies of what God is doing there and how He is changing hearts and lives for Him.”

The staff of Liberti Church worked with the students throughout the week. Their hard work and passion for sharing the gospel impacted how students viewed evangelism. Even as a freshman, Jesse Settle has already noticed a change in his life:

“This trip definitely changed my view on evangelizing because before the trip I was hesitant to engage in that, but now I am even willing to do it on JMU’s campus as well because it is really fun.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Mission Liberti, talk to one of the students or staff who went!

Student Spotlight: Haley Connor

Haley Conner is one of our amazing student leaders in Cru! She serves as a freshmen small group leader and as the Conference Team leader. She is very sweet and loves to get to know other people!

What year are you?

I am a junior!

What is your major?

I am an IDLS major, elementary education minor.

What made you choose JMU?

JMU was not originally my first choice, but after touring here one time (although I was pretty indecisive), I definitely realized that the atmosphere here is different than anywhere else. There are so many friendly people and it just seems like a happy place. That’s what drew me in, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else! #GoDukes

How did you get involved in Cru?

I remember getting an email from Cru at some point, and also being invited through text by my small group leader! My freshman roommate, Leana and I decided to go to large group one night, and we were hooked ever since then!

What is your favorite part of Cru?

My favorite part of Cru is the learning and growth that you experience through the incredible opportunities that come with being in it. Cru has such a welcoming atmosphere, and once you decide to step into it, there are so so many opportunities to learn and grow in your faith. From joining a small group or tribe, getting coffee with people, going on retreats and conferences, getting to know staff members, being discipled, and stepping up to leadership positions, God really works through all of these things and draws you closer to Him through it all.

You’re on a servant team this year- what team are you on and what is your role?

I am the conference team leader! With that, I get to work with my awesome team to plan and promote the Spring Break Trip, Fall Retreat, and Winter Conference. In addition to that, I get to work with all of the other wonderful members of servant team as we collaborate and support one another.

You went on the Spring break trip with Mission Liberti this year. What was that like? What was your favorite part?

Mission Liberti was an absolutely incredible experience for me. We had the opportunity to learn to serve those who serve, to be trained and get experience in looking for key volunteers to start Cru movements on college campuses, and to learn about and get practice in sharing our faith. No matter what we were doing, it was just awesome to be surrounded by so many staff and students who love the Lord and could encourage one another as we took on new experiences. My favorite part was going to Drexel University and spending some time sharing my faith there. We used Perspective cards to do this, and it was awesome to kind of just jump out there and trust that God would provide and give us the words to say as we talked to people. If anyone has any questions about any of this or what it means, or if you’d just like to hear more about it, please let me know! I’d love to talk with you!

Have you been on any other mission trips through Cru?

I have not been on any mission trips with Cru yet, but I am going to be going back to Philly this summer for the summer version of Mission Liberti! It’s from May 26th-June 23rd, and I cannot wait! With that being said (shameless plug), come with me!!

Women’s Retreat Recap!

Almost every JMU Cru woman will agree that Women’s Retreat is the most anticipated event of the year.  

For those who don’t know, Women’s Retreat is an annual event that is 100% student run. The senior women spend the entire spring semester planning and preparing this retreat. The goal is to create a Christ-centered weekend where the senior women have the opportunity to share what God has taught them over the last four years and how we as underclassmen can use these lessons in our own lives.

Each Women’s Retreat weekend consists of 3 main talks, multiple break-out sessions based on more specific topics, worship music, crafts, great food, and vulnerability. All talks, breakout sessions, and worship sessions are led by the senior women. The theme this year was “Live Surrendered”. The seniors shared their experiences with surrendering everything over to God and gave practical ways for us to devote ourselves completely to Him.

These women did an incredible job of showing God’s love to all of us and demonstrating what a godly community looks like! We would all like to thank the senior class for serving us with kind and open hearts and for inspiring us to be vulnerable with one another!



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.

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!