As Ernest left the party he said to me (Sam) "I have never been a gathering of Christians before, but this is the nicest party I have ever been to. Thanks so much for having me" After my 15 minute conversation with Ernest I was so intrigued that a man with his story had shown up at our party, but how did he get here? He knew no one involved with Cru and had frankly never even heard of Cru before. I was very curious.
As we were checking our event's RSVP page the week leading up to it, something looked very wrong, but in an exciting way. We typically have about 225 people show up to our kickoff event, and around 175 RSVPs. This year, however, the week before we were already at 500 or so RSVPs and the number was climbing. The odd thing about it is that we were very unfamiliar with many of the names on the list. A little bit of panic ensued as our locale could not hold more than 400 people (and at that number envision packed sardines in a can). Each day leading up to the event we added about 100 RSVPs. Many thoughts were running through our team's head, "How do you buy food for that many people? How do we count people so as not to be a fire hazard? How do we politely ask people to leave who have been at the party long enough to make room for others? Where can you get those fancy velvet ropes to help a line form outside?"
One thing was clear in all of this though, God was up to something. We had found out at the event itself that a local New York events blog, had picked up our event from our website and had been publicizing it for us. Some very cool things came from this situation. 1. There were far more outsiders at our event, and since one of our goals is to connect the disconnected to Jesus and His people, we were very excited about that 2. We were forced to mobilize millennial volunteers. With a Staff team of 10 this year, there was no way we could touch base with everyone at the event. We sent out an email to the nearly 100 millennials who have been through our leadership development groups in the past casting vision for them to own this night as people who know Christ and who know what Cru is all about. It was so encouraging to see them be hospitable and reaching out to others. and 3. We have a very large pool of people who have signed up for our emails about our follow-up events all over the city. We are trusting God to turn email contacts into followers of Christ.
In the end our attendance number was more manageable, in the 300 range, but God making connections for us in the city caused us to have to think creatively. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!