what is core team

Core Team is the nucleus of our campus programs and the most progressive expression of our vision for personal student discipleship. Spiritual awakening and cultural transformation on campuses requires the Holy Spirit’s power and wisdom, which are cultivated in a student’s life through the intentional pursuit of God. However, a lifestyle conducive to personal transformation, a prerequisite to effective ministry, does not emerge by accident in anyone - not even in the greatest saints. It is intentionally cultivated by those willing to go the distance in Jesus.

We believe that anyone who desires God’s hand upon his life must patiently nurture the soil of his soul. This is essentially why Core Team exists. Our aim, as it pertains to the life of every Core Team student, is to present the Holy Spirit with a soul - humble, devoted, faithful, eager, and willing - ready to be captivated by and drawn into his glorious will and purposes.

Some (usually sincere, well-meaning young believers) suppose that the condition of their soul is secondary to their dedication or their ability to effectuate good works. In other words, the notion is that with enough devotion, sincerity, hard work, and sacrifice, the kingdom of God may be expanded and the fullness of God’s will realized.

But Jesus teaches us otherwise. Faithfully abiding in him, seeking him, and devoting ourselves to simply loving him precedes and facilitates spiritual fruitfulness. Without closeness to Jesus, all our labors, no matter how noble, are vanity. Thus, we desire to present to Jesus souls mature and ready for fruitful labors in the Holy Spirit.

We believe that campus transformation cannot be brought about solely by alumni or professional ministers working among students. Rather, students themselves, who are the beating heart of every university, must be ready to present the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ to their peers - in power, in truth, and in love. Thus, the work is not finished - and indeed cannot be completed - until a group of students choose unhindered and unentangled devotion to Jesus Christ and his gospel.

who should apply

While we welcome all students who are interested in Core Team to discuss their interest with us, here are some considerations to review.

Academic Profile: Core Team is open to all full-time students enrolled in a degree-earning program, both undergraduate and graduate, at any one of our target universities. Generally, exchange students, part-time students, and students in brief professional programs will not qualify. Our target universities are, in alphabetical order: Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, NYU, Princeton, U Penn, and Yale. Students must have at least one full school year remaining before graduation at their first retreat.

Spiritual Profile: Core Team is open to all professing Christians - that is, students must:

  • Affirm our Statement of Faith.

  • Believe that he is a sinner, saved from the consequences of such sin by God’s free gift of grace through Jesus Christ.

  • Have been baptized, by full submersion in water, or be willing to be baptized upon acceptance into Core Team.

  • Place his full faith in Jesus Christ and live by the Bible.

  • Openly declare that Jesus Christ is God and is his personal lord and king.

  • Not practice any other religion, recognize no other god, and affirm no other belief system.

Any student recognized as a professing Christian is welcome to apply - regardless of self-perceived “spiritual maturity”. In particular, we welcome students who may feel unqualified due to being a Christian for a short period, “backsliding” or equivocating in their faith, lack of Bible knowledge, difficulties with sin or immorality, lack of spiritual discipline, lack of previous spiritual leadership experience, or any similar concerns.

Core Team is not a program for the strongest, most charismatic, most influential Christian students. It is, in fact, the opposite. Any student willing to humble themselves before God and eagerly desires a deeper relationship with God is suitable, especially those who feel unworthy of a glorious calling in God. By contrast, it is usually those who are widely praised as being the most passionate, gifted, charismatic Christians who are usually least well-suited to our ministry culture.

Other Considerations: It is important to recognize and acknowledge upfront that Core Team requires a significant investment of time, energy, and emotion. You will be required to pray and fast at certain times throughout the year, sometimes for long stretches. During retreat weekends - which is every other weekend during the school year and sometimes during school vacations - you will miss all or part of Friday classes and not have the weekend to do schoolwork. For conferences and events, you will have logistic responsibilities and therefore miss part of the events. From time to time, we serve from early in the morning until late into the midnight, often without meal breaks and sometimes without bathroom breaks. And it is expected that you do all of these things - and more - with joy, humility, and gratitude.

No one can be expected to be flawless, but we do hope that you will be earnestly devoted to serving with us in the ministries entrusted to us. Struggling and feeling daunted by the expectations is not a problem but giving up is. Therefore, we feel it is right to warn in advance that Core Team is not meant to be easy or convenient - and ask you to “count the cost” before you commit.

While “the cost” is different for everyone, previous Core Team students have commonly reported losses in finances, relationships, academics, and other areas. However, seeking God radically is always costly, and we want to encourage you when you encounter such trials, whether with us or elsewhere. God sees the earnest yearning of every heart that seeks him diligently and rewards them by allowing them to find him. May you discover and live for the riches of God in Jesus Christ.

What Is it Like

Without doubt, the best way to understand Core Team is to actually speak with our current students and alumni. They were all once in your shoes, weighing the decision of whether to join, and can testify to both how they made that decision and the impact of Core Team thereafter. The best indication of why you should join Core Team is what others like you have experienced, rather than what is speculated by people outside our ministry; we have nothing to hide. We recommend that you begin by speaking with the Core Team students on your campus. We are also delighted to make introductions to any Core Team student from the last two years - and can provide a list if helpful.

Nevertheless, we will try to provide some “what to expect” pointers here, organized in four categories of responsibilities incumbent upon all Core Team students:

  1. Responsibilities of Participation
  2. Core Team retreats are held every other weekend during the school year; we also host events during school breaks. Core Team also regularly engages in fasting and prayer outside of events, including, at times, daily prayer and extended fasting. Participation in everything is required, without exception.

    We permit one absence per semester, after your first semester. Missing part of a retreat counts as an absence. Absences are not permitted at conferences or mandatory retreats. Please plan to arrive by 7 PM on Friday and depart after 3 PM on Sunday. For many Core Team students, this means attendance at certain Friday classes will not be possible. Our calendar for the following school year is available by June; students should plan accordingly.

  3. Responsibilities of Ministry
  4. Core Team organizes our student retreats, leads any campus initiatives engage in, and supports other programs as needed. You are typically expected to spend a minimum of 5-10 hours per week on operational tasks throughout the school year and during breaks. We expect the highest standard of professionalism and timeliness. During special events, you may also be required to arrive a day early and depart a day late to accommodate operational needs. Please plan your study and class schedule accordingly.

  5. Responsibilities of Finances
  6. Retreats are free, but travel is at your own expense. For students who need financial support, we will happily take an offering for you but also expect that you will to your best to earn (e.g. by working jobs on campus) your travel expenses. We know that God provides financially for those who trust him in faith.

    We also understand that scripture requires believers to support their spiritual home through financial giving (e.g. Malachi 3:10). Therefore, Core Team members are required to contribute a minimum of 10% of their income and financial support (including support from parents and scholarships) to the ministry.

  7. Responsibilities of Personal Faith
  8. No corporate meetings will replace the need for personal prayer. Without being legalistic, we require that five hours of private time be spent with God each week. This calling supersedes every other in life.

How To Join

Entry into Core Team begins with the completion of our reading list. Since you may not know us well, these books will help introduce the way we think and live. You need to finish at least two of these books before your first retreat, with the understanding that you will finish the remaining books within a month of your first retreat. Our reading list is as follows, roughly in order of brevity:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Final Quest by Rick Joyner
Power from On High by Charles Finney
Possessing the Gates of the Enemy by Cindy Jacobs
Knowledge of the Holy by AW Tozer

You are encouraged to also read our Membership Primer, which our Student Coordinator can provide. Our primer provides some theological and practical foundations for our community. Though Core Team students are not members, you will be expected to live at a standard similar to that required of our members.

Completing the reading list does not guarantee acceptance to Core Team. We prayerfully consider every student’s interest and may decline if we believe you are best suited for a different community. Because we invest significant ministry resources into every Core Team student, it is essential that the students we accept be well-positioned to grow and serve with us. Therefore, we also carefully consider whether your time commitments or life goals may prevent you from meeting our standards of faithfulness.

Core Team is designed to be your church and primary community. Thus, we do not permit Core Team members to hold leadership positions in another ministry, including campus fellowships, if such positions may reasonably interfere with your participation in our work. However, you are encouraged to participate in other activities to serve fellow students in a personal capacity. Other opportunities should be evaluated on the basis of their commitment. Extracurriculars that require your time on weekends (such as sports teams) are usually incompatible with Core Team’s calendar.

To facilitate your entry onto Core Team, please e-mail our Student Coordinator, Kenisha Santiago (kenisha@alab.org), when you begin the reading list. We will schedule your first retreat upon the completion of two books and after our leaders have prayerfully considered your interest. In the meantime, we want to be available to answer any questions you may have and support you in what we believe to be a big transition and undertaking.

We bless you in the name of our lord Jesus Christ.