In 2019, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) announced that Will W. Huss, Jr. would be the next national coordinator. Huss was first introduced to RUF as a student at Clemson University and has stayed involved through his time as a member of the Permanent Committee for RUF. A ruling elder at Clemson Presbyterian, Huss had just finished his first full year as a staff member when I interviewed him via Zoom. Due to Huss’ professional experience in the private sector and lifelong involvement in RUF, I knew we would be in for a fascinating interview.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
When did you come to faith?
I don’t remember a time not knowing Jesus as my Savior; I would consider myself a child of the covenant.
What attracted you to RUF?
At the last minute, I decided to go to Clemson to study architecture. My youth intern at First Pres in Dillon, South Carolina, asked me to promise him that I would go to RUF. I said, “I don’t know what that is.” But in all honesty, I only missed one large group in all four years of college.
Was RUF still fairly new to the scene?
RUF is actually older than the PCA. RUF was started in 1971 and became a ministry of the PCA in 1973. There were probably only a dozen RUFs, maybe 15 when I started going. When I got to Clemson, I didn’t realize RUF was a part of the PCA; I thought it was a ministry of Clemson Presbyterian Church.[RUF] balanced orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathos: what I believe, how I function, and what I feel. RUF connected the church and the campus.
What made RUF stand out?
The thing that stood out to me is that it balanced orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathos: what I believe, how I function, and what I feel. RUF connected the church and the campus. It gave me the ability to dive deep into the Scriptures, know how they applied to my head, heart, and hand, defend my faith, and think biblically about applying the truths of Scripture to all of life. One of the most important things I learned there and continue to use has been faith-work integration.
Who was your campus minister? How did God use him to influence or shape your faith?
David Sinclair is his name. In fact, he’s actually our senior pastor now at Clemson Presbyterian. David was my campus minister, and he influenced me greatly because he sought to understand my context and then how to apply the gospel to that. He really shepherded me through that process. Here I am 30 years later, and he’s still doing the same thing as my pastor.
He was really good at meeting people where they were. He would ask me, “What are you studying right now? Where are you struggling? How are you doing spiritually?” He also spent a lot of time teaching me how to teach and how to think well. He helped shape my view of the church in so many ways.
How has RUF evolved as you’ve gotten more involved with the ministry?
I’ve been fairly involved for a long time. I was on the permanent committee and chaired it for two years. Even though this has been my first year [as national coordinator], it’s definitely not my first take on RUF. The philosophy of ministry is still the same. The truths of the gospel have stayed the same. The mission was reaching students for Christ and equipping them to serve, and there is no intention of changing that.
But the context changes constantly. As I said, I think there were fewer than 20 campuses when I was involved, and now we’re on 172 campuses with eight of those in foreign countries. What’s really changing since I’ve gotten involved is the organizational structure: continuing to advance a sustainable model as an organization and as an agency of the PCA.
What were you doing before you came to RUF as national coordinator?
I was in the private sector. My background is in construction and development.
Talk a little bit about what your first year has been like and what you’ve learned from being on the inside of a Christian non-profit.
Honestly, it’s been very little of what I anticipated. If you take the dynamics of COVID-19 and the impact that’s had on campuses, it creates a little bit of a challenge. Each campus is different, but it introduced the common element of all of the campuses being shut down. Our campus ministers who have been doing RUF for 20 years will be functioning the same as a first-year campus minister this fall.
I feel like I had a fair amount of relational capital and knew a lot of the folks [before taking the job], but I’ve been so impressed with the people. They know what they’re doing in the day-to-day ministry, and they do it very well. One day leadership may look like just being a cheerleader and encouraging somebody, and the next day, I’m sitting in Atlanta and having to call every campus and say, “You’ve got to cancel your spring break trip because of COVID-19.”
The other thing that I’ve really learned is how much the PCA loves RUF. It has been evident how vital the ministry is to the future of the church by developing its future leaders and future parishioners. One of the more encouraging things has been being able to come alongside the other presidents and coordinators of the agencies. I cherish my time with them.
If you asked any campus minister or campus staff or intern, “How’s your ministry going?” I would hope that they would answer, “I’ll let you know in 10 years.” You really only know the influence of connecting the campus and the church after they become parishioners in the local church.When it comes to RUF, what are some of your strategic goals for the ministry?
The strategy and the mission are pretty simple, and again, that’s reaching and equipping. In terms of strategic goals, we’re in the midst of developing a lot of that.
The biggest thing for me strategically — and this is something that I did previously in the private sector — is leading through our core values. You establish those core values, and then that influences your decisions — what you do and how you do it. That allows you to develop a sustainable oversight structure with a sustainable funding model.
Our tendency is to count nickels and noses. We want to count the number of dollars we raise and count the number of students. I think we’ve got to be really careful about doing that, but we do need to think about how we measure what we’re doing today, which influences where the church will be in 10 years.
If you asked any campus minister or campus staff or intern, “How’s your ministry going?” I would hope that they would
answer, “I’ll let you know in 10 years.” Because there are conversions and there are people who are growing, but you really only know the influence of connecting the campus and the church after they become parishioners in the local church.
I like the way you frame that. When you think about the relationship between the campus and the church, what role do seminaries play when it comes to the success of RUF as a ministry?
I think the seminaries play a huge role in our recruiting. Historically, we’ve mainly looked at recruiting as going into the seminaries and recruiting future campus ministers and campus
I don’t think we’re doing a bad job, but I’d like to be more intentional, to begin recruiting students for seminary with the idea that they would eventually come to work for RUF. Our partnership with seminaries is critical to where we go and to equipping and training those people to do the kingdom work on the campus.
Whether I’m designing and building commercial buildings or helping lead a campus ministry, they’re both about relationships, and they’re both about being a part of the kingdom of God. What differences and similarities have you noticed between ministry organizations and corporate businesses?
A lot of the differences and similarities that I’ve noticed between ministry and corporate business relate to structure and accountability.
RUF is a large organization. You develop the strategy; you focus on the culture and core values. Part of leadership is protecting the philosophy of ministry, and simply doing the mission. You set up an effective structure to move an organization from one level to another. You do that in the private sector and non-profits.
At the same time, nobody has experience with COVID-19. It’s all new. I learned a lot in the Great Recession that I’ve been able to apply at RUF: financial strategy, an organizational focus, and the intense need to communicate and collaborate.
The need for communication, collaboration, and accountability is no different between the non-profit and the private sector. RUF is known for being a relational organization; that is one of our core values. I don’t know how you have a relational ministry without some type of accountability. Another similarity is a tendency to count, to look at numbers. But whether I’m designing and building commercial buildings or helping lead a campus ministry, they’re both about relationships, and they’re both about being a part of the kingdom of God.Focus on continual communication and collaboration around the mission of what you’re trying to accomplish. Those are the biggest things you can do as a leader in any organization.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to business leaders and ministry leaders?
Work to remove the silos. A silo is an organizational component that winds up functioning without any connection to the other pieces to accomplish the whole. If I look at RUF, I’ve got ministry, organizational development, finances, operations, and advancement. A lot of times, they’re doing what they do on a daily basis without talking to one another. There is not just wisdom that can be had from talking to one another, but it actually allows things to be unveiled and pursued better.
Focus on continual communication and collaboration around the mission of what you’re trying to accomplish. Those are the biggest things you can do as a leader in any organization.
You nailed that.
I’ve lived it for a year now.