Developing Christian Leaders

Alec Hill
March 19, 2003

Core Committment #7: We develop women and men to serve as leaders at every level of InterVarsity and ultimately for the Kingdom of God, honoring God’s gifts and calling in them.

One the enjoyable parts of my job is meeting InterVarsity alumni. Whether in government, education, the church, business, science or at home raising kids, they are an impressive lot. I am most impressed by their leadership qualities.

That we develop leaders is nothing new – always have, always will.

We Develop Leaders for the Kingdom of God

One the enjoyable parts of my job is meeting InterVarsity alumni. Whether in government, education, the church, business, science or at home raising kids, they are an impressive lot. I am most impressed by their leadership qualities.

That we develop leaders is nothing new – always have, always will. This emphasis shows up not only in our Core Commitments, but also as one of our strengths in our recent SWOT Analysis and as one of the priorities of our National Initiatives.

In his book Leadership Is An Art , Max DePree concludes: “The first responsibility is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.”

DePree nicely captures the essence of Christian leadership in this paragraph. First, leaders define reality by being honest regarding the present (both bad and good) and visionary regarding the future. Second, leaders take seriously Jesus’ injunctions to serve those they lead (Matt. 20:25-28). Third, they hoard neither power nor credit but share both with their teams.

Jim Collins concludes in Good to Great that the best leaders combine two oddly fitting characteristics – humility and tenacity. Able to subordinate their egos to the needs of the community, their predominant driver is mission, not self.

The apostle John echoes this theme of humility when he openly criticizes Diotrephes, a church leader who “loves to be first” (3 John 9-10). Such self-promotion stands in stark contrast to our call to be “bond slaves” of Jesus and servant leaders. Not that this is an easy task. Charles Swindoll observes: “It is tough to find a person who holds a high position and yet is tender before God.”

Leaders who seek to promote the Kingdom of God in others must become role models themselves. Requisite virtues include the ability to listen, cast vision, inspire, serve, sacrifice, correct, teach, confess, provide care and remain humble. These attributes do not come easily for sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, the nurture of the body of Christ and God’s grace can we grow into mature leaders.

We Develop Women and Men

We have always developed both women and men as leaders. Our first president, Stacey Woods, set the tone: “His view of women in leadership was decades ahead of most other Christian leadership. Throughout the country, women staff workers were given the same assignments as men” ( For Christ and the University by Keith and Gladys Hunt).

In a more recent book, The Church on the World’s Turf , a non-Christian author noted his surprise that leadership in InterVarsity is gender blind. Contrary to what he expected, women serve on equal footing throughout the ministry.

This Core Commitment calls us to “honor God’s gifts and calling” in students and staff “at every level.” Hence, it is fully consonant with our values that three of our current Vice Presidents — Karon Morton, Andrea McAleenan and Jeanette Yep, and one of our National Field Directors, Janet Luhrs Balajthy – are women.

In addition, one of our former Regional Directors, Geri Rodman, now serves as President of Inter-Varsity Canada. While we are currently lacking women at the Regional Director level – a situation we intend to remedy – 31 women serve as Area Directors. Women also serve effectively throughout the Fellowship as Trustees, Team Leaders, Department Heads, Bible teachers, counselors, evangelists, etc.

As a missionary movement, we can ill afford to squander the talents of any of our people. Women – both staff and students – have historically shared significant leadership roles with men throughout the Fellowship and will continue to do so.