InterVarsity, the PTA, and Me: How I Learned to Engage
Last August, when my daughter started elementary school, I must confess that the only thing I could think was, Free at last. We had finally reached the milestone of public education for six-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week. I could now go grocery shopping without someone crying that the kid-sized shopping carts were all taken or that we forgot to ask the cashier for stickers. And I was perfectly content to benefit from dropping my child off and picking her up with a simple warm hello to other parents. But then God began to change my heart.
Act Like a Sophomore
My InterVarsity experience began to kick in as I remembered all those talks about seeing systems renewed and developing relationships with those around me, especially when I realized what a significant percentage of parents were actually very involved in the school. By the end of my daughter’s kindergarten year, the exact same sense I’d had at the end of my freshman year of college was present in me again: it was time to act like a sophomore and engage.
Other parents were leading the school; I could step in and get to know them and the parent-volunteer culture. I could work alongside them to redeem the broken structures in our public school. I could also become friends with them over the course of the six years our kids would be in elementary school together—two years longer than my four years in college!
So, when my work schedule changed this year and freed up some space in my days, I became a room parent, functioning as the liaison between the teacher and the parents. That was my starting point. I also began shifting my priorities and filling my calendar with PTA meetings, special committee meetings, and even a school board meeting. I started bringing our family to school events as well, and made every birthday party my daughter was invited to a high priority so I could sit around eating pizza and chatting with other parents while the kids jumped in the bounce house.
It didn’t take long for all this effort to begin to change my friendships and social networks. I became Facebook friends with the other parents and found myself entering some of their numbers into my phone. I knew I had made it into the inner circle when I was sought out to attend more special committee meetings and invited to hang out on the weekends.
The Intentionality I Learned in InterVarsity
Just as in college, through this sort of intentionality in engaging structures and pursuing relationships, God has led me to some unexpected and strategic places. I have had the opportunity to mediate conflict. I have had the opportunity to build trust with the principal because of our shared burden for the socioeconomic disparities in our school. And I have had new friends open up to me in unexpected ways. One friend in particular told me she had “trust issues” but then proceeded to share very personally, which made me feel really honored.
It’s been clear to me since I graduated from college how my leadership roles in InterVarsity prepared me for a life in vocational ministry. But now I am finally getting a taste of the great, even broader deposit that InterVarsity gives students as they graduate and engage with new systems, structures, and people. The same strategic, prayerful intentionality that we apply on campus can be applied to any opportunity. I’m so thankful that InterVarsity invited me to live among my peers for the purpose of Christian witness.
Lisa Liou is a co-team leader for InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries in Southern California.