By Drew Larson

New Season, New Approaches—Virtual Ministry during a Pandemic

For more campus stories, please visit intervarsity.org/news.

 

When Alex Kelley began this year as a Campus Ministry Intern at Berea College, he had a clear vision for his job: meet students, connect them with InterVarsity, and seek revival on campus together. But, like many people, COVID-19 upended his plans. The coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 swept students and faculty away from Berea’s campus, and with it went Alex’s clarity about doing ministry.

The cornerstone of an InterVarsity experience is manuscript Bible study. Students gathering around Scripture, putting pen to paper, wrestling with a text, and applying it to their lives. COVID-19, and the social distancing that came with it, made a traditional Bible study seem impossible.

Berea College is a small liberal arts school in Kentucky, its campus nestled up against the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The school is close-knit, and students were grieving the abrupt loss of community. Many of their families were struggling financially. Anxiety, loneliness, and fear were taking root. Alex saw how deeply these students needed these Bible studies, both spiritually and socially.

As Alex thought about how to continue ministry, his passion for evangelism—dating back to his conversion as a student at Western Michigan University—kept pressing on his heart. “How do we bring people who aren’t Christians into faith [right now]?” he asked himself. “How is it different this season than in others?”

An online Bible study was a clear, practical solution. The raw materials to launch one were already well in hand. His iGen students were already digital natives, whose lives happen in virtual space as much as in physical reality. And schools were already deep in the process of pivoting to digital platforms to finish the semester anyway. Where he would find students to invite, however, was another question entirely.

Alex opened his social media apps and started searching for Berea students at random. If it’s in their bio that they go to Berea, they’re fair game! he thought. Alex extended dozens of personal invitations, eventually gathering enough students to launch two separate Bible studies.

Through these Bible studies, even in digital spaces, God began extraordinary works of revival. After one session, Alex asked for prayer requests. Hunter, a freshman, said that he fell down the stairs and hurt his tailbone, fearing it could be broken. Everyone prayed together, and Hunter was healed right then.

Another student accepted Jesus at the end of the first Zoom meeting during a call to faith. Two weeks later, Alex called her to debrief. She felt she had much more peace now, and Alex explained that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, telling her, “Let me explain to your mind what happened to your heart.” Since then, she has been faithfully coming to Bible studies. She takes notes at each meeting and shares everything she’s learning with her family.

Even more students from schools without campus ministries have started attending these Bible studies. One high school student joined who wants to start his own Bible study with his high school friends in preparation for and during the beginning of college next year.

Alex is looking forward to the fall semester and hopefully a return to in-person ministry, getting to see Berea students face-to-face and worship and fellowship together. But through these virtual Bible studies, God has shown Alex that he’s already at work catalyzing revival. And it’s given him hope for what God will do next using InterVarsity’s 2030 Calling.

“We’ve seen the Lord put a desire in students for Jesus that wasn’t there before,” Alex said. “iGens want something to be real, not religious. The revival that InterVarsity is praying for is real—a genuine revival that iGens will respond to.”

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Drew Larson works as a writer on InterVarsity’s Communications Team in Madison, WI.

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