“I’m awed by the work that Christ does through you. What you’ve done for students on our campus has inspired me,” said Dr. Ann Millner, President of Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, during her address to InterVarsity staff at National Staff Conference 2011.
From January 5 through 9 in St. Louis, Missouri, more than 1,400 InterVarsity employees from across the nation gathered to refresh their skills for campus ministry, discern God’s will for renewing the American college campus, and celebrate God’s blessings during seventy years of InterVarsity’s ministry.
Much to Celebrate
Staff were welcomed to the conference with a reminder that these are fruitful days in campus ministry. “In the last five years, more students have come to the Lord through InterVarsity than during any previous years of our ministry,” said InterVarsity’s President Alec Hill.
InterVarsity’s ministry is growing. And since increasing numbers of students and faculty are participating in campus witnessing communities, many staff were grateful for the skills-building seminars and encouraging fellowship at this year’s staff conference.
Morning and evening general sessions provided times for corporate worship, thought-provoking dramas and videos, inspirational testimonies by campus staff, and insightful lectures by featured speakers. Participants attended daily seminars and saw historical exhibits. And on the third day of the conference, staff attended one of six day-long Training Sessions.
Renewing our Campus Vision
Among the gifted speakers featured during the general sessions was Greg Jao, Director of the New York/New Jersey region. With penetrating insight, Greg explained that InterVarsity’s vision for renewing the campus is founded on the biblical truth that God created the universe and that all it contains belongs to God. Since the entire created universe is intended to worship God, “We renew the campus when we bring the university back to its doxological purpose as a part of God’s creation,” said Greg.
Later, Jennifer Huerta Ball, Divisional Director of Greater Los Angeles, reminded staff to rely on God’s faithfulness to accomplish the work of renewing a campus. She said, “Our perspective needs to be that it all belongs to Jesus.” And Collette Michal, a campus staff member in the North Central region, reminded her fellow campus workers, “Jesus didn’t invite people to an event. He invited people to himself.”
InterVarsity staff were also inspired by the forty-seven seminars offered over two days. Among the seminars were Your Campus in Five Years: Trends in Higher Education; Finding Missional Faculty; Biblical Methods for Doing Justice on Campus; and A Spiritual Life that Sustains Campus Renewal.
Abiding and Abounding
From the first day of the conference, the theme of trust in God’s love seemed to quietly build through each day’s events like a musical counterpoint to the conference’s major theme of renewing the campus. With uncanny, thematic harmony, many of the speakers’ testimonies, several videos, dramas, and songs resolved with a statement of the staff’s trust in God’s faithfulness.
Then, as a fitting coda to the final session of the conference, Alec Hill encouraged staff to abide in Jesus Christ, the true vine, so that their ministries on campus will bear fruit for the kingdom of God. “If we don’t abide deeply in Jesus,” he said, “our vision to renew the campus is absurd.”
After the conference, many staff conveyed their gratitude for the conference. “After having an amazing experience at National Staff Conference 2011,” wrote Jason Huang, a campus staff member in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, “I feel even more privileged to be part of the work God is doing through InterVarsity.”
InterVarsity staff desire to see not only individuals transformed by the gospel but campuses renewed through the influence of our witnessing communities.