By Jonathan Rice

Clarity of Vision and Unity of Purpose

“Staff Conference was truly a blessing. God’s presence was with us, focusing our mission for ministry on campus and unifying us in love for one another,” said Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity.

InterVarsity’s triennial Staff Conference, January 2-6 at the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri, combined an emphasis on evangelism with a closer look at our Fellowship’s Doctrinal Statement. The conference’s theme was based on Romans 1:16, which reads: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. . . .”

Katie Montei, InterVarsity staff in the Advancement department, said, “Leading up to Staff Conference the Intercessory Prayer team at the National Service Center diligently prayed every week that the conference would be characterized by joy.”

During the five days of the conference, the joy of the Lord deepened day by day as speaker after speaker testified to the power of God for salvation. The first evening’s program began with a photographic rendering of our Fellowship’s history of proclaiming the gospel, and afterwards a celebratory recognition of the sixtieth anniversary of InterVarsity Press.

The conference culminated in a Saturday evening celebration and a Sunday morning worship service and commissioning that challenged us to perform our various ministries with InterVarsity unashamed and in the power of God’s Spirit.

The unity of our Fellowship was apparent in the joyful spirit of this conference and in the unity of staff members’ hearts with one another. Indeed, God unified our hearts through times of worship, conversation, celebration, and prayer.

Praying together was an important part of this conference. The 24-7 USA leadership team set up an interactive prayer room of staff; a team of prayer ministers was available daily, and prayer was offered frequently during the plenary sessions. Prayer ministers wore colored dots on their name badges to indicate their invitation to pray with people at any time.

Prayer teams were continuously interceding for the national staff during the conference and that the conference participants—from staff to guests to hotel employees—would experience the love and grace of God’s Spirit. And each morning before the first plenary, a group of staff gathered to center their hearts in Christ during a period of silent prayer. Afternoon seminars about prayer were also offered.

The Spirit of God shaped our understanding of campus ministry through inspired biblical exposition, plenary speakers, testimonies, one-act plays, and seminars. One of the seminars offered was The Arrogance of an Exclusive Gospel presented by Rick Mattson, a regional director from Minnesota. Rick offered a short history of the philosophical and cultural changes in Western societies that have contributed to molding postmodernist worldviews. He then taught us how we can witness to postmodern people in caring ways that proclaim God’s love in Christ and demonstrate the unity of our witnessing communities.

“Chapters around the country are taking steps to unify the individual chapters on a campus to work together for the gospel. Our national leadership is also working to more fully experience the unity in Christ,” said Kristine Whitnable, InterVarsity staff at the National Service Center.

Special guests—InterVarsity alumni, donors, and friends—also attended Staff Conference. “We really appreciate the attendance of our special guests at Staff Conference and at Urbana Conventions,” said Josh Hall, director of the Guest Program. “And they enjoy learning more about our various ministries and hearing the testimonies of lives being changed too.”

During the plenary session on the evening of January 3, Alec Hill spoke to the over 1,300 staff and guests about our campus mission. Alec said that he is thankful that our witnessing communities are continuously proclaiming the gospel on campus, emphasizing that faculty members also are an important part of InterVarsity’s witness to students. “If we’re going to see the campus renewed,” said Alec, “we have to see faculty play a significant role.”

Alec also said that as disciples of Jesus Christ, we staff are obligated to obey his command to make disciples of all nations. We are obligated, therefore, to be a multi-ethnic Fellowship that proclaims the gospel to people of every ethnicity. We are obligated to plant new chapters on more campuses and build more chapters on campuses where we now have witnessing communities. We are obligated to move forward in faith, asking God to bless our 2020 Vision Campaign that will fund new Strategic Initiatives.

Obligated as Christ’s disciples to advance the kingdom of God on campuses, we are to be unashamed of the gospel, faithful and full of hope. “God doesn’t expect us to be great in the world’s eyes; he expects us to be faithful to him,” said Alec.

Shortly after the conference, Tom Boyle, national director of Staff Development and Training, began receiving emails of thanks from InterVarsity staff across the country. “Staff Conference has revolutionized a few areas of my work, including major donors, spiritual conversations, and student leadership empowerment. I thought all the plenary sessions were uniformly fantastic and the production value exceptionally high,” wrote Greg Fung, a divisional director in Boston.

Carolyn Carney, an assistant regional director, wrote, “This was the best staff conference ever!” She then listed in her email why she was so grateful for the Staff Conference:

  • God uniquely spoke through each plenary speaker to encourage and challenge us on the theme of “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” They spoke about humility, obedience, listening to and allowing the Holy Spirit to fill and to guide, keeping a focus on reaching the lost and presenting our bodies as living sacrifices.
  • There was freedom from the platform to share and own our weaknesses and failures, both personally and corporately.
  • Prayer and spiritual formation were beautifully woven together with evangelism and justice as the tapestry which depicts our life and work.
  • We were unified in our purpose to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed ,and world changers developed.
  • God richly and broadly answered prayer. I witnessed more than a few staff shedding tears for the work God was doing in our lives and for how faithful he’d been to us.


On Sunday afternoon, InterVarsity staff left the conference for our various ministries around this country, knowing that we are called to proclaim the gospel as unashamed witnesses, as people who have seen and experienced the power of salvation, as people who, if they are to be great at all, are first called to be faithful.