It is hard to determine success after only a month and a half in any endeavor. At the beginning of September a portion of the InterVarsity Chapter at the University of Wisconsin — Madison moved back into a dorm on campus, Witte Hall. But, as with any new venture, they have had to continue evaluating their success in accomplishing their vision. So far, the chapter has enjoyed a satisfying first semester.
A group of Christians all moving back into one dorm together is risky. And the students knew that going in. They could be stereotyped as being pushy about their faith, or as living in a Christian bubble; both are twisted outcomes of positive ideals. The InterVarsity students do want to share their faith with others, and they do want to live in Christian community, but they want to do it with grace.
The presence of InterVarsity in Witte has not been an obstacle for the chapter to overcome in building relationships. Spencer Montei, a senior at Madison said, “Most of the people around on our floor know that we’re Christians and that we’re part of InterVarsity. But knowing that about us hasn’t killed any relationships before they start.” In fact, having a visible presence in the dorm has led some students to get involved in the chapter.
One freshman student, in particular, had little interest in getting involved with a campus ministry coming into college. In recent years her faith had become stagnant, and by the time she entered college it was all but dead. She ended up living in Witte among the InterVarsity students, who quickly took an interest in her. Since that initial meeting, the young woman has become a committed member of InterVarsity. The chapter has welcomed her involvement, but even more so they have celebrated her rejuvenated faith.
But in most cases, relationships take time, especially in a setting such as this. The InterVarsity students have been slowly building friendships with their roommates. “Roommates are definitely hanging out with us,” Spencer says, “they’ll come to things InterVarsity does, or come play Frisbee with us, or come to dinner with us. People are taking steps towards developing strong friendships with their roommates, but it takes time, and it’s still the beginning of the year.”
The gentleness that has to take place in the approach the chapter is taking means that conversions will probably not happen overnight. But the friendships that are made have the potential to plant seeds in students that may sprout in another season of life.
Perhaps the most positive outcome thus far has been the growth between chapter members. The community moving into Witte began the year by spending a lot of time together because of new student outreach. “We were going out together to hand out freezy-pops and lemonade to incoming freshmen. So right off the bat we were working together. When Christians are working together for a Kingdom cause, growth in the community is bound to happen.” Without forsaking new and old relationships with those outside the chapter, the community has devoted a lot of time to building each other up. They hang out together, eat their meals together, study together, and support each other in their respective InterVarsity roles.
The adventure of living in dorms is really just beginning for Madison’s InterVarsity chapter. And they are taking it as it comes, continually relying on God for guidance. Some bumps may lie ahead for the InterVarsity chapter, but so far, in their estimation, the year has been a success.
“Hundreds of students from Witte don’t need to join InterVarsity for what we’re doing to be a success,” Spencer said, “people are noticing us and some have joined our chapter, and those are all good things. But, we went into this without desiring numbers to be the criterion for success. Living together has been really great for our community – and in that sense it’s been 100 percent successful.”
Part one of this story
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus by following this link.