More than 175 Greek students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) bounded off the buses in Indianapolis on their way to attend the InterVarsity Greek Conference. Brian and Lauren Mann, the Greek InterVarsity staff members at UIUC, remembered that far fewer students attended this conference in past years. “I’m grateful to God that there are so many more students at this conference,” said Brian.
Brian had not always been excited to see the kingdom of God advance and the Greek chapter at UIUC had not always been such a thriving community. When Brian was in junior high, he had made a commitment to follow Jesus. But during his high school years, Brian struggled to make Christ the center of his life. When he arrived at the UIUC, he was carried away by the temptations of college life and affected by the lack of Christian fellowship in his fraternity house.
During his sophomore year, Brian realized that living without God and a Christian community led to an empty life. After he met the Greek InterVarsity staff, he slowly undertook the process of making Christ the center of his life.
By the time he was a senior, Brian was ready to share his faith with his fraternity brothers. One evening he stood up at a house meeting and invited the other fraternity members to a Bible study. God was gracious, and Brian saw fruit come from his bold move. Over the course of the school year, thirty men were involved in the study. Brian answered the spiritual questions of his housemates, prayed for them, and took several of them to the InterVarsity fall and spring conferences.
After graduation, Brian became Greek InterVarsity staff at the UIUC. At this time, the chapter was in a period of transition–fewer students were involved, the leadership waned, and freshmen were not attracted to the InterVarsity community. After about three years several things happened. Lauren, Brian’s wife, came into the ministry, Brian began to meet specifically with the first year students, and the students joined in consistent prayer for God’s work on campus.
Brian decided to spent time with the students who were new to the InterVarsity community, inviting them to be bold in declaring the gospel among the sororities and fraternities on campus. Part of the time Brian and Lauren spent with these students was during an event that he called Happy Hour, a Friday evening prayer meeting and dinner. During these evenings the students deepened their understanding of God’s desire that all people, even all the Greek students at U of I, hear of his love for them.
The time together also strengthened the community among the Greek InterVarsity students. They laughed at one another’s jokes. They shared their worries and concerns. They prayed for the needs of their brothers and sisters and for the salvation of others on campus.
As Brian met with students, he did not disciple them one-to-one. He connected with students in groups. This was both a more efficient use of his time and a teaching moment for the students to understand the community of believers.
God has been gracious to bring an increase from the work of Brian and Lauren. This past year 170 students came to the first large group meeting in the fall. This is in contrast to the average of forty students the previous year. When asked what factors were involved in the growth he has seen in the Greek chapter at U of I, Brian commented:
- Spend time with young students.
- Offer them a clear vision of what the future might look like as they minister for the kingdom of God.
- Invite them to be a part of the ministry.
- Do not be a lone wolf. (Brian acknowledges the gifts and contributions of his staff partner and wife Lauren as she helped to encourage and teach the students.)
- Depend on God daily.
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work with Greek students at UIUC by following this link.