It’s bittersweet saying good-bye to summer. As the middle of September wanes, the things we so often associate with summer begin to dwindle – outdoor concerts, small town festivals, farmer’s markets, long days on the lake, sunlight late into the evening. But autumn brings its own delights – crisp air, vibrant colors, and bountiful fall produce. And fields of first-time college students, who are as it says in Matthew 9, ready for the harvest.
InterVarsity chapters around the country prepare themselves every fall for the new influx of students, ready to gather them into their communities. Just like the changing of the seasons, incoming freshman bring new things for us to enjoy about them. Like the colorful leaves of fall, they are vibrant – they are ready for adventure and open to new experiences.
Inviting these curious students to participate in InterVarsity fall activities is an irreplaceable evangelistic approach for chapters. During New Student Outreach (NSO), InterVarsity chapters have the opportunity to invite people to join the Fellowship who might, once they have established their school year routines, look right past a Christian group. But because first-year students are new on campus, they enter college looking for ways to connect with others and find community, providing InterVarsity students a unique chance to begin building friendships with non-Christians.
So, InterVarsity Chapters have to think strategically about the best way to connect with freshmen as a group, to make sure that the chapter is visible on campus in the first few weeks, and to make personal contact with individual students.
For some schools, hanging up posters and banners displaying the InterVarsity logo is enough to attract attention. At Bucknell University in Pennsylvania and William Penn University in Iowa, the chapters are using the InterVarsity banner as a visual aid wherever they are stationed this fall; they are attracting the attention of students by hanging the banners from information tables, as well as by putting them up during their weekly meetings.
But for some, hanging a banner is not effective. At the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), InterVarsity staff workers, Dave and Erin Foster, have identified a great way to get students interested in talking with them: food. The way to any college student’s heart is through a tasty snack. SAIC InterVarsity members are inviting people milling around in common areas to prayer meetings, Bible studies, and church by talking with them and handing out
All three schools, SAIC, Bucknell, and William Penn, have planned other ways to get the word out about InterVarsity and to start involving students right away. At William Penn, members of InterVarsity are helping to move freshmen into their dorm rooms.
Move-in day for freshman is stressful and intimidating. For many students it’s the first time that they will live away from home; saying good-bye to their parents that first day can be tough. To have students there, helping them haul their heavy loads into their dorm rooms and taking a personal interest in them right from the start, is an incredible way to draw people into community. People are often attracted to others who care for them.
One of the first Saturdays after the start of school at Bucknell the InterVarsity chapter is hosting a day-long service trip. Incoming freshman may not be very outward oriented when they first arrive on campus; however, opportunities to serve allow them to focus on a world that is bigger than themselves. Many InterVarsity chapters have found service projects an opening for discussion and a chance to build strong friendships.
There are so many unique opportunities at the beginning of the school year to begin investing in the lives of others. First-year students come to college ready for new experiences, eager to find community, and open to new ideas. Many InterVarsity chapters have realized the call to harvest these students and are taking advantage of the chance to invite them into both their lives and their chapter.
Read More: InterVarsity students help new international students find furniture for their apartments – story reported by Student Life newspaper at Washington University.