In 2001 the number six haunted InterVarsity staff in San Diego. Six was the number of conversions the area had seen in the last year. It was after that that the team began to take evangelism much more seriously, and since that time over 900 students have become Christians.
At the InterVarsity Board meeting in February of this year a group of three staff (Ryan Pfeiffer, Jesse Jacobs, and Dora Yiu) from the University of California – San Diego (UCSD) joined divisional director James Choung in a presentation on some of the ideas behind their effective evangelism ministry. Their presentation focused mostly on the work being done at their school, UCSD, but their success illustrates the broader pattern of conversion happening at most of the schools in the San Diego area.
Large Group Meetings
There were three ideas presented to the Board. Ryan Pfeiffer shared his vision for Large Group meetings. UCSD uses Large Group as an evangelistic outreach every week. The person leading Large Group ends each meeting by asking the students to respond to the message. Sometimes a gospel presentation is given, sometimes some aspect of discipleship is emphasized.
Either way, Ryan has the presenter ask the students to respond three times – in his experience many students will not make a decision to act until they are asked for the third time. Ryan has found that asking three times gives the person listening more time to think about making a decision; it also enables the listener to overcome the anxiety and personal fears that are keeping them in their chairs.
Major Event on Campus
Part of San Diego’s evangelism strategy also includes hosting a large event every year. Jesse Jacobs told the Board about a large evangelistic event called Impact 1 that rotated between San Diego schools.
Impact 1 focused on AIDS awareness; the chapter set up a tent in a central location on campus where students filed through and experientially learned about real lives being affected by AIDS. The InterVarsity chapters partnered with a local church and World Vision. At UCSD, about 5,000 students walked through the tent; As a result, 26 people became Christians and $11,500 was raised.
Follow-Up with New Believers
But, the initial conversion of students is not more important than what comes next in the life of the new believer. Dora Yiu informed the board of how the chapter follows up with the new believers.
The Board came away understanding that the InterVarsity staff at UCSD and other schools in San Diego are not just about counting hands, but how the chapter helps that student to grow in his or her new faith afterwards.
The Work of God’s Holy Spirit
James Choung introduced the presentation by talking about the other San Diego ministries and the success that the area as a whole has been seeing. He has seen God do incredible things in the past few years in San Diego, of which he says, “We can’t take credit for all the things that have happened here, we couldn’t plan or strategize all of it — we just saw God moving and we jumped in.”
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the chapters around San Diego have seen a growing number of conversions every year. This past year, USCD alone had over 100 conversions.
Clearly, though, God has found a unique group of staff in San Diego; God was moving on his own in San Diego, but this group of staff listened closely enough to God that they knew when and how to join him. They live missionally – passionately and creatively pressing out into the wider campus, instead of focusing solely on their established chapters.
James said, “We’re at a place in our division where every school is growing. We’re listening to God, and teaching our students to listen to God – not just talk to him. We just try and create space for God to speak.” And God is certainly speaking.
Staff in San Diego have followed God and in so doing have seen new believers pour into their chapters. They have developed a model of evangelism that has brought them to the attention of InterVarsity’s national leaders. The Board of Director’s had a chance to hear about what was happening, solidifying in their minds the important work God is doing in San Diego through a very gifted staff team.
Photo, left to right: Ryan Pfeiffer, Dora Yiu, Jesse Jacobs. From http://www.ucsdiv.com/about#Staff/Leadership
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity evangelism on San Diego campuses by following this link.