The rapid spread of coronavirus throughout the U.S. and the world has disrupted many of our cultural foundations and structures, including the college campuses where InterVarsity ministers.
As followers of Jesus, we are moved with compassion during this time for the campus communities we love. As more and more campuses shut down and/or move to virtual instruction (nearly 150 as of this writing), our hearts break for the students, faculty, and university staff whose lives are now in disarray. In particular, we are burdened for those students who are scrambling to secure basic essentials such as food and shelter.
Our ministry and campus ministers are likewise feeling the impact from these disruptions. As campuses temporarily close or restrict their physical space, our staff have been forced to quickly respond and adjust. At the same time, with markets fluctuating wildly, staff are also wrestling with the instability of their personal financial support. Along with the rest of the world, we are feeling the uncertainty and anxiety of this moment in every part of our ministry.
Adapting to Campus Closures
We are seeking to make wise decisions about how to respond. First, we are continuing to root ourselves in the confident hope of Jesus. As one movement, we pray that our example during this time will reflect a confident, expectant trust in Jesus, who gives peace and comfort when life feels chaotic or beyond our control. This posture of prayerful, hopeful dependence is our movement’s first and most important response.
Second, we are beginning to shift the structure of our ministry for this season. Logistically, our work on campus will continue to align with the guidelines of the individual schools where we minister. For those campuses who have temporarily or completely moved to virtual instruction for the semester, for example, we are shifting to online ministry such as group prayer and meetings via digital video, virtual Bible study, and discipleship podcasts. On campuses where classes are being held as usual, our ministry will also continue with no interruption. Our Strategy and Innovation Department is already curating and delivering fresh, inventive resources to help us minister in these new contexts.
We are also discerning what programs need to be canceled or postponed, such as Spring Break trips, chapter retreats, or regional conferences, closely monitoring what both national and local health agencies advise.
Regardless, ministry will continue. Campus ministers are remaining digitally connected with students, providing pastoral care and continued discipleship as they struggle with fear and uncertainty. This is an unprecedented opportunity to have honest spiritual conversations with students and faculty, walking alongside them as they face, perhaps for the first time, deep questions of human frailty, mortality, and purpose.
Hope in the Chaos
Even in the midst of chaos and change, God is continuing to work in students’ lives. In our New York/New Jersey region, for example, our staff have seen more first-time decisions to follow Jesus in the last week than at any other time in the past year, including Alex, a student at NYU. Alex is, according to her staff minister, “a student who just over a month ago was very hesitant about following Jesus and having him as the center of her life. Today, she made a first-time decision to follow Jesus! Ministry looks pretty different this week compared to last week, but God is still the same!” God is sovereign over even the most challenging of circumstances, and we look forward to hearing many more stories like this in the days and weeks ahead.
As we meet the challenges of ministry brought about by the coronavirus, will you please join us in prayer? Ask the Lord to grant wisdom and flexibility as our movement adapts to this complex situation. Pray that we will be filled with trust in God’s provision and peace as we continue to meet students’ emotional and spiritual needs. And pray that God will use this time to draw all students and faculty, whether for the first time or in a new way, into his loving, saving grace.