By Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA

Meeting the New Students

Last week, I had the privilege of chatting with Lauren Anderson, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a chapter leader in my home town, I listened to her with rapt attention.

When asked how much time she allocated to the chapter over the summer, I was surprised by her response — an average of 10-20 hours per week. Her assignment? Preparing the chapter for New Student Outreach this fall. What a commitment! As she laid out her team’s plans, I felt my heart racing with excitement.

Back on Campus

Of 80 returning core students in the chapter, 27 have chosen to live in freshmen dorms. Since upperclassmen generally avoid less mature first year students, this represents a major sacrifice. Their intent is to build authentic friendships, open up conversations about the Lord and launch small group Bible studies.

“The first 72 hours on campus are critical in setting the trajectory of a freshman’s four years,” Lauren observes. Part of the chapter’s strategy is to have “welcome teams” help freshmen move into dorms and to provide free lemonade (with contact information on the cup). Freezie-pops will also be distributed — a tradition that goes back five years — on what is typically a hot move-in day.

In preparation for the new year, the chapter’s website and Facebook page have been overhauled — complete with lots of new photos. Prior to placing a single foot on campus, several freshmen are already making solid steps to become part of the community.

Over the next month, the chapter will host several outreach events — including a root beer kegger, salsa dancing and a bonfire gathering. Large group also will commence.

Student Leadership

Lauren’s enthusiasm touches me deeply. Having just returned from IFES World Assembly in Poland, I am passionate about student initiative.

During World Assembly, I was repeatedly struck by just how much responsibility our 150 sister movements assign to student leaders. In Ethiopia, for example, a student team leads a chapter of 2,000. An itinerant campus staff member checks in with them periodically.

In the United States, we are blessed to have staff serve as mentors and coaches to our student leaders on a much more intimate basis. In doing so, however, we must be vigilant to strengthen student leadership.

Lauren Anderson represents just one of our 7,907 chapter leaders. If she is typical of the rest — and I believe she is — InterVarsity’s future is very bright. This is true even if staff access to campus becomes more restricted. May their light shine brightly across the country this fall and throughout the year.