Every region of InterVarsity has an approach to ministry that sets itself apart from every other region. At Orientation for New Staff (ONS), which the National Service Center hosts every summer, InterVarsity gives the new staff a broader and more encompassing view of the organization. Helping staff develop a sense of what InterVarsity looks like at a national level brings unity and focus to a diverse group of individuals.
In the past, staff have shied away from the national InterVarsity brand, preferring instead to carve their own unique path of ministry. But in recent years this trend has been shifting. Staff are more willing to see themselves as part of a national movement and to take the direction, advice, and wisdom from senior leaders in all regions.
Although equipping each generation of staff looks a little different depending on the strengths and weaknesses that the group brings, certain things do not change. The vision for ONS, for instance, has not changed much from its original intent. That is, to be a place where new staff are affirmed in their calling to campus ministry, orienting them to the national identity of InterVarsity, and equipping them for ministry.
There are four areas of InterVarsity that ONS focuses on to equip the staff participating: Chapter Building, Fund Development Training, Multi-ethnicity, and Evangelism. Each category represents a value of InterVarsity.
But just as important as teaching these values to the new staff, is helping them to experience ONS as a place of spiritual growth and renewal. Every day staff have the opportunity to gather and pray. Those leading the program hope that staff take advantage of this, as prayer is the foundation of ONS and staff life.
Last year there was a significant jump in the number of new staff participating in prayer. Many participated in the communal prayer times, but there have also been many staff asking for personal appointments with those on the prayer ministry team. The directors of ONS hope that this trend is a lasting change.
ONS is also set up to develop community; staff learn in large group settings, and also have time set apart to meet in small groups with others from various regions of the country. Scripture study and worship add depth and richness to the experience of ONS.
Although it is hard to say yet whether or not this generation of staff have a deeper commitment to and participation in communal prayer, there are other things that set them apart from past generations. For several years now there has been an increasing eagerness to take direction from veteran staff. They show a willing spirit and readiness to engage in the fund development calls and conversational evangelism that they are asked to participate in that is different from past ONS groups.
The first year on staff is a critical time to pour into the lives of those entering into ministry. As such, training happens at all levels of InterVarsity – area, regional, and national. There’s an investing in the lives of New Staff that must take place in order to help them reach their potential and encourage them in their calling. ONS hopes to be one of the roots that establishes a strong base from which a fruitful and thriving ministry can be developed.
ONS 2008 for 125 new staff members takes place in Madison, Wisconsin, June 23 through July 2, 2008.