Ministry at urban commuter colleges is always difficult, but California State University Los Angeles has been more challenging than most for InterVarsity staff members. Each of the first three years that Maite Rodriguez began a new ministry year at Cal State L.A. was like starting all over again.
The 2008-2009 school year seemed to start with more promise than previous years. But by the end of the fall quarter the chapter leadership had evaporated: gone for academic issues, or personal reasons, or just gone. Maite and the other members of the staff team decided it was time to end business as usual.
Shutting Down Ministry as Usual
They shut down their campus ministry, except for one Bible study, and began an extended period of prayer and fasting. They continued through the winter quarter, into the spring quarter. In the spring they also began to research in-depth the dynamics of the Cal State L.A. campus.
“That’s when we felt like God gave us insight into what changes we needed to make and the things we needed to pray into; and that’s when things started to change,” she said. “We realized it wasn’t just our ministry that was having problems.”
What they found was that Cal State L.A. has a seventy percent drop-out rate. Only five percent of students live on campus but those students were among the most at-risk for dropping out. The InterVarsity staff team decided to stop focusing on dorm students and concentrate on commuters. “That change has made all of the difference,” Maite said.
Looking for Leaders
At the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year Maite set up a table in a high-traffic area with a sign that said, “We Are Looking For Christian Leaders.” Looking back today she is amazed at how God answered her prayers. “The current core leaders are almost all the people I met on that first day of classes,” she said.
For various reasons the other four members of last year’s InterVarsity staff team moved on to other responsibilities leaving just Maite at Cal State L.A this year. She was forced to rely more heavily on student leadership, which this time turned out to be a big plus. “I have these amazing students that really love the campus and love each other. It’s never been as healthy as it is now,” she said.
During the discouraging times of previous years she sometimes wondered whether it was possible for successful campus ministry to exist at Cal State L.A. Today she knows that it is possible. “It’s important to God and it happened,” she said, noting the unity of the current InterVarsity chapter despite being one of the most multiethnic groups on campus.
Called to Campus Ministry
As a student at Pomona College, Maite loved being a leader in the InterVarsity chapter, particularly leading Bible studies. But she didn’t think that InterVarsity staff work was for her. She had felt drawn to urban ministry through her participation in InterVarsity’s Los Angeles Urban Project. Then she realized that urban ministry and campus ministry can happen together on campus, and she joined InterVarsity staff.
During her first year at Cal State L.A. she saw chapter participation start at 50 and dwindle to seven after the first week. In the midst of her disappointment she realized that she was involved in campus ministry because of her faithful response to God’s call, not because of any success that she might have.
But now, after five years on campus, God has been blessing Maite’s campus ministry with success because she has been faithful.
“What’s worked well has been to let go of all of my ideas about how ministry is supposed to happen,” she said. “Nine out of ten things we tried haven’t worked. We have learned to pray and ask God to move. All that has happened on campus has been through God’s grace and kindness alone.”
Maite reported on God’s work at Cal State L.A. during InterVarsity’s 2011 Staff Conference. Video|| Audio only
You can make a direct financial donation to support InterVarsity’s work at Cal State L.A. by following this link.