You may wonder if you will ever change the world, but if you’re involved in a Christian group on campus, you have more influence that you think.
Mobilizing your chapter to serve
We’ve all heard the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. But how many of us have really wrestled with its implications for us on campus? Who are our neighbors — and how can our fellowship groups serve them holistically?
Assess the needs of your particular campus. Just as the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable was sensitive to the needs of the victim he found along the road, we must be sensitive to the victims of university experience. Often the students we interact with are emotionally and spiritually (rather than physically) in need. The problems facing many students are myriad: loneliness, drug and alcohol abuse, unhealthy sexual relationships, eating disorders, racism, and many others. Add to all this the extreme pressure to succeed academically, and it’s no wonder that many students feel overwhelmed.
Analyze the measures already being taken. No one group is going to save the world, or even a university. Other campus organizations and local churches are better equipped to serve students in some areas. If none of these groups is addressing a certain need that your group has pinpointed, find out why. Perhaps, like the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ parable, they are simply not willing to get involved, but never assume that’s the case. They may be extremely willing to dialogue with you.
Instill a sense of group ownership by clearly presenting your plan — and the level of commitment it will require — to the whole fellowship. Your group will have difficulty getting excited about the leaders’ plans for serving the campus unless you fully inform them about the needs you wish to meet, as well as why they as Christians should be concerned about those needs. After your initial presentation, you might bring in a person from outside the fellowship who has experience dealing with those kinds of needs to speak at a large-group meeting. You may also need to bring in resource people to help train the members of your group, even if it’s simply to help them learn how to listen.
To convey your vision to everyone in the chapter, the leaders will also need to meet with students individually or in small groups. Encourage those who are hesitant to become involved to voice their fears. If some members are simply apathetic, work through passages of Scripture (such as Luke 10:30-37) which emphasize the need to concretely “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19).
We must always stress that God desires us to serve others out of compassion, not out of guilt or a grudging sense of duty. God doesn’t need us to accomplish anything; he gives us the privilege of partnering with him to help meet physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Compassion is love in action, expended without any demand for publicity, praise or even thanks from the people you’ve served. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your group with compassion. Service projects that are not done out of love can breed burnout and a works-oriented mentality.
Appoint a spokesperson. One person must ultimately take responsibility for organizing the service project. He or she can then act as a contact for interested members of the fellowship, as well as a liaison between InterVarsity and the university community. This person’s enthusiasm and commitment should inspire others — if not to get involved directly, then at least to pray for the venture.
Delegate. Allow as many people as possible to become involved; this will help individuals gain skills that will equip them to put caring into action in other areas of their lives. In order to keep a large group together and motivated, however, you will need to carefully divide responsibilities.
As soon as the team is formed (and before people begin their assigned tasks), one or more team leaders should present the group’s goals, along with a schedule which details when and how those goals will be accomplished. Team leaders should also provide opportunities for group members to give feedback about this plan — and then be flexible to change it as needed. At key points students should meet to discuss their problems and accomplishments.
Include God in your plans. Unless you corporately listen for God’s voice and are willing to radically change your course if necessary, your service will become less than God intends. And if you’re too busy to spend time (as individuals and as a group) letting God renew you, you’re certainly too busy to attempt an organized outreach on campus.
— Adapted from a report by the National Student Leaders Task Force, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada