The country's largest interdenominational college campus ministry, InterVarsity, is gearing up for the 2013 school year while it currently experiences one of its largest growth periods since the organization's inception in the U.S. over 70 years ago.
InterVarsity recently reached a milestone as it has grown to over 900 chapters on nearly 600 campuses. U.S. colleges and universities had more than 19 million students enrolled this past spring, according to the Almanac of Higher Education. InterVarsity recognizes this large demographic of young people as a vast mission field.
"This time of year, back to school time, is like Christmas for our campus staff. They plan for it all year long and are investing an incredible amount of energy and creativity into New Student Outreach (NSO) because we know that the contacts made by new students their first week on campus will shape the rest of their college career," Gordon Govier, a spokesman for InterVarsity, told The Christian Post.
The ministry's growth stems from outreach efforts made through personal invitations. Usually, a friend or a roommate invites another student to attend an InterVarsity event or Bible study and while the substance of any event is to impart the word of God, InterVarsity members use unconventional yet appealing methods to do so.
"We use what are called proxe stations, artistic displays that are set up in high traffic areas," Govier said. "They are designed to encourage conversations about deeper issues that students like to talk about but don't always get the opportunity to discuss."
One method the organization has used throughout several campuses has been "The Fake Campaign," an interactive display that draws students in on their own. The station leads students through four panels, each one asking them to explore a different aspect of how they fake their feelings, how they see others faking it, what Jesus has to say about faking it, and what it means to be real, which ultimately leads them to a gospel presentation by an InterVarsity member. These and other relevant methods have contributed to 38,000 core students and faculty, who are heavily active within their campuses, to stand as the solid foundation of the organization.
"Too often young people are not challenged with the understanding that the gospel message addresses issues they care about, such as justice and compassion," Jim Lundgren, InterVarsity's senior vice president and director of Collegiate Ministry, said in a statement.
That is why the organization has taken on another outreach method throughout colleges, the "Price of Life Invitational," an event aimed to raise awareness about human trafficking and 21st century slavery.
For this effort, InterVarsity partners with other Christian organizations and local churches, while challenging students to consider how God may be calling them to respond and bring justice through their increased awareness and volunteerism.
In 2010, a "Price of Life Invitational" event was hosted at Ohio State University in which 300 students gave their lives to Christ. This fall, the outreach event will be hosted throughout ten New York City campuses where 500 students will be trained to engage their peers with the love of Christ through the lens of human trafficking.
In addition, InterVarsity will introduce a new ministry focusing on U.S. students who are studying abroad this school year and will continue to engage with public and private colleges and universities on the issue of religious qualifications for leadership of Christian campus organizations.
Currently, the average campus ministry size has 69 students and there are 60 campuses with at least 150 members in chapters. Although InterVarsity has a presence throughout the U.S., Canada and in 150 countries, the largest campus ministry is at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., with nearly 700 student members, followed by the fastest growing campus ministry at University of Southern California, which boasts 312 members compared to only 45 four years ago. The most notable InterVarsity alumni include NBA player Jeremy Lin as well as missionaries, politicians, educators and more.