Skipping Spring Break, at least 13 InterVarsity campus ministry groups with just over 200 participants are traveling to nine states to build houses for the needy. They will pound nails, pour concrete and paint wood according to Habitat for Humanity (HfH) Collegiate Challenge Coordinator, Mike Nestor.
"More than a dozen students from Rochester Institute of Technology, for example, worked on a Habitat home in Penns Grove, New Jersey, in early March for the chapters third annual Habitat Spring Break trip," according to an InterVarsity Campus Ministry news release -- and the numbers are growing.
Leaders at InterVarsity are encouraging their members to do more of this type of social outreach rather than evangelizing students at popular beaches -- a common Spring Break project -- since these activities allow students to continue "building relationships" even after the week passes.
A downside to beach evangelism is students werent being followed up back on campus, and students didnt continue doing evangelism once they were back home, said InterVarsity Evangelism Director Terry Erickson. "The Habitat project allows students to continue building relationships with non-Christians from the project once they return to campus."
Erickson further explained that while beach evangelism "is good for the Christian students in terms of training them to do evangelism," it is not readily effective.
"It's great for a Christian student to go and learn how to start a conversation, how to build a relationship, talk about their faith. All that is positive," said Erickson. But no one "follows up on that conversation. You start a conversation on the beach that is out of the blue, but and no one is following up on that conversation.
"People have a longer conversion process today," he added. "You don't have one conversation and that person becomes [Christian]."
Also, according to Erickson, today's students are "less Biblically literate" and for them to begin evangelizing, a lot of information on sin, Jesus and God must be provided.
However, with social outreach, you start a relationship with the family. They observe the Christian community. They enter a Bible study, and there is a greater opportunity for discipling, he said.
There are also other social service projects that will be undertaken by IVCF volunteers and staff.
Los Angeles Campus Staff Member Eddy Ekmekji will lead a group of 16 volunteers, including college students, to southern India, from March 25-April 3, to help in the tsunami recovery effort.
Another group of 22 IVCF students traveled to Tijuana, Mexico to do ministry on their spring break, working at an orphanage and helping those who suffered from heavy rainfall.
These projects accomplish so much toward our overall purpose and vision on campus, said Erickson, building authentic community, revealing Jesus in actions and words to our non-Christian friends, demonstrating our faith by serving the poor, encouraging racial reconciliation and developing future leaders.