The Blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

April 16, 2012

"InterVarsity Ruined My Life"

By: 
Abi Christian

InterVarsity is a fellowship made up of humans. Meaning: we don’t get everything right. Meaning: we’re still figuring out how to follow God. Meaning: honest feedback is hard to hear but good to know so we can continue to grow and let God use us—as individuals and as a fellowship—in students’ lives.

Recently, we stumbled across some of that hard-to-hear honest feedback on a blog from an InterVarsity alumna doing social work. Below is an excerpt of her story on how InterVarsity ruined her life:

“When I joined InterVarsity my freshman year of college, I was the classic church girl with a passion for all things church. I didn’t swear, I didn’t drink and God forbid if I ever partied! I was your average dorm goody goody who stepped over the drunken body on the stairwell and posted Bible study fliers on my dorm door, thinking that somehow the clip art and fancy typology would entice people to follow Jesus.

“But the further into InterVarsity culture I dove, the more I discovered that this God I worshiped cared a whole lot about the disenfranchised, the impoverished, the oppressed, the underdogs of society. This sexy Jesus who sounded more like a radical socialist who wanted freedom and equality for all was not the one I remembered learning about in youth group. I was sold. This would be my dream.

“. . . But what I didn’t learn from InterVarsity that I wish I had was that this incarnational selfless sacrificial loving of the forgotten souls of society is not enough to keep you going. It looked so glamorous to be one of those InterVarsity alumni who sold all her things to help the poor, to live among the low-income neighbors, to feel the pain of the oppressed populations of our society. It was sexy for a summer in the inner city, feeding homeless people and having Bible study with alcoholics and drug addicts.

“But it’s not life.

 “. . . I’m thankful for the idealistic dreamer that InterVarsity fostered in me, but I quickly realized that they developed a ‘me’ that can’t thrive outside of their culture. How much more fulfilling would my career be if I had debrief sessions with my staff worker afterwards or was assigned reading and workshops on seeking shalom in the city!

“But the real world doesn’t have the support of an extremely extroverted staff worker calling you 24/7, dragging you into the freshman dorms so you too can spread the Gospel.

“And the lesson of the day was: embrace suffering.

“I’d hate to break it to you, but if you embrace suffering 40 hours a week, you’ll most likely develop secondary PTSD. I get really good medical benefits for a reason—the job is hard.

“So, what I wished they had taught me when I was a young impressionable college student was this: you can glorify God in your arts, you can glorify God in profitable businesses, you can glorify God in the fashion industry, you can glorify God in a career of dancing, performing, even Hollywood. You don’t have to live dirt poor and breathe ashes to be a child of God.

“Because what happens is one’s attempt to live and act humbly just looks like a pompous act of holier-than-thou-because-I-can-embrace-suffering. The reality is . . . we are human. And there shouldn’t be guilt tied to wanting some comfort in life, some stability, and some relaxation.

“Alas, I still think my years with InterVarsity were the best years ever. Because I wasn’t disillusioned and I was a part of a passionate cause. I just wish the transition into the real world weren’t so jarring.”

(Read her entire post here.)

So now we’d like to open the floor and hear from you: Has InterVarsity ruined your life? What do you wish you had known before graduating? What do you wish your chapter had done differently?

Comments

"How much more fulfilling would my career be if I had debrief sessions with my staff worker afterwards or was assigned reading and workshops on seeking shalom in the city!" Regarding that quote in particular... I would say that ideally, you graduate out of IV but retain a connection with a community of believers who continue to support each other in pursuing Jesus together. So yeah you can't debrief with your staff worker necessarily, but you can begin to lead and love each other in common mission. Obviously the poster is burnt out, because you can't do it alone! We are designed to walk together in community... that's my two cents, anyway.
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I think I'd agree that the transition into the "real world" after graduation can be jarring - I've heard so from many students from my chapter, and I've heard of lots of IV friends/leaders drift away from the faith after they graduate; but I am so thankful to be a part of my chapter, and the experience I have had (and continue to have) has not "ruined my life" in any means; to the contrary, it's given me life, because it's given me a deeper relationship with Jesus, and He is Life. But in response to what some people have said about the "real world" - I have a wonderful staff worker who share those stories with us, and has been really good about preparing us students for that transition. As a student you need to know that after you graduate it's going to be hard to find community like you had during IV; you've got to be very intentional about being accountable with close friends and about keeping yourself on track, especially as your time becomes consumed by your professional life as you find jobs and get married and let other things take up your life. You won't have a staff worker or other volunteers/interns breathing down your neck to check up on you. You've got to be responsible for your walk with Jesus, and some students aren't prepared for that when they graduated. So this was an interesting post to read, but definitely not indicative of all IV chapters. But I like that idea - we're not perfect, we're definitely flawed people, so there will be problems with our community at times. So I'm glad people are talking about this, so that better training/teaching can be given when people feel it is lacking :)
Please post that as Anonymous and not with my name. Thanks.
I'm glad IV decided to take a risk and offer this forum for tougher feedback. And it seem to have been fairly healthy discussion. I was a student leader for 2 1/2 years and then went on international staff after graduation. I really agree with most of you that the character of things varied from chapter to chapter. Some of it was culture of the dominant ethnic group, some of it was the culture of the university, or the location in the US, or the leanings of the staff and their level of commitment. We had a pretty funky group and no on-campus staff for several years. But that meant the students and a professor sponsor had to take ownership and that worked very well. We learned a lot about working with vastly different people on a team. And because we were on a Catholic campus, we had to respect the existing Catholic structure and not encourage Catholic students to convert. The fruit of that was students grew closer to God in whatever stream they came from. I recently was reunited with a student who became a very strong Catholic as a result of our group twelve years ago. Whereas some of the Evangelical students just disappeared. But our leadership team itself produced mostly strong believers, including one pastor and one missionary. I think that's a pretty good result for a group as funky and small as ours. We weren't into the hard-core serve the poor stuff that the writer here talks about so I can't answer to that. In my current line of work I could address that issue, but I think I'd answer it much like others did here. My experience on staff however was horrendous. The organization completely failed me - in fact, they sent me into a situation that they knew was headed up by an abusive, pathological man. He had treated all the previous staff abominably as well. When I stood up against the constant psychological abuse and begged for help, they turned against me both in the IV office and the IFES office. The chauvinism and "we know better than you, your anger is unspiritual, be quiet and go away" was shocking. Finally in the end my former area director got involved and defended my character and demanded a just response from authorities involved. Other past victims of the man's abuse also came forward at the same time. I was never exonerated by IV but the man was at least cut off from IV and from getting any more staff from IV-USA. He got more vulnerable women to work for him from another sending organization, and he is still on the field. It took me seven years to get my life back from this horrible experience. The investigation battle went on for two years and there was no vindication or comfort. The Madison office pulled several extremely unprofessional moves. My dreams and career at the time were destroyed and there was no credit given to the fact that I'd had an extraordinarily successful campus ministry even in the presence of all that abuse and stress. I was completely traumatized, with full-blown PTSD which was finally healed through a great series of merciful Divine intervention and miracles. I never got any encouragement or apology from IV staff or as an organization, though I will always be grateful to my former area director for loving me and standing up for me. Looking back on this whole awful experience, I see God's hand in allowing this and shaping my faith and future ministry with it. "You meant it for evil but God meant it for good, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis) Even though IVCF-USA and IFES really were at fault, I'm grateful now for how God used the experience to refine my faith down to bedrock, to believe in His goodness even in horrible circumstances, to learn to forgive heinous sin and find wholeness without justice, and to be a witness to other traumatized people in many unforseen places, giving them hope for healing in their situations of injustice, abuse and trauma. I now work in a war-torn country where forgiveness is the only way to peace, and I have the right to say so because I've experienced it myself. I think InterVarsity has lost their grasp of the great theology and witness that it was founded up on by the likes of J.I. Packer and John Stott. The founding tradition and practice was magnificent, and the witness around the world to this day is extremely helpful to generations of students. But I'm not surprised that now many US students have left their faith, because now it isn't grounded in solid teaching and tradition of the universal church. That's not what it was founded to be, and originally students knew to plug in to healthy churches while they were still in college. What is encouraging though now to hear is the stand IV-USA is taking in the face of legal persecution in the right to access cases. I applaud the commitment and I am praying for this to be a catalyst to greater witness and evangelism among American students. I could say that IV ruined my life. For seven years it really looked like that and I said so. But now I have to affirm that I'm grateful IV was on my college campus, I'm grateful for the wonderful area director who cared for me, for the great staff worker who came before I graduated and poured quality service into the group. I'm even grateful for the suffering I experienced - because it set the stage for my life's greatest work, which is still unfolding today. I'm also grateful for the open attitude toward Catholicism - because I became one ten years later and I can still support student involvement in IV regardless. It's a good policy that we all can be proud of for its contribution to Christian unity and helping all Christians find their way forward in their faith in Jesus Christ. I think this aspect will become even more important in coming years.
Aw, man. I sympathize, but I've got to say that the social justice-oriented lifestyle that InterVarsity promotes was never meant to be carried out by a person alone, out of her own strength. The fact that trying to do so seems difficult, or even impossible, is not InterVarsity's fault. In my own IV experience, the message has been quite clear that such a lifestyle must be fueled by the power of God, accessed through complete dependence on him. Even after graduation, this would require spending substantial amounts of time with God each day, remaining in constant contact with him throughout the day, and finding a community of believers that can challenge and encourage you in your relationship with God. God has called us to be a part of his process of redeeming the world, but as many other on this thread have said, this can look many different ways. Some people are called to intentional poverty, and others are called to make money and give generously— all the non-profits we love so much would fail if it weren't for wealthy donors to partner with them. As we try to choose careers that fit our vocation of following Jesus and helping bring his kingdom to earth, we've got to use discernment and seek the counsel of older, wiser, Christians who can help us find situations that fit our particular gifts and personalities. Thank you, InterVarsity, for having the courage to post this and to invite honest feedback.
Wow, I am continually surprised at how consumeristic and self-focused we become as we demand that the ministry become more what we want the ministry to look like. I am on exec for my chapter, and we have noticed this problem among leaders and members. What is the solution? We as an exec have formed a goal to develop mature leaders who are responsible, so that God's glory takes precedence over petty complaints. It has been truly convicting to realize how consumeristic I am, and to also realize that I need to grow and mature in how I treat my faith and the Christian community as a whole. I have learned that instead of complaining and leaving, God intends to raise up leaders who see what He wants to do and who are willing to see His work through. That revelation has changed how I view IV, the church, ministry, and my life.
I feel it depends on the chapter. IV at my school is still pretty new and growing but at least within and even outside the group, we've been having great responses. I will say though that it's weird when one of my staff asks a question about another campus ministry to see how legit they are because we all know you can't trust everybody, but yet I'm sure there are plenty of people who feel the same about InterVarsity at my school. It's not hypocrisy necessarily but the attitude that IV is the only campus ministry that has any true value is just strange to me. Something that as a leader I've learned to be is open, teachable, and available. IV isn't for everyone and we should all respect that. I've got great friends who are a part of other ministries and it's still great to have conversations about Jesus with them. As a chapter, I feel that we're different, but I also feel that these other campus ministries are too. They have something different to offer and God willing, students will find the one that they're supposed to be a part of.
Thankfully, I quit IV early! IV has not ruined my life yet. Thankfully I have been blessed with enough warnings and cautions to discernment the falsehood, superficiality and immaturity. I don't know about other universities, but our chapter is full of babies leading, with no desire for greater understanding of God. Their lives are mostly spent playing video games, watching movies and listening to carnal music, turning Christianity into a glamorous thing. Much worse when they sometimes led the praise team at our Church! They try to turn all godly music into rock and pop! Perhaps they don't see the beauty of the Scriptures that they try to extract adrenaline from the music they play and listen to. Post-modernism is slowly creeping in as well, but they still don't see it. They clearly don't discern between truthfulness and worldliness! Carnality has already come into them. False humility is pretty common as well.... I can go on with these, but to what avail? I will not suggest any of my Christian friends either to join that group, unless IV embraces the true sound doctrines of the Scriptures, separate carnality and worldliness from Christianity AND tell those babies to cut off their videogame worship!
I am extremely sorry that your experience at your University was not a pleasant one. That was how the Intervarsity at my University was ten or fifteen years ago, but God raised up amazing student leaders who had a vision, and after they served a year on exec, our Christian community is an authentic, amazing place that cultivates leaders who are grounded in the word, know how to relate to others, and who Love God radically with their lives and their hearts. I hope that God can continue His transformational work in our chapter through discipleship, and I hope He convicts the hearts of future leaders in your Intervarsity chapter so that He can work in the members for His glory.
InterVarsity played an important development in my spiritual walk, I learned
I understand what the writer is saying. I also work in a high stress, always giving job - a teacher of students with moderate to severe handicapping conditions. I have a colleague who once said to me: "You are not like any other Christian I've ever know. You actually care about people." So, a sad commentary on the reputation of Christians, but a reflection of what I learned from Inter-Varsity about authentic faithful living.
My IV experience lasted only 1 year. I was a student leader and an outspoken believer. A leadership position was offered to me when my position in the S.G.A. "new leadership challenge" clearly I did not have the washing of others feet The Lord took 25 years to teach me @ humility. and I'm still learning
I can see where this alum is coming from. I was in IV all four years of undergrad. I was on the leadership team for 3 of those years. I led a Bible study and was president for my senior year. I went to Basileia and the Big Event. IV changed my life in so many ways. It brought me closer to God. It gave me amazing friends who have helped me in my relationship with Jesus. It taught me how to read and dive deep into the Bible. But once I left, and I didn't have that backup anymore, my faith has struggled. I don't have a constant support team of Christians who are there to lift me up when I fall down. Yes, my friends from my undergrad are still there by email, text, or skype but honestly it is not the same thing. IV did not help prepare me for what having faith in the "real world" would be like. It did not help prepare me for how hard it was going to be after undergrad. I think IV could have had seminars on stuff like that, but I do not really recall anything like that. The only examples I had were of my staff leaders but since they were very involved in IV, I had no indication of what life after IV would be and it has been extremely difficult.
I'm not sure if it's really fair to make blanket statements about IV, as I'm sure it partly depends on the student demographic! Nevertheless, comments were encouraged, so here was my experience: I was also the "church girl" and a bit "sheltered," but in a way I was a more radical believer BEFORE college. I came to college eager about joining Christian fellowship groups and doing evangelism. I had done short-term missions and was incredibly lonely not having anyone to debrief with. Maybe the fliers and other organized efforts weren't very helpful, but I made it a point to share my faith with dorm neighbors and classmates. I had a hard time getting to know people at IV. I had such a hunger for fellowship (arriving as a freshman, I knew 0% people on campus) and for serving the Lord. I don't know if it was the fact that I was from a different state or that the group was big or what, but it just felt like everybody was friendly on the surface and then were basically in their little private social groups. I think it's great to have small groups for closer fellowship, but those circles can be pretty closed. I think I attended Large Group for a whole year and people would always smile and say hello, but not typically remember my name or who I was. I'm normally pretty active in the church so I didn't feel like it was for lack of trying, but for whatever reason I just didn't fit in. I think if you are quieter people sometimes think you are a new believer or just a visitor, but in my case I was waiting for a challenge, to go beyond the elementary level worship and messages. I did not drink or date promiscuously or anything like that, but I was desperate for fellow believers to hold me accountable. And I felt that no one at IV really had an interest in helping me with those goals. And I did not withstand all the temptations I was faced with in college. I remained active in my faith, but I also felt like I relaxed my standards somewhat, and I don't know if that's a good thing. Though I grew a lot, I miss the purity I had as a freshman in college. Someone mentioned IV members being intolerable, but I almost felt like it was the opposite, that people went to IV meetings but had secret struggles with faith, and it seemed taboo to talk about anything that could lead to sin. Anyway, as I said, I think it's hard to make general statements about an international student fellowship. I just thought I would share my experience and maybe some leaders out there will take note.
I was not in IVCF as a student, but was on staff for a few years in the early to mid 90’s. I loved and didn’t love staff work. I loved my students. Working with them was probably one of the best things I’ve done in my life. One of the women I discipled is one of my best friends twenty years later. It was hard to believe I could get paid to drink coffee and discuss the Bible with college students. It really doesn’t get much better than that. I loved the studying and leading Bible studies. I appreciated the intellectual aspect of IVCF that I found lacking in other groups. I loved being free to serve as a woman. No boundaries except whether or not something was your gift. I loved speaking and teaching. I miss that so much. I hated fund raising and street evangelism. Neither one fit my personality. I resented being made to feel like I was a terrible Christian because I didn’t like doing evangelism. I really resented when certain leaders felt passionate about certain topics (racial reconciliation, social justice, etc.) that if you didn’t feel the same passion you were somehow suspect. How did IVCF ruin my life? As an intelligent woman with traditionally male gifts, I’ve yet to find any church where I can function as freely as I did in IV. Frankly, it’s been really disappointing. That isn’t IV’s fault. But what I experienced as a staff member I’ve never found anywhere else. To this day, church always seems lacking to me. I love college students and the university environment. I’ve said to my husband many times if it weren’t for the fundraising (and overnight travel) I would apply to go back on staff tomorrow. So, yet, my life is the richer and (sort of) the poorer because of IVCF.
I hope and pray that you will be able to find a community that you love and appreciate, and where the Lord can use you to hold great conversations. I also hope that He reveals how He is growing you in this time as you are looking for fellowship and a place to serve.
I completely agree with one specific point - we do NOT have to live dirt poor lives consumed by extreme suffering and sacrifice of material things and emotional health. That is a manipulation of the gospel. God wants us to be influencers in ALL realms of society (read Genesis 1:28) - he's called us to conquer and have dominion as the ekklesia (the ruling body!). Thank God my chapter didn't have this extreme socialist view even though it was in one of the most liberal schools in the country. I think overall Intervarsity does a great job at leadership development and sharing the gospel. However, there needs to be proper teaching of biblical worldview: which does not consist of simply selling all that you have to give to the poor. I did not learn that in Intervarsity and I'm thankful that my church taught me a biblical worldview.
I started to go to intervasity in my freshman year, but i left after having almost a year there. I am Christian and a passionate lover of God, so the first thing i did was to look for a Christian club at school and i found Intervasity. I really liked to found nice people that really love God as well, but there were several important things missing there. As any other Christian Group intervasity has it's pros and cons, which i don't judge because is a group form by humans and humans are not perfect, but the two main things that a Christian group can not lack of are: The preaching of the Gospel, which is the Grace of God for the world and the human incapacity to reach salvation by any means or deeds, but Only Christ and nothing else, because he lived, died and rise for us, and nothing can be add to that. I found myself in a group that believes in Salvation= Christ + our works, although the second part was not talk openly and clear. The gospel is the reason of the existence of us, Christians, and that wasn't the main topic in the meetings i participated on for a year. The last and second thing, is that at least in my campus, i didn't see too many ways of reaching people from school, most of the activities were for the present members of the club and that to me wasn't right, we should share more, and more the great news of God! OUR biggest problem was resolved in Jesus, we are free from sin, we are now free and have a great place to go after death, everybody should know this! So i decided to go by myself sharing the gospel with others around me(although unfortunately in a minor scale), and using the time i used to go to the club, to learn more from the bible in another place. Just truly trying to help. God bless.
God does not call everyone to the same life style some are call togo and some are called to stay. GOd has a plan for everyone, and if you seek him for the direction for your life you will be full of joy.
I am so glad you feel this way too! God definitely calls different people to different ministries to fulfill his purpose alone!
I feel that at many times IV can be glamorized and not focus on the individuals, then sending them out to serve and love on the community. This post was so honest. I hope that it is received with an open heart by everyone.
My husband & I are IV alum from California, and both of us consider our respective chapters (his at Cal and mine at Sac State) as the places where we got to know Jesus and decided to follow his standards for our lives. We met one another on a long-term urban project in the California Bay Area, so right away our relationship was based on not only our shared InterVarsity culture, but also our more specific desire to understand God's quest for restored shalom. We both graduated, he got a good job, and I went to graduate school. I say all this to make this point: we are not special, and we do not consider our family's commitment to Jesus especially radical or noteworthy. With that said, IV did "ruin" our lives in the sense that it presented alternatives for how we could live our life after college. It allowed us to adopt certain kingdom-based expectations that still cause some waves at work, within our families, and even at church. Namely: being good neighbors, how we budget/spend our money, choosing God's peace over fear, simplicity, and a commitment to people we find ourselves encountering. Today, we live in a distressed neighborhood in Sacramento. My husband works downtown and I do consulting from home. Many other people from IV have intentionally chosen to purchase property in this "less-than-desirable" part of town. Most of us attend a Bible study together once a week, and some of us attend the same church in a different part of town. Even still, God has brought us into relationship with other long-time residents who also know Him, so our little gang is multi-generational & multi-ethnic, representing a wide range of professions, opinions, and experiences with God. It's great, we love it. I must reiterate, however, that we're not special! We don't see living here as a burden, and don't feel particularly called to do anything other than just be hospitable, kind, and interested in our neighbors, whether they're Christian or not, whether they're poor or not. Most of the time life is pretty simple. With this background and experience in mind, here's my opinion on this woman's criticism of IV: If she's not at peace, she's choosing not to be because nobody can be held responsible for how we think or feel besides ourselves. Besides, IV DOES equip its students to be responsible for the growth and maintenance of their faith while also presenting them with the opportunity to decide what kind of person they want to be. When my husband and I exited IV life, we found a church that could then equip us to do the next thing...follow Jesus in the real world. For us, that involved exploring the power of the Spirit to direct our choices, clarify our options, and eradicate our fears. We ended up living where we do because we felt called to do it and then we chose to do it. Maybe she's just living out the wrong calling, or maybe she just needs to check her expectations and attitudes...? Bottom line, if this woman feels warn out by her lifestyle, that's not IV's fault - it's her own for not figuring out how God wants to serve her and partner with her. As Christians, we are most certainly called to serve and do things differently than "the world," but not so we can feel like rock stars or martyrs and not at the expense of losing sight of God's absolute control over our lives and love for us. Not that I have it figured out at all, but I think placing such unfair expectations on an organization as blaming it for ruining one's life is delusional. So to any IV big wigs reading this: the organization does good things and I think I represent a supportive voice, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that what you do could ever have so much authority or be so important as to ruin someone's life. My life would be different without my IV experiences, and I'm grateful for them, but I'm not grateful to IV! I'm grateful to God for being so awesome as to demand such extreme things from those who follow him. IV is just one organization that understands these things, and teaches them. What people do or do not do with that information is their choice.
What if churches functioned a bit more like IV? I can't help but wonder. I hear this alum, and I identify a lot with her desire for a staff worker to be with me in "the real world," or even a team of peers as close as my leadership team was. I just said that to my friend this weekend. I think my personal issue post-grad has been underwhelming church leadership. Is IV's style of staff leadership unsustainable or undesirable outside our fellowship culture? Or why else aren't churches functioning similarly? I don't know. I trust contemporary pastors have landed at their leadership style and church structure for a reason. But I've heard it said (by those both in and outside IV) that IV tends to be on the cutting edge of mission and ministry. Perhaps the most difficult gap we leave behind us is the transition from college ministry leadership into local church leadership. (I actually know a few people changing their vocations to focus on this, and one person doing doctoral research on this.) I want to say again that I believe this alum whole-heartedly, and I feel for her, and I think her experience is completely valid. I wonder if her experience could've been better if her IV staff affirmed some of the things she mentioned, and if local churches were better prepared to receive and support our IV grads.
I think your right, it'd be wonderful to see local churches in our areas flourish in the same way we see IVs on our campuses and former campuses. We need to be the one's who cause them too, we need to believe in our local churches. Leaders can ultimately get their leading style for churches within the Bible, it can't simply rest on leaders though. All of us should be leaders in one way or another and exercise our gifts within the church. IV is def more conducive to this, because we don't look at it as an institution and its not top down. Also we have people participating in it who are students with a lot of free time. Making a difference through the Church is a lot more sacrificial. I think we need more dialogue about this so thanks for your post! ps hopefully intervarsity could encourage more local church involvement!
IVCF had a major impact on me being born again my freshman year in 1993. I realized I had been trying to fill that God hole with a woman. Given my chapter's negative attitude towards dating, I naturally came to the conclusion that I should not date. In my fifth year of IV as an undergrad, I had been invited in and out of Bible study leadership, invited on a summer mission, etc.. But all the prayer and Bible study didn't help me to draw healthy boundaries once I finally (and foolishly) jumped into dating, ignoring any counsel. If I could tell college students in the same situation something, I would say not to fear dating, but to walk into it with caution and accountability, using wise discernment about when you are ready. And I would suggest to IV staff to foster a culture where dating is accepted, not frowned on in general. However, I thank God for the foundation of faith that was laid during my time in IV. Otherwise, I might not be weathering the storms of life.
Well, i think i get you when you say you wish that the transition into the "real world" after graduation was not so jarring. Because where i come from, it broke our hearts to see quite a number of IV friends who were all leaders and active and passionate for Christ, drift away from the faith after graduation. Up to now, i still don't know why that happened. Well, i guess, once in the real world, without the fellowship of fellow believers, whether IVCFers or not, they naturally dried up. But what i like best about IVCF is how it taught me to study the Bible and be biblically grounded on everything. And yes, we can glorify God wherever we are, whatever career path we choose. Whether it be medicine, arts, commerce, etc. God has chosen us to be the salt and light in the world. Of course it is not easy, but He has promised to make us fruitful when we abide in Him, and aren't things that aren't easy the worthwhile things in this world??
That same radical thinking is what Jesus calls us to. Jesus says to embrace long-suffering. He says that if you have two shirts to give one. He says to befriend the refugee. This isn't a sexy calling. I think calling it that demonizes it. It seems to imply "oh, silly college student, one day you'll learn." Some books that have been put out by IVP talk about these very calls. They are not stand alones. Not everyone is called to sell everything and live among the poor. Some are called to stay and give money and pray. But that doesn't mean you get out of giving freely, suffering on behalf of others, and ignoring the nations as they come to the US. Sure, business that are doing well can "glorify God." And I'm sure some are. But if all you're doing to glorify God is running a good business and going to church faithfully, I'm afraid the author has missed the point of InterVarsity's mission. World changers developed is a heavy call. Certainly not sexy.
I joined IV my freshman year, primarily because my friend from high school was a part of it and I needed friends. I enjoyed it at the beginning, and I still do believe that the IV chapter at my school is doing some good things. My staff leader helped me through a lot freshmen year and she was always able to listen to me talk with an open year and loving heart. Yet I was very displeased and very uncomfortable with the larger organization of IV. I attended both two IV conferences. I have never felt more uncomfortable at any other point of my life. I do not agree with the narrow-minded, conservative view that IV presents and I was really turned off by the whole organization. It was not the conservative view of IV the bothered me the most, but ultimately the extremely narrow viewpoint. How can we live and grow in such a vast world filled with other world views when we keep our minds closed to other possibilities. It is not a matter of being unsure of your faith, but a matter of having a humble opinion. IV did not ruin my life. It would be absurd to think that IV could ever have that much power over my life. I am a strong, independent woman. I still enjoy certain aspects of the chapter on my campus and try to support them in their individual efforts, but I no longer want to associate myself with the organization as a whole.
I am extremely sorry that you felt uncomfortable at IV, but I do not see this attitude in my chapter at my University. We do stand on truth, aka the Word, but I really wish you would clarify what you mean by narrow viewpoint. If you mean that you have to believe in Jesus Christ, then I hope they have a narrow view on that! If you mean politically, then I wonder why that even matters. There are a lot of different viewpoints in my chapter, and even if others disagree, they are respectful and hear one another out. I also wonder what you mean by humble, because it sounds as though this answer is very prideful. Your statement about IV not having control over your life is valid, but the more important part that IV advocated is humbling yourself to GOD and allowing Him to have control over your life. Submitting to a church, pastor, discipler, or a ministry is a reflection of our submission to God, so if you don't submit to IV, which is fine, what do you submit to? Submission is a spiritual discipline and part of a healthy Believer's life, so I would encourage you to read The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster to discover more about how to live out your faith by practicing the spiritual disciplines.
I had a great experience with InterVarsity! Just as my current church is flawed, sure my campus ministry was, too. But InterVarsity Helped me so much in college, I learned how to study the bible, learned how to have genuine fellowship, learned conflict resolution and was exposed to a God and peolple who not only cared about me, but also about the poor and hurting. I wish I still had an IV staff worker in my life!
uhh...you won't get very far trying to glorify God in Hollywood.
that's not true at all. God can be glorified ANYWHERE. Do you really think Hollywood is worse than Gomorrah or anywhere on earth. God can use whomever is willing to go....even to Hollywood.
agreed!
I found that IV kids come with a lot of prejudices. One instance that perfectly illustrates this:
I remember bringing a friend of mine to IV small group, and everyone was really friendly toward him, that is until we went around and introduced ourselves.
My friend was part of a fraternity on campus, and as soon as he mentioned that, people in our small group immediately started treating him differently.
My friend had grown up in a Christian family, and even made time to go to church at college whenever he could, not much unlike the other members of our small group. And yet, our small group still treated him differently, looked down on him, almost. If my friend had something to say, sometimes it wouldn't take it seriously. Our small group, was especially hard on him--Whenever my friend would bring up a question our small group leader would be very defensive, and answer in a very haughty way, almost as if reprimanding him for just bringing up the question in the first place. Fortunately, my friend kept coming to the small group meetings every week that semester, but unfortunately, every week he tried earning our small group's respect in vain.
And that REALLY disappointed me. I was especially disappointed that my small group leader (who we all supposedly should have looked to for advice, for leadership) was one of the hardest on my friend. Even more disappointing, my small group leader was a senior--it's one thing to be an underclassmen coming to college for the first time and having certain prejudices and misconceptions, but as a senior, you would think that he'd know better than to treat my friend the way he did. But even after 4 years of being an active member of Intervarsity, my small group leader just didn't. Overall, a small group is meant to support, encourage, and nurture is members through their scripture-studying-journey, if you will, but sadly, my friend didn't get any of that.
That's why there is GREEK IV!!! IV kids are just different... Next time send him on over to the Greeks. Did you confront your leader?
Yes, I've heard of Greek IV, but at the time my college didn't (and still doesn't) have Greek IV. Once in a while they would make a vague announcement about a Greek IV retreat/event happening in our area, asking if anyone would be interested in more information, but everyone in the room just stay silent. There's a stigma attached to being Greek here, so no one wants to say anything. But even if there were a Greek IV, that still does not reconcile the fact my IV peers stigmatized my friend. Why should I have to "send him over to the Greeks" just to be accepted? Why couldn't my small group just accept him in the first place? It's worrying that there are IV members out there who wouldn't love a person like he deserves, just based on some misconceptions about that person. I've found that a lot of IV kids forget that Jesus told us to love one another, not pick and choose who deserves our love.
I am sorry your small group did not live out the model of a God-centered community focused on Word, Worship, and Witness. All small groups are different, and I know that there are some small groups who are great at inclusion and some that are horrible, so I hope you find a community that wil be a better environment to bring others into!
I was apart of IV for 6 years of undergrad and 2 years of masters work. I always found that there was a certain culture in IV that I knew was not real life. I saw this in the way that discipleship worked. The guys that were discipled by the IV staff workers or exec. leaders always ended up acting, and talking, and praying, and leading like the person who was discipling them. This had to be a compliment to the character of the leaders because imitation is a sincere form of flattery, but it seemed off, and me being a creative music major who was pouring between 25-30 hours a week into crafting my sound and trying to stand apart, becoming like my staff worker was not my intention or desire. So, I butted heads with my staffworker constantly. Looking back on this I felt like I was hungry for Jesus and IV was offering Christian agendas and programs, and I wasn't necessarily drawn to that, because it wasn't feeding what I was hungry for. And that led to more butting heads with staff workers and exec members, and led to long talks about IV's vision statement and IV's plans and programs that would help, "get me on board"...Now if most people had this experience in IV they would quit, but I stuck around and found much value by being apart of IV. I love it and I wouldn't change my experience in it because it helped shaped me and grow me in ways that would not have happened any other way. But there are some things I wished they would have done differently...I felt that there was always talk about being a world changer but that you could only change the world if you were on IV leadership or lived in strategically missional communities around campus, or if you went onto IV staff, or if you went to IV training, but if you didn't do these things you could change the world by supporting IV staff or giving scholarships to students to go to training events. Which are all good things, but they seem so short-sighted. If a student in IV spends 4 years in college but 30 years in the work force shouldn't more time be spent on preparing a student for life outside of college? Or if a small percentage end up on IV staff and the vast majority end up if professional fields why not devote lots of time and energy or invest in training that would help those more instead of devoting the most time and energy and directed training at the IV junkees. It just did not sit well with me that the only time we talked about going into the professional world was when we were about to graduate, and that it was too little too late.
My years involved with InterVarsity were a wonderful foundation for my adult life as a Christian. I learned how to search the Scripture, share Christ with others, pray for others, plan and organize Bible study lessons, lead as president of the group, and more. I was so ripe for solid teaching and IVCF gave it to me through retreats, missions training, leadership training, and urbana. I think the main reason God led me to the colleges I went to (Nazareth College, then Eastern Michigan University) was for me to be a part of IV. I will always be thankful for the great training I received during my college years. I continue to follow Christ daily as a wife and mother of four children. I met my husband (of 22 years) through a mutual friend that I met in IV. My husband had also been a part of IV (U of M-Dearborn). Now one of our daughter's is involved in IV at the same college as her dad. IV was not made up of perfect people but of Christ followers truly seeking His will for their lives. I feel like the tools I learned helped me grow and continue to help me grow as a Christian. I encourage all young people heading to college to get involved with an active Christian group on their campus.
My experience with Intervarsity was actually the oposite. By that, it doesnt mean it was bad. I actually enjoyed very much and have very good memories of the fellowship there! But the mentality in the mid 1980's in the university i went to Florida Institute of Technology was actually of a more evangelistic/conservative approach. Our main purpose was to "get people saved"; to say show the "Roman road apprach" etc. I do remember the stress in missions (like Urbana etc) but still the emphasis was to be a missionary to preach Christ in other countries where Christianity was not big. My vision actually has change quite a bit. I am a local Lutheran pastor; I am going thru Seminary and do see things diferently. I am more socially and theologically liberal; I am more concerned with issues of poverty, justice, peace,ecumenical relations etc than "getting people saved for heaven" (that too is important but I do not see apart from the other issues). Therefore as you see; in my case, Intervarsity was more of an evangelistic/conservative experience for me while my Seminary and pastoral experience has change my mentality quite a bit. Still love Intervarsity; still loved my experience with it as part of my spiritual growth AND i am happy if they are leaning towards issues of justice, peace etc! God bless!!
I’m glad somebody spoke up about this. I think we, as students, can easily slap on blinders and think that IV is the best thing that has ever happened in the world and that there are no flaws, when in actuality there are great flaws within it, as there are with any organization built by humans. One thing that I consistently battled against with my IV chapter was that I felt like our staff put too much weight into the importance of InterVarsity in God’s mission. Don’t get me wrong, I think God did great things on campus through IV, but God is ultimately about His Church and that honestly takes precedence over InterVarsity. I felt as if my staff was telling me that God is building InterVarsity and campus ministry is the end all and be all, when in reality, God is building His church. His mission is larger than InterVarsity. Yes, InterVarsity is a part of His mission, but it is not His sole means on mission. I sometimes felt as if my staff were telling me this. When I began to get more involved with my local church during my junior year and started working for them during my senior year, I felt torn between the two worlds. God is building His church and I am ultimately going to be a member of the Body of the Christ (His Church) for the rest of my existence on the earth, so of course I want to be feeding into this Mission. I felt that if I was a part of InterVarsity, then I had to choose between the two, because it was too difficult to have one foot in each pond. I have ended up working for my Church and will until the end of 2012; unfortunately, I feel the weight of people thinking it is not as “sexy” as working on IV staff and the weight of my staffworker thinking I could do more with my gifts (i.e. going on staff).
My IV experience continues to positively impact and influence my life. But I'm thankful for this sharing, because like the writer shared it isn't all fun and games. Adjusting to post college life is hard enough as it is without the idealism that comes with eye opening experiences and exposure to concepts like social justice, absolute poverty, true diversity, and what I learned to be called the "wholistic Bible". I imagine I went into college much like the writer, surrounding myself with Christians, Christian activities, etc. But what I quickly learned was that in doing so, I also closed myself off from those who really needed Jesus. IV, and a floormate who was part of Campus Crusade, showed me that. Doing NYCUP the summer after junior year exposed me to urban ministry. But urban ministry is not just the poor and unjust in the city...its every part of the city. Afterall every area of life needs Jesus. I am thankful for my father who discouraged me from entering staff work post college. And no, it was not for the reasons that you suspect. Thankfully my parents, who have been in full time ministry my whole life, have always been supportive of my decisions. This was the one decision they discouraged because it would have been "too easy" for me. And so God continues to use the leadership skills, discipleship, love for the whole Bible and prayer, and so many more things that I gained through IV in mainstream, "regular" life.
I had a great IV experience, but I also felt like maybe I wasn't as good a Christian since I didin't feel called to missions and I didn't go to Urbana. My vocation is professional. I went on to get m Masters a fine Christian university. The business world need Christ too.
This is part of the reason i have recently left InterVarsity. It is nice to know that someone else is speaking up.
I had a totally different IV experience. Maybe it was the church I was a part of (lots of professors were also members there) or maybe it was my field of study (engineering). But one of the biggest lessons I learned from IV is that I can glorify God in the workplace or the missions field. I did struggle with the issue of voluntary poverty, but I never thought IV was pushing that life on me. Although I can easily see how some chapters have a different atmosphere...I think most of my class has gone on to graduate degrees so we may be odd ones out.
Well, only because you asked and these are not necessary complaints against the ministry. At Syracuse University, and for their graduate school Christian fellowship, the group had lost a very popular leader to seminary. We asked for another and interviewed someone. I recommended him to our group (I was on the leadership team at the time) and also argued for his behalf to our IVCF area. When he came on board with his family however something went south - namely he did. The thing was he had to serve at both Syracuse U and Cornell. But he could not find a good place to live convenient for both schools. He wound up taking a home in Ithaca by Cornell and serving in a local community. He also was finishing an M. Th., adopting a special needs child, and becoming an elder in a local church in the city. This meant that he wound up devoting his attention to Cornell. He did great works in Ithaca, including healing a breach between factions in Cornell groups and helping plant a Christian Study Center. I don't begrudge him any of that. But it dud mean that we effectively has no IV representative. It made it difficult to maintain the ministry while pursuing grad work and trying unsuccessfully to get a faculty program going. Another issue that caught me by surprise was the discovery that intelligent Christians do not share the same views about the intergration or interface between faithand understanding. I discovered that many of our group members and faculty supporters did not, as a matter of principle, see any positive role the gospel or the Scripture or the church played in contributing to ours scholarly duties. In fact, such a suggestion for some was outrageous. (Hmmm. Reminds of a book title.) since this feature was one of the attractions of IVCF for me, it was a bit of a shock. I had to accept that only an attentuated version of the faith and scholarship mission would include as many of the evangelical grads and faculty as there were. As a philosophy student, I eventually became aware of the debate between the "Augustinians" and the "Thomists" over the relation between the two but as a practical matter, I think some of us were left out to sea.
Wow. This is so welcome and honest. Thanks for your integrity in posting this!

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