Why your graduate group should affiliate with InterVarsity

July 27, 2011

I led a brief seminar on why groups of graduate students and faculty should affiliate with InterVarsity at our Regional Team Meetings in Nashville last week. Here’s an overview of some of the reasons I gave:

When done well, the process of affiliating with InterVarsity…

  1. draws chapters into a larger movement (a bigger story) of God across North America and the world (through our IFES partners). This can allow students and faculty to discover a God who is moving in bigger and more surprising ways than they often expect).
  2. allows us as staff to take seriously seriously our pastoral call to shepherd the chapters we serve, guiding them to express the essentials of Christian orthodoxy found in our Doctrinal Basis*. Affiliation provides a theological center that creates space and energy for engaging with our friends of all perspectives. Doctrine is not incidental to the Christian life so it is not incidental to our life together on campus. It also provides defined boundary markers for leadership both as students and as staff.
  3. communicates to the broader communities of which we are a part (the university, the city, local churches) that the chapters we serve have a foundational identity that they would recognize – defined by the Doctrinal Basis and the vision and values of InterVarsity.*
  4. provides access for the chapter and staff to InterVarsity’s legal department if and when some dispute arises between the chapter and the university or college with which it is accredited. In light of CLS v. Martinez, this is no small thing since this decision marked a shift in the way that university administrators are scrutinizing organizational constitutions. If, and we do, InterVarsity wishes to be part of the universities we serve it is critical for us to be able to find ways to be recognized as student organizations that allow us to express our religious convictions with integrity and authenticity.
  5. clarifies the relationship of you (as staff) to the chapter. As staff we are not incidental to the life of our chapters rather we have been called by InterVarsity (reflecting God’s call) and sent to our field of endeavor to guide, coach, consult, shepherd, and lead our chapters in such a way as to give tangible expression to the Gospel, the values of the kingdom, and, in particular, to give expression to these things in a way that is aligned with InterVarsity’s identity and values as a national movement.
  6. enables us as staff to take seriously the fact that we are called and sent by (and therefore answerable to) InterVarsity. There’s some tension here that we get to live into — We are not a collection of autonomous individual franchisees who answer to no one nor are we part of the Borg, assimilated into the collective and having no identity of our own. Rather, we are staff who are building witnessing communities (as I said above) that give tangible expression to the Gospel, the values of the kingdom, and, in particular, to give expression to these things in a way that is aligned with InterVarsity’s identity and values as a national movement. We do this in a way that is contextualized to the place, people, and culture to which we are sent (we’re missionary).
There are other tangible benefits for all chapters that include
  • 30% discount on book orders by chapters
  • discounts for national conferences such as Urbana
  • access to national and international mission trips
Addendum – Discipline-specific benefits…
     MBA Ministry – affiliating with InterVarsity provides several tangible benefits to the MBA chapters that include:
  1. Access to a monthly conference call designed to equip student leaders for carrying out their mission in their particular school of business.
  2. Access to have their information added to a resume book that is circulated to business practitioners associated with MBA ministry.
  3. Discounted rates for conferences such as Believers in Business.

The How
How to affiliate your chapter with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (the steps):

The process of affiliation is ANNUAL since students leaders are central to this exceedingly simple process.
  • Step 1 – gather new student leaders to review the guiding principles and animating vision of the chapter you serve. Compare these with the Doctrinal Basis and values of InterVarsity as a national movement. If you have a faculty advisor, she should be part of this conversation.
  • Step 2 – student leaders sign the Chapter Affiliation Application (includes the Doctrinal Basis) and return then send it to your Area Director.
  • Step 3 – your chapter will receive a charter and certificate of affiliation from Collegiate Ministries.
More information on affiliating is available online here and, for MBA groups, here. Feel free to email me for more information.