University ministry continues despite derecognition

By October 10, 2014

USA (ICF/MNN) — New Student Outreach (NSO) season at the beginning of the school year is always busy, but for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship staff and student leaders on California State University (CSU) campuses, NSO was exceptionally busy this year. CSU derecognized many chapters because InterVarsity’s leadership selection process requires that their chapters be led by Christians, which violates CSU’s new non-discrimination policy.

Even without the ability to participate in student organization fairs and other perks of official recognition, such as free use of on-campus meeting spaces, InterVarsity chapters on most of the CSU campuses continue to operate. CSU chapter life has gotten more creative and more expensive.

Backpack banners were created as new way to contact students and tell them about InterVarsity.

Since students couldn’t set up a display table at the student activities fair, they carried backpack signs. (InterVarsity photo)

Since students couldn’t set up a display table at
the student activities fair, they carried backpack signs.
(InterVarsity photo)

Even though CSU has so far been unyielding on the new policy in spite of widespread criticism, and some chapters need outside financial assistance to cover the cost of room rental, university ministry continues. Some InterVarsity staff have had positive experiences with campus officials and have seen great responses from students to the gospel message this year.

A Warm Campus Welcome

Gent Grush at CSU-Los Angeles dropped off a student on campus with banner backpacks, flyers, and contact cards, and went to park. “Upon my return, I discovered we had already been asked for papers for our group’s presence on campus. We had none. I thought we were busted,” he said. “I began to talk with the woman asking for papers and introduced myself when she responded, ‘Oh you’re Gent!’ And then she gave me a huge hug.”

It turns out that this was the person that Gent had been calling almost daily since early August to secure rooms and promotion space on campus in the face of derecognition. “She immediately began to help us know what we can and cannot do and extended much grace because of her understanding for our situation,” he said. “She personally walked me to the Public Affairs Office to help me apply as a non-profit group to promote on campus. She was a blessing, a person of peace in the midst of the changes on campus.”

On the way to the Public Affairs Office, the pair stepped onto an elevator that also happened to be occupied by the CSU-LA president, William Covino. “She introduced me to the president and shared with him that I represented InterVarsity on campus,” Gent reported. “I shook his hand, and he said, ‘Thank you for serving our students.’”

Students Respond to the Gospel Message

After all of that, the CSU-LA InterVarsity students easily made contact with 25 new students in their first
hour and a half on campus as a non-profit group. The new contact methods seemed to work well on other campuses, too: at California State University-Fullerton, 338 students filled out contact cards.

Many responded to the gospel as these new contacts attended Large Group meetings. At Sonoma State, 27 students made first-time or adult decisions to follow Jesus the first week. The next week, 15 more students came to faith in Christ at Sonoma.

Derecognition Derided

While campus ministry continues at the CSU schools, the CSU situation has received a lot of media attention overwhelmingly in support of InterVarsity. The links to news stories and commentary on their CSU derecognition resource page expand on an almost daily basis.

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