Recently I met up with a local young woman, Meaghan Graham, who is certainly doing what she can do to bring the message of Christ to the world. Meaghan is part of the Intervarsity organization, which is a similar group to the Campus Crusade for Christ. Specifically, I.V. focuses on college students within the Greek system. The following is a telling excerpt from our conversation:
- What drew you to wanting to work for Intervarsity? At the University of Connecticut, where I attended undergrad, I had the opportunity to see God make something out of what seemed like nothing, when InterVarsity planted chapters of Greek InterVarsity and Multiethnic InterVarsity during my junior year. Upon entering my senior year, I so desperately wanted to be part of what I saw God doing at the University of New Hampshire; I genuinely felt called to be a part of God’s work in the fraternities and sororities there. InterVarsity encourages students to minister to whatever community they’ve gravitated to in college; this is something most college ministries don’t do. College ministry generally focuses on drawing students in, into a Christian community. In addition to drawing students into a Christian community, we are constantly sending students to their non-Christian friends to be a witness. This attribute alone was very attractive to me, especially being in a sorority where no other ministry was reaching.
- What are the daily challenges you face in this position? Reaching out to what seems to be an incredibly closed culture can be very discouraging. Building trust and rapport with these students can take a long time. The struggles we see as common in the college world today, for example conformity, contempt for religion, and peer pressure, are all exacerbated in the close knit Greek system. Our students find it hard to stand for what they believe in due to the extreme group mentality. Our ministry is also in this strange place where many Christians ask “Why fraternities and sororities?” as though there is no place for God there. And on the other end our students are often asked, “Why are you a Christian?” as though a Christian has no place in the Greek system. It seems as though there is an idea of mutual exclusivity, where we offer a place to be both Greek and Christian.
- Recent national polls have suggested that young adults (those under 30) are the least Churched population. Why do you think that is? And, what are you doing to try to change that? These national polls are a great indicator of the incredible opposition to Christianity in the university culture. The younger generations are a product of this university culture where moral and philosophical relativism are pervasive, where many people hold to the idea “what’s true for you may not be true for me.” Another thing we often hear from fraternity and sorority members is “I’ll worry about that when I’m older.” The young adults, between 18 and 30 live in a party culture, where they think Jesus doesn’t matter. In order to change that we are attempting to start the conversation that this may not be the case, that Christ is relevant here and today. InterVarsity strives to show students that Christianity isn’t just about what you can’t do, but about what you can do and the action that God calls us to. We are showing students that God does have something to say about their lives at college. University culture is a microcosm of what we see in the world on a grander scale, and can affect the world tomorrow. InterVarsity strives to be a light in every part of this otherwise dark place.
- How much rejection do you come across as you go on campus to evangelize? Do students or other ever get “nasty” or difficult with you? Honestly, if there wasn’t some sort of rejection I would question if we were evangelizing truthfully. Jesus told us that we would be rejected, He sent us out as “lambs among wolves.” While our first call is to evangelism, and drawing students to a place where they are closer to Christ we don’t do this in a way that is threatening. We have found that students are more affected when someone they’ve built trust with shares the Gospel with them. This is reflected in our training of our students to engage in spiritual conversations with their friends and how to share the Gospel if God presents them the opportunity.
- Why focus on the fraternity and sorority system, and students there? First, these students desperately need the Gospel, like I said before, no one else is reaching them. Secondly, this group is strategic. If you imagine the social scene of a university as a ship, the fraternities and sororities are the rudder, guiding this ship; if you change the fraternities and sororities, you change the campus. Lastly, these students statistically have incredible personal potential to influence. The Greek system has one of the best leadership development programs offered in college, that’s not something that most people know, and these students are tomorrow’s world leaders. InterVarsity asks the question, “What if these students learned to lead with Christ?”
- What kind of success and openness are you finding? Success is a difficult term to define in ministry. If success is measured by the openness that has developed, then yes, InterVarsity has found success, both nationally and locally at the University of New Hampshire. More recently at the University of New Hampshire we have seen students stepping into leadership roles in Greek IV, as a result of seeing the need in their respective fraternities and sororities. This then develops openness; all it takes is one brother or sister in a Greek organization to take a stand for what they believe, and not long after God opens doors to develop Bible studies and small groups in these organizations.
If you are moved by what Meaghan and others at Intervarsity are doing, please visit their website at www.intervarsity.org. If you would like to offer Ms. Graham any specific assistance, comments, or prayers, she can be reached at mgraham14 (at) gmail.com.