Before I get into this post, I want to encourage you to take a minute to fill out my Ministry Partnership form at the following link. Thank you to those who have. Please keep them coming! It’s super important for me to hear from all my ministry partners at this time of the year. Please let me know how you plan to partner with me in 2021.
I’m coming to you on the second day of a joint Graduate and Undergraduate staff conference happening via zoom sessions. This is a first for our two ministry streams since I’ve been back on staff with InterVarsity. I’ve attended the undergrad Regional staff events in the past two years. But this year we’re actually sharing the event. Here’s a quick look at our theme and speakers.
Grief, Providence and Habits of Hope – GFM/UFM Combined Central Staff Conference
It’s been terrific! The idea for a combined staff conference was in the pipeline for three years. When my undergrad Staff Director counterpart and I talked about it, we were envisioning an in-person event at a retreat center. Lot’s of time for our teams to mingle. Shared plenary sessions and meals. In our own spaces for some of the schedule. As our target date drew near, however, we realized that this event was either going to get post-poned OR re-invented. It’s actually been sooo good to be together even in a virtual format.
This year like never before staff need refreshment and perspective on ministry and personal hardship. We’ve worked pretty hard this semester to virtualize ministry in digital spaces and sustain momentum where possible. Staff are fatigued from all the displacement, loss and improvisation. Our planning team landed on the book of Ruth as a message we could all use!
Themes that have come out of our time so far:
- God’s profound presence in the midst of hardship and scarcity
- Experiencing God’s goodness through the people he brings along side us
- Risk-taking in seasons of transition and displacement
- Doing what can be done when we show up even if its “just gleaning”
- God’s incredible ordering of events when we see nothing but loss
- Steps of obedience still need to be taken – work still needs to be done
- The hardest work and biggest risks happen in the safety of God’s rule
As we came together yesterday, Ruth chapter 1 met us on a note of lamentable loss. Things go from bad to worse so fast for Naomi – you wonder “Is there’s really any story here at all?” I got to lead virtual bible study with 55 of my colleagues. They tore into the text with a vengeance – just like InterVarsity staff are wired to do.
This morning the tone changed quite a bit as we moved into chapters 2-3 in Ruth. Naomi is overshadowed in the narrative by Ruth who twice responds to the invitation to GO… Go to the fields to glean. And GO to the threshing floor to propose to Boaz! Ruth is as missional and risk-taking as Naomi was depleted and hapless. Our staff teams need the example of both women to stay healthy and focused. Honesty about our pain and losses with a willingness to let go of our idealism. And… an energetic drive that says yes to new possibilities God is engineering beyond our imagination.
A positive shared experience like this has been a big step forward but we need to keep taking steps. This afternoon we spent time thinking about how our teams can more effectively collaborate in our four state region. Building awareness and trust is a must, as is follow-up. Pray for GFM and Undergrad InterVarsity as we move forward into what God has for us. Pray for our last session tonight in Ruth chapter 4 where we see Naomi’s impossible dream come true for her family. Pray for our teams to learn to dream together and experience a fuller harvest of God’s kingdom on campuses in the coming months.
Thanks so much for your partnership!