Follow-up Changed My Life

I came to college thinking my church days were far behind me. I was ready for my new college life and I wasn’t sure that God was going to be a part of it. But I checked a box labeled “religious” during freshmen orientation three months earlier and because of that, Eileen came to my door. I saw her coming. My sister was involved in InterVarsity at another campus locally and I must have recognized her from a picture. I jumped out of my bunk and before she could say anything I pushed her out into the hallway and closed the door behind us. My new roommates were not going to hear any God-talk being associated with me. 

Eileen was nice. She asked me lots of questions. I was surprised at how easy it was to talk with her. She invited me to InterVarsity large group. I told her I would come but had no intention of actually going. She said “Great, I’ll pick you up. See you outside Thursday.” Thursday came. I had already decided to stand her up. Then I thought it would be rude—she was nice. I wasn’t saying no to her; I was saying no to the God-part. I decided to meet her outside and give her my “I can’t come” speech. Then there she was   and I hopped in her car. I still don’t know why.

Eileen invited me to her small group, then invited me to breakfast, then took me to the grocery store. Because Eileen followed up with me, I had a re-awakening in my faith. I made some good life-long friends. I learned how to share my faith and eventually, I came on staff to give other people the same opportunity I was given. 

My life was changed because someone bonded with me. Eileen reached out to me in love and that helped me come to know the God who loved me.  

I followed up with Heather her freshmen year. She never came to my small group and never decided to follow Jesus that year, but I enjoyed hanging out with her. Two years later, after I had graduated and was on staff on a different campus, Heather saw me walk into our regional camp. “Val, it’s me, Heather. I became a Christian last year. Thanks for following up with me. As soon as I was ready to re-discover my faith, I knew I should go to InterVarsity.” Heather went to InterVarsity and met Becca.  Becca bonded with Heather and helped her know how much Jesus loved her. Becca and Heather spent their last two years of college following Jesus together.  Heather was in Becca’s wedding. 

Follow-up changes lives. But it’s not for the faint of heart. I would do you a disservice if I didn’t help you count the cost for yourself. Your friends may think you are weird to try to become friends with freshmen. The freshmen you are meeting and inviting to lunch may think you are a dork with no friends, which is why you are hanging out with them. I thought that about Eileen in the beginning and I know Heather thought that about me. The sting of rejection and embarrassment was worth it. I am so grateful for Eileen and her willingness to experience my reluctance, and Heather’s new life in Christ was worth any embarrassment I experienced.

Here are a few tips to help you with faithful follow-up:

  1. Assume people like you. If you are friendly and genuinely interested in people’s lives, they may think you are weird, but they will have no reason not to like you. People like to talk about themselves and, in a world of self-absorption, they will notice your interest in who they are.
  2. Learn to ask good questions. Think about questions that you like to be asked. Think about questions that create space for people to share more about their lives.
  3. Be intentional, persistent and creative. Make plans in your schedule to visit people. Tell them when you are with them that you would like to come back again, and then do what you have said. Invite them to coffee or to have lunch. Invite them to a party, a game night or a movie night that you are hosting. 

Watch these follow-up videos:

My staff friend, Sam, has two videos that are inspiring and super-helpful. Sam has a contagious vision, passion and gift for following up with people.

Here’s to an amazing month of follow-up! Who knows who will be in your life for the next 1, 2, or 10 years because of your love and persistence now? 

Val Gordon

Val is a consultant for InterVarsity’s Learning & Talent. She has worked with InterVarsity since 1995. Val and her husband, Geoff, reside in Mystic, Connecticut.