We don’t make things grow on campus; God makes things grow. The Chapter Growth Strategy is the trellis where growth happens.
Friends of mine recently planted a bunch of cucumber seeds in their garden. In a few short weeks, the seeds became vines that were overflowing the garden and growing out into the yard. If they kept growing there, eventually it would just be a big mess. That growth needed a trellis.
At the Florida Institute of Technology, God has been exponentially growing His kingdom on this campus. FIT is a school where over 50% of the 5,000 students are in engineering programs, most significantly aerospace engineering. Set in beautiful Melbourne, Florida, there are not many other places where you can hit the beach between classes and watch NASA launch a rocket from your dorm window.
Four years ago, Tim Gonyer, the IV staff, replanted the chapter with 2 students and 1 small group. Today, there are 170 students, including 84 athletes and 46 international students in 18 small groups. How did this growth happen???
The short answer: GOD, lots of hard work, and the Chapter Growth Strategy!
So, what is the Chapter Growth Strategy and how can you grow your chapter?
A Trellis for Growth: The Chapter Growth Strategy
The larger framework of the strategy is the movement of God. Before we do anything, we must be people who are led by the Spirit and fueled by Scripture, with our work shaped by the context in which God has placed us. The most bulletproof strategy without the movement of God will not produce much.
As we follow the leading of God in the Chapter Growth Strategy, we lean into three primary roles on campus: the Visionary Guide, the Structure Architect, and the Missional Developer.
The Visionary Guide
The Visionary Guide sees and speaks out a compelling vision of what God wants to do on campus by dreaming a vision and setting clear goals.
From international students (30% of the school) to athletes, fraternities and sororities to the anime club, Tim knew that there were lots of unreached corners at FIT. So he had a dream. What if every student who passed through FIT had the opportunity to respond to Jesus? What if there could be a Jesus-centered community in every corner of the campus?
Tim led the FIT InterVarsity students to share this dream. Then instead of just hoping for growth, they set a clear target to pray and work toward planting eight new small groups (doubling their current number) in unreached communities by the end of the year.
In Chapter Growth, the Visionary Guide leads the chapter to Dream a Vision and Set Goals to concretely see God’s Kingdom come to the campus.
The Structure Architect
The Structure Architect creates programs and spaces aligned with the vision, where people can hear from God and love each other. With the influx of new students every year, we pay careful attention to the key drivers of New Student Outreach (NSO), Personal Follow-Up, and Planting Missional Small Groups.
In their best NSO at FIT, they collected 80 contact cards. I vividly remember the look of disbelief on Tim’s face when his Chapter Growth coach asked, “What if we could get 300 contact cards? How would that change things for the chapter?”
That summer, Tim spent hours planning for NSO with a goal of 300 contact cards. The first draft of their plan was returned from their coach covered in red ink. So, they edited . . . and edited . . . and edited. When NSO finally began, in just four days of hosting an NSO proxe, they gathered more than 300 cards! As they knocked on doors to follow up with each card, new students joined small groups. By late October, students were sent to plant new small groups in unreached corners of campus.
In Chapter Growth, the Structure Architect leads the chapter to Own the Drivers and Plan for the Drivers so that God-given dreams for campus transformation become concrete reality.
The Missional Developer
The Missional Developer helps students grow into the purposes and call that God has for them by casting the net wide and advancing the development pathway.
In the first NSO event before classes even started at FIT, Juan filled out a contact card. A Latino football player who had recently met Jesus, he was looking for a place to plug in and make a difference on campus. That night, student leaders followed up with Juan, getting to know him and inviting him to come to the Pre-Fall Retreat. Well, Juan showed up and was trained in how to walk people through the proxe. Most days of that first week, Juan led other new students through the proxe, sharing the Gospel and inviting them to join InterVarsity. In the evenings, he came to the follow-up parties, going out to visit people in their dorms who had filled out contact cards. By the end of the first week, Tim invited Juan to apprentice. He said yes and began learning through Discipleship Cycles how to lead a small group. In mid-October, Juan had advanced in the developmental pathway from crowd to leader and the Lord called him to plant the first LaFe small group at FIT. By their third meeting, 20(!) new Latino students were regularly showing up to the LaFe “small group.”
In Chapter Growth, the Missional Developer leads the chapter to Cast the Net Wide and Advance the Development Pathway so that every student is invited to courageously follow Jesus and to steward their influence for God’s Kingdom.
As this strategy took hold at FIT, not only did it help FIT students reach the corners of their campus, but it created space for them to plant InterVarsity on three nearby community college campuses where there is no Gospel witness. We want to plant chapters that grow and grow chapters that plant.
God makes things grow. We have the privilege of partnering with Him in this great work! By using strategies in chapter planting and chapter growth, we construct trellises on which growth can happen.
What part of this strategy is God calling you to lean into for your chapter this year? Check out the Chapter Growth Resources to help you get started!