As an Area Director in the Pacific Region a couple of years ago, I can vividly remember several conversations about the lack of strong male leaders in many of our chapters. One day I shared this problem with a new friend of mine, Dave, the CEO of a management consulting firm. He told me how impressed he had been with the leadership development that his daughter received in her InterVarsity chapter in San Diego. I told him, “I’ve been thinking of an idea. What if we could bring some of our up-and-coming male leaders from campus together with some men in our community—men like yourself with wisdom to offer, who have held significant leadership positions themselves and are growing disciples of Jesus? What if we had a meal together—a feast—where they could all get to know each other, and we could pick a topic for the older men to share with the younger men? In effect, it would create a place for older men to initiate younger men into manhood.”
Dave was ALL OVER THIS. Ideas started flowing. He wanted to host it at his home. He had a list of men he could recruit. “How big do you want this to become?” was his question. I had tapped into a passion of his, and the energy was incredible.
I asked all of my campus staff to pick 3-4 of their most influential male students and commit to a road trip for this dinner event. That’s all they had to do. No other preparation, except to be ready to use the time in the car to talk about the following question: “How do we create a strong male leadership culture in our chapter?”
We have done several of these dinners now. I always ask the older men to come early to help set up and I give them a briefing so that they know what to expect, understand why this is an important ministry and how they can be a blessing to these students. I give them a list of ten conversation starters. By the time students start arriving, they feel they are a ministry team!
At the last event we held, I asked the older men to remember that nerve-racking conversation they had with their future father-in-law about marrying his daughter. There were lots of laughs and some good lessons. Then I asked them what they want for their own daughters and what they hope their relationship with their son-in-law will be like. The younger men were riveted. They never get to talk about this stuff with men they admire.
Dave and the other men LOVE the connection they are getting to have with these male students. They always come up to me at the end of the night and shake my hand and say, “That was really great. Please let me know when you’re doing this again.” It’s a meaningful, rewarding way for them to be a genuine help to our ministry. It is just one night, so it’s easy for them to say yes to.
I’m now in contact with a growing network of high-quality, connected Christian men in my community and they get to see me in a leadership role with staff and students. They are totally impressed with InterVarsity’s ministry, and talk about it with their friends.
The students love it. They’re surprised that these high-caliber Christian men just want to spend the evening hearing what it’s like to be on campus and what their hopes are for the future. They experience a deep sense of affirmation that they didn’t even know they were missing. After our first dinner, one student went back to Chico State and told all of his housemates, “You guys have to come to this next time. These men are like Vikings!” Since then, we’ve been calling the event, Inter-Valhalla, because in Viking legend, Valhalla was the celestial hall where ancient warriors gathered with recently slain warriors for a feast.
The InterVarsity campus staff have taken these experiences and started their own events back home with local men in their community. It’s replicable once they see it first-hand.
An InterVarsity staff worker at the University of Nevada – Reno recently held his own event like this and he actually led a short manuscript Bible study for the whole group. The older men were blown away when they saw the Bible study skills that the InterVarsity students had. I’ve also heard that some women in InterVarsity are developing their own version of this. I don’t think it has anything to do with Vikings, though.
Are you looking for a way to offer meaningful involvement with our campus ministry to friends in the local community? How might mature Christians in your city help you promote a strong male or female leadership culture in your chapter? I want to encourage you to take the first step by gathering trusted partners in your community to talk about how they might be involved with you.