Partnering Together Across Gender Lines

Chances are, as an InterVarsity student leader, you minister alongside people of the opposite gender. Perhaps you co-lead a small group, or partner together on your chapter’s leadership team, or your fellowship is served by male and female staff who work together to lead the ministry. How are those partnerships going for you?

InterVarsity has always been a place where women and men have partnered together in mission. For 75 years now, this value has informed how we do our work. InterVarsity’s founder C. Stacey Woods once wrote, “In Inter-Varsity men and women have stood shoulder to shoulder as brothers and sisters in Christ equally bearing the responsibility and ministry of evangelical student witness to the universities. Women have not had an inferior role to men.” (The Growth of a Work of God, 1978, p. 120)

This equal and shared partnership of men and women in mission is one of the values that makes InterVarsity distinct. This is who we are, and we want to invite you to help us continue to grow in this area.

Here are four actions you can take to intentionally build flourishing male/female partnerships in your InterVarsity chapter.

1. Know your theology.

Christians have a wide variety of opinions when it comes to issues of gender and faith. In InterVarsity, we are a people of the Word, and our understanding of the Scriptures compels us to the conviction that men and women are called to jointly and equally steward our God-given mission. If you’re not on the same theological page, I want to encourage you to search the Bible and seek understanding. Need help with this? Take your InterVarsity staff out to coffee and ask your questions. Or, if you’re a reader, I recommend How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership (Zondervan) or Discovering Biblical Equality (InterVarsity Press).

2. Talk about these issues.

Thriving and healthy partnerships between women and men don’t just happen. Instead, they need to be carefully nurtured, and this starts with thoughtful conversation. What if you took an hour at an upcoming leadership meeting to talk about what is happening in your chapter regarding gender and power? If an article would help provide steam for this conversation, I wrote a piece on three false narratives that keep men and women from being reconciled, “Redeeming the Stories We Tell.” Check it out.

3. Build a community that reflects this value.

Do the leadership structures in your chapter reflect InterVarsity’s historic value for co-equal partnerships between men and women? If not, what needs to shift in your community to empower men and women to lead as full partners in the work? Several years ago, a chapter leadership team realized that their chapter was having a difficult time welcoming men. They began to pray and then made some structural changes. As a result of their focus in this area, they saw a gender-balanced leadership team within two years.

4. Take a stand.

At a recent chapter camp, a colleague and I led students through what the Scripture teaches regarding men and women in partnership. It wasn’t easy, but it was paradigm-shifting. In the aftermath, one student, a football player from a local community college, pledged to host a conversation with his teammates about how they talk about women in their locker room. As Christians, we are called to stand up for justice; promoting gender equality is one way to do this on campus.

In InterVarsity, we have a wonderful history of women and men working together to advance our mission. Our community is stronger because of our long-standing commitment to gender equality. As InterVarsity student leaders, please join us as we continue to develop flourishing male/female partnerships throughout our movement.

Explore more resources with InterVarsity Press books on women in ministry or visit the Junia Project for a variety of videos on biblical gender equality. Watch this popular video of N.T. Wright talking about the biblical basis for women serving in the church.

About the Author
InterVarsity Divisional Director

Rob Dixon has been on staff with InterVarsity for 20 years and serves as the Divisional Director for central California and southern Nevada. Rob is also in his third year of a four-year doctoral program through Fuller Theological Seminary where he is studying how male/female partnerships flourish in mission with InterVarsity. Got questions? Contact Rob if you would like to discuss these issues with him.