Max Kuecker was a devoted member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IV) on Northwestern's campus in the mid 90's. It provided faith, fellowship, support, and friends. One thing, however, really bothered him: "It was clear from the culture around me that to be a Christian meant I had to be a Republican. It seemed like every time I stuck my neck out to disagree with the party platform, I'd get shot down."
These days, Max is not such an anomaly. In the current issue of Sojourners magazine, our cover story reported that the evangelical voter looks quite different than in previous elections. No longer content to vote along a single party's beliefs, evangelical voters are diversifying their base of issues by including poverty, social justice, and the war into their concerns for abortion reduction and the preservation of family values. Many of the issues that were close to his heart were not on the table. Things have changed. Today, he helps run InterVarsity's Chicago Urban Project (CUP) that introduces area students to issues of race, poverty, service, and justice.
William Campbell, an IV staff worker at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), reports that just four years ago only one student from their fellowship participated in CUP. Today it is one of their most popular programs with over 20 students participating each spring.
"We were tired of being 'booth' Christians," William explains. "Every year we would set up a booth on campus, hand out Bibles and hope that people would come to us." It wasn't working. The reputation for Christian groups on campus, whether it was earned or not, was dismal. They began to rethink the work that they were doing and what it could look like. The answers came from digging deeper into the mission of IV; "Students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed."
This fall, with IV's mission in mind, students started talking with others on campus. The conversations were different than they were in the past; instead of starting with answers, they started with questions. They asked students about their thoughts on poverty, justice, race, homelessness, and tuition. The goal was "to find and identify needs so that every student on campus would know that their school was a better place because IV was there."
Students then armed themselves with what turned out to be the most effective tool for evangelism and outreach they have found yet