Did you know that 1,000 InterVarsity students study abroad each year?
With that many world changers abroad annually, not to mention that the study abroad industry is growing overall, just imagine what’s possible for global mission while our students are overseas and after they return.
Trouble is, most of the time, even InterVarsity students aren’t thinking about study abroad as mission. Even the best leaders in our chapters often lack discernment about where, why, and how they study abroad. And sometimes, as staff, we don’t quite know how to disciple our study abroad students.
But, what if we, as InterVarsity staff, took a proactive approach to study abroad? What if, when it came to study abroad, every chapter was a sending chapter?
What is a sending chapter?
A sending chapter believes discipleship is accelerated when a student is abroad. You’ve probably seen how a 4-week Global Program or Global Urban Trek has been fertile soil for spiritual growth. Imagine what 4 months of cross-cultural discipleship can do in, for, and through your students.
A sending chapter believes a student’s decision to study abroad and their experience overseas should be communal, not just individual and academic. Rather than study abroaders being out of sight and out of mind from chapter life for a semester or year, a sending chapter commissions each study abroader for their unique mission field.
A sending chapter believes discipleship is incomplete without a global experience. That discipleship must be global because the gospel is global. InterVarsity regularly talks about how crossing oceans is a key component of discipleship. After all, Jesus was a fan of crossing bodies of water himself. Our students may do it on planes rather than in fishing boats or on foot, but our movement exists to disciple students for mission both on campus and way off campus.
And here’s how a chapter can do that well...
What does a sending chapter do?
A sending chapter prepares, supports, and receives students who study abroad.
How are your students choosing where to study abroad?
Students have a veritable Epcot Center set before them at study abroad fairs. They may choose where they’ll study based on the program’s weekend-excursion options, or where their friends are going, or which program meets academic requirements.
The study abroad industry is all about where students go. A sending chapter helps it be about how and why students go.
As staff, you can help your students discern how to put a missional spin on their school’s study abroad program, whether that means they help grow the IFES ministry in Latin America or the Middle East, or they start something new in East Asia or Europe.
InterVarsity also has our own semester-long programs for academic credit in Rwanda and Thailand that are already designed with mission at their core. Students spend 16 weeks engaging justice issues like racial reconciliation and human trafficking. These programs are academically rigorous, foster spiritual growth, and are transforming both personally and globally.
Once students discern where they’re going, InterVarsity Study Abroad has the resources you need to put on a comprehensive study abroad orientation, even if you didn’t study abroad yourself. Orientation will be your chance to prepare your students cross-culturally, get them signed up for a weekly Digital Small Group, connect them to the IFES movement in their host country, and, for students going to Europe, get them signed up for a Journey, our evangelistic spiritual pilgrimages offered in spring and fall.
Give your study abroaders a spiritual lifeline by keeping strong relationships with yourself and chapter members while they’re abroad. We have plenty of ideas from WhatsApp messages to care packages, from chapter prayer meetings to Discipleship Cycles to support study abroaders.
For most study abroaders, it’s not natural to return to life back in the states. In the busyness of their return to the U.S. and campus life, one of the best gifts a sending chapter can give its study abroaders is to support and challenge them as they reflect on how God has stretched and grown them. We can resource you to debrief their time abroad with them and explore ways they can respond in faith back on campus.
A Growing Staff Toolkit
To make it easier for you to establish and advance a sending chapter, you can find resources here in the For Staff section of studyabroad.intervarsity.org. For starters, check out the calendar that maps out how your chapter can prepare, support, and receive study abroaders throughout the academic year...amidst everything else you’re already doing.
We’ll continue to expand our resources to support you as you help your chapter become a sending chapter, and as you help your study abroaders reach your campus and reach the world.