This is how my first year on staff with InterVarsity began back in 2001:
After turning in my 14-page staff application, my hiring area director Andrea Thomas sent it back to me informing me that “this is a little lacking, we’re going to need you to write more.” She sent it back to me to continue to fill out two more times. Then, we had my formal interview at a Pizza Hut between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. I still think Andrea’s decision to hire me speaks of her being a woman of faith.
The previous staff at Grand Valley State University’s chapter where I had worked had walked away unexpectedly from the InterVarsity chapter and her faith- I was the newbie staff that came in after her. Students took bets on how long I’d last and told me how much they were betting. I think the pool got up to about $5.
The first fall I was on campus, my new student outreach coordinator quit during new student outreach. Since there were seven students in the chapter at the time, this was a pretty big blow to our New Student Outreach efforts.
I began fund raising, not by going to Orientation for New Staff in glamourous Madison, WI, headquarters of InterVarsity, but by getting a large packet of stationary and some instructions and encouragement from my supervisor. I sat each night, on an overstuffed ottoman, nervously holding the large white cordless phone in one hand and the book Getting Sent in the other, alternating between reading about how to fund raise and making calls to would-be supporters of my ministry.
I wore a navy-blue fleece vest with InterVarsity’s logo quite frequently. Not the greatest fashion choice, but I think it made me feel official in some capacity. For the early 00’s I suppose it was passable.
It was a crazy beginning for a law-school hopeful turned campus minister and my first year in 2001 felt like an epic fail. Even reading these reflections now I’m wondering- “why the heck didn’t I quit after the first year?!” Yet in sticking with it, I’ve learned a lot through the years like lesson #10: rough beginnings do not necessarily dictate the tone of how things will continue to be. Thankfully, for whatever reason Jesus gave me the strength each year to follow his call to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed & world changers developed. 10 years later I’m glad I stuck with it.
Over the past 10 years I’ve learned some other valuable nuggets of staffy-wisdom that over the next few months I thought I’d pass along in reflection and celebration of what these 10 years have been like. Though they’re specific to campus ministry, I think many of the principles are applicable to folks in other careers.
If you’re on staff with InterVarsity- what were some of the epic fail moments of your first year? For others- what is one thing you’ve learned after getting through your first year on the job? It seems like for most folks the first year is the most difficult whether you’re a teacher, doctor or entrepreneur.