Students come to Maryville College from out of state or even out of the country, and what they crave is fellowship as a form of comfort, stress-relief, and a sense of belonging. This desire is most often filled by clubs and organizations, as they connect with their peers over similar interests and passions.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship fulfills this need for students by not only giving them the support they need in school, but also giving them life-long memories and relationships.
InterVarsity is a nondenominational Christian organization that spreads across hundreds of college campuses in the United States. It seeks to build diverse communities that explore and strengthen Christian faith for students and faculty. Regardless of a person’s background, they are welcomed into InterVarsity with open arms and minds.
Students who come to Maryville often find themselves without assembly or community to grow their faith.
Emily Christian, a student from Church Hill, Tenn., came to Maryville College and struggled with this issue for months. Growing up, she had always had a constant connection to her church and other religious communities, so moving away left her without a sense of belonging.
But the answer to this problem soon presented itself to Christian: a flyer for InterVarsity taped outside of her residence hall.
“I had no Christian community on campus the first two months of freshman year until I found InterVarsity,” she said.
The week after finding the flyer, Christian attended a small group meeting and instantly knew that was a place she could finally belong on campus. She started going to many events hosted by the organization like leadership, prayer, and small group meetings every week. InterVarsity gave her a community of Christian people.
Meetings vary on topics and activities, but Christian says the group always creates a sense of comfort and support, which is what really allowed her to open up and connect with her peers. And more often than not, she says, they all leave a meeting feeling better than before we got there.
Christian’s membership in the club has brought her many fond memories and strong encouragement to grow in her faith.
“I have seen a small group be so vulnerable that people in the room were crying, and honestly, it is so refreshing to be in a space where you can be real about your faith,” she said.
A year later, Christian is Vice President of InterVarsity. Her passion for the organization and its mission has continued to grow throughout her membership, and she encouraged others to attend meetings, whether they are strong in their faith or just beginning.
“I would recommend InterVarsity to anyone, even if you aren’t Christian,” she said. “InterVarsity will really help you gain a community of people who genuinely care about you, and who will help you on your journey to Jesus,” She said.
Getting involved with the organization is as easy as reaching out to its leadership team on Instagram @maryvillecollegeintervarsity or by simply showing up to events.
Meetings now look different than they did when Emily first started attending, but they are still active. InterVarsity hosts prayer meetings at 2 p.m. on Mondays via Zoom. They also hold leadership meetings at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays at the picnic tables in front of Pearson’s. These meetings are also announced in the [email protected] email to students.
Meetings are a time to “reflect on the needs of the campus and try to find ways to help” while also on reflecting and praying for each other. Each of these events, from leadership meetings to Bible studies to community service projects, are all open to anyone, and offer experiences students will grow and learn from. These are experiences students will carry on for a lifetime.
Dr. Sam Overstreet, professor and Chair of Division of Languages and Literature at MC, was a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship while he attended Yale University’s undergraduate program. His membership gave him such a strong fondness for the program that in 1992 he took on the role of faculty advisor for InterVarsity at Maryville College.
During his time as faculty advisor, Overstreet has hosted several different kinds of events and aided the college’s organization to uphold the mission of InterVarsity, which is “to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord: growing in love for God, God’s Word, God’s people of every ethnicity and culture, and God’s purposes in the world.”
One type of meeting Overstreet held was a reoccurring group reading session he began in 1999 that lasted until 2007 called “The Dead Theologian’s Society.” These meetings focused on books by past Christian authors discussions on content.
In response to a racial harassment issue on campus in 2007, the group focused on diversity and understanding. They read a book titled “More than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel” by Spencer Perkins.
“It was really good in terms of the ability of white and black people attending to talk honestly with one another about issues of race, and we grew in our understanding of one another,” said Overstreet.
The group significantly deepened Overstreet’s understanding of racial issues. He described it as a “life-transforming event,” which goes to show how deeply impactful InterVarsity’s events often are.
Overstreet’s appreciation for Intervarsity stems from more than just the events and experiences; InterVarsity is also the organization that led him to meet his wife for the first time.
At InterVarsity’s fall conference in the mid-1970s, Overstreet was introduced to his wife, and from there, they developed their relationship and “a strong marriage in Christ.”
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship offers these kinds of life-long takeaways and experiences. The strong Christian community in this organization opens itself to anyone and helps them grow in their love of Christ in a way they will never forget.