The gospel is not in lockdown

A Word from tim adams  

Dear friends  

2020 was a historic year. Its events will remain etched in our minds for years to come. The pandemic has shifted patterns of work, life and study. IFES students and staff faced unexpected isolation, deep pain and great uncertainty. In Isaiah 43 God exhorts his people not to fear when disaster looms, and he promises to be with them. Amid the pain and frustration of the last year, we have experienced God’s ongoing faithfulness to that promise. 

In many countries, in-person student ministry was not possible for much of the year and staff were not able to travel or meet in person. But our mission continues. As one staff worker commented, “We might be in lockdown, but the gospel is not in lockdown.”  

Ministry activities moved rapidly online, and the students became our teachers. They helped us adapt and find new ways to provide fellowship, training and connection. We have learned a lot about the pros and cons of digital ministry. We know that the experience of 2020-21 will enhance the way that we live out our calling in the future.  

But in the short-term the pandemic has further isolated those less well-connected, amplified inequality, and intensified mental health issues for many students. And for many the future still feels very unknown. Yet, as with so much of the past year, we walk between this pain and the shared joy of God’s faithfulness.  

..”Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze…”

So, I invite you to read the stories of this past year with thankfulness that IFES has known God’s presence with us in the time of trial. We have seen him “doing a new thing… making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19). We continue weeping with those who weep, and we lift to the Lord those who are exhausted.  

I pray that these stories will strengthen our hope and lead us to pray earnestly for today’s students. Pray that the IFES network will continue to innovate and learn so that local student ministry is ever more fruitful. Pray that more students will come to faith in Jesus and be equipped to impact the university, the church and society for God’s glory.    

Your brother in Christ, 

Tim Adams 
IFES General Secretary  

Vision and mission

Our vision is to see students built into communities of disciples, transformed by the gospel and impacting the university, the church and society for the glory of Christ. 

IFES shapes lives and develops student leaders all around the world. We support locally led student movements We are realizing this vision by supporting locally led student movements in over 180 different countries.

By offering training, support, leadership, and collaboration, we want to lay a firm foundation for our global fellowship to thrive together.  

Our Focus 


Students are the best people to reach the university and IFES is helping them do so boldly. We provide training, funding, and materials to equip students to initiate spiritual conversations, to hold evangelistic Bible studies and events, share their ideas with other movements, and point others to Jesus through their lifestyles. 


If there is to be a student witness on every university campus in the world, there must also be pioneers to pave the way. There are still thousands of campuses with no Christian presence. IFES is striving to give every student the chance hear about Jesus by pioneering new student ministries in unreached campuses, cities, and countries. 

Leadership Development

We want the students of today to be the leaders of tomorrow. Through student groups, national movements and regional events, IFES is investing in students who will grow into lifelong leaders of integrity and vision. IFES supports its graduates as they move into the workplace, church leadership and society. 

Strengthening and Supporting National Movements

We believe that the gospel is most impactful in the hands of indigenously led national movements. IFES regional teams give those movements the support they need to see their ministries flourish through training and resources. Global ministry programs work alongside regional teams to help movements engage with Scripture, develop good governance and build local ownership of the ministry. 

Engaging the University

IFES believes that the gospel has something to say about every issue in the university and society. We want students, faculty, and researchers to be empowered and equipped to shape conversations across the academic world in a way that integrates and acknowledges faith. Through regional consultations, resources, grants, e-learning, mentoring, and research, national movements are equipped to help students think biblically and live distinctively, missionally and incarnationally. 

Global Initiatives

Continuing Our Mission in a Pandemic

Looking back, 2020 was not merely a year of survival, but of innovation and growth. No one anticipated how student ministry would change in 2020 in the light of the pandemic, but IFES helped national movements move forward.     

The global day of prayer in May 2020 was an expression what it meant to keep Christ at the centre of witness. Students, staff, and supporters from around the world gathered on video calls over the course of the day to pray for IFES ministry and to hear how students and staff were continuing the mission. The day was a powerful expression of our unity as a fellowship and the importance of keeping prayer at the centre. 

E-learning courses helped students creatively adapt to an unpredictable environment. After participating in the Engaging the University course online, Janet, a Malaysian international student with CUI Ireland, was equipped with new ideas for online outreach. Janet said that she was grateful for the e-learning format of the course during the pandemic because it put her in contact with other students who understood the frustrations of taking ministry online. 

Scripture Engagement, Governance Development, and Graduate Impact are several examples of ministries that have carried on equipping the fellowship through moving their meetings and trainings to a webinar format. This has allowed them to continue the growth trajectory they were on even with disruptions from the pandemic. 

With the pandemic, it is a bit harder to do outreach now. But the encouragement that I got f rom other members in the [Engaging the University] course has been so helpful.

Janet, CUI Ireland

International Student Ministry

There could not have been a more important time for IFES to support ministry to students studying outside their country than the global pandemic. IFES supports the creation of new international student groups, often with the help of grants from our Breaking New Ground grants program. This year new groups were started by  ChSA Poland, OSCER Romania, and KFS Denmark with a specific focus on international students. The personal connections made in small groups were a huge blessing to those feeling lonely. There were many creative online and outdoor activities to provide face-to-face connections. 


Since it was launched in 2018, the IFES Breaking New Ground program has given 93 grants to support the start of 497 new groups in 67 countries. While no grants were disbursed in the 2020 calendar year, Breaking New Ground continued to offer support and training to its network of pioneers. The group had planned to have a 2020 gathering in Ireland but it was postponed. Instead, the network met virtually for a time of fellowship and sharing updates.  

Those who had received grants before 2020 still found ways to continue their work even in the pandemic. For example, in Latin America, Pablo Galaz marked one year of pioneering ministry in a new region for GBU Chile in Patagonia. Pablo has spent a large portion of his time driving long distances in the region, helping pastors and leaders understand the value of student ministry. He has also invested in a student, Nicholas, who is now helping Pablo reach more students. 

Breaking New Ground recipient Pablo drives through Patagonia to grow student ministry in a remote region.


Just weeks after the IFES Europe student evangelism conference Revive 2019, the pandemic hit Europe. Students who had attended the conference reached out to the Revive leaders, asking for a virtual day of prayer. In March 2020, more than 350 people from Europe and beyond gathered on a Zoom call to pray for God to move in Europe during the crisis. They heard testimonies from the hardest hit regions and broke into small groups for prayer. After the event ended, many students stayed on the call for two extra hours, pulling out drums and guitars for a post-prayer jam session. 

Students were so moved by the meeting that organisers planned a second one – inviting Professor John Lennox to speak on the topic of his book, Where is God in a Coronavirus World? John Lennox is a mathematics professor from the University of Oxford who is renowned for integrating faith with science and philosophy. 

It was a powerful moment to unite together as one body around the continent and lift up the nations in prayer. I left encouraged knowing that God is with us and that we were in this together!”
Sam, Student, UCCF Great Britain

Global Leadership Initiative (GLI)

The GLI mentors promising young leaders within national movements, ensuring movements have people ready to take on increased responsibilities in regional or global projects and positions. This year the program continued to journey with the second cohort, which consists of 21 young leaders from all eleven IFES regions. After an informal meeting at World Assembly in 2019, the cohort was able to meet again in Ukraine in March 2020. It was the last in-person IFES international gathering before the world went into lockdown.  

The final GLI gathering was due to happen in September 2020 but had to be postponed. Online one-to-one mentoring has continued with all the participants and as soon as possible, they will meet for the final gathering. 

“GLI helped me to see leadership differently based on cultural and contextual diversity. I am now more sensitive to think and see from other views and appreciate different perspectives and personalities.”

Bharat Pradhan, NBCBS Nepal
Global Leadership Initiative participants

East Asia Regional Conference

In East Asia, conferences to develop and unite students continued online. While the 2020 East Asia Regional Conference (EARC) was cancelled in person, there was a huge turnout for an abbreviated online version of the conference in July. Over 900 students attended a two-day conference centered on the theme “Unfinished.” This was an expository study on Ezekiel that discussed the unfinished task ahead of reaching the world with the gospel. Organizers were encouraged by students’ hunger to study God’s word even in an adapted format. 

Indigenous Support Development (ISD)

The first ISD e-learning course, ‘Introduction to Indigenous Support Development,’ launched in September 2019 in English and French, with further releases in Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese throughout 2020. This is an important milestone in multiplying the impact of ISD and many national movements are already seeing the benefits. The e-learning format allowed the course to continue during the year, giving movements training to help them continue to develop partnerships during the pandemic. ISD has also made it possible for movements to support each other. From September to December, national movements in Eurasia raised $1,270 to help CSC Moldova pay staff salaries. 

“I have the impression that people have become even more generous, but in fact I think that we are the ones who have opened our eyes to the opportunities that already existed. It’s extraordinary!

Jeanne Arline Simangoye, GBG Gabon
ISD training in Francophone Africa

Governance Development

In 2020, Governance Development training continued to help national movements establish and maintain healthy governance structures. Though all initial training was postponed during the year, the team was still able to conduct nine online follow-up visits, one coaching session, and several consulting sessions with various national boards. 

Six regions hosted Matt.25 eForum events, online events that combined the basic elements of governance training, practical ideas and solutions for boards functioning in the COVID-19 context. Responding to the success of the eForum in Eurasia in November 2020, board members expressed a desire for a follow-up edition in 2021. Plans are also being made for another forum in Latin America.  Governance Development e-learning courses were also helpful throughout the year. In 2020, a total of 18 cohorts participated in these courses. A new course launched in April 2021 called “Passing the Torch – Make change a positive experience.” 

The board of the national movement in eSwatini after governance training.

World Student Day

In October, nearly 16,000 students, leaders, graduates, and staff gathered in groups and online to pray for the university during World Student Day, facilitated by IFES International Services. Though this annual event is normally scattered across the world, the distance between us took on a certain poignancy under the restrictions of COVID-19. The theme of the day was “Near and Far,” acknowledging our separation from each other, but remembering how our unity in Christ brings us together. It was a chance for groups from different countries across the world to meet over Zoom to pray together. This was a powerful reminder to students that they are not alone in their faith and a beautiful picture of the unity of our fellowship. 

Engaging the University

The university is the place where people engage with big questions. Through teaching, research, disciplinary dialogues and discussions, IFES supports students, faculty, and researchers to join and re-orient conversations across the academic world. This has continued online during 2020. So far, three learning cohorts of 490 learners from 80 countries have completed the “Introduction to Engaging the University” e-learning course.   

A significant development in 2020 has been the establishment of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, thanks to the support of the John Templeton Foundation. This five-year program will focus on mentoring students, staff, and academics in Latin America and Francophone Africa. The project will equip and fund participants to carry out projects in the university that foster dialogue between theology and the sciences, both social and natural. Beginning in 2021, it is an extension of our commitment to impact all of society for the glory of Christ.   


The IFES General Secretary oversees IFES student ministry across the world and is appointed to serve students and staff at all levels. IFES senior leaders develop strategic partnerships across regions and lead our international teams in developing and sharing ministry priorities and resources for global student ministry. 

IFES Regional Leadership

IFES regional secretaries are the experts when it comes to ministry in context. They serve as regional ambassadors to IFES, helping us understand how best to respond to the diverse and dynamic cultures of the world’s universities. They provide mentoring, supervision, and training for staff and students and connect the movements within the region to share ideas, expertise, challenges, and encouragement.

The Board

The IFES Board is composed of a chair, a treasurer, and thirteen other voting members from around the world, two of whom are student representatives. It is responsible for ensuring IFES doctrinal integrity and for policy making. The Board is appointed by the General Committee.


IFES invests in regional teams and global ministry programs to support national movements as they carry out our shared vision of vibrant student ministry across the globe. These resources provide training and resources for national movements to equip strong leaders, grow local financial support, expand to new cities and campuses, develop critical organizational infrastructure, and reach students with the hope of the gospel.   

Our administrative services continue to provide quality support for our global and regional programs and help ministries increase in overall efficiency and effectiveness. 2020 was particularly challenging with the outbreak of the pandemic – earlier investment in e-learning and migration to an online payment platform meant we were able to move many of our training programs online and ensured continued support for our 160 affiliated national movements.  

With the pandemic-induced cancelations of many planned travels and in-person gatherings our expenses dropped noticeably and helped adjust for decreased income. While our fellowship’s ability to adjust to virtual meetings allowed the work to move forward, we recognize the importance of in-person relational development for long-term ministry and look forward to resuming gatherings as circumstances allow.  

A significant portion of IFES program income comes in at the end our fiscal year to be used for the following year’s projects.  

The financial report reflects our combined operations based on the audited financial statements for IFES-UK and IFES/USA as well as the independently examined financial statements for IFES-Switzerland. The Ministry Expenditure analysis presented is categorized with our international audience in mind. The financial statements used for this report from the three IFES entities based in the UK, USA, and Switzerland are available upon request. 

IFES/USA is an accredited member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a Valued Partner with GuideStar Exchange and has a ‘Give with Confidence’ designation from Charity Navigator. In the UK, IFES is registered with the Fundraising Regulator. 


IFES is grateful for the gifts of partners like you that have allowed us to continue to support student ministry in all parts of the world, under God’s blessing. As an expression of our Christian faith, we are committed to maintaining a high level of financial accountability and responsible stewardship of your generous gifts. 

Partner with us

When you partner with us, you support Pablo, a staff worker who is pioneering new student groups in Patagonia. You provide leadership training to Janet, who has just started a new student group on her campus in Ireland. Or you join Mahima and her friends who gather around a small table in a Nepalese home to study the Bible each week.  

There are so many ways to empower and equip students through providing training, resources, and leadership. With your help, we can do more to see student ministry thrive around the world.   


Prayer is the fuel that keeps us mission-centred and obedient to God. Without it, our ministry will be ineffective. Please pray with us that God will move in the hearts of students around the world and guide everything we do.

Sign up to read stories that will inspire your prayers for IFES. Invite your friends or church members to share our vision by hosting a monthly IFES prayer meeting. 


IFES is a rich fellowship, with so many ways to join in with what God is doing in the lives of students worldwide. Do you want to know more about ministry in a particular country? Would you be interested in using resources f rom our global ministries or joining in one of our e-learning courses? Contact us at – we would love to help you explore deeper involvement in IFES. 


Without generous partners like you, our reach would not be nearly as far and wide. Regular gifts are especially helpful, as they enable us to plan well for the future. You can set up or increase your monthly gift here.

With you, we will keep moving towards our vision of seeing a thriving student witness on every campus in the world. We are driven by the gospel and sustained by a saviour who brings hope to the university. Thank you for praying, connecting, and giving with us as we continue the mission. 

Young pioneers gather at World Assembly 2019

Further reports

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