The diversity of IFES, with its network of 160 student movements, provides plentiful opportunities for sharing ideas, resources, and experiences. But how can we seize the potential for fruitful connections and learning so we can all thrive together?
One shift that took place last year saw the coming together of multiple IFES teams and programs, regularly serving national movements worldwide, to form Global Resource Ministries (GRM). More than simply a restructure, the creation of this new team was designed to foster increased collaboration and innovation – both identified in our Thriving Together strategy as critical success factors for our mission to students and universities.
“Global Resource Ministries is a team of mentors and a hub of resources that serve and equip national movements,” explains Olena Welch, Head of GRM. “We help design effective tools and share best practices in ministry.”
Locally-led, indigenous national movements have always been at the heart of IFES. Alongside this grassroots network, the fellowship has developed a number of specialist global teams over the last decade – ranging from governance development to graduate impact – that provide movements with vision, training, and expertise. Rather than a top-down approach, each ministry is composed of a global team of diverse regional and national staff, who offer services and develop resources. Done in collaboration with national movements, this work responds to the needs and priorities identified by the movements themselves.
“Our joint purpose is to foster grassroots initiative as we strengthen local efforts and encourage growth,” shares Olena. “We want to inspire national movements to thrive.”
This kind of support is particularly valuable for newer national movements, such as the 24 that have joined IFES since 2007 and the four that will affiliate to the fellowship at World Assembly in August.
Olena’s hope is that by working together effectively as one GRM team, there will be greater alignment and synergy across the whole IFES fellowship.
“I believe that the clearer we model what innovation and collaboration looks like in practice among unique, distinct global resource ministries, the more courageous national movements will be in seizing novel opportunities in their respective ministry contexts,” she says. “As Global Resource Ministries become more agile and versatile, national movements’ ministry will be more effective and impactful.”
Previously, the ministries in GRM were somewhat siloed. Yet many of them – Scripture Engagement for example – focus on themes that cut across all areas of student ministry.
“I have always seen Scripture Engagement as integral to all that we are in IFES – our identity – and how we conduct our ministry – our ethos,” explains Ricardo Borges, Secretary for Scripture Engagement. “Walking more closely with other areas of ministry through the Global Resource Ministries seems to me to be the most natural, simple, and effective way to serve and collaborate with national movements towards the common goals that we share.”
“When we come to understand that the different areas included in Global Resource Ministries are deeply interconnected, we gain doubly. First, because the students, staff, graduates, academics, and boards we serve can better see the full richness of the resources available to them. Second, because the message we communicate is one: God’s mission for us is important and we can strengthen it from different aspects and angles. It helps us to perceive that in essence we are all in one integrated endeavour, working together to reach students.”
Responding to evolving needs
Olena was named Head of Global Resource Ministries in October 2021. She brings a passion for collaborating with others to generate ground-breaking, hands-on ministry ideas. Her longstanding experience includes 10 years as Training Secretary for IFES Eurasia as well as 12 years of service with the national movement in Ukraine.
Since her appointment, Olena has led efforts to listen to movements’ needs, identifying fresh ways to advance the shared mission of our fellowship.
“The context for our ministry has changed,” she explains. “In these post-pandemic times, we have made shifts in how we work and minister; digital technologies have become an essential part of students’ daily lives; and many of our staff live and minister amidst economic uncertainties and geopolitical risks.”
“We as the GRM team are discerning what it means to equip and serve in new, constantly changing realities. There is an intense demand for resources, services, and ideas to create and sustain robust and resilient ministries at the grassroots level. In response, GRMs are looking at re-assessing and re-designing our services and products to better serve the national movements, so that we all can thrive together.”
In addition to the six existing ministries that were brought together under the umbrella of GRM, two new ones have been established this year.
As numbers of international students soar worldwide, IFES has established a new global International Student Ministry to build upon various regional networks that have developed over recent years. Jane Pelz, recently appointed as International Student Ministry Facilitator, brings a wealth of experience working with international students through InterVarsity USA, InterAction in Europe, and Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship New Zealand.
“There are many staff and students around the world trying very hard to respond to the opportunity afforded by the presence of international students on their campuses – both to partner with Christian international students and to share the gospel with those who may be very open as they are away from home,” explains Jane. “But some staff (and students) feel quite isolated and alone in their work.”
In response, Jane is developing a global network for staff who work with international students, so they can share ideas, best practices, resources, stories, and prayers.
“The opportunity to learn from one another about trends and resources is a powerful thing,” she says. “Collaborating through a global network might look like a Zoom call to share ideas and pray; sending a colleague an online resource; or introducing someone younger to a more experienced staff member to discuss challenges in evangelism or mobilizing volunteers. It’s all about support and encouragement for God’s glory among the nations.”
The second ministry joining GRM is a new network that helps members of the IFES community to connect with Muslims students. This initiative seeks to grow mutual understanding, build strong relationships, and promote spiritual conversations between the two groups. Leading this ministry’s diverse team of eight staff is Deron Bauer, who formerly served with IFES in Southeastern Europe and currently directs InterVarsity USA’s interfaith ministry. His US team has developed a variety of resources, including the Peace Feast, which brings together Muslims and Christians to share a meal and have deep faith conversations.
In addition to these new ministries, Olena has introduced a staff position tasked with making the most of the natural connections between the two new networks and the existing ministry, Engaging the University. Wesley Chiang, who has worked for many years with IFES in East Asia, has been appointed to this role as Global Campus Initiatives Coordinator.
Continuing to strengthen our global fellowship
The following ministries within GRM continue to strengthen existing national movements, help launch ministry in new places, and broaden IFES ministry to embrace recent graduates and the university as a whole.
- Scripture Engagement provides workshops, consultations, and resources to help ensure that each new generation of students loves, studies, lives, and shares God’s Word.
- Indigenous Support Development delivers training and resources to help national movements develop local partnerships to support their ministry. Read about its impact in this Conexión blogpost.
- Governance Development offers training and materials to national movement boards to help them build a strong culture of good governance.
- Breaking New Ground supports national movements in pioneering ministry by awarding grants, training individuals, and mobilizing prayer support.
- Graduate Impact provides training and mentoring to young Christian adults as they transition from university to work, for example through its Cross-Current learning communities and the new Transitions course.
- The Engaging the University (ETU) global team wants to see national movements thrive in their incarnational, integrated, and intellectually credible Christian witness in the academic world. It provides resources and equips students and faculty members to engage the university holistically. ETU also includes the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, which equips young scholars to lead projects that foster dialogue between theology and the sciences.