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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: August 31, 2014.

Campus ministry at Sonoma State University has become more challenging but also more exciting. It’s all because of a new nondiscrimination policy from the California State University Chancellor that says a campus Christian club can’t require its leaders to be Christians. The policy signed into effect over a year ago derecognizes any campus group that discriminates.

The Chancellor gave groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship one year to work with him on an agreeable solution but that year expired in August.  InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Athletes in Action – the two Christian clubs at Sonoma State University – were recently derecognized as campus clubs.  This means these student organizations can no longer receive grants from student activities fees, publicize at club fairs, nor use campus rooms for free.  Sonoma InterVarsity, which has about 190 members, would have to pay $30,000 a year to rent the large room it usually uses for its Thursday night events.

With all these limitations, will the gospel be silenced at Sonoma State?  Of course not!  Our God is bigger than a Chancellor’s policy.

Sonoma InterVarsity's Banner Backpacks

At the club fair before school started this year, InterVarsity unveiled a new strategy to meet students.  Instead of standing behind a table InterVarsity students walked around the fair with banners on backpacks to strike up conversations.  And since the university is a public school, the public spaces are free speech areas, so InterVarsity set up its outreach banners the same as it did last year.

So far, over 300 students have heard about the awesome life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).  With financial support from national InterVarsity, Sonoma InterVarsity was able to have its first Thursday night event on campus where 27 students indicated on a response card that they began a relationship with Jesus.  Pastor and Sonoma InterVarsity alum, Kevin Finkbiner, was the speaker for that first event.  “I was blown away by the genuine hunger that the students had for God.  Their responses were a clear reminder from God that He is in control, and is moving powerfully on the college campus, and that nothing will stop Him from drawing people to Himself.”

Sonoma InterVarsity's First Worship Gathering

And God continues to strengthen the faith of the Christian students at SSU. “InterVarsity has made a huge difference in my college experience,” says Chelsea Ruthrauff, a sophomore InterVarsity Bible study leader. “Not only has it helped me develop an intentional relationship with God, but it has given me a community of wonderful people to spend my college experience with. After officially being derecognized, I was so worried that InterVarsity would no longer have the impact on people’s lives that it once did. Instead, this change has empowered us even more.”

Jenna Lehman, a senior InterVarsity leader, adds: “God took our little faith and showed us exactly what He could do if we just try. We showed up with helping hands, willing hearts, and open minds, and God did the rest of the work. He is present at SSU. The harvest is plentiful, and we are ready to do God’s work. We have not backed down. God’s not dead, and we will keep fighting for him!”

Generations of faithful Christians have gone before these students, and now it is their turn to carry the torch lighting the way of the gospel for the generations to come.



Jenny Klouse is the North Bay Area Director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  If you would like to help local students continue spreading the gospel, contact me.


Read more about this issue at InterVarsity, The New York Times, and The Sonoma Star.


If you enjoyed this article, you will like Christian in College.


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