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Education, Discipleship, and the Future 2 (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

We started a discussion a while ago on
University Ministry  – a discussion I would like to continue today. And
I think the initial question to shape thinking is quite simple:

What is the purpose or aim of a College or University Ministries? Is the aim discipleship? Evangelism? Both? Something else? Is the aim the same or different for local churches and parachurch organizations?

Church
based and parachurch ministries fill an important need on our campuses.
The fellowship, mentorship, and peer support provided are invaluable to
many students and the evangelical outreach has impacted many.  Yet
there is room for improvement and there are some important issues we
need to address in the future. 


University 2_ds.JPG

I referred in the last post to John Stackhouse and his article on University Ministry.  Some of what I reflect on here comes from his article – which helped to shape and crystallize my thinking. Some of the wording and organization will seem familiar to those who also read his article (i.e. I “borrowed” and am here giving credit to the source).

Campus ministries often seem to replicate or try to replicate church – they segregate students and emphasize church experiences of worship and small group devotion and community.  But I suggest that this misses the true opportunity and power of University ministry. Campus ministry is or should be the church in action in a different mode than the local congregation. The University is a unique environment and campus ministry should recognize this and step up to the challenge.

So what is the call of God to the church deployed in campus ministry? What is it not?


A campus ministry is not a church
– it is a branch of the church.  So the first thing that campus ministries should do is to encourage student involvement in a local church – not to be served, but to serve and worship.  Help students become mature committed Christian adults. Student churches – such as one I know that proudly bills itself as “not your parents church” – miss the point. Churches are and need to be multi-generational, multi-vocational communities of believers.

A campus ministry is not an affinity group to provide community and protection from the world.  Let me be provocative. Campus ministries that take a culture warrior approach, circling the wagons to preserve the purity of the elect, satisfied to interact only with “safe” thinking, do as much harm as they do good. 

A campus ministry is a unique branch of the church and should focus on the special, intrinsic challenges and opportunities of the university for students and for university graduates.  This is one of the major points in Stackhouse’s article. These considerations should get priority, even exclusive attention, in University ministry.

Stackhouse suggests that University Ministries should:

  • Explain the university from a Christian point of view
  • Explain the vocations of Christians in the university
  • Explain how to get the most out of the university experience
  • Teach students how to respond to university challenges and opportunities
  • Offer opportunities and resources for mission
  • Foster Christian ecumenism and mutual edification

More specifics are included in his post for each of the above points.

I will add one to his list

University ministries should provide a resource for students – undergraduates, but especially graduate students and scholars – to approach the Christian faith with the same intellectual integrity and rigor with which they are learning to approach their various academic disciplines.  To grow the “Evangelical Mind” (or more generally the Christian Mind) and remove the scandal we need academic sodalities on our secular University campuses to train and disciple the next generation.

University 1 ds.JPG

I will elaborate on this in the next post – but in the meantime:

What do you think?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.



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Rick

posted March 31, 2009 at 8:08 am


RJS-
Thanks for addressing this vital issue. I don’t know if people realize the impact these ministries could be making now, and for the future.
“What is the purpose or aim of a College or University Ministries?”
Campus Crusade: “The mission of Campus Crusade for Christ is to turn lost students into Christ-centered laborers. Our spiritual mandate is found in Matthew 28:18-20.”
FCA: “To present to athletes and coaches and all whom they influence the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”
Intervarsity: “The Purpose of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA 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.”
Navig.: “The Navigators is dedicated to helping people navigate spiritually, to know Christ and to make Him known as they look to Him and His Word to chart their lives. Our ultimate goal is to equip them to fulfill 2 Timothy 2:2?to teach what they have learned to others.”
ChiAlpha: “We reconcile students to Christ, equipping them through communities of prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship and mission to transform the university, the marketplace and the world.”
Veritas: “We create forums for the exploration of true life. We seek to inspire the shapers of tomorrow’s culture to connect their hardest questions with the person and story of Jesus Christ.”
Looking at these, it is interesting that some emphasize evangelism, some discipleship, etc… It seems some are just trying to keep student (and faculty?) engaged in Christianity in that environment.
I think the more focused vision/mission statements (Veritas, Nav. and possibly ChiAlpha) are more beneficial. They are clear and focused in what they are trying to accomplish, and have a less chance of duplicating efforts.
I also think it is interesting that only one mentions “church”. Do some of the gatherings of these ministries equal “church”?



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Eleanor

posted March 31, 2009 at 10:33 am


I think Rick (1) has made a good start by listing the official mission statements of various organizations.
The way these statements play out in real life, and what is left unsaid in the statements, is, I think, another matter.
For example, having grown up in the mainline church, I remember being shocked and affronted by IVCF when I wandered into one of its meetings on my college campus as a freshman. I was looking for other Christians to befriend. But within a half hour I was being grilled about whether or not I was saved. I never went back. This was 30 years ago and I still haven’t gotten over it. I think IVCF has mellowed somewhat in the intervening years.
When I was in seminary (six years ago) I was surprised anew by what was expected of my fellow seminarians who were CCC staff at the local university. They were given evangelism requirements — quotas almost — and it appeared the purpose of CCC was to recruit students mostly for the purposes of training them for evangelism themselves. It did not seem very well-rounded to me.
I would be curious to read what the experiences of others have been, and what the overall differences between organizations seem to be.



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 10:37 am


Rick,
An interesting list of aims. Many of these groups emphasize evangelism – and this is important. I don’t disagree.
But the University is sometimes a harsh environment and I have found that the single most difficult part, for me anyway, has been developing an understanding of my faith that I can stand for in the face of opposition. This means thinking deeply and intelligently about the issues. Last post I complained lightly about wishy-washy pseudo-thinking, pseudo-intellectualism in many of these organizations. This is a real problem for evangelism in the University environment.
And the problems grow as one moves up the ladder. These issues play a role in the dearth of Christian faculty in our Universities. Potential faculty are either (1) convinced the faith is indefensible and “move on;” (2) withdraw from academic pursuits and enter less conflicted realms.
There is a third reason for the dearth also and I think and Scot likely supports this one: (3) The secular academy is a very competitive environment at the top institutions and requires a substantial investment of time, effort, and resource, perhaps in a fashion not always consistent with a Christian lifestyle. Interesting to think about.



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ChrisB

posted March 31, 2009 at 10:38 am


I was in InterVarsity in college and, at least where I was, it seemed to be about non-rigorous Bible study, worship, and pizza (ok, “fellowship”). Those aren’t bad things, but, as you point out, they exist elsewhere — especially worship.
I would love to see these groups turn more towards emphasizing quality Christian thought and community/vocational engagement.
After reading that link, I’m still not sure what you’re trying to get at with the “sodality” thing, though.



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 11:09 am


ChrisB,
I mean that there is a place for a Christian gathering with a specific purpose that serves a “small demographic” for the greater good of the church and mission of the church as a whole.
For a while here there was an attempt to grow a faculty ministry – but one of the key figures seemed to think that the only appropriate function of any Christian gathering is worship – thus meetings of Christian faulty should always be prayer and worship oriented.
We can get worship a dozen venues – we don’t need yet another such opportunity. Campus ministries – for students, scholars, and faculty – should fill the specific needs and take advantage of the specific opportunities of the University.



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Nate

posted March 31, 2009 at 12:49 pm


The segregated-church mentality of campus ministries, along with the same vibe in many high school youth groups, is tantamount to institutional homicide against Christian congregations–they cut out the guts of the local gathering’s population for the sake of transient preferences. I agree completely that both of these sorts of organizations do more harm than good if they aren’t intentionally and constitutionally pointed towards the multigenerational local congregation.



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Rick

posted March 31, 2009 at 12:58 pm


RJS-
“These issues play a role in the dearth of Christian faculty in our Universities. Potential faculty are either (1) convinced the faith is indefensible and “move on;” (2) withdraw from academic pursuits and enter less conflicted realms…. (3) The secular academy is a very competitive environment at the top institutions and requires a substantial investment of time, effort, and resource, perhaps in a fashion not always consistent with a Christian lifestyle.”
Not to say that there cannot be any overlap, but it seems from what you are saying is that the ministry focus for the faculty needs to be different than that for the students.
The faculty ministry appears to need more of a purely academic approach/purpose (which should play into their interests anyway), whereas the student ministry will need to be more of a mix. However, for both, there appears to be a need for more (much more) of an academic element.
I am not clear on why then organizations/ministries such as ASA and Veritas have not focused more attention on the faculty aspect.
Clearly there are professors (such as yourself) at numerous institutions that would be interested in such a ministry goal. It would seem that at least some kind of network could be established. Then from there, community for each campus could come into shape.



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 1:30 pm


Rick,
I am not convinced that organizations should concentrate on faculty ministry – it is a small demographic and pay-off is not all that large. We’re supposed to be self-feeding adults after all. And be realistic – those involved in campus ministries have to raise support – how many individuals or local churches are going to provide support for faculty ministries?
I am convinced that campus ministry organizations should concentrate on future faculty – our current graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. This is our future. Far too many outstanding students either leave the faith or leave the academy in the face of the inherent challenges. We need more to stand firm and follow through.



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Steve

posted March 31, 2009 at 1:37 pm


Interesting!
I have actually asked the local IV staff member if they are a church; ‘NO!’ being the answer.
Why not?
‘Because we just don’t do that, we tell them to go to church on Sundays though!’
Dysfunctional (dare I say) perverted understanding of church to begin with.
The Church should exist on local campuses!
I despise the existence of parachurch organizations. There is only one thing I am more disheartened about than the existence of Christian organizations that actively recruit Christians away from the plan of God to reach the world (the Church); and that is the Church that is so dysfunctional that it drove Christians to create parachurch organizations to do the very things the Church is commissioned to accomplish.
Sorry, I have been frustrated by the interactions I have had with parachurch organizations and their utter blindness to the role that the Church has been given by God…



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Rick

posted March 31, 2009 at 1:57 pm


RJS-
“I am convinced that campus ministry organizations should concentrate on future faculty – our current graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. This is our future. Far too many outstanding students either leave the faith or leave the academy in the face of the inherent challenges. We need more to stand firm and follow through.”
Well said and helpful.
Michael Bird coincidentally recently posted some new blogs dedicated to science, theology, and culture. One of the posts, written by a physics researcher and directed towards grad students, stated:
“I am giving a talk on this topic to a group of Christian postgraduate students at University of Queensland (where I work) on wednesday.
Here are a few points.
Growing as a Christian
Keep perspective,Pray, Stay in the Word, Stay in Fellowship, Be a witness in life and word.
Some practical suggestions to save (significant amounts of) time
Manage your supervisor, Know the literature”
Here is his website:
http://revelation4-11.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-thrive-as-christian-while.html



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Randy

posted March 31, 2009 at 2:47 pm


Much has been said here, but I hope to remain concise.
First and foremost I approach the campus as a mission field. This means meeting students where they are at and discipling them as they allow. Here I think of a comment by a friend regarding Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. He commented that Keller’s approach to apologeitcs is toe listen and then respond to where people are at, rather than to teach people a set of rules or a system. (My friend had led a teaching session for a very large group the evening before.)
Many students, especially thoughtful students and graduate students, find themselves sandwiched between the theology of the church and the learning of the university. Above all, they need someone who can help them discern their way between two worlds that often are antagonistic towards each other.
RJS cautions about faculty ministry. But I believe that ministry to faculty has a place, albeit one where they take the lead, perhaps with some guidance. The best compliment, and almost the most frequent in my work with faculty and graduate students has been: “Thank you for helping me to think about my work this way.” This comes after I have helped faculty think about their work Christianly (well Reformedly). It is truly amazing to see the change in their confidence when they are asked to do this and receive good guidance. In turn, it is amazing to see the change in graduate students when they see faculty in their fields thinking Christianly.
To return to Tim Keller, and to Brian McLaren: My most fruitful work has come from listening to where individual students are at and then engaging in discipling conversations (The Reason for God; More Ready Than You Think).
Peace,
Randy



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AHH

posted March 31, 2009 at 2:55 pm


RJS – That picture makes me nostalgic! I wish I could grab lunch at LaVals or Top Dog.
I agree that the wider church is almost always underemphasized (or ignored) in university ministries. Giving lip service to going to a church on Sunday isn’t enough. So students have a good insulated mini-church experience for 4 years, then they graduate and find nothing in the world of “real” churches that replicates the experience they have been trained to want. “Emerging” churches may pick up some, but many just drift away. This path often starts with Middle School and High School ministry.
One must distinguish parachurch orgs from univeristy ministries of local churches. I think there can be a place for the former (in providing affinity and outreach), but the latter has more opportunity to integrate with the church. Some take this opportunity and some don’t. My own church has a university ministry with many hundreds of students, but we see less than 10% of them at our Sunday worship services (not even the “contemporary” service). Sometimes I think the situation is no different than if the local Crusade chapter happened to meet at our facility (and we paid their staff). Which is not totally fair; some of the students do get involved in things like leading small groups of our Middle School kids. But for the most part, the rest of the church never sees them unless they are trying to raise money for mission trips or something.
Some have mentioned different experiences with the campus parachurch organizations. I think IVCF is more varied, where how things are done depends on the particular staff involved. Campus Crusade is more one program that all are expected to follow. IVCF is trying to do some “faculty ministry” (I believe including at Berkeley), but I don’t know how that has gone. I intend to point an old friend who is involved in that to this thread (and the previous one).



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Joey

posted March 31, 2009 at 2:57 pm


I was interning at a church in Australia near a university. I saw some graffiti on a wall that students walk by daily that referred to the Campus Ministry group FOCUS:
Fun
Omitted
Christian
Umpires
Say
That made me laugh but it also uncovered a need in campus ministries. Somebody actually took the time to point out that this group was lame meaning that perhaps, if the group had a function that was more clear, helpful, and mission oriented, they might have reached whomever wrote the graffiti. This group was solely evangelism focused and did little to bring faith into the conversations around campus in any way that wasn’t militant. I met a lot of students who had questions about God that year, very few of whom had any respect for the Campus Ministry.



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Eleanor

posted March 31, 2009 at 4:02 pm


RJS #8,
I think I would expand on your thought that campus ministries should focus on students who might become future faculty members. I’d say they should be working to bring *many types* of students to maturity. Future faculty, yes. But also students wondering if they have a vocational call to ministry. And what about [all the rest of the] students who someday might become [lay] leaders of ministries in churches… future elders, deacons, teachers, committee leaders, volunteer organizers…
Had I been exposed to a nurturing, discipling, serious issues wrestling, and yes, intellectually sound campus ministry that tied into a decent local church, I have a feeling I would have gone to seminary straight from undergrad school rather than only figuring things out in my early 40s. Of course God has still used me, but I often wonder, if there had been such a ministry back then, I could have gotten on with all this a lot sooner.
And I would submit our churches could use more educated, sound, lay ministry leaders as well.



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 6:16 pm


Randy,
Many students, especially thoughtful students and graduate students, find themselves sandwiched between the theology of the church and the learning of the university. Above all, they need someone who can help them discern their way between two worlds that often are antagonistic towards each other.
Exactly…discern between two worlds and in a sound fashion. One of my biggest struggles for a long time was the disconnect between the level of interaction I had in my discipline and the rather unsophisticated, even simple, faith of the church. Now that is fine for many folks – and I don’t think that churches should be elitist, we meet and serve on common ground. But we also need branches of the church that will provide a forum for deeper thinking, and no where is this more true than on our University Campuses.



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Chris Ridgeway

posted March 31, 2009 at 6:42 pm


“a campus ministry is not a church.”
Yes it is.
Practically, this is how it looks on campus. Christian students arrive, feel the energy of a large-group Campus Crusade meeting, join a small group that meets in their dorm and very often become best friends with this group: they go lunch and dinner in the cafeteria with them. They pray with them. They attend Campus Crusade events with them, but also all sorta of other campus events. The share the gospel with friends get drawn into their group–they are on mission. They seek care and counsel from “staff members.”
But Crusade theologically is pretty faithful to teach “we aren’t a church!” Gotta “go to church!” So most faitful Crusaders try to attend a church service, typically at a church off-campus. They show up for the 11:45am, and take off right after. They share a car with all the other Crusaders, sit with them, and take off.
They are functionally taught (“caught” over “taught”) over and over that Real Theological Church is a place you attend on Sunday Morning, but fellowship, discipleship, sacrifice, community, service and mission are elsewhere.



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 6:47 pm


Chris,
And then – as AHH (#12) pointed out – they find nothing in the world of “real” churches that replicates the experience they have been trained to want.
Which is one of my points…



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Cam R

posted March 31, 2009 at 7:43 pm


RJS,
Good post.
I became a Christian 10 years ago through Campus Crusade here in Canada. I really appreciate what Campus ministries are trying to do. Their ministry helped in my first years as a Christian.
Looking back (my experience is 10 years old) I think many campus ministries are a lot like small churches. Our group had a weekly worship service, community events, paid staff, leadership, bible studies for discipleship, and engaged in mission. When I served in leadership it was difficult to also serve in my home church. The only thing that was missing was baptisms.
Campus ministry has alot of challenges. There can be a real gap between the certain Christian worldview in the ministry and the rest of the University.
In my experience, we were stuck between wanting to reach students and faculty and a conversative theological system that limited really engaging in valid dialogue with them.
This is where the pseudo-science can come in–I remember having discussions about how the dating of the universe could be wrong if the waveform of the universe changed with the Fall.
I think what needs to happen is an openning up on the bounds on what the accepted Christian worldview is.
RJS, is there openness to your questions about faith and science in the campus ministies at your university?
Do others find these kind of science/faith questions acceptable in campus ministry?
Peace,
Cam



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 9:44 pm


Randy,
Let me continue some of my thoughts from #15 in response to your comment.
I don’t mean to caution about faculty ministry – I am being “realistic.” I realize that campus as mission field takes first priority (and probably it should) – and this means student evangelism and fellowship, primarily at the undergraduate level, because this is the largest and most approachable group.
I think grad student and even faculty ministries are desperately needed. I know for myself it has been very difficult to find resources to help me grow as I must to be a presence of any real sort in the University. Scot was actually the first – and thus far the only – person with any real theological training to be willing to carry on a conversation with me beyond a very superficial level. And this is a virtual interaction as we’ve never met in person so it has its own limitations.
Part of the problem of course is that I’m female – not male – so on top of everything else, within evangelical circles anyway, I need to find women who know more theology than I do, are interested in these questions, and are willing to spend the time talking with me.
So here is a serious question for those in Campus ministry – is there any real vision or resource for discipleship and education at the grad student or beyond? Should there be?



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RJS

posted March 31, 2009 at 9:52 pm


Cam (#18)
There is an openness on the part of some – by no means all – to the questions of science and faith.
Your story provides a good example why campus as mission field is an important part of campus ministry. I don’t know the right mix or approach here.



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Mike

posted March 31, 2009 at 11:50 pm


RJS,
Thanks for venturing out into the deep waters…hope I don’t create any haters with this post.
I am one of the staff in a campus ministry mentioned above. (I’ll speak for myself, here, not my colleagues, as the rest of those commenting aren’t speaking for their community, either.)
I came up in a campus ministry that enthusiastically initiated and reciprocated partnership with several local congregations near my university. With one of those churches, I became a member. I realized some of my gifts and calling needed further consideration, so upon graduation, I threw myself into…the church. I still collaborated more often than not with the ministry I was a student in. But, through the church, I had the leisure and the so-called multi-generational fellowship with which to do some further deepening of the community experience. And, I went to seminary, and after that got ordained: to the same campus ministry, except at a different campus. And, in the rear-view mirror of life, I know that the church I belong to initiated and encouraged me toward such a campus ministry.
My fellow colleagues in churches tell me to my face: I am a fellow colleague. I am a pastor, a missionary, but, my students are predictably transient. My colleagues? members of the congregation are “unpredictably” transient. (Cul-de-sac: one of those colleagues confessed to me that his mega-church experience wasn’t any different than mine: members became members and then left between 4 to 6 years…)
Does our ministry create expectations among our students that, fair or otherwise, cannot be fulfilled in some-most-any churches upon graduation? Probably. Most likely. Maybe…let me mine this one a little more.
I don?t believe that what I do undermines or devalues the importance or meaning of any local congregation. I pray that what I am doing in my service contributes to some local congregation somewhere that receives the alumni of my ministry. I can point to several individuals around the globe where this is true. What is can be agonizing, though, are the comments like some above who make blanket statements about campus ministries that don?t care about the local church or ecclesiology at all.
Sometimes, as one cited above, some students have had been on the receiving end of some others with boorish and insensitive ways of evangelizing their peers. Some of my colleagues have heard alumni of our ministry express their frustration with the velocity of the local church. More recently, some of my peers have been aware of the latent racism within their congregations through recent graduates. Let?s face it: no one wants to be on the receiving end of this kind of news or communications.
But what to do? Let the mission go? Pretend that local congregations will get ?it? sooner or later? A pastor of a local mega-church insightfully recognized before me that most of the time, few churches near any university take up campus ministry because ?the students don?t give anything.? But, he continued, in his denomination and others, the expectation of an educated ministry is taken for granted, as is true in business, engineering, health services, etc. And, that assumption does not get unearthed within the church to develop any sense of mission within the university. It?s more of, ?Let someone else do it.?
Which, in part not the whole, explains our campus ministry and the many others: who perceive the campus as culturally distinct people who need missionaries that will collaborate with God and his people for witness, justice, evangelism, discipleship, and yes- the seat belt light is now on- community. No, that community can not displace or substitute a heterogeneous, multi-ethnic (ok: multi-generational, but that is so idealized, as to be worthy of a post from Scot), communion-sharing, baptizing, witnessing fellowship.
I scanned Stackhouse?s post. It?s OK, but, I get a little uneasy: who are these students that are just waiting to do all of the learning that Stackhouse commends? I could not help but feel uncomfortable: is that ?university? somewhere in North America? Some of his descriptions of what campus ministry staff should be about describe engagement with a unique culture, and I am not sure if that culture ever existed at any university at anytime in the last century or this one. While I want to say ?amen? to much of what Prof. Stackhouse writes, I sense the relationship between the cultural context he describes and the students I serve with (and from my other colleagues throughout North America) is disconnected. I will give the paper another read and see if I?m off.
Finally RJS? question: should campus ministry focus upon undergraduates heading toward grad school or existing grad students or faculty? I?m guessing RJS meant to the exclusion of the rest or at least tilted toward such students. My answer? Maybe?I presently serve among grad and international students. What I can tentatively assert: none-zero-zilch had any regular experience in daily life in any spiritual disciplines save going to church- occasionally. Most of the praying I hear (and train against) is foxhole prayers: God help me pass my qualifying exam. God help me finish my dissertation. God help me get another year of funding. And on it goes. Same thing when I ask about the Trinity: modalism. When we do training on inductive Bible study (HT: Stackhouse), I find that I also have to include some conversation about experience and culture shaping what we do and don?t read: I then find out about them wearing blinkers: from some of the brightest people on the planet. They don?t get it. And, remarkably, many of the grad students I serve with don?t want a complex Gospel or a complex Bible or anything else complex: all of the readers with graduate degrees might have some familiarity with what I am describing. Where did these grad students get these ideas about God, or miss out on the joy of practicing spiritual disciplines, or fail to receive learning the kinds of skills and enjoying the Spirit with others that fund their discipleship? You won?t get finger-pointing from me.
I paint a somewhat morbid and dreary picture of the grad students I know around the campus I?m at: but, it?s that way everywhere. I am wane in giving slogans or rah-rah to anyone: it?s a serious situation, and not to be taken lightly. Again, I am attracted to what Stackhouse proposes, but I would want for him to do better cultural analysis before making the proposals for education by the campus ministries. So, in reply to RJS? question, yes, I am in favor of giving some attention to grad students and faculty that is unique. But, what does that mean?
I persevere, if only because, usually about once every other year, a student comes through who walks in the Spirit, who follows after Jesus, who wants the God of the Bible to narrate their lives, not grad school culture. That student makes me feel and think: God is good, and He wants for me and that student to witness to the Gospel. I wish that God would send more than one at the same time! :) The influence that student has often multiplies, but it is also true that the student has to perform and carry her/his weight academically. So, time available for service and relationships and witness ?naturally? diminishes. That?s not a bad thing, but a reality of the graduate school culture: you get closer to the dissertation, and you have less and less time for almost anything else. It?s the contribution of that collaboration and friendship with the student that keeps me excited and going: a great gift from God.
Lastly (really), I find that each campus ministry needs to understand its slice of the pie: how does it fit in the missio Dei? Yes: I meant that: ?needs to understand.? I have, at best, an improving understanding of that slice. RJS: Your post has helped me move along! Thanks!



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RJS

posted April 1, 2009 at 7:12 am


Mike,
Thanks for your perspective. There is much in it I agree with – especially at the level of real people in real places, real churches near real campuses. And I am not sure how to connect the dots – that is how to proceed.
Most graduate students are day-to-day growing. They don’t start knowing what it means to really study a discipline. Some don’t get it even when they graduate. Disciplines vary, and the grind of getting through can swamp all else.
You said that “remarkably, many of the grad students I serve with don?t want a complex Gospel or a complex Bible or anything else complex”. This is true in study as well – many are not comfortable with the complexity of their academic field either, they want it cut and dried (answer’s in the back of the book) – but we push them forward. Campus ministry is harder as it is voluntary.
On the other hand, many students do undergo a change in grad school and come out thinking creative scholars on the other side. And among these are the people who will become professors at major institutions in the future. I know I changed enormously as I went through graduate school, then postdoctoral work, and into a faculty position. I learned how to think and how to be a scholar.
I found it very difficult to work out how to maintain faith and grow in faith through this transition. The disconnect between the two sides of my life caused deep soul searching – to use an overused term: cognitive dissonance. I don’t think that I am alone in this experience.
Is there anyway to make this transformation easier? And easier doesn’t mean “giving answers” but providing resources, forums for learning and discussion, pointing toward resources …



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Mike

posted April 1, 2009 at 9:50 am


RJS,
You asked if “Is there anyway to make this transformation easier?” Your suggestions are valuable, although I would want to critique it in one way:
None of it can happen apart from the reality of community. Now, I am aware that this is exactly the lightning rod of earlier comments. Having said this, you understand that the university is a cultural group unto itself. One of the consequences of this is that often grad students following Jesus need each other- not always people from the outside of that culture- to discern how to employ resources, participate in forums, etc. In other words, they live in the culture, and need each other for how to survive and thrive within that culture.
Otherwise, the generation of individuals by the dominant narrative of grad school culture gets propagated: and invitations to the kind of events- even if it means companionship!- often gets a brief calculation: can I afford the time to be with others away from my studies?
Often, the congregations I serve among nod their heads when I tell them about the normal “70-hour work weeks” the grad students perform. To be sure, that is also going around in some of the congregations as well. But, not with the kind of demands for intellectual creativity and academic production: not even close. That kind of pressure creates isolation.
So, I commend the forming of community to “make the transformation easier.” There are tons of other good benefits that accompany such formation. Thanks for asking!



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RJS

posted April 1, 2009 at 10:52 am


Mike,
I think the community issue as a “lightening rod” is a much bigger problem at the undergraduate than the graduate level. You make me think here.
And as we speak about grad-faculty ministries let me make an observation from experience…
One of the things that made grad school both fun and powerful was the community – the community of fellow students. Stressful and hard but in many respects a great experience. And you are absolutely right that a community of fellow Christian students is or can be important.
One thing that made transition to faculty hard was loss of that community, pretty much across the board. Isolation is the rule. The faculty is competitive and diverse – intentionally diverse within the discipline, each individual fills a niche. Christians are in a minority, in many places there is no real fellowship of Christians on campus, and fellow Christians in a local congregation have no clue of the demands for intellectual creativity and academic production – after all professors are “just teachers” and if not in class have little to do (now I’m cynical). It isn’t all bad … obviously. But it is a “unique culture group” as you said.
This is thought provoking.



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Randy

posted April 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm


RJS 15 & 19:
I recently met an old friend from grad school at an IV Grad and Faculty Ministries Conference. As regular faculty she continues to struggle with the tension between the highly complex world of Anthopological Archaeology and the “simple” faith of the churches she has access to.
She is a loud example of what you and Stackhouse call for in university-qualified campus ministry personnel. I bring a Ph.D. in US History and many hours of amateur study of culture and theology.
You ask whether there is vision for graduate or faculty ministry. I find serious vision for it in two places: InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministries, and in my own Christian Reformed Campus Ministry Association. The later is stronger in Canada, particularly Ontario, than in the US. But folks at Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin-Madison, and myself here at Iowa State work hard to provide exactly the type of intelligent and educated discourse without being so high-falutin that we become useless.
Also, regarding another thread I picked up regarding faculty — I find that here at Iowa State, Christian faculty lack community in part because they do not organize across either churches or disciplines. Often it even takes years for faculty in the same church to recognize each other. Campus ministry to faculty by people with the qualifications to dialogue with faculty can serve this purpose, for good or for bad.
BTW: You are right, being a woman makes all of this more difficult. We have a self-formed evangelical women’s support group here at ISU. Six women meet monthly for breakfast.
Peace,
Randy



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Gary

posted April 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm


This post was forwarded to me several days ago and I’m just getting a chance to look at it. I only looked at a few comments so probably missed a lot. I did appreciate Randy’s thoughts (April 1) and wanted to add a couple of things from my experience
1) I’ve been meeting with a faculty group here at Ohio State for several years (group has been facilitated for over 15 years by a professor, I “joined” when on staff with IV’s Grad/Faculty ministry) which provides an opportunity to talk about a variety of issues that could likely never be discussed in their churches, where the academic world seems to be little understood or appreciated. These faculty seriously engage what it means to be a Christ-follower in a major public university and all make this group a priority when their schedules permit because the fellowship so powerfully encourages them. Outsiders like myself are welcomed, and have some say in the “agenda” (which is pretty loose) but the dominant force in how the conversations go emerges from the faculty themselves.
2) I’ve also been part of a grad fellowship which has a number of students who are willing to think and talk seriously about the complexities of Scripture and following Christ wherever he leads. They also have tried to engage in outreach both in the university and in the neighboring urban community where some of them live.



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