As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Berea College and (T)he Ohio State University recently. I thought I would let you know how the trips went and how ESN served the different audience.
At Berea College, I spoke at the undergraduate InterVarsity “large group” meeting. (IV Jargon Alert! Most InterVarsity chapters have “large group” meetings which gather most of the chapter members for worship and a speaker or some other kind of program, as well as “small group” meetings like Bible studies, prayer meetings, or discussion groups.) Many Berea students go on to graduate school, but primarily in healthcare and education. While my talk affirmed God’s call to serve in the academy, I spent more time on the larger issues of vocation and integration of faith, life, and learning.
The 30-or-so students at the meeting responded well, and many of them expressed interest in forming a Dead Theologian’s Society. Berea being a small school, two Christian faculty members well-known to many of the students came to the meeting.
Overall it was very encouraging to see so many undergraduates seeking to follow Jesus in their whole lives, such as:
- a young woman working to bring Peter Kreeft to speak on campus
- a son of missionaries who plans to return to South America as a math teacher
- another young woman planning to pursue a PhD in Spanish and English literature
Jess Steere, the InterVarsity campus minister at Berea, has brought together a thriving chapter, and I look forward to seeing how they will bless the Berea community.
Photo Credit: marada via Flickr
The gathering at Ohio State was designed very differently. ESN hosted a lunch for ESN members at OSU, with the goals of simply meeting and encouraging one another. It was an “inter-ministry” event, with Seth Aldridge of Student Christian Fellowship and InterVarsity’s own Howard Van Cleave (Fellowship of Christian Faculty at Staff) and Bob Trube (Christian Graduate Student Alliance) helping organize the event.
Besides Seth, Howard, and me, we had six people attend the lunch: a male faculty member in interdisciplinary sciences, a male doctoral student in the humanities, and, in a statistical outlier that might have been providence, four women in the sciences – a masters student, two doctoral students, and a post-doc.
The faculty member shared a bit of his story, then we spent the next hour in conversation. We shared:
- what we love about our academic disciplines and programs
- what frustrates us about them
- how ESN could help the doctoral students and post-doc
This final topic revealed a significant difference between the undergraduates and graduate students. While the undergraduates were very interested in some kind of weekly book discussion group, the graduate students already had full lives. A majority of them were married, they were already involved with a local church or campus fellowship, and one of them even had 5-year-old twins! And that doesn’t even include the enormous workload of their research and teaching. Asking them to add another weekly – or even monthly – commitment would have been out of the question. Instead, they wanted more of what they had just experienced – an occasional, informal meal together where they could meet other Christians in the academy and receive encouragement from them. So that’s what we’ve planned – two more ESN lunches over the next 6 months, on January 19 and April 6. I can’t wait to see what develops.