Earlier this month, Tom and I joined 1,400 of our closest friends in St. Louis for InterVarsity’s national staff conference. InterVarsity staff gather as a whole only once every three years, so these meetings are a crucial time to affirm our ministry together and receive valuable training.
At our last national staff conference in 2008, we began a three-part series focused on InterVarsity’s Vision Statement: Students and Faculty Transformed, Campuses Renewed, Worldchangers Developed. This conference thus focused on Campuses Renewed, the most difficult to visualize part of our Vision (it’s even the smallest phrase in our creative Vision graphic), but in many ways, the most important. We are a ministry to the campus. If the people, ideas, and structures of the campus aren’t somehow being renewed by the Gospel through our work, then our whole project is called into question.
Christian faculty were repeatedly identified as central catalysts for the renewal of the campus — an idea which the Emerging Scholars Network and Faculty Ministry have been preaching for several years. Why are faculty so important? To put it into the language of missiology, faculty and staff are the indigenous missionaries to the campus. Students, for the most part, are sojourners in Campusland — they spend two, four, six (eight?) years as residents, then move on to other domains. Campus ministers usually aren’t part of the power structures of the campus (though that can be a good thing), and long term commitment to a single campus is the exception rather than the rule. Faculty and staff, however, can become lifelong residents, shaping the community in ways that students and campus ministers can only imagine.
Overall, it was a great conference — and you don’t have to take my word for it. The main talks have been posted on InterVarsity’s audio page. Here are some of my recommendations for downloading:
- Greg Jao‘s exposition of Genesis 1-3 (prepared on very short notice as a replacement for Peter Cha, who couldn’t appear due to a last minute illness)
- Washington University professor William Tate‘s analysis of several ways in which the campus is broken — you don’t want to miss his description of the “hypermarketing” of colleges
- Claremont Graduate University professor Mary Poplin casting her vision for redeeming the campus
- Author and speaker Andy Crouch addressing the need to renew campus structures
There are also a number of testimonies from students, faculty, and InterVarsity staff available to download.
For those of you who are more visual, 2100 (InterVarsity’s design and media department) has posted many videos from the staff conference on Vimeo. Several feature faculty like Vanderbilt’s Carol Swain and Ohio State’s Terry Gustafson.
I hope you enjoy these resources as much as I enjoyed experiencing them firsthand.