Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service. — Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 4, 29.
As some of you know (may even remember), 5 years ago I became the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). What a privilege it has been to be part of connecting, encouraging, equipping and mentoring a growing network (4,200+) of those on the academic pathway (undergrads, grad students, postdocs and early career faculty) via blogging, facebook, ministry/conference partnerships, paper.li, and twitter. Note: If you have not already joined ESN’s dynamic network, please do such 🙂
When launched on March 1, 2004, ESN offered to help every member, at whatever career stage, to ask — and formulate answers to “The Four Questions”:
- Why should I consider pursuing an academic vocation, for my entire career or a significant amount of time?
- What do I need to learn about Christian thought and practice to be faithful within my academic calling?
- How do I navigate the various stages and transitions of an academic vocation?
- Who can help me at each stage of my professional development, and whom can I help?
Exploring “The Four Questions” led members of the ESN staff team and partners in ministry (including a strong contingent of faculty) to
- Dig deep in mentoring conversation via a number of platforms, with blogging becoming the most prominent starter for a season of ministry (August 21, 2008 – )
- Connect with peers and mentor figures online and at conferences
- Partner with InterVarsity campus fellowships (e.g., STEAM Project Grant Series) and conferencing (e.g., Urbana)
- Partner with other likeminded organizations such as the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA)
- Engage with a growing number of PhDs, who due to a variety of factors, find their journey through “liminal space” leading to uncertainty about next steps as the academy has limited space for the volume of graduates. Many have shared with me their appreciation of ESN’s exploration of Writing Christian Personal Statements and offering of Scholar’s Compass: a devotional written for and by scholars.
When asked what ESN does, I typically turn to stories and illustrations drawn from a list such as the above, but when engaged in planning next steps I have found the below list of benefit.
- Building/encouraging/publicizing networks of Christians within academic fields
- Connecting students in transition to InterVarsity events/campus groups and resources beyond the academy
- Producing material to support groups and individuals exploring their academic vocation and sharing it on our blog
- Providing emerging scholars opportunities to connect with peers and mentor figures online and at conferences
- Providing emerging scholars training and opportunities to grow as public intellectuals and bless the church and the world through blogging and speaking opportunities
- Engaging InterVarsity alumni with a desire to serve emerging scholars
Stay tuned, much more to share in future posts about ESN’s history, next steps, and very specific stories as to how we have served students, recent graduates, and faculty at important times in their academic journey. Your prayers, partnership (as the Lord enables), and encouragement in this Kingdom work is much appreciated. To God be the glory!
Connecting with ESN has really enriched my experience at Urbana because it expanded my mind to see that God called me into the engineering field for a reason. Missions and academic/vocational pursuit are not two separate ideas, but rather beautifully intertwined to fulfill a piece of God’s bigger story for my generation. — Galina, ESN Urbana 15 participant, currently a grad student
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!
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