On January 19-20, 2024, the first Developing a Christian Mind Conference in the United States was held at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This article is drawn from a report written to ministry partners by Jeff Barneson, Associate Director of Faculty Ministry and Campus Staff Minister at Harvard University.
Last weekend we hosted our first conference on Developing a Christian Mind at Harvard & MIT. The initiative, based on the longstanding conference – DCM Oxford – was an experiment for us and our Faculty Ministry Leadership Team. Our intent was to explore new ways to empower faculty ministry with early-term graduate students – especially those headed toward work in higher education.
Friday Jan 19:
1:30pm – Registration, snacks, coffee, tea
2:00pm – Main Session 1
-Welcome & Introduction
-Talk & Discussion: Discipleship of the Mind: Reflections on seeking the shalom of the university
-Talk: Discipleship of the Mind: Reflections on integrating Christian faith with our scholarship
-Panel Discussion: What does it mean to be human and be made in God’s image? What is the understanding of a human being in your field? How does the Gospel map critique and help redeem the dominant understanding of humanity in your field? What ways have you found to seek the shalom of the university?
6:30pm – Dinner & Discussion
Saturday, Jan 20:
8:30am – Breakfast, coffee, tea
9:00am – Main Session 2
-Talk: What is our response to creation? Christian Science and Engineering
-Talk & Discussion: Wholeness, Sin and Redemption in Public Health
12:00pm – Lunch & Discussion groups
1:00pm – Main Session 3
-Panel Discussion: What is the influence of sin in your discipline and what does redemption look like in your discipline?
-Talk & Discussion: The Calling of Christian Graduate Students and Academics
4:00pm – Closing worship, prayer & sending out
We are still processing the experience with graduate students, faculty members and InterVarsity staff, but it is already clear – this DCM was a hit. Some of the things we observed were:
• Graduate students loved seeing their professors speak about the distinctive meaning of the gospel of Jesus for their research, teaching, mentoring and leadership in the academy. Several faculty remarked how much they wished they had received this kind of teaching when they first set out on their studies.
• Faculty members experienced a unique opportunity to work together and learn from one another across discipline lines – engaging generously with one another and with graduate students
• Invitations to professors to speak and work on panels provided significant opportunities for them to reflect on and strengthen the integration of their own Journey with Jesus and what this means for their calling in the academy
• Dinners in the homes of professors extended conversations, allowed students to ask more discipline-specific questions, and developed deeper relationships between faculty and students
On Saturday evening, our organizing team celebrated and debriefed the weekend with professors, students, staff and family members. There was a lot for which we were thankful. The most common words used to describe the conference were awe, grateful, powerful, and humbled.
Please continue with us in prayer as we work together to understand how to strengthen the ministry of professors with graduate students and each other in the future.