By Kristine Whitnable

Advancing the Gospel and An Advanced Degree

InterVarsity’s Grad-Faculty Ministry has 120 staff members (paid and volunteer) serving over 116 schools, and ministering to approximately 4,100 graduate students and faculty members. The ministry, as with that of the undergraduates, is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on campus. However, the approach is different because the audience is different socially, ethnically, and intellectually. Graduate students may not have as much time to attend meetings; they are more likely to be married and be involved in a local church. Graduate students come from a more diverse background; more are international students. Graduate students are solidifying their worldview. In this process, questions of faith are often seen in terms of intellectual struggles.

InterVarsity Grad groups have a variety of activities. Most have some meetings for sharing and prayer, which often include a potluck supper. It is easier for graduate students to contribute to a potluck because they have access to kitchen facilities. The food is interesting as many of the students make international dishes. Bible studies are another staple activity. But, as mentioned, graduate students often have intellectual questions. So, graduate students also organize book discussions or theological debates.

Other activities include using the talents of the group in service to others. Magda Chechlacz, a graduate student at UCSD (University of California-San Diego) shared one such experience: “Although Christian undergraduate and graduate students co-exist on UCSD campus, they seem to belong to two quite distinct populations…. A few months ago our (InterVarsity Graduate Fellowship) outreach team realized that one of the ways we could impact UCSD was to serve the next generation of graduate students that may emerge from the UCSD undergraduates. ” In early March, more than a dozen graduate and medical students hosted 20 undergraduates. A panel discussion covered such issues as how to recognize the call to graduate or medical school, what does it mean to be a Christian in grad school, and how best to share Christ with fellow students and faculty. The panel also shared some practical advice, such as what it takes to get into graduate school and how to pay for further education. The evening concluded with a time of sharing and prayer.

Graduate students are not the same as undergraduates, so InterVarsity ministers to graduate students and faculty answering their specific needs. April Brown, a graduate student at University of New Mexico, expresses her appreciation for this distinction, “That’s why I am so thankful for InterVarsity’s graduate student ministry. It offers a place for Christian students and faculty to receive spiritual encouragement and nurture, while at the same time providing a comfortable setting for spiritual seekers to explore the faith.”

InterVarsity advances the Gospel of the colleges and universities. The graduate students and faculty members are a part of this ministry. They are ministered to and they in turn minister to others.