Flourishing in Grad School is the title of a Bible study curriculum by Scott Filkin, InterVarsity’s area director for Graduate and Faculty Ministries (GFM) in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest. It’s also the hope that Scott has for every graduate student—because he knows just how hard it is to be one.
The Isolation Experience
Grad students are always busy, zeroing in on the specialized field about which they need to become an expert. But they are also often isolated by their intensive studies.
One day Scott asked a bunch of grad students how many people they had talked with that day and was stunned by the response. “For some of the students, I was the first person they had spoken to,” he said. “We can talk all we want about having spiritual conversations, but if we’re not having conversations at all, then we have to take a step back and first start being in community. We need to know the people who we work with before we can start having substantive conversations.”
Scott originally wrote Flourishing in Grad School for InterVarsity’s undergrad staff, to help them understand how grad students think and the other ways the graduate student experience is so different from the undergraduate experience. But it’s also helpful for grad students. It’s formatted to be used by small groups and contains information on growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, understanding vocation, and being a redemptive presence in the field to which God has called them.
Called to Ministry in an Academic Environment
As Scott graduated from Wheaton College and worked with Young Life’s ministry to high school students, he felt God calling him to ministry in an academic environment. That call was strengthened while he worked as a pastoral intern at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California. There he met a fellow intern, Jane, who became his wife. And he also met Carrie Bare, who was at that time InterVarsity’s GFM regional director.
After Scott and Jane graduated from seminary, Jane took a pastoral position with First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, Colorado. As Scott considered his options, Carrie suggested he plant a GFM chapter at the University of Colorado. And that’s just what he did.
While joining InterVarsity staff was a good fit, and a complement to his wife’s position, the process of learning his new role was an extremely trying time in Scott’s life. He particularly remembers 16 days in June of 2006 during which he came to Madison for Orientation of New Staff (ONS), and then received additional training for a cohort of staff who were planting new chapters. Brand new to InterVarsity, Scott felt slightly overwhelmed by all the information he was taking in. Still learning the “original language” of InterVarsity, it took Scott some time to understand the various “dialects” of the undergrad world, GFM, and the planting community.
The GFM director at the time, Cam Anderson, told Scott that planting was hard work and that the chapter plant probably would not look like a chapter for about three years. “He was almost exactly right,” Scott recalled. “It didn't look like anything for quite a while and then all of a sudden we had a thriving ministry.”
Helping More Students Flourish
Just recently promoted to area director, Scott now has responsibilities covering a number of campuses in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest. But he’s hoping that he can stay connected to students because he enjoys helping students take ownership of their faith in Jesus Christ.
“E. V. Hill, a pastor from Los Angeles, once said, ‘A kid doesn’t go to college and lose his faith, he loses his mama’s faith,’” Scott said. “I love being a part of the process of building it back up.” He not only helps students build up their faith, he helps them flourish. And he wants to help more students flourish by planting more chapters on more campuses.