The mission of InterVarsity is to bring the Gospel to the entire university. Faculty members can be very helpful in the fulfillment of this mission. Each InterVarsity chapter should have a faculty advisor to act as a liaison with the university, but faculty can minister to students in a number of ways, and in so doing can grow in their own Christian faith.
Dr. Brent Nelsen and Dr. Laura Feitzinger Brown are two examples of faculty members who serve as advisors to the local InterVarsity chapter. Dr. Nelsen is a Political Science professor at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. Dr. Brown is an English professor at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They both have had a long history with InterVarsity.
Dr. Nelsen was a student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Dr. Brown was involved with chapters at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during her undergraduate and graduate years. The experiences of Dr Brown and Dr. Nelsen in discipleship and leadership as students in InterVarsity help them to minister to today’s students. They serve their chapters by ministering to individual students, organizing prayer meetings, and speaking at Large Group meetings.
Some faculty members at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse are learning of other ways they can be part of the InterVarsity ministry on campus. Paul Hemenway, the InterVarsity campus staff member in La Crosse, is facilitating this exploration of ministry opportunities. He became concerned about the role of faculty in the lives of students. He realized that while InterVarsity can offer students training in the Christian life outside of the classroom, their experiences in the classroom are often decidedly non-Christian. The faculty set the tone in the classroom, and Paul hopes that the professors will be transformed by God’s Good News.
Such a transformation is slowly taking place. Last autumn Paul wanted to read The Recovery of Mission by Vinoth Ramachandra, but felt he needed help understanding some of the ideas. So he asked several of the faculty at UWLC to join him in a discussion of the book. Seven people responded. A number of academic disciplines were represented in the group, including English, Philosophy, Continuing Education, Science, and Allied Health. The discussions were lively and thought provoking. The faculty members were challenged to think in terms of how they are living out their Christian faith in the university.
After they had completed the book, this group continued to meet. They came up with several projects, which would serve the mission of the Gospel on campus.
1. Develop a list of Christian faculty. This would point students to Christian faculty in their discipline or area of study for support and guidance as they study at the university.
2. Organize Why I Am a Christian lunches. Here faculty can share their testimonies and discuss how faith in Christ intersects with their discipline.
3. Invite other Christian faculty members to speak during the year at the InterVarsity undergraduate Large Group meetings.
4. Ask a faculty member to mentor the members of the InterVarsity leadership team.
5. Ask faculty members to “adopt” a Bible study or small group. The faculty members would pray for the students and invite them to their homes once during the semester.
Faculty members are uniquely positioned on campus. They can create an atmosphere of open discussion in their classrooms, as well as have some influence on the policies of the institution. The power of God is evident as they develop their own witnessing community that takes the Gospel to the whole campus.