Emeritus Professor of Management Science
The University of Alabama
National Faculty Representative
Christian Leadership Ministries
The Christian university professor or staff member who is serious about having an influence for Christ on his or her institution will quickly realize that to achieve the maximum influence, one must work together with other like-minded Christians on the campus. This is the principle of synergy at work -- the simultaneous action of separate agencies which, together, have greater total effect than the sum of their individual effects. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews underscores the point by writing, and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing nearer (Hebrews 10:24,25). That the principle is true hardly requires debate; the question is how does one go about initiating cooperative relationships with other Christian professors and staff in the midst of all of the demands and pressures of daily institutional activity? The answer is the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship which we describe in this paper.
What is a Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship? I like to think of the Fellowship in terms of a think tank or research and development activity through which faculty and staff come together on a regular basis to creatively think about, discuss, and plan how they as Christians can individually and corporately impact students, colleagues and the institution for the cause of Christ. Professors are some of the most creative individuals in our society. Unfortunately, most professors focus a significant part of their creativity on their academic discipline. If just a fraction of this combined creativity can be focused on the issue of impacting the university for Christ, much will happen. In addition to this creative function, the Fellowship should be the umbrella under which all corporate faculty ministry activity occurs; it should be the initiator and sponsor of corporate faculty ministry on the campus.
What is meant by regular? I mean weekly. Anything less than weekly will not be adequate to develop the level of commitment and depth of relationships that will be necessary to profoundly impact the institution for Christ. Many protest saying, this is a good idea, but couldn't we meet monthly or twice a month? My reaction is why would you not want to meet weekly? The only legitimate reason one can offer is that the activity just isn't a high enough priority item. For a Christian professor or staff member, this should be a top priority activity. Each of us will ultimately be required to give an account of our lives, our ministries. I believe that one day I will stand before the Lord and give an account of my life. I believe that He will be considerably more interested in what I did on my campus to influence people for the Savior than in how many refereed journals articles I published. I'm sorry, but I just don't think that protesting that my research commitments and teaching loads prevented me from participating with colleagues in impacting the university for Christ will wash. OK, weekly.
Broadly speaking, the Fellowship should accomplish two purposes. First, it is to be the means by which professors and staff determine how to impact students, colleagues, and the institution for Christ and through which they cooperatively work to accomplish this end. Secondly, the Fellowship should minister to the faculty and staff who constitute its membership. In this connection, the Fellowship should promote and foster deep relationships between and among its members. It should impart vision to its members and equip them for the work of ministry. It should help members to pursue excellence in their work within the institution and within the larger community. And it should support and uplift members when they experience difficult times.
Now, before we discuss how the Fellowship accomplishes these important purposes, let me offer a word of caution by stating what the Fellowship is not. The Fellowship is not a faculty and/or staff Bible study! It's interesting, whenever Christian faculty and staff get together and begin to think about having an impact for Christ in the university, one of the first things that often comes to mind is a Bible study. We are not talking about a Bible study. This is an important element of the Christian life, but it is not to be the only or primary pursuit of the Fellowship. I am aware of no faculty or staff Bible study which has had a significant impact on a university or college, even though some have been existence for decades. I am aware of many instances in which faculty/staff Bible studies have started and slowly faded away. The focus of a Bible study simply is not global or outward enough. The Fellowship must focus on the issue of impacting the institution for Christ and on equipping its members to accomplish this task.
Furthermore, the Fellowship is not to be a substitute for the local church. People have told me regarding the Fellowship, I don't want to do anything in our Fellowship that I can do in my church! The Fellowship should confine its focus to helping its members to (1) become better professors or staff members or (2) become better Christian professors or staff members. If the Fellowship confines its focus to these issues, it becomes the only game in town, that is, the only place I can go to help me succeed as a Christian academic in the university. Thus, if I am at all serious about wanting to be a better professor or staff member or if I want to have an effective influence for Christ in my workplace, I will see the Fellowship as necessary in accomplishing these aims and will be committed to it.
A schematic diagram of the faculty ministry in a university or college is shown in Figure 1. The focal point of activity for any faculty ministry should be the Weekly Fellowship. The major goal of the Fellowship, as we have discussed, is to impact students, faculty, staff, and the institution for Christ. A necessary secondary goal is to engage faculty and staff in the Fellowship. This is done in a number of ways as shown in Figure 1. The most obvious way is to identify Christians among the faculty and staff and challenge them to become a part of the Fellowship. Persistence is a virtue here, I am aware of one individual, a very committed Christian, who observed our group with detached interest for five or six years before ever seeing the benefit or value of joining with us. Another way to engage individuals in the Fellowship is to reach them through various filter events which communicate a Christian message to the faculty and staff of the institution at large, i.e., various outreach activities. Thus, the general idea shown in Figure 1 is to move individuals from the population of All Faculty/Staff to the population of Christian Faculty/Staff to the population of Weekly Fellowship.
Figure 1. Schematic Diagram of the Christian Faculty Ministry.
Notice from the diagram, that Small Groups are a part of the faculty ministry. These will normally be ad hoc groups set up for a variety of purposes which we will identify and describe subsequently. Obviously, to undertake such a ministry in an institution of higher learning, there must be a core of leadership committed to the philosophy of impacting the institution for Christ; this core is shown in the diagram as Key Leadership and may be an actual group which meets to oversee the ministry or may simply be the collection of individuals who give leadership to the ministry. One or more of the key leaders may chose to formally affiliate with Christian Leadership Ministries (CLM) as a Faculty Affiliate. More on the advisability of having an actual planning or steering committee later.
Recall that the Fellowship is intended to function in a research and development role; it is to be a think tank. While it is true that research and development activity tends to be serendipitous, it is not recommended that the Fellowship be allowed to float willy-nilly along. In fact, a fairly well established set of activities has been identified which will give the appropriate focus to the Fellowship. This set of activities is shown in the diagram as the Generic Schedule and for a semester institution would include the following:
|Activity||Meetings per Semester|
|Planning Sessions (first and last meeting)||2|
|Prayer and Fellowship (one per month)||3|
|Christian Leadership (or other) Training||2|
|Discipline Position Papers||1|
|Legal Issues Update||1|
It should be emphasized at this point that these will not necessarily be the only activities of the Fellowship, nor are the recommended number of sessions hard fast requirements. This is a good basic mix of activities which will interest Christian professors and staff and which are fairly easy to put together into a semester program. In fact, I would suggest that a mix of activities is superior to concentrating on any one thing for very long for a very practical reason. Suppose, for example, you decide to schedule a six session sequence on creation/evolution (this happens to be a popular subject for most faculty and staff). If I happen not to be interested in this topic and I'm not absolutely committed to the group, I'll just drop out for a while and stop coming. Once that happens, it will be difficult if not impossible for you to get me back involved in the group. It should also be obvious from these suggestions that the agenda is not to be a Bible study.
Each of the activities in the Generic Schedule will now be described in a bit more detail.
Now let's address the issue of whether or not to have a planning or steering committee. Often, when faculty initiate an activity or program of some magnitude, such as a faculty ministry, the first thing that comes to mind is a steering committee. I would advise against this approach for two reasons, both learned from actual experience. First, a steering committee requires time; it has meetings. You will be asking every member of the steering committee for several hours of time each semester -- if you can accomplish the planning function without this investment, you're way ahead. Furthermore, when working with busy people, it is usually difficult to find a time when they can all meet. Second, when a steering committee comes up with a program for an organization, any organization, it is the steering committee's plan; it's difficult to engender ownership by the rank and file membership of the group.
Both of these important objections can be overcome remarkably easily by doing all of the planning activity within the context of the entire group -- the entire Fellowship. By devoting two weekly meetings a semester to the planning function, you obviate the need to have a steering committee and the program which emerges is everyone's program -- you don't have to sell it to the group. Now this might not be quite as effective as a planning committee especially at first, but I can assure you based on twenty plus years of experience it works and it works extremely well. However, if you insist on having a steering committee, please go ahead -- just know that you are adding a significant overhead burden to your activity (and, of course, not following the inspired model).
First Meeting. Attend to basic organizational details; i.e., mission statement; meeting dates, location, and times; and introduction of members. Allow most of the time for members to suggest topics for future meetings and volunteer to be coordinators (invite speaker, prepare book review, prepare position paper, etc.). The goal for this planning time is to generate a list of potential topics for the following semester and to fill out any holes in the schedule for the present semester.
Last Meeting. Firm up the schedule for the following semester; i.e., the last meeting in Fall is when you set the schedule of topics for the Spring .
Remember, when selecting topics one or both of two criteria should be met:
One meeting each month should be devoted to building relationships among the members of the Fellowship and praying for campus concerns and requests of members. To accomplish these objectives, it is suggested that members introduce themselves to the group and briefly share pertinent personal information. Some light discussion on topics of general interest can also be used to build relationships. A prayer list should be developed and maintained for the group and it should be used to guide the prayer time. As you probably well know, in many prayer times, most of the allotted time is devoted to sharing prayer requests and very little time is actually spent praying.
At least two sessions per semester should be devoted to equipping members of the Fellowship in ministry and or professional skills. Ministry skills include testimony preparation, learning to share one's faith, how to have an effective devotional life and prayer life, etc. Professional skills include time and life management principles, teaching effectiveness skills, research skills, etc. Christian Leadership Ministries is in the process of putting together a Core Curriculum which enumerates a spectrum of capabilities one should acquire as one grows toward Christian maturity. The Core Curriculum is shown in Figure 1 as an input to both the Weekly Fellowship and to Small Groups as for example a discipleship group.
Every Christian professor needs to be equipped to share his personal testimony in a formal situation, i.e., classroom or meeting environment. An effective way of ensuring that the members of the Fellowship are thus equipped is to periodically have a member share his or her testimony with the Fellowship.
Every Christian professor needs to have thought through his or her academic discipline to determine how the Christian worldview impacts the discipline or to identify the tension points between the discipline and Christianity. This thought process then needs to be formally developed as a white paper or position paper. Each semester, professors who have been engaged in this process should be encouraged to present the results of their assessment to the Fellowship for consideration and feedback.
Many, if not most, Christian professors and staff simply are not well informed as to the battle that is being waged in the university today. I routinely ask how many participants in my seminars have read some of the key books that should be required reading for Christian professors and the vast majority have not. Having a member of the Fellowship review a relevant book each semester is a good way to challenge members to begin to read some of the important works. A few suggested titles are:
Many faculty are not informed about what the Christian students are up to and up against in the institution. It is pretty difficult to know how to impact students for the Savior if you don't know what they are experiencing spiritually in the environment. One of the best ways to become informed in this context is to have the directors and student leaders of the various evangelical student ministries come to brief the Fellowship periodically on their activities. Students are usually so enthusiastic about their endeavors that their enthusiasm spills over and infects the faculty who are usually a pretty staid bunch much in need of enthusiasm. Having students share about a summer mission project or an evangelistic meeting in a fraternity or sorority can be very challenging to professors who might never think about getting out of their comfort zone. The number of evangelical student groups varies from campus to campus -- one large Midwestern campus has 55 such organizations. The following groups are found on most state university and other large campuses:
Christian professors and administrators need to understand the responsibilities and prerogatives of academic freedom as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Many professors and administrators simply do not understand these issues and as a result, many Christian academics do nothing for fear of offending. An effective way of equipping Fellowship members in this arena is to have a first amendment lawyer periodically discuss Constitutional rights of academics and to summarize national/regional/local cases. CLM also has an excellent video workshop in the legal issues area.
Pastors are usually uninformed as to what it is like to be a Christian professor in a secular university or college. As a result, they frequently encourage academics in their congregation to minister almost exclusively within the church and fail to realize that for the Christian academic, the campus should be a primary place of ministry. The Pastor's Briefing is a wonderful venue for addressing this problem. Each member of the fellowship invites his or her pastor to the weekly meeting. The program for that week relates what it is like to be a Christian professor or administrator in the secular university -- the pressures and the opportunities.
An open session each semester (usually midway into the semester) needs to be left in the schedule to allow flexibility to respond to various opportunities. For example, from time to time things will happen on campus which require a response from the Fellowship and necessitate discussion and deliberation. Occasionally, one or more members will suggest that the Fellowship explore a particular opportunity, for example, an evangelistic outreach event, and the group will need time to discuss and plan appropriate actions.
The prospect of putting together a weekly program for a fifteen week semester computes to a lot of work in the minds of most faculty members. However, as the blank schedule on the following page shows, when you use two sessions for planning and three sessions for prayer and fellowship, there are only ten slots which have to be filled. A book review, a couple of testimonies, a couple of position papers, and a couple of training activities and the schedule is booked.
The meeting time and place for the Fellowship are important considerations. Most successful Fellowships that I am aware of meet over the noon hour. Practically all professors and staff take a break for lunch, so the habit of spending the lunch hour with colleagues is attractive as a way of accomplishing two purposes at once. I would suggest that you pick a day of the week when most of your people are available and stick with that day on a permanent basis. If your people always know that the Fellowship meets on a certain day, say Wednesday, they will begin to block that time out automatically and commit to the meeting even as one would a civic group or other group that meets on a specific day. I am aware of groups that have tried to shift the day around from semester to semester to accommodate most of the members -- I am convinced that all this accomplishes is to foster a lower level of commitment from the members. What we want to happen is for the members, over time, to accommodate their schedules to the Fellowship. Several years ago one of our members called me the first week of the semester and in a bit of a dither explained that his department chairman had scheduled him for class at noon on Wednesdays that semester. Could we change the Fellowship this semester to Thursday at noon? My response was, I'm really sorry, but the Fellowship meets on Wednesdays; it has always met on Wednesdays and will continue to meet on Wednesdays. We lost him for the semester, but he spoke to his chairman and no longer has classes at noon on Wednesdays.
For a noon meeting, a centrally located meeting place preferably with dining facilities is needed. Many Fellowships meet in the University Center or Student Union so that members can pick up something to eat on the way into the meeting or pick up a drink for a brown bag lunch from home. If you can get the same room semester after semester, it will help the consistency of your group. It helps in this regard to know the person who makes room assignments; our Fellowship has met in the same room for many years thanks to a staff person who is supportive of what we are trying to do. We send her a thank you note from time to time to express appreciation for her help.
|January 16||Introduction, Planning|
|February 6||Prayer & Fellowship|
|March 5||Spring Break|
|12||Prayer & Fellowship|
|April 2||Prayer & Fellowship|
|30||Plan for Fall|
For large, geographically dispersed campuses, finding a convenient location may be virtually impossible and even if one is available, parking can be a problem. In such cases having smaller fellowships in more than one location may be indicated. I am very, very reluctant to advocate multiple fellowships. On most campuses, it is a real challenge to get past the critical mass of people necessary for a vibrant group; multiple groups only hinder this difficulty. I would go along with a separate group perhaps for medical centers/schools where the environment is very different from the average university or college campus, but in general I recommend one Fellowship per campus.
If you elect to meet at noon, you might try scheduling your program to occur from 12:15 to 12:50. This way people know they can get through a serving line or arrive a bit late from an eleven o'clock class without missing any of the program and people who have one o'clock engagements can slip out a bit early without missing much other than possibly some Q&A at the end of the meeting. The time from 12:00 to 12:15 turns out to be a good time of fellowship and informal interaction, as does the time at the end of the hour; several people usually hang around past 1:00 to interact on various issues.
Since professors and staff are very busy people, you will need some kind of reminder system. Campus mail is effective in this regard, but can be time consuming if weekly announcements are sent to every member of the group. Electronic mail is an easy way of communicating with members to remind them of the meeting time and place as well as the specific program offering for the week. Unfortunately, many faculty stay chronically behind with email or delete messages without reading them. Perhaps the most effective way of staying in touch with the group is with telephone reminders. For a number of years we hired an undergraduate student to make weekly calls -- for a very modest financial investment, you get the reminders out and help a needy student at the same time. The best option is probably a combination of email and calls.
From an organizational standpoint, very little is needed in terms of officers, job descriptions, etc. A Fellowship can function very effectively with only a few dignitaries. You will need a leader or director; this will be the person who keeps everything going, thus, he or she should be absolutely committed to the Fellowship and see it as a very high priority. The leader is ultimately responsible for the weekly program, although by farming out responsibility for individual meetings to interested members, this turns out not to be a very difficult task. I directed our Fellowship at the University of Alabama for twenty plus years and rarely spent more than about thirty minutes a week keeping things on track. You will need someone, preferably with some financial skills, to keep track of the Fellowship's money. As we will see, most of the special events the Fellowship undertakes require financing; it is not uncommon for a Fellowship to have an annual budget amounting to several thousand dollars per year. You need someone to be responsible for communication with members each week, i.e., reminding them of the meeting. Good computer skills are helpful here. And finally, you will need someone to oversee student newspaper ads which will normally be done on a semester or yearly basis. If these four or five people will commit a few minutes a week on a consistent basis to attend to their duties, the Fellowship should run rather smoothly.
As a final comment under the heading of meeting mechanics, I would suggest that you not try to meet during the summer. Most people are on and off campus so irregularly during the summer that attendance will be difficult to maintain. You might try to have a social event to keep people in touch, but give your folks a break, it will be good for them.
From time to time it will be necessary to utilize small groups to accomplish specific functions of the Fellowship. Two generic uses probably cover all the specific instances: task forces to superintend various events and groups set up for training or discipleship purposes.
As we will discuss in the following section, the Fellowship will undertake several activities and events each year for the purpose of impacting the institution. These include such things as bringing in a speaker, hosting a lecture series, placing an advertisement in the student newspaper, and putting on a workshop. In all such instances, a subset of the entire Fellowship should be used on an ad hoc basis to do all of the planning and coordinating that is necessary.
One of the purposes of the Fellowship is to help equip members for ministry and for their work within the institution. This purpose can often be accomplished in smaller training or discipleship groups which meet at a separate time from the weekly meeting of the Fellowship. For example, a group might be established for a semester to focus on time management principles or to learn how to share the gospel with students and colleagues. Christian Leadership Ministries is developing a Core Curriculum which addresses the question, What is a mature Christian professor or staff member? This document will define the training opportunities which may be undertaken either in small groups or in the weekly fellowship.
One final possibility for small groups relates to prayer. In many cases, members will be impressed to pray on a regular basis for campus issues and concerns. It is suggested that a small group be established for this purpose. The prayer group should meet at a time other than the weekly fellowship meeting. Obviously, there shouldn't be small groups for prayer, but commitments being what they are, the small group is the way to serve this function. The small group might actually grow into a formal meeting such as a prayer breakfast.
A number of outreach activities have been developed and used by Faculty/Staff Fellowships to impact their institutions. And these outreaches are necessary for the vitality of the Fellowship. No matter how effective a Fellowship is with the weekly meeting, unless the group is reaching out to students and colleagues on a regular basis, it will lose it's zest, it's reason for being. The outreach activities will be briefly described below with detailed descriptions including how to instructions in a forthcoming paper.
One of the most effective ways we as faculty and staff have of impacting our campuses for Christ is by identifying ourselves publicly as Christians and one of the most effective ways of accomplishing this is through regular advertising in the student newspaper. These ads are usually half or full page ads, strategically placed, which play on a particular theme, e.g., Christmas or Easter; identify the members of the Fellowship by academic or staff titles; and indicate availability to counsel interested students and colleagues. Christian Leadership Ministries has engaged an advertising agency to develop attention getting ads for the ministry and these are available from ministry headquarters.
Possibly the most effective way we have of reaching out to colleagues involves the Tenure Workshop. The workshop which is sponsored by the Faculty/Staff Fellowship presents a detailed and comprehensive strategy for earning tenure. The presentation may be done either by a local member of the Fellowship or by a speaker from another university (An outline for the talk is available from CLM's WWW site at leaderu.com). The formal presentation includes a brief challenge to develop in all areas of life (physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual) in addition to the pursuit of tenure objectives. After the formal presentation, professors from the Fellowship share insights which relate to individual colleges and departments as well as to their own tenure experiences. All new faculty in the institution are invited to this annual event.
This outreach event involves students from various Christian organizations who are challenged to invite their favorite professors or staff persons to a banquet (breakfast, lunch, or dinner work equally well) honoring favorite faculty. The invitations given by the students to their invitee clearly indicate that the event has a Christian flavor stating something like, Campus Crusade for Christ and the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship cordially invite you to a Breakfast honoring Favorite Professors. Dr. James Wilson, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech, will speak on `My Search for Significance.' You may have students introduce their guests after which Dr. Wilson shares his testimony. Comment cards are used for follow-up.
Christian Leadership Ministries can suggest a number of academic lecturers who are available to give evangelistic and apologetic lectures in university settings. These can be very effective if planned and advertised well; comment cards are used for follow-up. One particularly effective approach in this connection that has been used recently on several campuses is to have a Christian speaker debate an atheist on some topic of general interest, e.g., Does God Exist. In some cases, academic departments and campus organizations are beginning to cosponsor these debates and underwriting some or all of the expenses of the debate.
A variety of formats are available for enabling the Fellowship to reach out evangelistically to various student populations. Outreaches to international student groups using the Jesus film in their own language have been used with success especially when done around a holiday theme such as Christmas or Easter. Several schools are holding an annual orientation for Freshmen at which one or more professors share a brief spiritual challenge, Christian student organizations are showcased, and students have an opportunity to interact with Christian professors on an informal basis.
Another excellent campus outreach approach is the Faculty Forum, a series of seminars at which members of the Fellowship present talks relating the integration of their Christian faith with their academic discipline. The seminars are open to students and faculty. When the speakers are known and respected on the campus and the topics are judiciously chosen, the forum can attract respectable numbers, both Christian and non-Christian.
The Veritas Forum is a takeoff on the Faculty Forum in which nationally known speakers present a series of seminars usually for four or five consecutive evenings. Lunch presentations and afternoon seminars which relate to the general theme of the forum are also held. The level of publicity used for the Veritas Forum generally causes the forum to be the focus of attention on the campus for the week, thus generating considerable interest and enthusiasm for the various events. The meetings are usually open to the general public as well as to the campus community.
A relatively recent innovation for Faculty/Staff Fellowships is the creation of home pages on the Worldwide Web. These sites contain general information about the Fellowship and specific information regarding meeting times, places, and program offerings. Additionally the sites usually have links to a purpose statement and a statement of beliefs for the Fellowship. Perhaps the most powerful attribute of these sites is the linkages they afford to individual faculty and staff who are involved in the Fellowship; the individual sites provide biographical information on the individual, his or her Christian testimony, and position and/or apologetic papers written by the individual. The Fellowship home page concept is definitely a hi-tech way of reaching colleagues and students with some fairly heavy information.
Fellowship Potlucks are a great way of providing fellowship opportunities to professors and staff and spouses and friends and to expose prospective members to the Faculty/Staff Fellowship in an informal setting. The potlucks are held on either a semester or annual basis, usually at the home of one of the Fellowship members. Arrangements for food and refreshments for these gatherings should be planned by women members and spouses of male members of the Fellowships. A lite program may be offered, but is not absolutely necessary.
Having been involved in a Fellowship very much like what is described here for many, many years, I can state unequivocally that my involvement was the highlight of my career in academia. Sure, it is difficult to involve busy people. Sure, you may catch some grief from the administration and you may be misunderstood by your colleagues. For sure you will attempt things that don't work -- sometimes you may even have spectacular failures. But you will also have great successes. You will see students and colleagues come to know the Savior. You will see lives changed in the Fellowship and in the institution. You will see your own life changed in the process. The university is one of the hallmarks of Western civilization. Can we abandon it? I believe the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship is perhaps the only hope for impacting the university for Christ and for good. Surely the university deserves our best efforts. Surely the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship deserves your commitment!