Summary of 1st postgrad ministry day
summary in other formats
Here's a rough outline of what was discussed at the
12 postgrad ministry day. Please email me at (email@example.com)
About 50 people attended from Bath, Bournemouth, Bradford, Cambridge,
Exeter, Goldsmiths, Leeds, Loughborough, Nottingham (Sutton Bonington campus),
Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Surrey, Norwich & University of East Anglia,
and University College London.
Session I: Envisioning on Postgrad and I-student
a talk by Bartow Wylie:
The purpose of the day was to catch a vision, for specific
learning, and hopefully also to create synergy between the different participants.
Bartow focussed on the importance of being ``neighbourly'', which for postgrads
means being Christians where they are at, i.e. the postgrad world. This
is more important than the details of how we organise ourselves. For example,
when the early church in Jerusalem was scattered because of persecution
(Acts 8), the people who had been scattered preached the word wherever
they went (Acts 8:4). The church spread not through a well defined
strategy, but through being ``neighbourly'', and reaching those who were
Session II: Models of Postgrad and International
II.1) Background to Models of Ministry
a talk by Ard Louis:
The purpose of this talk was mainly to set some language
and give a broad framework for later discussions.
II.1.A) Who is My Neighbour?
Oikos: One's personal sphere of influence; the
people you know and bump into regularly; your most natural community.
What comprises the oikos of a typical postgrad
Hall of residence or college
Many postgrads have virtually no contact with those outside
of their academic circles. A minority of postgrads may treat their studies
as something more like a job, and may want to specifically integrate with
their local communities. This is more likely to occur with British and/or
recognise that the undergraduate oikos is sufficiently different from
that of the average churchgoer to warrant specialized or focussed
outreach. The oikos of many postgrads, particularly those from outside
the U.K., is also different from that of the average churchgoer, but
the need for a specialized outreach to postgrads is not always as
II.1.B.) What are the Felt Needs of Postgrads?
Felt Need : a need or desire consciously or subconsciously
felt and often acted on; can be an entry point to contact and ministry.
If we are to effectively minister to postgrads we need
to reach out to their felt needs, but we must also reach out to
their primary needs, which for a Christian are to grow in
Christ, and for a non-Christian to find Christ.
(from Helen Eaton's summary):
The following needs are often felt by Christian
non-Christian postgrads alike:
And for international postgrads in particular:
Meaning to life in general
a purpose in one's own life
being part of a community
support through the difficulties of work - having a friend
support in adjusting to ``postgraduate'' life or a change
stability and security, particularly for those with periods
of study away from the university
And for Christian postgrad in particular:
hospitality in a foreign country
some way of feeling at home whilst abroad
contact with non-internationals
chances to see different parts of their host country
One way to think about which needs to meet is with the following
active involvement in Christian ministry and support in this
support in integrating their faith with their work
support in resisting the temptation to join in with ungodly
practices (cheating, backstabbing, gossip, selfishness, getting ahead by
which we use in CGS to help delineate who we're trying
to reach. Of course the boundaries are somewhat loose, but we like to think
of the categories as follows: Whereas evangelism is geared directly at
reaching the lost for Christ, outreach may be more broadly defined as also
reaching those from nominal Christian backgrounds who would benefit greatly
from e.g. learning to study the Bible, while nurture may be broadly defined
as support for Christians postgrads. In CGS we focus on the first two,
and often find that we are most successful with those who's needs are best
met by ``outreach''. Christian postgrads who mainly want nurture from CGS
are passed on to local churches if possible.
But perhaps the best way to nurture Christian postgrads
is to empower them to reach their community!
A multitude of laymen today are in serious danger.
It is positively perilous for them to hear more sermons, attend more Bible
classes and open forums and read more religious and ethical works, unless
accompanying it all there be afforded day by day an adequate outlet for
their new-found truth - John R. Mott
US Model: response to felt and primary needs
InterVarsity in the USA established a focussed ministry
to postgrad and professional students in 1988. Today, nearly 3,000 students
are active participants in Graduate Christian Fellowships at over 90 of
the leading secular universities in the United States. More than 50 campus
staff members serve these groups. Initially the GradIV focussed on those
schools that produced the largest number of faculty members, partially
with the strategy to influence the university through potential Christian
Their ministry commitments are nicely summarized in the
Our Ministry Commitments God is at work among graduate
students and faculty at every college and university, drawing many to Himself.
Our goal is to see every Christian faculty member and each Christian graduate
student share the following four ministry commitments:
Spiritual Formation We desire to be conformed to
the image of Christ. To achieve this, we cultivate habits that deepen our
spiritual lives such as regular prayer, rigorous Bible study, and other
Community We choose to gather regularly as a community
of faculty and/or graduate students to learn and worship, to challenge
and care for each other, and to serve as a welcoming place for both believers
Faith, Learning and Practice Because the God whom
we worship is Creator of all, we seek a unity of truth and practice in
the university and all institutions and believe that the integrity of this
pursuit will be a witness to the university and professional world.
Evangelism and Service As a community, we demonstrate
and proclaim the gospel to the university so that Jesus Christ is esteemed
over all else. Believing that God is at work to initiate people into His
kingdom, we pray and work with expectation for their conversion. We also
seek to authenticate this witness in our service, especially to the poor
and the oppressed.
II.1.C.) What are some Models of Ministry?
II.1.C.i) Cultural Dominance:
There is no such thing as a culturally neutral group.
You can have a either a Mono-ethnic Group :
where one ethnic subgroup and culture dominates. Examples with a strong
postgrad contingent are ethnically or culturally oriented groups such as
Chinese or African Christian fellowships. Most UK undergrad CUs are British
Or you can have a Multi-ethnic Group: where
no one ethnic subgroup and culture dominates. Usually requires commitment
from the leaders to intentionally foster multi-ethnic character.
II.1.C.ii) Possible Structures
There are many possible structures, probably a lot more
than what is common at the undergraduate level. Here are some examples
I've come across both in the US and the UK:
Undergraduate CU based Postgrads form a small-group
or cell embedded in the overall undergrad CU structure. When the postgrad
group grows large enough it can spin off and become more independent.
Postgrad CU based Postgrads form their own
CU which replicates many of the activities of an undergrad CU, but with
a postgrad focus. Many US Grad-IV groups are like this; the main focus
is usually more on small groups during the week than on a large group meeting.
Graduate Forum based Concentrates on integration
of faith, learning and practice through discussion groups and lectures
by outside speakers. Can be staff intensive.
International Fellowship based The main initial
attraction is community. The focus may be on a regular meeting; could be
mono-ethnic or multi-ethnic. A multi-ethnic example is the Cornell International
Christian Fellowship. There are quite a few mono-ethnic I-fellowship groups
around the UK, perhaps the most common are Chinese groups and the African
Christian Fellowship, which is organised nationally.
International Outreach based Attracts postgrads
through some form of international student outreach like a coffee bar or
a welcome programme. May have separate Bible studies or other activities.
CGS, with its large welcome programme (ISW), partially falls into this
Single Local Church based Postgrads form part
of a church structure like a 20's group or a student cell.
Chaplaincy based Various activities, like lunch
discussions, Bible-studies, etc.. that are initiated by university chaplains.
II.2) Models of Ministry around the UK
Participants at the workshop shared what they have been
doing in their universities:
Some general issues that came up throughout the discussion
Bath: (Tim Taylor) Church Coffee bar based, run by
a team of 5 volunteers including some postgrads. Tuesday night social event
followed by a Bible-study. Linked to a local church, as well as the undergrad
CUs and a local Chinese Christian Fellowship. Aimed predominantly at international
students but has a large postgrad attendance. Also has some individual
bible studies where appropriate. Originally started by Kirsten Wynn (ISCS),
it has in the past attracted au pairs and students of all descriptions.
Bournemouth: (Sue Burt) ``The Small World'', fellowship
of postgrad & undergrads, with a focus on I-students. Some British
undergrads on the team.
Cambridge: (Andy Lee) 5 Bible-studies on different
nights of the week, + an intro-to-Christianity VISA/Alpha course on Fridays.
CGS runs a large international student welcome programme at the beginning
of the year, with about 60 volunteers. There are events every night of
the week for about 10 days which puts us in contact with 300-400 students.
Throughout the year various follow-up events like food evenings, pudding
parties + speakers, weekends away etc... are organised on roughly a bi-weekly
basis during terms. From there come most contacts for the Bible-studies.
Events are organised by a CGS committee of about 10 people. A separate
committee is formed every year for the welcome programme (ISW). A council
of reference made up of 2 academics and one local ISCS staff worker help
(John Lister - member of council of reference) A history
of the CGS shows that its been around since the late 1980s, and doing more
or less the same then as now. There have been quite significant swings
in number of people on the committee and in the number of activities.
Exeter: (Melanie Griffiths) Started by Chaplaincy
in response to a student request. Continued chaplaincy leadership shared
with Dr. Mark Gant, lecturer in Spanish. Membership-mature students, post-grads,
international students and one or two staff. Bible study, social events,
occasional seminars involving Christian Lecturers, social action: Jubilee
2000 campaign and Fair Trade Fortnight. Links through Melanie with Singapore
Christian students Bible study group (Trini-G) and Globe Cafe-(internationals
cafe run largely under auspices of CU with involvement of a few people
from local churches). All three initiatives under the umbrella of the International
Students' Christian Fellowship. It's only a name really to indicate that
it's not just CU as there are various groups involved.
Goldsmiths: (Justus Omoyajowo) Chaplaincy based, called
``Graduate Fellowship'', meets weekly, started October 1999. Activities:
fellowship, Bible-studies, social events or videos of controversial issues
which are then discussed. Trying not to duplicate what the CU is doing,
trying to reach postgrads and mature undergrads.
Leeds: (Martin Buzza) ``International Club'' jointly
run by St. George's church and University Chaplaincy. Meets weekly in univ.
chaplaincy common room. Social events and optional Bible-study at the end.
Oxford: (David Hughes et al.) For 5 or 6 years there
has been a ``Graduate Christian Forum''(Joe Martin). Last summer some of
the students involved in that wanted to foster more community among Christian
postgrads and formed the ``Graduate Christian Network''. Currently there
are several prayer meetings for postgrads as well as a newsletter that
Where are the Christian postgrads? Why are Christian
postgrads so much less visible than their undergraduate counterparts? Partially
because they may be very profitably involved in church activities which
nevertheless take them away from the university. This seems particularly
true of British postgrads. But many others seem just to float a bit between
churches, especially if they are only here for a short amount of time,
or have a hard time fitting in (true of many international postgrads).
It was agreed that there are probably a lot more around than many people
postgrad relations? There are many Christian activities
that vie for a Christian postgrad's time and commitment: his/her local
church, the undergraduate CU (particularly if you were an undergrad at
the same university), the Chaplaincy, or other Christian groups. It may
be hard for a local church to see the value of releasing a keen Christian
postgrad into peer ministry together with Christians from other churches,
especially when the churches themselves are not very unified. There may
be mutual suspicion between various Christian groups on and off campus
and the university Chaplaincy. All these issues can be very vexing for
a postgrad who wants to reach out to fellow postgrads. More thought needs
to go into this as it is unreasonable to expect an individual postgrad
to solve the complex meta-issues involved, many of which have a long history.
What about faith-learning integration issues? Perhaps
the most visible way postgrad groups differ from undergrad groups is in
their emphasis on faith-learning integration issues. Christian postgrads
need to be challenged to discover how their faith affects the field in
which they are working. In this endeavour they need the support from other
Christian academics in their field, who might not be at the same university,
i.e. efforts in this direction should be both collective and nonlocal.
in Science (CIS) and Christian Students in Science (CSIS) can
help fulfill those roles on a national level for students in science related
fields. For students in the arts, where the need for faith-learning integration
is often felt more acutely, there are no comparable organizations know
Session III: Workshops
Workshop A: Starting a Group at University
Facilitated by Ard: (included a handout
on starting a campus Christian group'' )
II.A.1. General Issues Some things that were discussed
(in no particular order) were: To start, prayer is crucial. Try to find
a small group of like-minded people to fast and pray together. Look for
team members who are faithful. On the other hand people will be faithful
if there is something to be faithful to. Don't bite off more than you can
chew at the beginning, it might be difficult if you try to reach too many
people at once. Set out aims and priorities and then focus. Some models
will always be good for some things but not for others. There can be difficulties
if you're trying to reach British postgrads and international postgrads;
they may have different needs or interests. How to address this, especially
with weak or non-Christians in the group, is a difficult question. Could
it be that the differences in needs are split more along British-international
lines than along undergrad-postgrad lines? There are a fair number of Christian
postgrads who, when they come to a new university, go to the undergrad
CU, and may try to participate for a while. But often they start to feel
a bit out of place and start looking for fellowship elsewhere, sometimes
drifting around a bit. If a CU has a postgrad small group, those postgrads
could form its initial core.
ssues raised by growth: Crucial times for a group
can be: 1) when it needs to split, e.g. from one to two Bible study groups,
2) when a group embedded in an undergrad group needs to move out on its
own, 3) when an informal leadership structure based on pre-existing personal
connections needs to be formalized a bit more and opened up to newcomers.
These issues are often difficult, and it helps to have thought them through
church support PGs need the support from their
local church. But because some local church leaders may not have a good
overview of the postgrad world, it is important for the PG to help their
church leaders see the need. If you feel a burden to reach postgrads, share
it with your church leaders and ask for their support and also for release
into PG work. Some PGs may not be called to specific outreach to their
peers but instead to another section of the church and community. PG may
generally have fewer friends, so who can they evangelise?
III.A.2. Personal Issues What are the biggest barriers
to setting something up?
1. time: The number one reason Christian postgrads
don't get involved in ministry is time constraints, both real and perceived.
Courses are time-consuming. Some fear that starting a group will be too
much work. Some tips were to be sure to delegate, and realize that you
don't have the time to do everything, set realistic targets and start with
manageable events. UGs have regular holidays to recover, but PGs are around
outside of term as well. PG think in terms of months and years, its less
intense and PG groups may therefore be more loosely organised.
2. apathy: Need people to catch the vision of the
work and commit to its cause.
3. confidence: I-students in particular may lack
this being in a foreign country and struggling to fit into a new culture.
4. fears: Fear of being too involved in Christian
things, fear of getting burned out.
And finally, its people that matter, and not structures.
Different places will have different needs. The most important thing is
just to start. Its very rare that things start with a well defined plan
before hand, but it the Holy Spirit is inspiring it, different people will
come up with similar ideas. Usually it is someone responding to a perceived
need that God has put on their heart. From there things develop.
Workshop B: Balancing Needs
facilitated by Bartow: (summary by Stephen Childs)
BATH TT:Tim J Taylor; BRADFORD: HS: Haile-Selassie Rajamani;
CAMBRIDGE BW: Bartow Wylie; JL: John Lister; AB: Adrian Broadhurst; SC:
Stephen Childs; EXETER MG: Melanie Griffiths; MEG: Mark Gant; GOLDSMITHS
JO: Justus Akinwale Omoyajowo; SUTTON BONINGTON CO:Clara Ong (Sutton Bonington)l;
NOTTINGHAM TS: Tjeri Surjanto; OXFORD HE: Hemara Earl; DvW: Daniel von
Wachter; HP: Haein Park; MC: Michael Cartron; JM: Joe Martin UCL JZ: Jiancheng
Areas of PG ministry
Bartow began by presenting some possible areas of focus:
Other suggestions from the group were:
Support undergrad CUs (older brother role)
The discussion began by asking to what extent a PG group
can or should minister in all these areas. HE said that there should probably
be elements of all these things. SC said that there was a need to focus
on some things because of resource shortages. TT observed that it was important
to take account of what was already in place - there is no point in duplicating
existing ministry. DvW said that only the church as a whole can provide
all these things and BW agreed, suggesting that we shouldn't try to do
everything, as we are not a church.
MG said that the Exeter group is doing a little in all
these areas, but is still different from a church. JL asked whether members
of the group were also in churches. MG said that some were, but that some
don't really have any other Christian input. JL agreed that the situation
is different if there are no strong local churches and the university is
effectively a separate community.
JO described his role as chaplain to the university and
curate in a local church. He has a responsibility to build the local church,
but not all PGs want to take part in this - he still has a responsibility
to them as a chaplain. JL said that it was useful to distinguish between
church and chaplaincy roles. BW suggested that those groups based around
the chaplaincy would be more likely to resemble a church thatn those that
were led solely by PGs.
AB said that the resources of any group were its people
and so groups should be flexible and do what people are equipped for. BW
suggested JM in Oxford as an example - he focussed on F/L because it was
his particular interest.
BW then moved the discussion on by asking the question:
On what basis do we prioritise?
TT said that he felt community was a necessary starting
point. HE said that you need a basis for any community, and suggested prayer
as a starting point. SC said in any case prayer was necessary to build
a Christian community.
BW asked how it was possible to provide community if bible
study groups met separately? He suggested coming together for a common
meeting, and then splitting up into smaller groups. JL said that community
was a means to an end: evangelism. Christians can usually find fellowship
and teaching in churches. In the past prayer meetings have been more central
BW then asked who was actually running events on F/L?
MG (Exeter) and JM (Oxford) said that they were. They
had found that it can bring in those who are on the fringes and those with
specific interests and problems. JM said that he viewed this as pre-evangelism
and that there was not always a forum for this in the church.
JL said that the reason CGS had stepped back from F/L
in the past was the collapse of the committee and the resulting lack of
resources (people!). Also that other groups (e.g. Christians in Science)
DvW suggested two reasons for the importance of F/L: 1)
It's a good starting point in academic environments. 2) It meets people's
needs (answers specific questions they may have). He also noted that this
works better in a general group (rather than a church?)
JO added that Jiancheng came to faith through thinking
about his research. HP said that OGF has discussions and informal chat
after their talks and that this had proved helpful. JL asked whether people
ended up in church or in BSGs as a result of these events. DvW and HE said
that OICCU or St. Ebbe's catered for those wishing to take the next step.
MC said that it was important to know what people expected.
He has often found that talks are too high-powered. He has been able to
find fellowship and BS in church and student groups, whereas he sees the
OGF as providing mainly apologetics and evangelism. SC added that sometimes
F/L talks can miss the point of Christianity - Jesus! Making the links
between apologetics and the gospel is important.
JL said that they had found in the past that high-profile
talks and speakers were not necessarily helpful in the long term. He said
that CGS had begun some more F/L oriented talks: pudding parties with a
speaker. He noted that apologetics can be more successful with Western
students and that different people need different routes in to Christianity.
MG said that they had had success using lecturers to give
talks as students would come to hear their lecturers speak. The format
of their events included both a panel discussion and discussion in smaller
BW asked whether PGs are being encouraged in spiritual
growth, and if so where?
JM said that house-groups at church were good for married
PGs. Co said she attended integrated (UG/PG?) groups and also was in a
prayer pair. TD said that he runs a BSG for Chinese people. It is at a
basic level and run on the "learning together" model. He says that Christians
are growing by reaching out. Leaders are learning as much or more than
they are teaching.
BW said that being too needy for spiritual nourishment
can lead to inward-looking groups. But we do need teaching - the churches
should support leadership of PG groups. SC expressed his frustration with
the churches lack of understanding of PG work - they really get behind
UG CU leaders. HE agreed with this, and said that she had written a letter
to a number of churches (some replied). She said that UG CUs were seen
as the missionary wing of the local church to students and that PG groups
should perform the same role for PGs.
BW asked what were the things that PGs could do better
that local churches.
MG said that the inter-denominational nature of such groups
provided richness. It also meant that people's backgrounds were not as
important. BW said that PG groups could provide both evangelism (for non-Christians)
and outreach (for weak/nominal Christians) as they were non-threatening.
JO said that it shouldn't be church leaders doing all
the work, but the whole church body. MEG said that sometimes spiritual
growth can occur better in a PG group than in a church. BW said that an
example of this might be if a student is in a family-oriented church that
doesn't really cater for them.
AB said that rotating leaders of BSGs provided a chance
to participate and learn. Others agreed that this had been helpful for
JL asked what the needs of the non-Christian community
had, saying that they were not going to be reached wither by churches or
UG CUs. BW suggested that a church leader might say: "Our PGs should be
bringing their PG friends to our church". MC said that one church can't
expect to represent a whole university. TS said it was logistically more
efficient for churches to support PGs in their work and to use their own
resources for other things.
BW said that PGs were more effective at international
outreach. Many churches are culturally very British whereas the PG community
is already international and so more welcoming.
HE said that people in a group should share the same aims
and the same understandig of the Bible as the Word of God. This was necessary
if the witness was to remain consistent over time. BW said that historical
memory was useful e.g. external friends such as lecturers, ISCS workers,
etc. Also that there should be an understanding that if some one was just
in it for their own growth, they would be better off in a church.
TT asked whether there was a need for two sets of groups.
JL said that the Cambridge BSGs had a good mix of mature and not so mature
Christians and that all the participants learnt from each other. AB asked
whether others felt that there was an inherent limit to the depth to which
a peer-peer group could go in its study.
JL said that BSGs were run explicitly as Christian BSes.
Non-Christians came to see Christians discussing. He added that BSGs needed
to keep grounded - we shouldn't give in to the temptation to indulge ourselves
on theological niceties.
BW said that people must be linked to churches - eventually
we hope that people will end up there.
The session ended due to time running out. I'm sorry for
the fragmented nature of these notes, but I think they capture the spirit
of the discussion. If anyone feels that have been left out or misrepresented,
please let me (Stephen Childs firstname.lastname@example.org) know.
Session IV: Issues Faced by Postgrads
In small groups.
Some issues that were discussed and prayed over were:
What are some major issues postgrads face? Loneliness,
time management, financial and housing issues, workload, balancing work
and leisure, work is never finished, guilt over taking time off, identity
(student v.s. work) family issues (isolated spouses, marriage strains),
future (jobs, stay in UK, go abroad?), relationship to supervisor, relationships
with opposite sex, academic/emotional interface, competitiveness, expectations
from family, perfectionism, ambition and dashed ambition; disillusionment.
What are some issues specific to Christian postgrads?
Time management: competing tugs for time from church, work, friends etc...
Intellectual issues: how do I integrate my academic work with my faith?
May be more acutely felt by arts students. Apologetic issues: how do I
reach my friends who sometimes have very sophisticated arguments against
Session V: Outline of a Position Paper
We agreed to write a longer position paper: Ministering
to Postgrads in the UK , which hopefully would be finished by the summer.
The audience would be anyone who wants to minister to postgrads, i.e. Christian
postgrads, Churches, Chaplains, Christians staff workers etc ...
As a rough outline we proposed:
The people in bracwww-theors provisionally offered to help write
a section. There is still plenty of room for others to participate! Ard
will edit and put everything together into one document.
I. Overview of the postgraduate world in the UK
II. Needs of postgrads (Tim Taylor and co.)
postgrad relations? (Hemara Earl, Melanie Griffiths and co..)
IV. How to start a group (Andy Lee and co); Models of groups
V. Different types of activities to reach postgrads.
A few proposed appendices are:
1) What is happening in the country now (participants to write
2) Biblical Principles for postgrad ministry (Douglas Estes)
3) What should priorities be? (David Bacon and Stephen Childs)
4) Useful resources
- The day ended with a lovely meal put on by our top-class
catering team: Rutsuko Ito, Soulia Pourabdi, Wendy Chan, Lizzie Inglessi
and Lina Tahan - many thanks to you!!
Get the summary in different formats (rtf, Word97,postscript)
(NOTE: Other formats don't have ``Some thoughts
on starting a campus Christian group'' )