In my previous post I vlogged about building grad student fellowships from the ground up, one pair of students at a time. After following up 16 students from orientation there are six students eager to explore Spiritual Friendship in tiny groups of two! The challenge is to find a corner and meet every week. A corner, according to spiritual formation author Mindy Caliguire, is a space and a place where the quiet business of connecting with another can take place.
Here’s me and my first pair, Emma and Mara. I had coffee with each of them individually – getting to know their story, sounding them out on the idea of starting a Spiritual Friendship. Once I had a sense for their personalities, I prayed and match-made my way through my contacts. This was the launch – a 7 minute zoom call to introduce them to each other, cover a few guidelines and have them find their corner!
Over the next month, I’m hoping to launch a total of four Spiritual Friendship pairs at Creighton. I’ll be checking in with them, sending them helpful ideas for their time together each week. 30 minutes to land, listen and encourage one another. We’ll see how this goes. Stay tuned for a new blog my team and I are developing to resource students jumping into this. Pray for me to finish some last minute match-making and for my team as we wade through some terrific soul-care resources on Spiritual Friendship. If you’ve heard of this idea before and know of a great book or website, email me below and give me the name of it! Our team will tear through it and see what can be curated for our students.
Is this thing just a Creighton thing? I seriously hope not. I’m piloting it here, but there are at least 4 other schools in my area with GFM staff interested in developing the model. We’ll keep you posted! Thanks for praying.
Coming to you this time via video. The link under the image above will take you there at YouTube. Things on campuses are starting up for me and the rest of my GFM colleagues. I would love it if you could take 11 minutes to watch this update and pray for us on campus during the early weeks of the new term.
I am working on following up a number of contacts from the info table I talked about in the video. My goal this fall is to connect with new and returning students and develop a network of Spiritual Friendship pairs and triads. Getting students connected this way helps build a sense of investment in each other and teamwork in their spiritual lives. My plan is to also host a Second Saturday brunch at my place where these pairs and triads can meet up.
Thanks for watching and thanks for your prayers. I bet I’ll be back later this fall with some encouraging stories!
Pete Williamson spent some time with our Region sharing what he and his team are learning about evangelism. Pete is a team leader for GFM at Harvard University. He shared stories and learnings from ministry among graduate students. He began by affirming what everyone who’s been in GFM for 10 minutes knows – undergraduate student evangelism is just in another world from our context. We’re positioned right at that cusp of life when students are barely no longer adolescents, but definitely contending in a fully adult life context. Theirs is a world of intense life pressures (more at stake academically, much more complex family situations involving in many cases marriage and young children, increased demands from extended family). On top of all that, much steeper financial burdens.
If the Gospel they first placed their faith in as an adolescent doesn’t have the staying power that increased academic and socio-economic pressures require, that’s when small gospel shows its true colors. They either go radio-silence with their faith or give it up altogether. The small gospel (as Pete calls it) is what you’re left with when you keep trying to push your way through post-adolescence without fully adult faith. The Big Gospel is what happens when ones faith “keeps up” with life’s unrelenting demands. Here’s how Pete outlined it. I encourage you to sit with the You-Tube video for a few minutes to hear him out (fast forward to about half way).
True – confident in the fact that the Gospel is not true because we sincerely believe it to be true. True, because it is and true as it contends in a pluralistic culture. Real – as opposed to artificial, synthetic, or irrelevant. Good – in that the Gospel leads us to affirm and demonstrate the goodness of God and the way of living Jesus leads us to. Beautiful – in the sense that Christianity is aesthetically attractive. Christian community these days can have an image problem because of many glaring failures amidst certain of it’s highly visible representatives (see the discussion below). Yet, Christian community in it’s most authentic and humble expression should be unique, attractive and beautiful even to outsiders who have seen enough repulsive counterexamples. Lastly, Healthy – Christianity should help make people well. It should address our sicknesses and weaknesses be they physical, emotional, mental, social or moral.
A conversation I got to facilitate focused on current challenges to evangelistic mission in the University. We identified two in particular. I got to lead the one on difficulties doing evangelism given the brokenness and failures in the church. Here’s the description:
Evangelism and the Broken Church. The church has had many stories of moral failure come to light, its deeply divided, and is tainted by racism. When we interact with unbelievers and former believers, how do we respond to those who say, “I want nothing to do with the church?” How does the current public image of the church affect your view of evangelism?
We did a backwards SWOT analysis! We talked first of all about the threat posed by broken and misguided church leadership. Next we wondered, “Does this moment of public failure actually point to an opportunity for the Gospel?” Finally we tried to suggest some ways forward and recommend a few resources. You can download and read the table discussion notes. Great book and website recommendations down at the bottom of the PDF.