Engaging the University
"Christ is already on campus – at research frontiers, in the seminar rooms, in the labs, in the library – wherever truth is discovered, wherever justice is being advanced, wherever beauty is being created." Vinoth Ramachandra, IFES Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement
All Christian students and faculty are called to live out the truth and relevance of the gospel in all areas of university life and policy. The Christian mission in the university involves the day-by-day engagement with the whole life of the university by Christians who study, work or live on campus.
Engaging the university is an incarnational and missional lifestyle where students and faculty learn to think biblically about all arenas in the university. It includes teaching, research, disciplinary debates and discussions about the big issues facing universities today.
As an IFES ministry, Engaging the University promotes holistic encounters with the university and empowers Christians and others on university campuses to grapple with the social, cultural and political challenges they face in their national contexts throughout the world.
Aims and activities
The aims of Engaging the University include:
- Bringing Christian character and biblical understandings to bear on the various academic disciplines, conversations and research agendas that constitute the university.
- Helping make universities more just and humane institutions that contribute towards the flourishing of human beings.
- Nurturing a vision for Christian scholarship in the current student generation.
- Helping and encouraging national movements to embrace engaging the university as a central aspect of their ministry.
Conversations on the subject of engaging the university spread via multiple international networks, such as an email listserve, a Facebook group and the special Faculty and Research Students’ Track at World Assembly 2015. The ministry also includes regional and national seminars, publications, talks and workshops. These conversations testify to the new vision of a richer contribution by Christians to the university, science and scholarship.
All Christians in universities need to identify big issues, questions and themes on which to engage the university. The leaders of Engaging the University are urging renewed attention to such fundamental questions as “How do we develop a Christian mind in the 21st century university?” and “How should Christians conceive of the university in the 21st century?” IFES faculty and advanced graduate students point to the diverse ways in which God’s presence can be seen in the research frontiers of the university and the benefits of bringing our biblical understandings into creative engagement with the ideas of the university.
An introductory module on engaging the university is now available as an e-learning course. The first course will be launching at the beginning of August.
What does it mean to ‘engage the university’? Why should we do it? How can we engage the university? This module is designed to help you think through these questions.
- The University and Me
- Biblical Inspirers
- A Christian Perspective on the University
What is our model for student ministry? How will it impact our personal and communal engagement with the university? This second part of our Introduction to Engaging the University will answer these and other questions.
- Models for Engaging the University
- Engaging the University Personally
- Engaging as a Community
If you are interested in taking the course, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Engaging the University: around the world
AFES Australia: Draft, Write and Publish events
Draft brings together researchers and university staff from all stages of their academic career to present on the relationship between their Christian faith and their academic life and research. Write is the annual AFES national faith and research weekend event. It is followed by a three-day, guided academic writing workshop called Publish. All three events are organised by the Simeon Network, a ministry of AFES.
UESI India: intensive summer study
For four years now, UESI-Delhi has organised summer theology courses called Intensive Summer Study. The purpose of the school is to help people go beyond the Sunday school understanding of Christ and his mission and explore the true meaning of existence and life in all its fullness. Read more from the official blog here: issjournals2014.wordpress.com
ABUB Brazil: Literary Forum
In May 2017, ABUB Brazil, organised a forum to explore the Christian themes in the fictional works of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. The forum offered a varied programme of lectures, debates, panel discussions and workshops, giving people different ways to engage with the literature. Two of the talks were entitled:
- We are feeling terribly afraid, but we’ll walk by your side: the power of friendship in Tolkien
- Theology and fantastic literature: redemption in the Cosmic Trilogy of CS Lewis
InterVarsity USA: Passion Talks
The Passion Talks started in 2013 in the Bay Area, bringing together the Christian Graduate Fellowships from Stanford, Berkley and UC Santa Cruz. A series of short talks where each speaker gives a talk about their work, faith and dreams, explaining how their faith impacts their passions and how their passions inform their faith. Learn more here: passiontalks.wordpress.com/about
GEU Guatemala: Art Festival for Life
In a country with high rates of violence, the GEU group in the Universidad de San Carlos decided to hold a festival to celebrate the opposite: life and justice. Their first art festival was held in 2013 and they are planning another in May 2018. Activities will include seminars to explore the relevance of the gospel to topics such as sexuality and climate change. The group also plan to develop a music album and paint a mural to promote life and good living.
SLEFES Sierra Leone: Campus Engagement Movie
A group of SLEFES students at Njala University have acted, directed and produced a film based on a previously successful SLEFES play called, “Campus Life: Christ Makes the Difference”. The film aims to both encourage Christians in their walk with God on campus, and reach non-believers with the gospel.
CCX Ukraine: mission weeks
This year, CCX Ukraine held mission weeks in Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv and Pereyaslav. Each week involved public discussions, debates and seminars, bringing together Christian intellectuals, professors and students to engage with the university around issues Christianity and science. The events created a platform for intellectual engagement with contemporary issues of reason and faith to challenge non-believers to reconsider their prejudices about Christianity.
Big Issues in the University
IFES has launched a special project, with partial funding from the John Templeton Foundation, called Big Issues in the University. The project aims to help students and faculty better integrate their Christian and academic lives and engage the whole university.
The first phase of the project is to research how students and faculty already engage with their universities, and what that looks like in different parts of the world. The project will assess these activities and evaluate the resources (people, networks, activities, study materials) needed to expand them, with an emphasis on learning together about the big issues and big questions in universities.
A widespread survey will be conducted through our student movements, and consultations held in six IFES regions. Through these activities, we hope to discover how IFES can better serve and resource people to engage with their academic disciplines and institutions. Several study guides will also be written, and modules on salient topics identified through the research.
The Big Issues in the University project in its current phase runs from March 2017 to August 2018.
Find out more:
- Ross McKenzie’s introduction to the Big Issues project.
- A report on three of the regional consultations that took place in 2017.
Vinoth Ramachandra – Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement
Vinoth was born in Sri Lanka. He holds both bachelors and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of London. Instead of pursuing an academic career, he returned to Sri Lanka in 1980 and helped to develop a Christian university ministry in that country. In 1987 he was invited to serve as the South Asia Regional Secretary, a post he held until 2001.He currently serves as IFES Secretary for Dialogue & Social Engagement. An Anglican lay-theologian, writer, teacher and human rights advocate, he combines multiple interests in his international work with IFES. He is the author of several essays, articles and books including The Message of Mission (2003), Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues that Shape Our World (2008) and Church and Mission in the New Asia (2009).
Vinoth also blogs at vinothramachandra.wordpress.com
Big Issues in the University: project team
The Big Issues in the University project is led by Professor Ross McKenzie, an Australian physicist with a long involvement with IFES movements. Ross blogs at revelation4-11.blogspot.co.uk
If you would like to learn more about this project please email Helena Worrall, the Project Administrator: email@example.com
Regional consultations and workshops are planned for the upcoming months. The aim is to make significant progress before World Assembly in 2019 and give opportunities to student, staff and academics worldwide to learn from each other and share ideas, best practices and inputs on how to best engage their universities in a wise manner.
Support this ministry
This strategic work depends on the prayerful support and financial gifts of our supporters.
Here are some ways you can pray for this ministry:
- for students to grasp the far-reaching connections between their disciplines and their faith;
- for students to learn how to engage the whole university outside of their regular Bible-study and other meetings;
- for staff members to be able to identify key students and graduates who will in turn be impacted by the vision of engaging the whole university, adapt it to local contexts and pass it on;
- for national movements to see how they can make Engaging the University fully a part of their ministries;
- for academics and all Christians active within the walls of universities to have the courage to bring their faith to bear upon their research, their teaching and their commitments in the academy on a daily basis.
Please also consider making a one-time or regular gift to support this ministry.
Engaging the University presentation by Timothée Joset
Introduction to Engaging the University by Vinoth Ramachandra
An introductory bibliography on Engaging the University (work in progress, watch for updates)
Engaging the University playlist on YouTube
Two talks on "God and Natural Evil" and "Robotics and Artificial Intelligence", given by Vinoth Ramachandra at the Faraday Institute Summer School, Cambridge, UK, July 2016