“Leave your comfortable, safe, secure life for the chance to live an extraordinary life, full of risk, stepping out into the unknown. I will be with you throughout it all, and as you go where I send you, the world will be changed forever!”
A thoughtful quiet filled the room. At this Bible study, Trevor Kouritzin, a (post)graduate student at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, had just paraphrased God’s invitation to Abram (Genesis 12). Now, the dozen graduate students were processing what it meant for them to follow God in the risky places where they feel called.
“Graduate students face very specific challenges,” says Alan Chettle, staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Canada. He notes how most are expected to work hours far beyond what is reasonable. And, despite their great achievements (the University of Alberta is one of Canada’s top teaching and research institutions), many still struggle with imposter syndrome – the anxious belief that one’s success is undeserved or unrelated to one’s efforts or skill.
Having studied for a Master’s and PhD, Alan can identify with their pressures and offers spiritual direction on what rest and self-worth look like from a biblical perspective. He has also been able to share from his own experiences of talking about his faith as a graduate student. After one Bible study, he received a text message from Sarah, a PhD candidate in Human Nutrition: “These Bible studies have really ministered to my spirit… If we are present and available, God will open doors to share.”
Evangelism is a challenge for graduate students: in contrast to the large numberof undergraduates who have wide social interactions, they spend much of their time in labs or offices, behind locked doors. Yet this can have an upside: smaller research communities present an opportunity to forge deeper relationships and build the trust needed for any talk of faith.
Indeed, speaking about Jesus is one of the risky places that the graduate student group have felt called to embrace despite feeling ill-equipped to speak—and anxious about how they might be perceived. Therefore Alan, along with three student leaders, will guide the group through some InterVarsity/USA training materials (which have been adapted for the Canadian context) in the coming weeks.
Here is a handful of students taking part in an ordinary campus Bible study. But this is where God is doing business – calling ‘the brightest and the best’ to step out and change the world.
- Give thanks for these formative Bible studies and pray for the graduate students at the University of Alberta – and others around the world – as they work through issues of culture (many are international students), rest, and self-worth.
- Give thanks for Alan and all IFES national movement staff who work with graduate students. Pray that they will be able to build deep and spiritually supportive relationships despite the time pressures faced by students.
- Pray that IFES relationships and resources will help graduate students effectively integrate their faith with their study and research, bringing Christ’s lordship and blessing to the cutting edgeof humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, and engineering.
You can find out about graduate student ministry in Europe here.