Helping When Their Knees Knock: Equipping Students to Reach Professors

Writing a CCO column for the immediate post-Jubilee conference
season is almost as daunting as writing the pre-conference one. I considered
just rerunning the February review of three books–the one on a spirituality
of eating, the coffee-flavored one for women on personal and interpersonal
growth, and the Chuck Smith title, which serves as a basic guide to postmodernism–as they
could serve as practical resources for following up and mentoring those
whose spirits are still soaring from Jubilee. I say this every March,
but it bears repeating: ask your student friends what books they purchased
at Jubilee (or which ones they looked at but couldn’t afford). Talk through
not just the Big Epiphanies, but the baby steps that some students can
be walked through as they think more deeply about their vocations, their
callings, their careers. Look at the books they bought and remind them
to read “Ëœem. Might as well get their money’s worth.

After a fascinating conversation with a Penn State student,
it dawns on me again that the whole-life discipleship, Christian scholarship,
thinking Christianly about higher ed, developing a biblically-shaped vision
of vocation, Christ-acoss-the-curriculum thing really gives young Christian
students an advantage in witnessing effectively to their professors–certainly
an advantage over those who are not aware of the intellectual basis and
integral nature of the gospel.

Every campus minister reading this knows of at least one
earnest but clueless kid who mouthed off unwisely to a hostile professor.
And, most likely, we’ve known students who have attempted a legitimate
dialogue about Christian perspectives in the classroom, only to be rebuffed,
feeling not quite persecuted, but not quite effective either.

You know the drill. Have students form study groups by major.
Listen to Jubilee workshop tapes. Go through key books in their discipline.
Study the last chapter of Sire’s Discipleship
of the Mind
(you recall the great appendix, giving guidelines
for students at secular colleges). Use the Walsh & Middleton article which
I’ve passed out at summer training (and at OCBP) entitled “How to Think
Your Way Through College.” Review the chapter called “Writing for Dr.
Pagan” in the wonderful A Heart for Truth.
Invite students, like J.S. Bach, to sign their work Soli De Gloria
and help them do it with integrity.

But here is another idea: challenge students
to show
this bibliography
to their favorite professors, as well as any other
campus staff that they’ve heard attend church. (You can offer to go with
them if their knees start knocking at the very thought.) Some Christian
faculty–perhaps due to the forces of secularization in their own
experiences of getting their own advanced degrees, perhaps due to a less
than friendly environment in their department–have not really read
much about their jobs as professors. They just might find such a notion
novel and rather appealing.

In other words, just as you invite and encourage (and cajole)
students to read Christianly in their own areas of academic interest,
they can do the same to their profs. Besides the option of using parts
of the discipline-specific bibliography passed out at January Staff Seminar
for professors (which also appears on the JubileeNow
Web site, by the way) you could start with this more general list of books
about being a Christian professor in academia.

Although the following descriptions were
written for professors at a Presbyterian-related liberal arts college,
I think the texts are so reliably interesting and of such academic caliber
that nearly any prof would find it fascinating. It will wow them to think
that their students have access to such a list. And if you–academically-marginalized,
pigeon-holed, religious counselor that you are–show them that you
are encouraging students to take their studies seriously, professors just
might rise up and call you blessed in their sight. (Or, if they are not
inclined to such exclamations of biblical proportions, maybe they’ll at
least say, “Hmmmmm, this looks pretty interesting.”) Which is most likely
a better response than most tracts one might use to evangelize college

So, print out this
. Pass it out to your students to give to their friendly professors
(and maybe even to the not-so-friendly ones). Let one of the fruits of
the Jubilee conference be that evangelical Christians in the tri-state
area became agents and conduits of God to bring college professors to
Himself, and that they also might learn more of what it means to honor
Him in all that they dofor the good of the
teachers, for the good of the campus, for the good of the students, for
the reformation of scholarship, and for the coming of the Kingdom. For
the glory of the name of the Lord!