“These students and IV staff humble me because of their love for Christ and their energy and excitement to reach others. They are busy doing his work daily in a challenging time. And they are truly amazing.” —An InterVarsity Faculty Advisor
As Director of Faculty Ministry for InterVarsity, I get to meet some pretty amazing people. Many of them serve as faculty advisors to our InterVarsity ministries on campuses across the country. As faculty, they live busy lives with many demands, but it is obvious that the majority of them love their jobs, and love you, and the students in your chapter. Many of them think you are pretty amazing.
Just a few weeks ago our leadership team for Faculty Ministry took the list of faculty advisors (from the chapter affiliation database) and prayed for each of them by name. It was a powerful experience for us as we prayed for God’s encouragement, strengthening and joy into the lives of these faculty advisors—hundreds of them across the country. As often happens in prayer, we—the ones praying—received a blessing. Each of us deeply sensed God’s joy and pleasure for those we were lifting up in prayer. Wanting to share this joy, I sent an email out to these faculty advisors, thanking them for their willingness to serve and letting them know we had prayed for them. I figured I would probably hear back from a few. I was mistaken. I was honestly not ready for the deluge of emails that filled my inbox after sending out that message. And though these emails were each unique, from unique individuals, two themes immediately stood out:
- So many faculty advisors enjoy their role, and think the world of you, the students, and the ministry you are engaged in on campus. Here are just a few of the quotes that express this appreciation and love:
- “I love working with our InterVarsity group—they're a great bunch.”
- “It [serving as faculty advisor] is my pleasure, and such a blessing for me!”
- “It is a pleasure and a delight to work with these students and staff.”
- “The InterVarsity staff and student leaders are doing wonderful ministry.”
- “They [students and staff] are bravely taking on important and controversial topics on campus. I’m very proud of them.”
- They are deeply grateful to know that someone is praying for them. This was seen in some form of the following—over and over again—in their emails:
- “I truly appreciate your kind words and prayer.”
- For some in particular, knowing that others were praying for them could not have come at a better time: “I am completely humbled—and grateful—at receiving this email, Craig. It could not have come at a more appropriate time. I had reached a point where I was not sure I could be an effective faculty advisor to our local group because of my workload, and it was just one more responsibility added to the mix of an already stressful schedule. I have felt my testimony and ability to be any kind of Christian witness becoming affected, and that is not a good place to be. But the Lord’s timing is perfect, and to be aware of the fact that others are actually praying for Christian ministries on campus—for we faculty advisors, in particular—just hit to my heart, and it was humbling. Thank you so much.”
After reading this last email, I was reminded again of the power of prayer and encouragement in our lives as Christ followers. In the letters written by the apostle Paul, he is constantly both giving thanks for those to whom he is writing and letting them know he is always in prayer for them. A great example of this is found in the opening to his letter to the church at Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5a).
What can seem to us like throw away comments before he gets to the “meat” or “important” topics in his letters, I am certain were anything but for Paul. He knew the Christian life included hardship and challenges, thus his call as a minister of the gospel first and foremost meant giving thanks, encouragement and praying for those who were co-laborers with him in the gospel. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us, “let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25b)—not as a mere suggestion, but because we are in desperate need of it as Christ followers in this world.
I hear from many IV staff that even the thought of reaching out to faculty can feel intimidating. I get that. They are smart, busy and it is hard to know if your gesture to connect with them will be welcomed or not. Let me suggest starting with what I learned once again through this experience of praying for our faculty advisors across the country. Reach out in a spirit of gratitude, encouragement and prayer. I hope what I have shared is an encouragement to you in this way. Many faculty and administrators who willingly serve our chapters as advisors wrestle like the rest of us with periods of discouragement and feeling isolated, along with times of joy and knowing they are called by God to their roles on campus. Some of them are longing to hear from you (as one put it, “I’m happy to serve in this way, but embarrassingly little is asked of me. Still, I appreciate your kind words and certainly need the prayer support!”). As you do, you may be pleasantly surprised—as I was—with how welcomed that encouragement is received.
I believe that as you commit to this, you will find the encouragement comes back to you. There truly are some amazing faculty advisors serving our chapters, who think you are pretty amazing too. Yet, like the apostle Paul always reminded his readers, the greatest encouragement is reminding each other of how amazing our God is: for he is the one who has called us to campus and will be faithful to his purposes. With that foundation for our thanks and prayers, we will each experience the most important encouragement of all.