First aid for postgrads

This week, I’m taking a look at another initiative concerned with Christian scholarship.

Grad Resources has a unique model for engaging with the university.  Based in the USA, it has a telephone helpline dedicated to PhD students in moments of crisis, or who feel a need for anonymous support.  The National Grad Crisis Line (freephone
1.800.GRAD.HLP) receives hundreds of calls a month, apparently helping many postgraduate students avoid despair, self-harm and even suicide.

That’s one end of the work of this 24-year-old organisation.  Many campuses are keen to promote the Crisis Line for the well-being of their students, perhaps recognising that it’s a service that their own counselling services don’t do so well.  Beyond this, Grad Resources helps students find support on issues like time and money management, stress and thesis-writing, health and relationships. Some universities and groups want to host seminars on such topics offered by Grad Resources staff. So the organisation is respected and welcomed onto campuses around the country.

But look a little further on the web site and you can find pages like this. As Christians, we don’t expect people to know complete fulfilment while being lost in sin. Rather, we recognise that Jesus Christ brings healing from sin and its effects – already in this life, as well as the full salvation to come at the Resurrection. So why not offer resources to help students think about their worldview, the state of their soul, their standing before the Creator – in short, why not find appropriate ways to share the Gospel?

Grad Resources goes further still. The Kingdom of God, of course, is not a head-count of Christians – it’s more than bums on seats at Sunday worship! The exposure of Grad Resources in universities puts it in a unique position to connect with existing Christian postgrads. If people like them – and us – are not being disobedient to God by doing academic work, then we surely need the help of other faithful, mature Christians to explore what God is calling us to do.  So Grad Resources staff are on the lookout for Christian faculty members and students who can be put in touch for support, mentoring and mutual encouragement. And they provide special resources for groups of Christian students to use in discussions about Christian scholarship, vocation, apologetics, etc. – which is just what FiSch wants to encourage.

I first came to meet Nick Repak, Director of Grad Resources, because of this shared interest – and because Nick wanted to explore how this “first aid” model might work in the UK and Europe. Is any other Christian group offering pastoral care and counselling as a doorway to evangelism and intellectual stimulus? I wonder if our readers have any thoughts…

Meanwhile, students anywhere in the world can now call the Grad Crisis Line via Skype: just select the USA and dial 800-472-3457.

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