Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
Another excellent way to reach out to our non-Christian faculty and staff colleagues is through sponsoring a lecture or lectures by outstanding Christian speakers. Experience with this approach has shown there are generally a number of topics that are practically guaranteed to draw a crowd on college and university campuses. And there is a small but growing pool of men and women who are gifted in addressing these topics in public forums. Christian Leadership Ministries maintains a complete list of speakers available for this type of outreach; I will mention a few here:
Of course, there are numerous other speakers and topics that work well for this particular format, these speakers are some of the most popular and effective on the Christian Leadership Ministries circuit. Should you decide to sponsor a lecture or a series of lectures, you would need to make all arrangements by contacting the speaker directly.
When groups of Christian professors and staff do use the lecture or lecture series format approach to reach out to colleagues, follow-up is a key issue and perhaps more time-consuming than all the arrangements that must be done to bring the speaker to campus. Thus, if you should plan to use this approach, it is suggested that you devote careful attention to follow-up activities and have a number of your people trained and ready to carry out this task. You should plan to use comment cards similar to those described in the Favorite Faculty Events chapter and to have the host or Master of Ceremonies ask the audience at the conclusion to fill out the cards giving name, address and comments relating to the talk. Several days after the lecture, you should attempt to personally contact each person who attended. If the lecture attracted a substantial number of students, the local Christian student ministries would probably be happy to follow-up student contacts for you. You should arrange for this possibility in advance of the lecture.
One option with lecture(s) is to have sponsorship by one or more academic departments. We are seeing more and more of this type of arrangement when our lecturers address topics that relate directly to academic disciplines. One thing that academic department sponsorship does for you is to buy credibility. If, for example, you bring in Phillip Johnson to lecture on his book, Darwin on Trial, and the biology department co-sponsors the talk, you automatically have bumped the credibility of the lecture to a higher level than if the lecture was sponsored by the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship alone. Another really nice thing about doing a lecture jointly with an academic department is that the department will usually pick up some, if not all, of the costs involved with bringing the speaker to campus, including publicity, travel expenses, honorarium, and any facility costs involved. Obviously, we need to become much more intentional in this regard. One wonders how long academic departments will continue to work as allies in our efforts; I suspect that as long as our speakers are lecturing on topics that are in the mainstream of academic pursuits, we will have this opportunity.
One interesting variation on the lecture theme that has proven quite effective on a few campuses is the idea of a debate. The Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship at the University of Minnesota is now co-sponsoring an annual debate with the atheists and humanists association on the subject "Does God Exist?" In January 1996, I attended the first debate which drew a standing room only crowd of more than 400 in an auditorium designed to seat about 300; probably 200 people were turned away for lack of seats. This year, the event drew 950 people! About 15 percent of those attending requested information about the Christian ministries that sponsored the event. As co-sponsor of the event, the atheist/humanist association underwrote most of the funding for the debate. Now, this is what I call effective. When you can get the opposing forces to underwrite your ministry costs, you are doing something right.
I’ve always thought it strange that probably the No. 1 way we as Christian professors and staff reach out to colleagues is to invite them to something at church. The last place in the world a non-Christian wants to go is church. Inviting colleagues to a lecture or debate on a topic of general interest to academics is a much more effective way of reaching them for the Savior. There will be plenty of opportunity to get them involved in church after they meet Jesus.
© Copyright 1997, Joseph McRae Mellichamp
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