Postgrad Ministry Idea:
Weekends Away for PhD Students
Dr Natalie Laub
Tell us a bit about postgraduate ministry in IFES Germany and your involvement in it.
Postgraduate ministry in IFES Germany started around 25 years ago. Since then, PhD students have been meeting once a year for a weekend away. The aim of these gatherings is to equip PhD students both for their work and for their spiritual life. Fellowship and mutual encouragement also play an important role.
I went to one of these weekends soon after I had started my PhD. It was an extremely helpful and encouraging time for me. In 2015, I joined the team which is responsible for the organization of these weekends as I wanted to pass on this great opportunity of encouragement to following generations of PhD students. For some years I have now been responsible for this organizing committee.
In the weekend away for PhD students you seek to equip Christian postgraduates for their everyday work in university. Can you give some concrete examples of how you do this?
On Friday evening, we usually reflect on the different phases of a PhD, starting from uncertainty at the beginning, followed by great ideas, disappointments and times of enormous productivity until the final sprint. We also discuss the spiritual challenges that come with each of these different phases. This is a good opportunity to get to know each other better, to share common experiences and to encourage each other.
For Saturday mornings we invite a keynote speaker either for a more theological topic (such as truth and truthfulness, faith and reason, approaching your field of research with a Christian mind) or a more practical/pastoral one (growing in your personality, coping with crises and conflicts, developing a vision for your life, living thankfully, personal identity).
Apart from that, we have an extensive time for fellowship before we close on Sunday with a service.
What topics have you covered in the weekends away that would be worth discussing in a postgraduate group setting?
Apart from any specific topic, I think time for fellowship and mutual encouragement is extremely valuable and helpful. In addition to that, both the aspect of bringing together faith and your field of research, as well as growing in your personality could be suitable for postgraduate groups.