13 Steps to Starting a Fellowship

Fellowship is essential for Christian graduate students, professional-school students, and faculty. Meeting regularly with like-minded people facing similar challenges encourages us to remain faithful in our calling as Christian academics and professionals. As we learn and grow together, we are transformed into Christ’s image and sharpened for witness and service.

But what if you can’t find such a fellowship on your campus? Is God calling you to take a step in faith to start a group? If He is and you are wondering how to begin, here are 13 Steps to Starting a Fellowship from InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries. May God bless and multiply your efforts!

Step 1: Pray

Ask God to lead you to others with a heart to see a fellowship of graduate students form on your campus.

Step 2: Connect to Other Christians

Ask undergraduate InterVarsity staff or local pastors if they know of any Christian faculty, graduate students, or other campus ministers on your campus.

Step 3: Develop a Prayer Partnership

When you have found at least one other graduate student or faculty member with a similar desire for Christian fellowship, begin to meet weekly to pray for:

  • Fellowship to form on your campus
  • A vision for reaching the campus
  • Leaders and others who desire Christian fellowship

Step 4: Think Strategically about Your Campus

Where are the graduate students? Where do they work, live, and hang out?

Are most of the students pursuing masters, PhDs, or professional degrees? The type of program will influence how much time students have to put into a fellowship; it also will determine how many years you can expect graduate students to be on campus and will influence your leadership structure.

What is the church situation in your community? Are there churches that are supportive of the university? Do they have developed small-group ministries?

What are the needs of your fellow graduate students? Are they looking for in-depth Bible study, or do they want to gather with others who are trying to integrate their faith and disciplines or professions? How might a Christian fellowship group meet these needs?

Step 5: Dream

What could a fellowship look like in one, three, and five years?

Step 6: Host an Informal Gathering

Gather together all the Christian graduate students and faculty you know.

  • Gather for a meal.
  • Spend most of the time getting to know one another.
  • Listen to people’s needs.
  • Invite them to join you for a weekly prayer meeting. If possible, meet for lunch or dinner before or after you pray to continue to develop these friendships.
  • Develop a list of contacts.

Step 7: Have a Prayer Meeting

Continue to listen to people’s needs and get to know their gifts.

Step 8: Hold an Organizational Meeting

Invite people who seem interested to an organizational meeting. Prepare them ahead of time for the purpose of the meeting.

  • Invite people to share their desires for a fellowship.
  • Look at what is realistic for the number of people you have. (Don’t be afraid to start small.)
  • Invite people to take the initiative and join in partnership in developing the fellowship.
  • Be sensitive to the time of year and the academic calendar when planning this meeting.

Step 9: Host a Social Event

Plan a fun event, invite your friends, and lay out the plans for the new group. Give everyone the details of the date and time for the first official meeting.

Step 10: Advertise the First Meeting Well

Be creative with posters, newspaper ads, and an information table in a central location.

Step 11: Have the First Meeting

This could be a Bible study, a meeting with a faculty member or local professional who shares how she integrates her faith and work, or something else that would be helpful to your new group. At the meeting:

  • Share your short-term vision for the fellowship.
  • Collect names and contact information for people who come.
  • If possible, provide snacks for after the meeting so that many will stay to get to know people.

Step 12: Follow-up

Contact the people who came to the meeting and thank them for coming. Ask if they have any questions. Meet one or two of them for lunch before the next meeting.

Step 13: Let Us Know that Your Group Exists

InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries would like to know about your group, so that we can send you resource materials and help connect you to staff in your area. Please email us to tell us that you’ve started a fellowship.

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Lynn Gill completed her PhD in analytical chemistry at Purdue University. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry before joining InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries in 1999. Since then she has been planting and building graduate student and faculty fellowships first in North Carolina and most recently in Southern California and the West.

She is currently the Regional Director for the GFM West Region. Lynn lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband David, son James, and daughter Julie.

We value the contribution of writers who are not employed by InterVarsity, some of whom may not necessarily agree with all aspects of InterVarsity's ministry, doctrine, or policies. These writings are the words of the writers and may or may not represent InterVarsity. The same is true of any comments which may be posted about any entries. Submitted comments may or may not be posted at the writer or the editor's discretion.