This narrative study describes the faith dynamics of undergraduate students involved in the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) at a secular university. Nine students were interviewed using the Faith Development Interview—interview protocol developed by Moseley, Jarvis, and Fowler in 1993—and a Faith Experience Interview designed by the researcher of the current study. Analysis within the overlapping experiences of the IVCF and the university identified nine phenomena that influence epiphanies of faith. Three are evident within the IVCF context—affiliations of faith, mentors of faith, and choosing into faith. Inductive study, retreats, peer relationships, and staff advisers challenge and support students toward authenticity, commitment, and transformation of faith. Three of the nine phenomena are primarily evident within theuniversity context—transition, encountering difference, and being set apart. The IVCF students were singled out both appropriately and inappropriately within classes, the peer culture of the university, and in interpersonal relationships. Lastly, three phenomena were evident in both contexts—studying faith, addressing questions related to faith, and making connections. Narratives of faith constructed for each participant highlight key findings of the research within the context of the individual stories and experiences. The findings are presented across the collective experiences and narratives of all participants.
An emergent model of faith epiphanies within the IVCF on a secular university campus is presented. The findings indicate that the intersection of the two contexts within the lives of students influences faith. Characteristics of secular higher education offer valuable experiences for the formation of faith. The academy’s potential for influencing faith formation may be enriched rather than stifled by its secular orientation. The IVCF ethos and processes were found to construct a “holding environment” that influences faith formation and transformation. Authentic relationships within a mentoring community founded upon faith enable individuals to address personal struggles and faith questions in a manner that potentiates faith formation. Finally, this research suggests that embracing a narrative orientation may enrich faith inquiry.
Wells, Cynthia, "Epiphanies of Faith Within the Academy: A Narrative Study of the Dynamics of Faith with Undergraduate Students Involved in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship" (2003). Higher Education Faculty Scholarship. 11.