By Jasmine Obeyesekere Fernando

The Book Club Experience

Are you curious about our book clubs that get advertised at The Well each semester? Perhaps you have wanted to come but the timing hasn’t worked out for you yet. Let me give you a taste of what happens when we meet.  

Three things happen during each of our book clubs: participants 1) experience spiritual transformation, 2) explore ways of connecting their faith to their areas of expertise, and 3) encourage one another in living out their identity as Christian academic women.

Each of these three aspects were evident in the recently concluded Spring book club featuring Jeff Haanen’s book Working from the Inside Out: A Brief Guide to Inner Work That Transforms Our Outer World (IVP 2023).

As we discussed joys and frustrations in our work, one woman shared how much she enjoyed reading academic journals but that she disliked the teaching aspect of being a professor. She shared that she has been discovering that “joy comes out of honoring God and serving other people first, rather than pursuing my own preference.” Although she still dislikes teaching, our honest discussion in warm community prompted her to view the work differently. Now, as she looks at her students and sees their thirst for knowledge, she realizes that her teaching would transmit the understanding they need. An area of spiritual transformation for one becomes a growth point for all as we consider that joy can come even from doing parts of our work we don’t enjoy, simply because they benefit others.

We’ve also been talking about integrating our faith with our work. At book club, integration means thinking Christianly about our disciplines and attempting to transmit our Christian ideas to how we engage in our fields of study. One woman who teaches business talked about how she’s designed a course that teaches about creating value for all stakeholders – customers, suppliers, employees etc.—  rather than being driven only by maximizing shareholder profit.  She teaches how love can function in business! She is helping redeem the field of business as she gives vision to her students of what doing business well (i.e. embodying God’s desire that all should flourish) can look like. Imagine her influence as she shapes the thinking of successive cohorts of young future entrepreneurs. In the same way, each of you can be salt and light in how you impact and transform your own academic discipline.

If you are a grad student, you don’t have to wait until you are a professor to allow your Christian imagination to influence your work. Perhaps you can choose a research question outside the usual paradigm of your discipline but which would honor God, serve others, and bring you joy. 

One early career woman shared how her prime satisfaction comes from teaching – seeing her students’ own love of learning and their growth. Another seasoned career woman offered the insight that this young professor was a gift to her students. What a blessing for this young woman to hear that word of encouragement – that her love of teaching made her a gift for her students!

If you are a Christian woman academic and want to be encouraged by others in different career stages, be personally transformed in your discipleship, and would love tools to think Christianly about the stuff of your work — the Women Scholars and Professionals book club is for you!


Photo by Kristin Hardwick on StockSnap

About the Author

Jasmine is WSAP’s book club host and vocation specialist. She hails from Sri Lanka and has a thirty-year relationship with its national university ministry, the Fellowship of Christian University Students (FOCUS). She has also been involved with InterVarsity for twenty years. She has a BA (Hons.) in English from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and a MA in International Relations from Syracuse University. She loves writing about theology impacting real life and enjoys British, Korean, and Chinese drama. Jasmine lives in upstate New York with her professor husband and two teenage children.

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