Jeff & Tara Barneson

Barneson_ Jeff PreachingWebsite

TCC Background:  Jeff Barneson & Tara Edelschick are missionaries serving with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – Graduate & Faculty Ministries in Cambridge, MA.

TCC first supported them in 1992 with prayer & financial support when Jeff was a missionary with the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society – now called Mission to the Americas.  In 1993 he joined InterVarsity, & the Harvard Graduate School Christian Fellowships came under the support & direction of InterVarsity.

What is your ministry?

I serve as a Harvard Chaplain & team leader for the InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry at Harvard’s 9 graduate schools.  Together we welcome friends & colleagues, seekers & skeptics, & share conversation about the things that matter most for our professions, our relationships, our lives. Mostly we share the life we have found in Jesus & invite others to join us in following him.  It is a very joyful work!  Our work is with indigenous believers & not-yet-believers (graduate students & faculty at the Harvard Graduate Schools) – calling them to follow Christ as disciples & the equipping them as leaders.

What is your role in that ministry?

I work in a number of roles:  leading teams, supervising staff, training and equipping student leaders and also directly engage students and scholars who don’t yet follow Jesus.  For the second year I am also serving as president of the Harvard Chaplains (the interfaith chaplains at Harvard.

What religious groups do you serve?

I serve students, faculty & staff who self-identify as followers of Christ & also engage others from a variety of religious orientations (Hindu, Buddhists, Muslim, Jews, un-churched cultural Christians & Atheists.  The InterVarsity student groups at the graduate schools work hard to lower entry barriers to their meetings so that students & faculty from any or no faith tradition are welcomed.

What age groups do you serve?

Students are mostly in their 20’s. Faculty range from 30’s to 50’s

What is the geographic area you serve?

Campuses in Cambridge & Boston MA.  About half of the students with whom we have ministry are international students (~1/2 from Asia or South-east Asia) so you might consider our geographic area to be much larger than the graduate schools in Cambridge.

Please describe how your ministry is equipping the Christian community where you are currently serving, to be self-sustaining &/or to support ministry growth.

Our ministry focuses on helping students understand & cultivate their vocation through engaging, equipping & sending graduates into their work as ministers of Christ.

Briefly describe your current ministry.

It is our joyful calling to gather and organize graduate students and faculty who are fascinated with Jesus and are curious about what his life and teaching mean for their lives, for their study in the University and their work in the world.  Together we welcome friends and colleagues, seekers and skeptics, and share conversation about the things that matter most for our professions, our relationships, our lives.  We do this through reading and discussion of the Bible and connection with mentors, through prayer and service, through friendship and engagement.  My role as a Harvard Chaplain and team leader for the InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministry at Harvard enables me to serve at the 9 graduate schools and 12,000 graduate students – what a joy it is to be part of a community of scholars who are passionate to share the good news of Jesus and his Kingdom!

Tell us one brief story of how God is working in peoples’ lives through your ministry.

Each Thursday afternoon I meet with a group of graduate students & visiting scholars – most of the participants are Chinese.  Most are not followers of Jesus but are curious about what Christians believe & want to take the opportunity to study & have conversation about Jesus & the Bible.  Our Bible & Tea group is a very simple gathering.  We read a passage of Scripture – usually from the Gospels – share insights & questions & drink tea.

List the three specific goals you had for the past year & describe the degree to which they were reached

Goal 1.  Teaching on sexuality and support for student conversations about singleness and marriage

During the fall and spring we sponsored two separate initiatives on sexuality and relationships:

  • At Harvard Business School we hosted 6 evenings during which alumni, professors and local pastors taught from Scripture, shared their stories and answered questions. Many students attended who had not previously connected with the Christian Fellowship – they were curious about what romantic/marriage relationships might be like
  • Several student leaders from various Harvard graduate programs expressed confusion about the teaching of Scripture regarding same-sex relationships – especially as related to marriage. During the fall, my colleague Pete and I hosted a 4-week reading and discussion group to study and discuss questions related to same-sex attraction, gender and gay marriage.  We used the curriculum designed for InterVarsity staff that had been useful in staff discussions throughout IVCF.  The discussion was very frank and intense at times AND very useful in building skill in studying Scripture and understanding God’s invitation to live lives of sexual fidelity.

Both of these groups we were super useful as students continue to struggle to understand sexuality the place of marriage in their lives.

Goal 2.   Alumni connections for student mentoring and funding additional staff

We made good progress this year in shaping the work of the Christian Fellowship Alumni Association at Harvard Business School.  They have taken on more direct support of the student group on campus and are working with me and the student leadership team to encourage inter-generational friendships and mentoring.  Cf.

Goal 3.   Growth of Daily Prayer on campus

For nearly two years we have sponsored Daily Prayer in the Memorial Church in the middle of Harvard Yard.  Students come each morning to hear from Scripture and pray for God’s mission in the world.  We are in the process of developing similar groups that meet regularly at the Boston campuses (Harvard Medical School/School of Public Health, Harvard Business School).

Please update your children’s activities,

We have been homeschooling our boys since 2nd grade.  Ezra (13) and Zachary (14) are doing well and the whole experience has been a really good one for our family.  They are members of a swim team (Charles River Aquatics) and teammates on a traveling soccer team (BAYS) from Cambridge.  They also have several solid friendships from the team, church, our neighborhood and their public school (Escuela Amigos).  Nafisa (20) has returned home and is a sophomore at Bunker Hill.  We are all active in our congregation, Pentecostal Tabernacle.