Jesus goes to boarding school


A few months ago I was introduced to a Jesus movement among New England's boarding and independent schools. It made me wish I was a billionaire philanthropist donor to Christian missions. In the 1960s, Peter Moore and others founded FOCUS (Fellowship of Christians and Universities and Schools) to organize gatherings for students attending New England boarding schools. For over 40 years Moore---an orthodox Episcopal priest and a graduate of St. Mark's, Yale, and Oxford---grew a ministry team with deep familiarity with the culture at leading independent boarding and day schools to nurture thousands in a life of following Jesus from the Northeast down the Atlantic seaboard.

FOCUS seeks to "explore with independent school students a life of faith that is real, adventurous, intellectually sound, and eminently practical." Because boarding and independent schools are usually off the missions radar for many evangelicals, I was profoundly moved to hear about the activity there.

Rob Lofberg, the area director for the group's work at New England boarding schools, said he decided to work for FOCUS in part "because it is the ministry through which the Lord opened my eyes to the reality of his grace." While a junior at the Middlesex School in Concord, Mass., a FOCUS staff person came to a small student-led Bible study he attended. Shortly afterward, Rob became a follower of Jesus and now, with a strategic heart and passion for the "peculiarities of the boarding school culture," is uniquely placed.

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Rob explained the honor of serving this population this way:

FOCUS is an exciting ministry because so many of the students we work with are engaging with the gospel for the first time. Many are opening the Bible for the first time, and though they are the most competitive students in the world, there is so little religious predisposition. There is a freshness when they hear about Jesus and his claims, and many are excited to know more as they discover Him through the Bible.

Rob said that he has one of the most exciting jobs in the world. I believe him. Bringing Jesus to that area of the country is sadly revolutionary to many who have given up praying and caring for students and families in New England's boarding school culture. "I enjoy being a witness to Jesus in New England," Rob said, "because every time I enter into a serious conversation about Christian claims I never know what I am going to get." The frankness and honestly of New Englanders when given the gospel fuels an exciting mission, especially among students who tend to be "very serious about intellectual honesty."

It is sadly rare that I meet Christians who desire a missional Christian presence in New England, in general. The work of FOCUS in the Northeast continues to confirm to me God's heart for all different kinds of people, that they would come to follow Jesus. FOCUS is one of the little known gems among Christianity's missional ministries. The revolution continues. . . .

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of The Political Economy of Liberation and Black and Tired. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.


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