Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Last One

This will be the final post from this blog. You may have noticed the dearth of postings in the past few months. That is because news items and ideas for Presbyterians engaged in collegiate ministry have been shifted to the UKirk Newsletter and UKirk member forum.

We will leave the blog archive up for a while, as much of the information is still relevant.

Thanks for reading along the way!


Jerry Beavers
UKirk Communications Director

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Best Winter Reads

Two recent books of special interest for collegiate ministers are No Longer Invisible: Religion in Higher Education and Unscripted: Engaging Life After College.

No Longer Invisible: Religion in Higher Education, By Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen. Oxford University Press . 2012
Douglas “Jake” Jacobsen is Professor of Church History and Theology and Rhonda Hustedt Jacobsen is Director of Faculty Development and Professor of Psychology at Messiah College in Grantham, PA. They current ly co-direct the Religion in the Academy Project, a major research initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment, and are the authors of Scholarship and Christian Faith: Enlarging the Conversation (2004) and The American University in a Postsecular Age (2008). No Longer Invisible continues their investigation of religion in the academy and was written as a result of hundreds of interviews across academe, including a number of chaplains. They attended the 2008 “Varieties of Secular Experience Conference” as well as that year’s ACURA annual conference.

Within the past twenty years or so the visibility of religion in higher education has increased. But this religion is not the same kind of religion which undergirded American college education in previous centuries. Religion on campus today is much more pluralistic. In addition, many faith traditions, as well as deeply held secular beliefs and behaviors, mingle together in the minds of current students. The “spiritual but not religious” phenomenon is characteristic of this aspect of religion. Because the religious – secular boarders are so fuzzy, the academy can no longer think that it can exclude or bracket religion. Religion, then, is not something that an institution adds on, but is already implicit throughout the academy.

The authors believe that if this implicit religion can be thoughtfully explored and made explicit, it can be a source of revitalization of higher education. At each step in their development of the book’s argument, the authors take serious the objections of the faculty members raising in a tradition where knowledge is compartmentalized and, “it has nothing to do with my area of specialization. I don’t address it in class, or
even out of class,” as well as the students who arrive with a history of diversity and relativity and don’t need their world views dismantled, but are already adrift and are looking for some trustworthy place to stand.

Throughout the book the Jacobsens make helpful distinctions and address the sp ect rum of responses to religion in the academy. They offer a framework to help on-campus religious interactions be more effective. They propose three distinct and overlapping ways of talking about and being religious. “Historic Religion” means the traditional, organized aspect religion. "Public religion" is the cultural religion, like ideas, values, and practices of society. "Personal religion" is the individual’s
spiritual life, the “inner life” of students.

Each of these three ways has both a dimension of ideas as well as that of practices, leading to six areas where religion and higher education naturally overlap. The last portion of the book develops each of these six areas and provides “prompts for constructive reflection.” For example, a question from each of the six areas would be:
What do we expect religious literacy to mean as a student outcome?
What are appropriate ways to interact with those of other faiths?
What assumptions and rationalities – secular or religious – shape the way we think?
What values and practices – religious and secular – shape civic engagement?
In what ways are personal convictions related to the teaching and learning process?
How might colleges and universities point students towards lives of meaning and purpose?

A number of examples from different institutions illustrate the range of approaches , but no specific direction is proscribed. Readers are encouraged to think through the six areas in their own specific context.

No Longer Invisible is succinct, accessible, and insightful in its sweep of religion and higher education. Helpful distinctions are made throughout. If there were a Chaplaincy 101 course, this would be a required text. In fact, I will be recommending to future new chaplains that they read this book. It helpfully covers the landscape and would bring the chaplain up to speed in current thought in student development, classroom issues, multifath conversations, service and learning, and vocation.
Different models on how colleges and universities deal with religion are discussed. The scope, involvement, and actions of t he chap lain is different in each of the models. A new chaplain would be wise to understand her or his institution’s predominant model as a prelude to the expectations the institution has of the chaplaincy.

Reading the book together and answering the questions posed would be of benefit to any institution wanting to think through its connection to religion. It could be a powerful tool for religion departments as well as faculty curriculum committees in developing curriculum. Student affairs professionals, reading this book with the chaplain, would be led to all sorts of conversations about co-curricular activities and outcomes. It would fost er helpful discussions with faculty about how this new thinking about religion could enrich their teaching and improve their student’s educational experience. The book would also be a good resource in wrestling through an institution’s church-relatedness.
Read it.

Unscripted: Engaging Life After College by Thomas A. Brown. Parson’s Porch and Company. Cleveland, Tennessee. 2012.

While there are beginning to be a number of books published for the recent college graduate (Life After College, How to Survive the Real World, Twentysomething Manifesto, etc.), there has not been one to specifically address the faith journey of twentysomethings until now.

is written by Tommy Brown, who has been engaged in ministry with young adults thoughout his professional career, and who has been the Presbyterian Campus Minister at Appalachian State University since 2002.

The book’s premise is that the previous generations had a fairly standard plan (life scripts ) to follow after college, but all those plans for this generation are no longer applicable. Life for current college graduates is “unscripted,” and the graduates are left with trying to figure out what they should be doing.
Brown uses an extended study of Acts 1 with the disciples trying to figure out “what next?” to guide the reader though questions about relationships, meaning, and purpose. The chapters are written conversationally, as if a recent graduate was talking with his or her college campus minister. Brown shares many of his experiences as a college graduate from Maryville College in 1984.

This book could be used as a graduation gift, or as a study for a congregation’s post -college emerging adults. While the publisher’s profits are used for social justice outreach, the book’s price of $18.95 could be a deterrence to the intended audience.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Graduate Student Ministry

Graduate and professional students are an often under served population on campus. They don't usually want to participate in the undergrad fellowship, and they often have time and family constraints.

Some specific facets of a grad school outreach might include:
English conversation, especially for families
Child care
Transportation for spouses
Assistance with food, clothing (especially for seasons not present at home), and furnishings
Groups which meet at unusual times for Bible Study and support
Job training for spouses

Many of these needs would be applicable to immigrant communities, and are volunteer intensive.
Wouldn't this be a good ministry for some volunteers to spearhead?
Retirees in local congregations might be a good source of support. Even those in congregations which aren't near campus might feel called to help with transportation or English conversations.

Even small congregations near campus, who feel as if they don't currently have the energy or resources for an undergraduate campus ministry, might be able to provide some graduate student ministry.

The Graduate Studies Administration on campus would be a good place to begin in trying to identify needs and locations of the graduate students.

Here's a model of a grad student ministry practiced by at least two Presbyterian congregations:
Meet after worship for lunch provided by the congregation (usually pizza or something simple ordered in) and use five questions as discussion starters ("What struck you in the sermon?", "Did anything in worship  move you or seem especially appropriate today?", etc.) Child care might be provided, based on the attenders. The group eats and talks for a while. They end with prayer, and leave after about an hour total.

It's an easy way to start.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Professional Organizations With UKirk

The PC(USA)'s collegiate ministry professionals are moving to three organizations. The Presbyterian College Chaplains Association, PCCA, will remain unchanged, and continue to function as it currently does. PACHEM's roles will be divided into two groups. The Office of Collegiate Ministries Advisory Board will function as its name implies, and will work on long range strategy. (Part of that long range strategy may include some student organization or event.) The majority of PACHEM will be folded into UKirk. The website, resources, newsletters, conferences, and Collegiate Ministry Locator will migrate to in the next few months. PACHEM members, and those who already receive newsletters, will be seamlessly transferred to UKirk (we hope!)

UKirk (as even the name implies) holds up congregational based college ministry as its standard model. According to the 2012 Collegiate Ministry Strategy, congregations near campuses will be identified and helped/ encouraged to develop a campus ministry mission.

So what about those doing collegiate ministry but who are not congregation based?

The UKirk branding will be useful to those stand-alone Presbyterian Campus Ministers. Ecumenical ministries may be able to work UKirk in somehow, perhaps when they list the seals of the various denominations supporting them. The ecumenical ministries would be included in the Ministry Locator.

What about PCUSA congregations near a campus who currently support an ecumenical ministry on campus? Can they work in tandem, both being UKirk Ministries? Can there be numerous UKirk chapters for a single campus? More thinking is needed in this area.

As for chaplains, perhaps a few church-related institutions will be able to use the UKirk brand /logo for their own Presbyterian fellowship group on campus. Most chaplaincies, because of their charge to the entire campus, will not.

The hope is that the UKirk  emphasis will stimulate the chaplains to encourage the local PCUSA church to step up the church's college ministry. The hope is that the congregations and the chaplaincies will work better together to" reach, love, and teach" the college students.

One of the underlining UKirk assumptions, I think, is that the churches near our colleges have mainly assumed that the chaplains are doing the campus ministry for the congregations, while at the same time the churches don't understand the ramifications of the multifaith component of the chaplains. Many chaplaincies and local congregations have cordial relations, but not the level and spirit of cooperation UKirk implies. By stimulating the congregations to be active doing campus ministry while working with the chaplains, the chaplains will feel more support from the congregations. The end result is that more students will get connected.

I don't have a good feel for how the denomination's "worshiping community" concept will be a part of all this. The Chaplaincies have their own worshiping communities, most with strong Reformed overtones. Will the denomination take credit for them? Will chaplains be treated as congregational pastors instead of second class Presbyters? Might not a congregation have a worshiping community of college students, while the chaplain also has one (and with some students involved in both?)

This is an exciting time for collegiate ministry, fraught with potential. And hope springs eternal.....

Friday, July 06, 2012

A New Vision

A new vision for Collegiate Ministry in the PC(USA) was launched  this week at General Assembly. The center of this vision is a new organization, UKirk Ministries. This will be a "brand", a Westminster Fellowship for the Twenty-first Century, as well as an organization which will encourage, support and advocate for college ministries in the denomination. This "brand" is not proscriptive, that is, no campus ministry will have to call themselves a UKirk ministry. The hope is that the existing ministries with good name recognition might include somewhere in their literature that the ministry is "a UKirk Ministry."

UKirk - for "University Church" - seems appropriate for this time. It has a strong congregational tone, and the logo has a steeple. "Kirk" has historical Presbyterian /Church of Scotland connections. One comment in the past decade was that no student had any idea what "Westminster" had to do with a church. Perhaps many students will not know what a Kirk is (besides Starfleet's youngest Captain). Prebygeek students will get the Presbyterian connection. The "UKirk" combination has a current, edginess to it.

An initial website has been developed. The website also includes an introductory video.  PACHEM and will shortly be folded into UKirk.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Student Care

How should denominations relate to students? Currently the PCUSA has no specific ministry to college students. Yes, the Office of Collegiate Ministry supports collegiate ministers who then support students. Yes, there are some connections possible through NNPCW, REYWT, and the YAV program, but where is the care and support for students as students? There is nothing.

The recent Task Force for a Collegiate Ministry Strategy did not include a student on the Task Force by choice, and there was no public way for students to have input into the strategy. The strategy did not address student issues, but only those of college ministry.

The 2010 General Assembly Worship service had college student ministry as one of the beneficiaries of the offering. To my knowledge those monies have never been released!

What does a student do at a college where there is no PCUSA presence, and no local congregation? What if the nearest congregation is not interested in college students? (Shocking, but true! Every year a few students contact asking for student connections or campus ministry programs. I send them information about the nearest congregation and send the congregation an e-mail - or letter since a goodly portion don't have e-mail. [also shocking but true!] In perhaps the last 15 contacts, I have received two responses from the churches saying that they will contact the students. I have not done any follow-up in the last five years, so I don't know how successful those connections have been. I am not hopeful.)

How could the PCUSA help college students?

Couldn't the PCUSA have a social media presence so that Presbyterian College students could connect with one another? PCUSA Young Adults have a FaceBook page, why not one specifically for college students?  What about a site where students could get some resources and connect with PCUSA students at other isolated campuses? How can we help those students feel connected?

Well, why don't they form a community themselves? Why hasn't someone already done it?

Perhaps because the transition to college is pretty overwhelming, and they have already tried to locate a campus ministry and local church where they feel comfortable. Perhaps because starting an online community would take time before the word got out and a critical mass of students joined. If there was an on-going group already started, perhaps searching students would join. Establishing and maintaining such a community could easily be administered by the denomination with some (lowly) paid student moderators.

But maybe the time has passed for denominational connections..... What do you think?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I think almost every college ministry has some marking of the graduation of the ministry’s seniors. Recognition during worship, dinners, gifts of mugs or books (which books do you give? Share, please) We do something to commemorate their life in our worshiping community and their commencement into a new life away from the campus.

What do we do to help them in transition? Have there been bible studies, discussion groups, or programs for graduating seniors that deal with finding community in a new location, job search or new job pressures, or living with your parents as an adult? Are we contacting congregations in the cities where they will be living, informing the staff of the arrival of one of our students?

How often do we complain that the youth pastors of local congregations don’t do a good job in preparing their high school seniors for college? How often do we wish that ministers would give us the contact information for their parishioners who are starting college at our institutions?  I’ve heard campus ministers talk about how congregations were “dropping the baton” and not passing on their high school graduates.

So now it’s the time of the year for collegiate ministers to be “passing the graduates” to the worshiping communities in the locations of the next phase in their lives.

College Placement Offices do a Senior Check-Up, where they invite seniors to come in and discuss their resumes, job search strategies, and reframe their undergraduate experiences in light of a potentially new career. Should we be doing Senior Faith Check-Ups, to help our seniors process their undergraduate faith journey and give them some tools to help them transition to the full-time work force?

Is there a FaceBook group for your college graduates to join for campus ministry alumni? How will you check to see that they are looking for and have found a worshiping community.

How are you helping your graduate commence the new chapters in their lives? Will you share those with us, please?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Millennials: Civically and Politically Disengaged?

Jean Twinge, Professor of Sociology at San Diego State University, is in the news again. You remember her as the author of GenerationMe: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- andMore Miserable Than Ever Before
In the past few weeks she has been mentioned in USA Today and Psychology Today and has published a study  on “Generational Differences in Young Adults' Life Goals, Concern forOthers, and Civic Orientation, 1966–2009.”

She maintains that the Millennials are ” more “civically and politically disengaged, more focused on materialistic values and less concerned about helping the larger community” than either Generation X (born 1962-1981) or Baby Boomers (born 1946 to about 1961) when studied at the same age.

The idea that this generation of college students is more engaged is incorrect, she says. Even the rise in volunteering must be due to “school requirements.”

I even learned a new word: “slacktivist”. It’s a contraction of “slacker” and “activist” and describes the feel good actions such as liking a FaceBook cause.

A rebuttal of her finds comes from Morley Winograd and Michael Hais, authors of Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation is Remaking America

Lucy Forster-Smith, Chaplain at Macalester College, recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post. She also describes this generation in terms vastly different from Twenge.

Is Dr. Twinge looking at the generational glass a half empty?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

College and University Churches

The Collegiate Ministries Task Force is recommending a Starting and Renewing College and University Churches Initiative.

"Rationale; There are a multitude of congregations in college communities that desire to have a better mission to and with campus. There are also several congregations that are excelling at this. The University Church Initiative helps bring these two types of churches together to aid in the process. This takes some of the pressure off the collegiate ministries office and helps build collegiality among the congregations. This initiative will also involve the church development office and the church transformation office by connecting appropriate congregations to the ongoing work of those offices."

From the strategic time line and budget published, 25 congregations with some potential for growth in or starting college ministry will be identified in the summer of 2012. They will gather sometime in the summer /fall of 2012. Perhaps this would be where the OCM, and church development / church transformation lays out resources and help for those congregations. The during the next year, research and initial help of the churches is completed, and another gathering of the 25 along with some additional churches which have identified.

Categories of college churches, I assume, would be those who could use some help/ideas to ramp up their existing ministry, and those who currently have no ministry, but could with help. Churches with already strong ministries and those who don't seem to have any potential would have to be excluded.

Twenty-five College and University Churches would hopefully be spread over the five Collegiate Ministry regions, so we can figure that each region, and each regional rep, might be responsible for the nurture of five congregations.

Part of this strategy will be to develop "  an adaptive model to promote and establish local Presbyterian collegiate ministries grounded in local congregations and supported by mid-councils." No information about this model has been released yet, but judging from the composition of the Task Force, the University Church model used by congregations in the Assent network, would provide a basis for this new initiative's model. The Assent model is used by large churches near large campuses. The OCM and the CM network would have to find ways of adapting it for small congregations near small institutions.

Some questions about this area of the strategy which the full report will hopefully answer are.: What criteria will be used for determining these 25 plus churches? What resources and time line for establishment of a college ministry will be expected? If a congregation starts a campus ministry, does that count as one one the 101 worshiping communities the  collegiate ministry community will start? Will a small congregation work to start an adjacent worshiping community, rather than adding a campus ministry component to their existing ministry? Considering the spectrum of congregations, even those near campuses, how much help can an "adaptive model" be? And will there sufficient funding to implement this vision?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New Collegiate Ministries Structure and Network

The Collegiate Ministries Task Force is proposing that collegiate ministries in the PC(USA) have a two-part structure: the Office of Collegiate Ministries within the GAMC and a network in covenant with the GAMC. An Outline of the Strategic Plan the Task Force is recommending can be found in the information packet for the February GAMC meeting.

"Rationale; Many of our regional and local collegiate ministries are struggling to operate on a consistent basis, especially when there is local staff turnover or a change in the organization in which they operate (congregation, middle governing body, ecumenical setting). An organized structure, national network and regional intentionality will help collegiate ministries to function consistently and more effectively through changing times."

This CM Network will be something new. How it will relate to the existing professional networks ( PACHEM and PCCA) has not been made public. Published reports indicate that the Collegiate ministries Network be staffed with  five regional coordinators. These coordinators will serve as an informative and directive resource for students, parents, campus pastors and congregations within their region. This appears to be a model similar to what some other denominations are doing.

These coordinators will be part-time paid positions, funded through the Office of Collegiate Ministries (OCM). I don't know how much time is part-time, but the Proposed Budget and Timeline indicates that two coordinators will be in place by Jan 1, 2013, and the other three by Jan 1, 2014. The Regional Coordinators will initially be paid $10,400 plus travel, admin, and program monies. (I'm guessing approximately 10 hours per week.)

The Coordinators will be working to establish independent regional entities to support collegiate ministries. These entities will have established regional cohorts by the fall of 2013 and will be regionally incorporated with 501(c) 3 status by 2020. This implies that the Regional Coordinators will have raised sufficient funds by then to pay for their positions as well as funds to aid in the development and support of new campus missions as well as, I assume, helping existing ministries to become stronger and more financially secure.

The Coordinators will work with the OCM to "establish an adaptive model to promote and establish local Presbyterian collegiate ministries grounded in local congregations and supported by mid-councils." This will include identifying and  equipping 101 university communities to start new worshiping communities within the next 10 years.

Whew! This is an ambitious plan! The OCM in Louisville - one Associate and a half-time Administrative Assistant- will not get any larger, but an additional five Regional Coordinators will be hired. These will either be GA employees or contracted positions. They will have a few years in which to grow organizations which will fund their positions. The skill set for these Coordinators will be wide-ranging. They will have to be able to manage collegiate ministry development and programming, new ministry start-ups, and significant institutional development and fund-raising - and all in ten hours a week! That the vision incorporates five independent organizations in addition to the CM Network seems a lot of structure in a time in which less structure is occurring across the denomination. 

The Network will have some formal structure, also, with a part-time communications person as well as an operating budget. It will initially be supported by the OCM, as PACHEM and PCCA are now, but whether or not it will also move to independent status in not clear from the Strategic Plan Outline

I'm thankful the Task Force has Big Dreams.

What do you think?