Monday, December 27, 2010

The Numbers Game

I am of two minds about numbers in collegiate ministry. On one hand, tracking and reporting numbers is helpful in indicating trends. Is a certain program working? If the number of students responding has been decreasing for a couple of years, why? Is it time to reinvest the energy and resources into some other offering?

The danger is equating numbers with ministry. I have seen at least one evaluation by a middle governing body which used a numeric ratio as part of its evaluation. The number of students served by a ministry was divided by the total number of enrolled students at the institution, and then this figure was used to compare different ministries within the diocese.  For ministries, such as many PC(USA) college ministries, which emphasize hospitality, environments which encourage questions, and mentoring, numbers do not adequately reflect the impact of the ministry. Ministries gathered around worship or service might find numerical comparisons more useful.

I remember a synod campus ministry gathering early in my college ministry. A number of campus ministers were adamantly rejecting any numerical reporting of students served. It struck me as a response which might obscure a meaningful evaluation. I understand some of that reluctance, but also believe that we need to a better job of reporting and publicizing stories of students who have been changed by campus ministry. Numbers by themselves can't tell the story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adult Mentors

I've appreciated Chuck Bomar's continuing emphasis on having adult mentors as a basic component of a congregation's college ministry.

The recent Princeton Seminary's Emerging Adult Conference returned to similar themes of adult involvement again and again. Kara Powell, from the Fuller Youth Institute's College Transition Initiative reported that from their "Sticky Faith"(how can a young person's faith stick through the emerging adult transitions) research a necessary component of congregational life should be intergenerational experiences. Christian Smith, in Souls in Transition, listed the teenage years factors which correlated most strongly with stronger emerging adult religious practices. The top three: (1)the teen's personal faith commitment, devotion, and experience. (2) the religious commitment and practice of their parents, and (3) other supportive religious adults in the congregation.

Adult relationships and presence is important as young people try to discern how they are to navigate adulthood. I've always appreciated the faculty or staff member who "adopted" students and invited them into their homes, lives, and families. Their impact is significant, and many graduates still stay in contact with them.

Congregations near campus often try the "adopt a student" / "adopt a family" / "adopt a grandparent" of matching students and interested adults, often with mixed results. The thought of a long-term commitment (by both parties!) seems intimidating, and having more than one student with each family might reduce the anxiety of thee unknown.

Perhaps more modest opportunities for the generations to connect might work. A morning together building a Habitat House followed by lunch, a combined work project with the campus ministry group and one of the congregation's groups. A few families might be flexible enough to informally invite a couple of students to lunch after the Sunday worship.Pairing students and adults as church school teachers might provide some opportunities for intergenerational relations. (This means not seeing college students as bodies to help out in the church school, but mentoring as an outreach ministry in itself.) The congregation could invite the campus ministry group to join them on a mission project during Spring Break and provide some scholarship assistance to the students.

What other ways are there to give students the contact in faith with adults?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Student Representation on the Board

How are students involved in the leadership and vision of the campus ministry? I don't mean the leadership board elected each year which organizes programs and activities. I mean the governing board / trustees of the organization. How is the student voice heard?

How many board members have current insight into the student culture on campus? Not the alums, who remember how it used to be. Not the faculty member (as much as they think they might know the student culture on their campus). The campus minister can help, usually, but hers is often the only voice of folks engaged in the ministry. A student board member helps correct this deficiency.

But if the expectation is that one student can provide all that input, that asks a lot of the student. The student can help facilitate getting board members engaged with a range of students. Arranging for a board member to take two or three students out to dinner, or arranging for a student host when the board member comes to a programs or a residence hall bible study, provides board contact with students. (These types of encounters should be in addition to a yearly State of the Ministry report to the board by the student leadership.)

One way of helping the student rep is by intentionally overlapping the position. One student, who has some experience with the board, can help the new member feel more comfortable speaking up in meetings, and initiating conversations with board members outside the regular board meetings.

A student presence on the board helps ground the board's discussions, helps to provide a reality check, and provides a leadership experience for the student- which hopefully will pay off in the future when they move away and begin a career and become involved in a campus ministry governing board.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Early Assessment

Used to be that mid-term grades helped students see how they were really doing in college. Then in the recent past, retention studies indicated that First Year Students needed earlier feedback on how they were doing. Thus Early Assessment grades. Before Fall Break students would get an evaluation of how they were doing, so that they could make corrections before it was too late.

So now is the time for an early assessment of how our ministries are doing this year.

It's one of the aphorisms of collegiate ministry that you will never have more students at a regular college ministry function than you will at the beginning of the semester. But there are some students who came and have stopped coming. Why? Who has checked up on them?

Which programs worked and why? Which ones didn't and why?

Which student leaders have risen to the challenge of their ministry? Now is the time to affirm them.

Which student leaders haven't yet stepped up? Now is the time to check in with them and do a little mentoring.

Which governing board / oversight committee members don't yet have the big picture of what they are supposed to be doing?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cultivating Student Affairs

The folks on campus who might come closest to understanding collegiate ministry are the student affairs / student life professionals. They, too, love students, want them to have rich and helpful experiences and develop a meaningful life. Their importance and impact are also devalued by the community. The first weeks of school are even crazier for them than for collegiate ministers!

So now would be a good time to stop by their office with some goodies and a thank you note for what they are trying to do in the lives of our college students. And sometime, after the dust settles, find some time to meet with a few of the staffers to build relationships.

If they know you are supportive of their efforts and that you are concerned about all students ( not just Presbyterians), and you're not going to coercion or badger non-Christians, they may begin to think of you as a referral resource. The activities directors can commiserate over planning events when few people show up, and the disconnect between students who say they are attending and never appear. Perhaps you know artists which would appeal to student populations not on the student activities committee's radars.

Most campuses now have crisis plans developed. Are you a resource for them?

Jennifer Martin, at the Koinonia House at the University of Oregon, reminded me of good information to share with student affairs folks. Recent studies, such as from Christian Smith at the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR) , the  Higher Education Resource Institute, and the Fuller Seminary College Transitions Program,  indicate that the more the religious involvement of the student, the less likely they are to binge drink or to be "loners". Helping reduce those two campus cohorts will get the attention of the student life professionals! Perhaps you could offer to do an information session for the staff later in the year.

Are you routinely praying for the student affairs / student life staff? Do they know that?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Collegiate Ministry Through the Numbers

I’ve been trying to gather some factual information about the PC(USA)’s collegiate ministry efforts. The three most recent sources of data for PC(USA) collegiate ministries are: a report from all congregations in 1999 which gave a report of all congregations involved in student ministries and led to the development of the Campus Ministry Locator; a 2004 Presbyterian Panel Survey which asked primarily about church-related colleges; and a 2009 e-mail Congregational Survey on Collegiate Ministries which asked mainly about congregational involvement in collegiate ministry.

What they show:

In 2006, the Campus Ministry Locator listed roughly 350 established organizational groups doing campus ministry on behalf of the PC(USA). Some were ecumenical campus ministries which included PC(USA) support. There were roughly 700 congregations who said they had some special outreach to college students. All told, approximately 1000 campuses had some PC(USA) presence.

In 2009, twenty-two percent of congregations were located within a mile of at least one college or university. Eighty-four percent reported at least one college or university within ten miles of their congregation’s facilities.

In 2009, only one in four congregations near a college campus had their own direct ministry with students from that or other nearby schools. An overlapping one in four provided financial support to a campus ministry in their locality.

What they don’t show:

How many PC(USA) students there are. The denomination doesn’t request that traditional age group breakdown from churches. Any estimate is a guess. A rough estimate would be 20,000 – 70,000. (For example, here are three estimates. The Chronicle of Higher Education indicated that 2.9%, or approximately 40,600, Freshman in 2009 were Presbyterian. The Department of Education’s enrollment data of traditionally aged college students in 2007 was 668,426, and adjusting that by the Chronicle’s Presbyterian percentage gives 19,384. Assuming college age young people make up 3 % of the denomination, there would be 62,300 students.)

Whether or not the indicated ministry is viable. The 1999 data was self-reported, so if congregations y were “engaged in any outreach activities to college or university students other than members”, they were included as “campus ministry congregations”. There was no criteria about what would constitute a ministry to students beyond the congregation (e.g., an active student group of non-conregants, a staff member or designated lay leader, a specific program budget, a web site, mention of student outreach on existing web site, etc.). A number of congregations assumed that if they “offered church participation”, then they had a “ministry” to students. Clearly those same students would not agree. The 2009 e-mail survey has different results. (See below)

Whether the ministry currently exists. Remember that for other than congregations, this data ten years old. A number of ministries listed then are no longer functioning.

What Possibilities are indicated

At most, only 23% of higher education campuses have a PC(USA) collegiate ministry. This assumes 1000 institutions with a presence out of 4400 total institutions.

Many congregations close to higher education institutions do not have collegiate ministry programs. Why not? Why aren’t congregations not near institutions supporting the ministry of near campus congregations?

The number of PC(USA) students served is not that important. PC(USA) collegiate ministry is Presbyterian ministry to collegians and is not ministry to Presbyterian students! Let’s ask how many students have some connection to the ministry. Most college ministries involve the whole spectrum of college students, not just Christians associated with a mainstream denomination.

The PC(USA)’s Campus Ministry Locator is woefully and embarrassingly out of date. When ministries cease, or contact persons move, no one notifies the Office of Collegiate ministries. I guestimate you have a one in three chance of getting correct information. (My method is to pick two numbers- the first is the state and the second is the entry in that state. Pick three sets of two and then see if there is a college ministry and a working e-mail.)

The PC(USA) needs to conduct a more complete survey. The 2009 e-mail survey had a limited number of responses, but seemed to reflect the whole denomination. Some criteria needs to be established and contact information maintained for those congregations ( as well as organizations and chaplaincies) in order to be listed on the Locator. For example , twenty seven percent of congregations report that they “directly offer … ministry programs specifically for students who attend nearby colleges and universities”. This would translate to 2458 congregations. Fully two thirds of these congregations are not currently listed on the Locator. These congregations are also not part of the PACHEM network, and have not participated in PACHEM’s newsletters, resource sharing, or national conferences.

What next?

How do we get congregations excited about collegiate ministry?
How do we help congregations begin a college ministry?
How do we move them beyond thinking truncated thinking?
      Thinking what they can get out of it, rather than what can they can put into it.
      Thinking only Presbyterian students.
How do we get them cooperating with congregations nearest to campuses?
How do we get congregations and campus ministries / chaplaincies working together?
How do we get congregational campus ministry folks connected and empowered?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Most Important Weeks

We're just about to start the most important two, three, and four weeks of the year - the beginning of school. What we do during those weeks sets the tone for the year. Here are a few suggestions.

Let folks know you exist
Update your information at the three national data bases. Consider having an e-mail just for the ministry and have it set up to automatically forward to your e-mail account. That way, inquirers will always be able to contact someone. If you’ve moved, it can be shifted to your replacement. If you have a 9 month contract, it can go to someone who can respond. E-mail is going to connect you with adults. Your students consider e-mail what the college administration uses. That’s why you need Facebook.

Have a Face book Page with a name which includes Presbyterian and Your institution, e.g. “Presbyterian Campus Ministry at Confused State” Then have a Face book Group with your group’s name, e.g. “ W-House” See PACHEM's web page on this.

Check that your web site is current. Remember that students will only visit your page just to get initial info. After that they will use Facebook. Mostly it will be parents of your students, institution faculty and staff, and your ministry mentors who will re-visit the web page.

Contact nearby presbyteries and ask them to ask churches to send you the names and e-mails of anyone from their congregations coming to your institution. It's not too late to do this! Some congregations may only now know their student's fall plans.

Have a visible on-campus presence at the beginning of the semester.
Meet new students and their families at Move-In Day and Activities Fairs. Some suggestions are : local churches bake cookies for you, bags have your Facebook address;  have stamped envelopes with a sheet of paper with encouragement to write home (and send cookies to their campus minister); give out cold bottles of water; rent a snow cone machine and let folks choose their flavors (all flavors are welcome at our ministry); have a bowl of Smarties with a sign making some connection with your ministry;  a small handout with dining hall hours, wellness center hours, and your ministry event times. …… others? Let's share!

Involve as many upperclass as you can in welcoming.  Have a few of your leaders specifically “friend” new students. Have them offer help and advice in settling in, and invite the new students to your opening meeting.

Consciously look to the margins. What students aren't getting the same welcome as the "typical" incoming First Years? Transfer students, older students, veterans, international students, differently-abled, etc. What can your ministry do to be welcoming to them?

Get your priorities right before you begin
You, your board, and your student leaders commit to praying for the in-coming students for their first two weeks on campus.

Have your Leadership Team agree upon a goal for the first two weeks (in addition to the focused prayer above)

 God bless you and your ministries during this most important time.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Next Two Years

As a result of the actions of the PC(U.S.A.)'s 219th General Assembly, Collegiate Ministries has some new opportunities:
(1) The Office of Collegiate Ministries will return as a stand-alone office.
(2) A higher education strategy will be developed to be presented to the 220th General Assembly in 2012.
(3) A Presbyterian Student Organization will be formed.
(4) The Presbyterian Student Leadership Team will be rejuvenated with funding.
(5) There was significant support across the Assembly for Collegiate Ministry.

These are encouraging opportunities, but

(1) While the approved overture had funds for a full associate position, currently  the associate is about half time in Collegiate Ministries. What will the new organization look like? A half-time Young Adult Ministries (or will admit that we have no Young Adult ministry)- combined with Youth? (please, no. Youth ministry is not the same as young adult ministry) Will operating funds increase for a full-time office programs?

(2) Will the GAMC release sufficient funds to conduct a comprehensive, useful higher education strategy? If the office has only its current funds available, there won't be much of a strategy. Will there be enough time to gather data, involve middle governing bodies and other denominations and still have the report  finished in time to report to the 2012 GA? There is only about 15 months in which to work.

(3) The student organization was funded by the Assembly's Sunday Worship offering.(The amount has not yet been released.) As a student told the committee hearing collegiate ministry issues, "What happens when that offering money runs out?"  What will be the sustainable source of funding?

(4) What exactly is the purpose of a Presbyterian Student Leadership Team? How will that be communicated to the denomination? What sustained funding will there be?

(5) How will significant support translate in practical terms?

We have a lot of work to do to capitalize on this movement!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

General Assembly

The General Assembly passed the resolution to re-establish a stand alone Office of Collegiate Ministries and to develop a higher education strategy to be presented at the 2012 GA. There was an outporing of support for Collegiate Ministries which was encouraging and affirming.

The committee discussed and debated the overture and its dilebration  turned out to be the the current state of collegiate ministry thought in microcosm. I wish it had been archived. It would have been a wonderful teaching tool.

The only really negative part was the attitude and action of some of the Louisville staff. They weren't interested in discussing the overture with the advocates, and made it clear that congregational ministries were important, and that they would sacrifice collegiate ministry in a heartbeat.

In 1998, the Lutherans conducted a big survey concerning Lutheran church-related schools. One of the big shockers of that study concerned the perceptions of different groups on the effectiveness of a church-related college experience. Guess which group undervalued church-related education the most? Church bureaucrats! More so than even non-churched adults. Perhaps by extension we might say that church officials would undervalue collegeiate ministry.

How can we change this? We have to find better ways to let the church know what collegiate ministry is doing. Perhaps a full-time staff member can help with that, but the collegiate ministry community has to be more PR proactive. How do we do that??

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ten Years Ago

When the PC(U.S.A.) was formed in 1983,  both of the uniting denominations had recently completed higher education mission papers: the UPC in the U.S.A. in 1981, and the PC(US) in 1982. In 1986, a new study was commissioned for the united church. That report, "On Being Faithful: The Continuing Mission of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Higher Education was adopted in 1994.

Because of concerns that the success of parachurch campus ministries was reducing the impact of PC(U.S.A.),   the 1998 General Assembly directed a church-wide mission strategy "for ministry to higher education". That strategy was adopted by the 213th General Assembly in 2001 as "Renewing the Commitment".

Our history has been to think anew about collegiate ministry every ten years or so. That means the 2010 General Assembly needs to direct a new study.

That got me to thinking about what has changed in the last ten years in college ministry.

2000. Before Facebook and texting. Back when only student's parents had cell phones. Before 9/11. Before the cultural awareness of other religions. Back when the denomination had a logo which said "Campus Ministry Touched Me" and we didn't think that might be icky. Back when going off to college probably meant that your faith practice declined. Back when the only wars we were fighting were the War on Drugs and the Culture Wars. Before Helicopter Parents. Before the denomination got out of ecumenical student ministries.

Yes somethings remain the same, but what a culture shift! In 2010 students still bitch about the food- but now they coplain becuse there aren't more than just one vegan and gluten free and organic and stir fry option.

So let's get on with thinking how ministry is changing, and how we can support and empower those who minister on our behalf with, for, and to college students.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Long Range Thinking

The PC(USA) needs to do some long range thinking about collegiate ministries.

The last time the denomination addressed any collegiate ministry issue (except the approval of church-related institutions) was in 2001 with the report, “Renewing the Commitment: A Church-wide Mission Strategy for Ministry in Higher Education by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ." There was a subsequent report in 2003 which was initially hoped to be a companion piece to "Renewing the Committment." The report, "Reclaiming the Vision: A Mission Strategy to Strengthen the Partnership Between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Its Related Schools, Colleges, and Universities" has little meat and no teeth. One proof is that it has no link on the PC(USA) website. I've put it on the PACHEM site so it can be accessed.

Here are a few reasons why we need a new stragety, a long range vision for collegiate ministry:

 - The domination’s headquarters has systematically cut and minimized Collegiate Ministries since 2001. The shuttling of the office and the restructuring of Louisville means that much of the report mentions offices and entities which no longer exist. The economic and political reality of 2010 is much different than in 2010.

 - Long rage thinking is a somewhat new concept for collegiate ministries. Campus ministries after World War II and the eccumenical era assumed that the denomination valued collegiate ministry as a given, so the focus was on year-to-year program funding. Campus Ministry boards allocated funds with church sessions as a model. With reductions in funding from all sources, and with the denomination pulling back from eccumenical collegiate ministry efforts, campus ministries must think long range. Boards need to rethink their purpose from the session model to the non-profit organization model. The church needs to address clearly what the role and goal of collegiate ministry should be in the future.

 - The denomination also needs to rethink its relation to higher education institutions. Few colleges now recieve significant funds (the currency of influence to them) from the denominational structure, yet the denomination has some residual fond paternal notion of the closeness of church-relations. The intellectual resources of the institutions are ignored. And exactly what does being church-related mean? What are the minimum expectations from both parties?

 - How do we use the resources we have most effectively? How do we hold collegiate ministries accountable? Can anyone set up a table on a campus quad and claim to be a PC(USA) campus ministry? How do we hold the burocracy accountable? If we say that collegiate ministry is important and the life of the mind foundational for us, how should that translate into resources?

The General Assemby this summer will address an overture concerning Collegiate Ministry. Overture 102 is unfortunately entitled, "On Reestablishing an Office of Collegiate Ministries as a Vital Part of Ministry and Mission." The second part of the overture is asking for "a strategy for mission in higher education in concert with middle governing bodies, congregations, and, where possible, ecumenical partners." I hope that request will not get lost in the buracratic arguements about separate offices, staff members, and budgets.
The PC(USA) needs to do some serious, thoughtful, long range thinking about collegiate ministries.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Migration Season

The Migration Season for our college age young people has begun. Youth Sundays with recognition of the graduating seniors is the congregation's way of launching them out of the nest. Launched with the unspoken assumption that they will test their wings and eventually return when it is time for them to have children. Sent off with little or no support.

How many times have you collegiate ministers received communication from a congregation informing you that one of their members has enrolled in your institution? For me, in 22 years, less than 10 letters or e-mails! That's neglectful, and pityful.

We wring our hands because our congregations are getting smaller, yet we allow a whole segment to leave by the back door. We forget our vows we made to them when they were baptized.

Chuck Bomar, who blogs at College Ministry Thoughts, is doing good work in thinking about and addressing this area of congregational inaction. He pushes for every congregation to have some intentional strategy for ministry to the college aged, whether that congregation is near an higher education institution or not. And he emphases personal connections over programs.

His new book, The Slow Fade, (written along with a pastor and a recent college graduate) encourages congregations and families to invest in college-aged people, to prevent the "slow fade" from active involvement in faith communities. Investing means connecting students with the full life of the faith community by providing them with nurturing inter-generational relationships and meaningful service. This is not campus ministry, but might overlap into it.

The Slow Fade is a helpfull little book for congregations near your institutions, or for fculty or staff who might be feeling called to be more involved in the spiritual life of students.  It is a plea to understand the twenty somethings and an encouragement for adults in the congregation to be involved in the life of a college student, not just for the well-being of the college student, but for the enrichment of the entire faith community. 

Campus ministry can't do it all.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Preparing for Summer

In the summer I often hear college ministers discussing what they are doing to prepare for the new academic year. I don't think I have ever heard someone say what they were doing to prepare for summer. Not recreationally (that's a typical conversation topic) but professionally. Many collegiate ministers have open / unpaid/ down time during the summer. How can we prepare to make that time effective for our ministries? Suggestions?

Here are a few which come to mind.

Make a reading list.   Pick a few books which will stimulate your reflecting about your ministry. Pick a few which will nurture your spirit. Then get to reading.

Inspire your student leaders. Give them a question or two from them to think about over the summer. Use their responses as part of your leadership retreat before school starts. Maybe you all could start a discussion thread- private for you and the leaders. Specifically contact them in the middle of the summer. Send them a small devotional or article. Thank them for their ministry during the past year and ask them to continue praying for the ministry and for you in preparation for the new year.

Connect with potential students. You probably already have a student who writes to all the prospective students who find your ministry on Face Book. Make certain they are being welcomed already. Are there orientation days where incoming students could indicate interest?

Oversight board development. Is there an article or thought piece you could give them (and maybe even write) which they could use as a summer reflection stimulator. Then use it as a discussion starter at your late summer / early fall Board retreat or meeting.

Attend a professional conference. A good way to get ideas, resources, and encouragement. Summit '10 or NCMA's conferences would be good ones.

What else?
What resources could you share with us?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Two Week Window

In the rhythm of the semesters, the beginnings are important as students choose how they will spend their time. As the semester progresses, their routines become fixed, and it becomes harder for them to allocate time to a weekly meeting, for instance.

What this means for collegiate ministry is that there is a two week window at the beginning of each semester for students to visit your groups/meetings/programs and decide whether or not to join up. (OK, the window isn't fully shut until a month into the semester, and there are always exceptions: new students might show if a friend brings them, some personal crisis stimulates them to seek spiritual support, etc. But you get my point.)

I was reminded of this seeing a list of things new college students should know.

E-mail or Facebook a Good Idea a Day along with your Bible verse and thought. What really will be helpful to new students.
Have upperclass give a Survival tip  (where can you find the best hotdog, the closest place to get Ramen noodles, cash a check, late night coffee, etc.)
Have a faculty member give the Most Important Single Thing to Succeed in A College Class.

I even tried for a few years to make up a booklet by collecting 30 days of Insights. Each day had a reflection by an upperclass or faculty member, a quotation (usually from Scripture, but I let the authors pick), and a survival tip.  Handy numbers, locations, and contacts were listed so that those pages could be removed and saved.

Communication and contact are the critical components!

Get e-mails by asking your Presbytery and Synod, Orientation events, Activities Fairs, responses to inquiries to your organization's Facebook Page, current student referrals, and anyone who shows up or visits your events.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Collegiate Ministries Overture

Well done to the Campus Ministers and Chaplains of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies! At their meeting this fall they moved beyond complaining and took action. They developed an Overture to the 2010 General Assembly, and Heather Jones Libich, FPC Cedar Falls, brought it to her Presbytery.

At the March 2nd meeting, the Presbytery approved the Overture which:
1. Directs the General Assembly Mission Council to re-establish an Office of Collegiate Ministries.
2. Directs that Office to prepare a strategy for Mission in Higher Education.
3. Directs that the Office present the strategy to the 220th (2012) general Assembly.

I hope other collegiate ministry supports will get their presbyteries to concur with this Overture. The presbyteries will have to postmark their concurrence to the Office of the General Assembly by May 4, 2010. The more presbyteries that concur add weight to to the Overture.

If you've been concerned about the direction of the denomination's inaction concerning collegiate ministry, and if you complained about it, now is the time to take some action!! Get your presbytery on board!!!

Here is a full copy of the Overture. When is officially posted on the GA business site, I will update this link. But this will get you started!!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inter-Faith Collegiate Ministry

This week I'm especially appreciative of a subset of collegiate ministers: those who work calls them into serious, on-going, inter-faith dialogue. To be fully present on campus today already means to be engaged in some sort of inter faith work, but I'm thinking specifically of those whose context or job description highlights that activity.

It's what our students face. The Hindu down the hall is a kind, loving, peace-filled person whose life seems to make sense for him or her. Some of the Christians on the hall may try to convert her, a few may be aware of differences and try to understand them, but almost all will "live and let live."

Inter-faith folks try to move beyond tolerance to a place where each person can celebrate and pursue their own faith in a mutually supportive environment. This almost invariably means that the institution supports and encourages the activities of these collegiate ministers. Most congregations or ecumenical funding groups or para-church organizations would not be as open. They might want to be tolerant (civil) towards other faiths, but there is a hierarchical understanding of other faiths inherent in their self-understanding.

Imagine a campus minister asking a congregation for financial support of the ministry, and highlighting activities and lives changed as a result of the ministry. As part of the ministry activities, said campus minister discusses how the efforts to renovate the prayer space and kitchen have invigorated the Muslim students and they have become better organized and vocal on campus - thanks to the past financial support of that particular congregation. So please give us more money next year.

These Directors of Spiritual Life or Directors of Interfaith Campus Ministries learn from experience that their own particular faith is deepened and enriched by open and honest encounters with those of other faiths. And they are also made acutely aware of how most incoming college students have no knowledge of other traditions, and very little knowledge of their own family's faith.

So blessings on those folks in their important work, and a challenge to the rest of us that we can send students to them who know the rudiments of their own tradition. (And yes, I am advocating for a "No Christian Left Behind" educational assessment. George Bush left behind, not Hal Lindsey.)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Evangelism's Step Child

I read that Louisville has hired a new Associate in the Evangelism Area. Since Collegiate Ministries is part of the Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry Area, that got me to thinking about the relationship with Collegiate Ministries and the Ministry Area of which is a part.

If you go to the Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry Area portion of the PC(USA)'s website, you won't find anything connecting Collegiate Ministries to the goals or directions of the Area. There is now a link to "Youth AND Collegiate Ministry." Just a link. On the same line. The same sort of link one can find on the "US and World Missions" page. (There Collegiate Ministries is listed under "Mission Through Education" while ministries to Youth, Men, Women, and Older Adults are listed under Ministry In Your Community.)

While little staffing, money and apparently no connective theology ties collegiate ministry with its parent area, evangelism and church growth, what area of the national church has more efficient evangelism? Most campus ministries are a de facto congregation - a faith community. Within that campus community will be a higher proportion of non-churched, un-churched, disaffected churched, atheists, and agnostics than in ANY established congregation. Maybe even MOST new church developments. Is that not effective evangelism?

The PC(USA)’s evangelism interest translates to spending money and hiring staff to “growth the church deep and wide.” But by all but ignoring collegiate ministries as evangelism and church growth, I’m afraid we’re growing the church shallow and narrow!

To clarify: The reduction in staff and operating budget from the Office of Collegiate Ministries and the increased staff and budget for the Office of Evangelism is all under the same management directorate for budget and control in the GMAC's Evangelism and Church Growth Ministry Area.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Collegiate Ministry Conference

During the Montreat College Conference, Adrian McMullen, the PC(USA)'s Associate for Collegiate and Young Adult Ministries, hosted a reception for collegiate ministers. Over 35 attended. As part of the event, Adrian asked folks what resources they would like. Most of the ensuing conversation centered around a professional conference, and fleshing out what a helpful conference would be like.

It should be held during the summer, and should contain times for inspiration, relaxation, and skills development. A recognized name should be a keynoter, but most of the education should be led from within the body of practioners. Some identified topics for workshops included board development, financial management, drawing local churches into supporting the ministries, and best practices. There was also a desire to ensure time enough to hear each other's stories.

The result looked amazingly identical to the conference the PACHEM Leadership Board had planned for July 2010 at their last board meeting! Only two members of the board were present at the Montreat reception, and neither of them contributed to this part of the discussions. I think this exercise was a validation of the of the Summit '10 Collegiate Ministry Conference. It has the flow and content desired by collegiate ministry folks, and I'm excited that the PC(USA) collegiate ministry community will be doing this.

In a perfect world, I don't think I would want to schedule a conference on the July 4th weekend. (Summit '10 is scheduled 1-4 July) There must be SOMEONE in Louisville who thought that having General Assembly run July 3-10 was normal (I wonder when the last time a GA met over July 4th?), so that for PACHEM to hope to have some presence at GA, the Summit conference would have to overlap at the beginning. But I hope the need and desire for such a gathering will outweigh the timing, and if it is important that an attendee be home on the 4th, that travelling that day will be acceptable.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Collegiate Ministry as Vanguard

Collegiate ministries are the R&D of the denomination and the cutting edge of higher education’s student affairs. The issues with which CM are engaged in the present are an indication of some of the things the denomination and institutions will be dealing with in the future.

Here are a few examples. In the past, international students had no support systems on campus, so chaplains and campus ministers arranged for host families, especially during holiday breaks. Then congregations and institutions became involved. Now institutions have offices with professional staff concerned about the quality of life of international students. Campus Ministries reacted to Spring Break excesses by developing alternative spring breaks for their constituents. Now most institutions support and initiate alternative spring breaks. Racial equality. Social Justice. GLBT issues. All incubated in campus ministry and then made official parts of the institution or denomination.

So what might be some of the denomination’s issues in the future?

The recent Montreat College Conference, currently the largest annual gathering of Presbyterian collegians, provides some indications.

Interfaith / Multifaith issues. How are Presbyterians to relate to and with other denominations and religious traditions? One of the key speakers, Eboo Patel, was a Muslim, involved in building bridges between faiths.

Thoughtful, challenging Bible Study and Theology. No ready-made check list of answers or beliefs, no simplistic reading of Scripture. Another of the speakers, Cindy Rigby, and the Conference Preacher, Anna Carter-Florence, embodied this.

Sex and Relationships. Moving beyond the simplistic no-no of junior high, how do we equip emerging adults with the skills and the theological underpinning to have healthy interpersonal relationships and not have them reject the institutional church because it ignores the complexity of their relationships after high school? The conference attendees were organized into self-selected focus groups. The largest groups were centered around intimacy, friendship, and sexuality.

What other issues are on the horizon? What is the cutting edge in your campus ministry communities?

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Woman at the Well Must Have Been a Non-Traditional Student

The Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at the well (John 4:7-12) has many similarities with Presbyterians on college campuses. She comes face-to-face with different faith traditions (who distrust each other). She is eager for theological discussions, raises questions, and won't settle for easy answers. (She has the longest theological discussion in the NT) She comes to know the grace of God and receives the grace of Living Water. Then she shares what she knows- doubts and all. She had the experience of encountering Jesus, the Living Water, and when she went to share it, she knew her vocabulary couldn't do justice to the event (or be correct), so she just described it.  - And the "disciples" were astonished that Jesus would spend time with such a person.

Most Presbyterian College Ministry I know is characterized by theological inquiry in a safe environment which avoids easy answers.

In these ministries students want and find relationships which share the Grace of God as embodied in Jesus. These relationships are honest, so that doubts are recognized and accepted. And doctrinal formulations take second place behind descriptions of experiential Grace.