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.