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.