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?