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Campus ministers hear need for new ministry models

Students at United Methodist-related Bethune-Cookman University in
Daytona Beach, Fla., walk on campus in this 2008 file photo.  A UMNS
photo courtesy of Bethune-Cookman University.

By Vicki Brown*
Oct. 15, 2009

Campus ministers need to be more evangelistic and visible, and they should work to empower students to tell the story of campus ministry, church education officials said.

The old model of campus ministries fully funded by annual conferences is no longer enough to address the needs, directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Higher Education concluded.

In exploring different models at their fall meeting Oct. 8-10, directors lifted up projects such as the new Wesley House at the University of California-Berkeley that represent new and creative ways of ministry.

The Rev. Bridgette Young, staff executive for Campus Ministry and College Chaplaincy, said she plans to develop training opportunities for new campus ministers.
A UMNS photo by Vicki Brown.


The “hybrid” dorm apartments of Wesley House blend the personal space of a dorm room with community living areas. Upon completion in fall 2010, Wesley House will be home to 96 students.

The Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, chairperson of the Division of Higher Education, said the building will generate enough revenue to fund the Berkeley campus ministry and to plant ministries at other colleges and universities.

Showing value needs to be a priority for campus ministries, education leaders said.

People in the church want to see that they get something for their money, said the Rev. Orlando Chafee, superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District, East Ohio Conference.

“Campus ministry doesn’t do a good job of showing annual conferences how campus ministry makes a difference,” Chafee said.

There is good news to share.

The Rev. Jennifer Copeland, campus minister at Duke University, said she had surveyed her ministry’s alumni and found that 75 percent of them have gone into nonprofit social justice work full time, and 30 percent are in full-time service in The United Methodist Church.

Allow more students to tell the stories of campus ministry, said Bishop James Swanson of the Holston Annual Conference. Swanson said it has been his experience that annual conference members are more attentive when students – rather than the campus minister – report on what their campus ministries are doing.

The directors also encouraged greater cooperation with local churches on campus ministry. At the same time, officials said it is clear campus ministry has a distinct role in the church.

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Mike Sykuta, an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said most local churches do not have the desire, the wherewithal or the passion to do campus ministry.

“And I’m not sure the church can provide the kind of 24-7, very present and personal ministry that a campus minister can do,” Sykuta said.

The Rev. Bridgette Young, staff executive for Campus Ministry and College Chaplaincy, added “campus ministry is not an extended church youth group.”

“We are committed to developing training opportunities to help those cooperative models of campus ministry be effective in reaching students, as we form stronger partnerships with local churches and districts,” Young said. “Churches need to understand the campus population and the specialized skills that are needed to serve students.”

*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

News media contact: David Briggs, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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