Board takes first step in developing regional campus ministry

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Board takes first step in developing regional campus ministry

By Sarah Alsgaard | Feb. 17, 2009 {0974}

The Florida Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry voted at its last meeting to begin a campus ministry at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami. The projected launch date is the fall semester.

It’s the first step in a much bigger plan to reach South Florida’s more than a quarter of a million college students.

FIU is one of the largest universities in the nation, with more than 38,000 students enrolled. It’s also known for its diversity, with a majority of those enrolled of Hispanic descent, according to the university’s Web site.  

The new Wesley Foundation will offer Bible study, small groups, worship and a variety of other activities through the direction of a multicultural leader, according to the Rev. Vance Rains, director of the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. He says the model will be open and flexible enough to accommodate FIU’s diverse student population, many of whom are commuters.

“This is an enormous experiment,” Rains said. “We’re not sure if it’s ever been done this way before. Thinking multi-campus, multi-cultural, urban … we don’t know of any other model that’s similar.”

Reporting to lay and clergy members at the 2008 Florida Annual Conference, Rains said starting a campus ministry at FIU would be the first step in developing a regional ministry to reach each South Florida campus. In addition to FIU’s student population, Florida Atlantic University has 30,000 students, and Miami Dade College alone has 160,000 students, making it the largest college worldwide, Rains said. The University of Miami already has a Wesley Foundation.

Rains researched Florida to see where a campus ministry might most be needed and suggested FIU because, he says, it best represents the future of Florida, and, in turn, future Florida Conference leaders.

We’re not sure if it’s ever been done this way before. Thinking multi-campus, multi-cultural, urban … we don’t know of any other model that’s similar.

Rev. Vance Rains

“The degree to which we’re able to do this and do this successfully will be a contributing factor to our ministry in the future,” he said.

The new campus ministry at FIU will begin with two goals in mind, said the Rev. Deborah McLeod, superintendant of the Florida Conference’s South East District.

The first is to give college students a program that addresses their spiritual needs as college students.

“In many cases (college students in the area) are serving their churches,” McLeod said. “Some of them are chairs of finance. They’re the volunteer children’s ministers and volunteer youth directors, and they’re very active in their local churches, but there’s no place where they can have Bible study or fellowship activities just as college students.”

The second goal is to reach out to students on campus who don’t actively worship.  

“If they have something that is on campus with their friends, then we can reach out to the unchurched people with their friends,” McLeod said.

Campus ministries has had a physical presence on FIU’s campus since September of last year, according to Marcus Zillman, chair of the search committee for the director of the FIU/Miami-Dade County campus ministry. Desiree Kameka is currently acting as interim director.

“Our hope is that this campus ministry will become an important piece of the entire campus community by sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ,” Zillman said. “We also desire for this new ministry to represent the diversity of the Miami area and the Kingdom of God.”

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is a freelance writer based in Lakeland.

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