New leaders take helm at campus ministries

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

New leaders take helm at campus ministries

By Erik J. Alsgaard | May 15, 2009 {1020}

NOTE: A headshot of the Rev. Paul Massingill is available at

TAMPA, Fla. — Change and transition continue to be the watchwords for the Florida Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry (BHECM), as board members learned during their April meeting at Crosswinds Ministry on the campus of the University of South Florida.

Rev. Paul Massingill

Board members were officially introduced to three new campus ministers. Beth Bostrom will follow the Rev. Marcus Zillman at the University of Miami, Tara Seabrook is relocating from the Baltimore-Washington Conference to serve at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), and the Rev. Paul Massingill is starting a new campus ministry at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami.

“I’m excited to be a part of our conference making a significant attempt to reach young adults for Christ,” Massingill said. “I’m very excited about working with students full time. They have such passion and giftedness that we so desperately need, and often lack, in the church.”

Massingill said the first steps for the new FIU ministry will be building relationships. He expects to be spending a lot of time getting to know the students and hanging out at Starbucks.

“For the foreseeable future, we will be working without any facility or particular office on the various campuses,” Massingill said. “I’ll be doing a lot of listening to people and to God to try and discern where the Spirit is already at work.”

The new ministry has many needs, Massingill said, but the main one is prayer from people in the Florida Conference. After that, he said he needs names of students with whom he can connect.

“There will be many, many needs in the months to come, so if individuals or churches have a heart for these particular schools or for this kind of ministry, I would be very interested in talking about ways to partner,” he said.

Massingill said the best way to reach him is by e-mail at People can also look him up on Facebook.

The Rev. Vance Rains, BHECM’s executive director, says the new ministry at FIU will be the first step in developing a regional ministry to reach each South Florida campus. In addition to FIU’s student population, Rains said Florida Atlantic University has 30,000 students; Miami Dade College alone has 160,000 students, making it the largest college worldwide.

The new Wesley Foundation will offer Bible study, small groups, worship and a variety of activities through the direction of a multicultural leader, Rains said. He previously told e-Review the model will be open and flexible enough to accommodate FIU’s diverse student population, many of whom are commuters.

Al Sistrunk (foreground) will begin his work as chairman of the board’s executive committee in July. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #09-1180.

“All of us conferencewide know that we need to be addressing the significant shortage of young adults in the church,” said Al Sistrunk, incoming BHECM chairman and a layman from Keystone United Methodist Church in Keystone Heights, Fla. “We will do everything that we can financially, spiritually and working with other units of the conference to bring God’s word through The United Methodist Church into our campus ministries. That’s our goal.”

“As we get the FIU ministry established, and as we make sure we have a stable financial base for all our existing campus ministries, then the board will make some decisions where our next plant of a new campus ministry will be,” he added. “It may not come in 2010 — it may be further than that in the future. This is the first new ministry in quite some years. We look forward to that.”

Facilities need work

Rains said one of the critical issues facing the board in the coming months is aging facilities.

“The facilities at FSU,” Rains said as an example, “need about $1 million in renovations right now. But is renovating the right way to go?”

Rains said FSU’s buildings have old wiring that needs to be brought up to code. “Once you start that work, however, you uncover other repairs that need to be made — again to bring the buildings up to code — and the repair bill quickly escalates to $1 million,” he said.

The FSU ministry’s board of directors has “exhausted” their options locally, Rains said, and feel the larger conference board needs to wrestle with this question. The Rev. Jay Kowalski, who serves as outgoing BHECM president and pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Venice, Fla., has appointed an ad hoc committee to study the issue and bring recommendations back to the fall meeting.

“That committee is going to look at the suitability of the FSU facilities as they exist in the deteriorating conditions that they are in today for continued ministry,” Sistrunk said. “Does proceeding mean renovation? Does it mean we let them continue to age and deteriorate? Does it mean we bulldoze everything? Does it mean we go in to a phased plan?

“That is going to be a bigger financial responsibility than the FSU local Wesley board, and our board, can take on together,” Sistrunk added. “It’s going to involve us working with other units in the conference to come up with the right solutions for programming and for financial support up there.”

Search for new leader begins

Board members also learned Rains — who also serves as pastor at FSU’s Wesley Foundation — will be relinquishing his duties as executive director of BHECM to return to full-time student ministry. That change, Rains said, will take place as soon as a new director can be found.

Kelly Moore and the Rev. Vance Rains lead the meeting. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #09-1181.

“I’ve come to the realization that I can’t do both director of BHECM and be a pastor at FSU,” Rains told the board. “I love my students and being in campus ministry.”

Rains said he thought BHECM needed a full-time director. Currently, Rains spends 30 percent of his time working with the board and 70 percent with the Wesley Foundation. Kelly Moore has been working the remaining 70 percent as the conference staff person in charge of the administrative side of BHECM. A search committee will be formed to begin the process of hiring a new director.

The board’s new executive committee was also installed at the April meeting. Sistrunk was elected to serve a one-year term as board chairman, following Kowalski, and the Rev. Bob Gibbs, pastor at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Brandon, Fla., was elected vice-chairman. Josh Bell, a student pastor in Orlando, was re-elected secretary.

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

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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