Collegiate ministers from across the country gathered recently in Atlanta to share strategies and connect with peers working to grow student ministry and discipleship in the United Methodist tradition.
Prepare and Summer Institute, two events for collegiate ministry development, were held June 23-27 at Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Sponsored by the Collegiate Ministry office of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the United Methodist Campus Ministry Association, the events offered training, resources and networking for new, seasoned and prospective collegiate ministers.
|Participants in the Prepare training event at Candler School of Theology consider new ideas for minstry to college students. Photo from GBHEM.|
Rev. Narcie Jeter, Gator Wesley director at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and Rev. David Fuquay, director of Higher Education and Campus Ministry for the Florida Conference, had major roles in planning and carrying out the events. They returned to Florida encouraged by what they saw.
“I was heartened by the realization that collegiate ministers are our own best resources,” Jeter said in an email to Florida Conference Connection.
“We are on the front lines, trying new things and experimenting, because when your church population turns over every three to six years, we have to try whatever works.”
Prepare was scheduled June 23-24, with the institute starting on June 24. Participants were offered a special price to attend both, and overlapping the two gatherings enhanced opportunities for those experienced with college ministry to share ideas with those new to the mission field.
Jeter has been the Gator Wesley Foundation pastor for two years and worked in campus ministry in Georgia and South Carolina before that. Though every campus is unique, ministry ideas can often be adapted from one setting to another, she said.
“These gatherings are a chance for a community of support to form so that you know who to call and email with questions that arise because student ministry has its own unique peculiarities and quirks.”
Fuquay said this year’s Summer Institute was the first led by the United Methodist Campus Ministry Association, where he and Jeter serve on the coordinating committee.
“The experience exceeded all of our expectations,” Fuquay said in comments by email. “Our vision was for seminary-level continuing education lectures, coupled with the best campus ministry practitioners in the field.
“I was impressed by the depth of the conversations and reflections sparked by the Summer Institute presentations. And the friendships formed with campus ministers around the country continue to be nurtured as we follow up on the conversations started in Atlanta.”
- Rev. Narcie Jeter, Gator Wesley
Fuquay and Jeter led small group sessions on student leadership and board development. Derrick Scott III, Campus to City Wesley (CCW) minister in Jacksonville, and the CCW band led worship. Others from Florida on the program included Rev. Tim Wright, chaplain at Florida Southern College, and Rev. Rwth Fuquay, associate director of Clergy Excellence for the Florida Conference, who served as spiritual director.
Other Florida campus ministers attending the gatherings were Christy Holden of Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers; Erik Seise of the University of South Florida, Tampa; Mike Toluba and Will Newton of Florida State University, Tallahassee; Ryan DeLaune of the University of Florida; Beth Bostrom of the University of Miami; and Bryant Manning of Florida Southern.
Attendees from across the U.S. found value in the experience.
“I came to Prepare because I am brand-new at campus ministry and collegiate ministry, and I thought that I would get some ideas for how to go about this wonderful, new opportunity,” said Susan Holden, campus minister at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
“I got a whole plethora of new ideas … and the thing I didn't expect was to make such wonderful friends and contacts."
Prepare adopted a mentor-based learning model, in which peers and colleagues were given a forum to share and learn from each other’s experiences in collegiate ministry. The approach targeted leaders in their first five years of collegiate ministry and those who are pursuing ministry with college students. Participants watched mentor-created training videos before joining small-group sessions so that conversations could focus on integrating the ideas into individual contexts.
Rev. Peter Matthews, executive director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Cincinnati, commented on his experience at Prepare and Summer Institute:
"Regardless of what statistics say about millennials or 'not as spirituals,' I'm [able to interact here] with people who each and every day find themselves at the cutting edge of not just changing individual lives but making significant impacts on campuses with the most vibrant generation we've produced."
Designed for seasoned campus leaders, Summer Institute offered a more in-depth, focused training, in which participants devoted three days to one topic. This year’s focus was discipleship.
“Discipleship in this context was redefined and broadened to understand all the ways in which we strengthen and support students to be connected to their faith and to engage in leadership formation,” said Michael McCord, GBHEM’s director of Collegiate Ministry Resources and Training. “We saw it as a coaching process, hinged in a faith reality.”
Rev. Preston Davis, High Point (N.C.) University campus minister and chaplain, said of the event, "It's been wonderful to see what other programs are working, how missional mentalities are being put in place, and then to see these types of practitioners in The United Methodist Church that are really making a transformational impact in students’ lives."
Prepare and Summer Institute will be held next summer at Wesley Theological Seminary at American University in Washington, D.C. Contact the Collegiate Ministries office for more information about this upcoming event.
-- Nicole Burdakin is an editorial and production assistant in the Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Susan Green is the managing editor of Florida Conference Connection. To view the GBHEM story, including videos, click here.