New Certification Will Lift Up Best Practices
Certification for collegiate ministry will lift up best practices with a vital ministry that differs in key ways from local church work, according to campus ministers, agency staff, and seminary administrators.
The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Board of Directors approved a certification track for certifying those working in collegiate ministries at the March meeting in Nashville, Tenn., and several United Methodist theological schools are already working on course offerings that will fulfill the educational requirements.
“With so much talk about vital congregations, it's easy to forget that not all of our vital congregations come in the form of a traditional church with steeple. Some of those vibrant communities are our campus ministries,” said Narcie Jeter, campus minister at Winthrop University, who will be moving to the Gator Wesley Foundation at the University of Florida this summer.
The Rev. Bridgette Young Ross, GBHEM’s assistant general secretary for Campus Ministry and College Chaplaincy, agreed.
“More than ever, we need those in ministry with college and university students to have a calling and a passion for this particular work. A certification in collegiate ministry will empower them with a skill set and affirmation from the church that this is a ministry of vital importance which requires specific core competencies,” Young Ross said.
Jeter added that campus ministers have to be radical in their hospitality and in their evangelism and outreach on campus and in the community. “If the ministry does not continue to be one that is visible in the campus community, then it's not on the students' radar and is irrelevant in many ways,” Jeter said.
Certification will be helpful because campus ministers face challenges and struggles that can sometimes be completely different from those faced by a local church pastor, Jeter added. It also provides a professional credential that annual conferences and Boards of Higher Education and Campus Ministry and local campus ministry boards will be able to use to select trained candidates who are passionate and invested in this ministry.
This certification will also be a chance to lift up the "best practices" in campus ministry as well as the opportunity to explore new trends, models, and methods. “Having an opportunity to share and learn from colleagues in our ministry area is crucial to the retention of campus ministers, to the spiritual health of our campus ministers, and to the overall strength of our United Methodist campus ministries,” Jeter said.
James A. Noseworthy, vice president for Administration and External Programming at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, said collegiate ministry is essential ministry of the church.
“During the college years, students often take a ‘sabbatical’ from traditional congregations. It also is a time when the students are reflecting on critical issues of faith and vocation. Our ministry with and among students is a witness to God’s presence and the love of Christ,” Noseworthy said, adding that ministry on campus engages students and faculty as they consider great and challenging ideas, ethical quandaries, and vocational options, and as they discover their vocation in God’s family.
More than 20 Garrett-Evangelical graduates are involved in full-time collegiate ministry, Noseworthy said, and four faculty members served as college chaplains or campus ministers. “We continue to equip clergy to understand young adult faith development and collegiate life though academic courses, continuing education, and internships,” he said.
He said Garrett will begin offering classes this fall for this certification, which further equips clergy and laity for successful collegiate ministry.
The Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, chair of GBHEM’s Division of Higher Education and dean of the Theological School at Drew University, said many clergy who end up in campus ministry have never had training or taken any classes about ministry with young adults.
“The certification process will prepare those who think they have an interest in college ministry to gain the skills they need to do it well,” Kuan said. He said the courses will also be helpful to other denominations.
Kuan said he is in conversation with faculty now and hopes to launch collegiate ministry certification in spring of 2013.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.