Campus Ministry Leaders Energized by Sharing Best Practices

Date Posted: 2/25/2016

New ideas and networking were among the biggest benefits of attending the fourth annual campus ministry retreat designed to help leaders Invest in the Young.

Many would be surprised to learn that one-half of the candidates in the College Pastoral Intern Program (CPIP) come out of the Wesley Foundation student ministry groups. “It is good for us – and others in the conference -- to know about the fruits of our campus ministry programs,” says Rev. Tom Teekell, campus ministry leader at Stephen F. Austin University (SFA) Wesley Foundation.

Rev. Elizabeth Duffin, who heads the TAC intern program, brought this insight to the retreat and shared how ministries might work together since Wesley Foundations are a primary source of students for the CPIP.  According to Tom, the SFA student group is about to submit its sixth student into the internship program.

"Our Annual Conference works to bring our campus ministries from fair quality to good, from good to great, and from great to excellent,” says Rev. Greg Oberg, SHSU Wesley Campus Minister. To that end, Texas Annual Conference Wesley Foundation directors, staff members, and interns spent Feb. 5-6 at Lakeview sharing ideas and encouragement at the Fourth Annual Best Practices in Campus Ministry Retreat. Rev. Dr. Elijah Stansell, conference treasurer and director of the Center for Connectional Resources facilitated the discussion on a wide range of topics from outreach and fundraising strategies to leadership development, missions, and self-care.

Adds Oberg, “Since our campus ministries are different shapes and sizes, this gathering allows us to be united for two days of learning, sharing and focusing." Greg also appreciated having the time to go into detail via the group discussions. “I learned of some new apps and campus ministry resources that are now being integrating into a shared Google folder that keeps us all from having to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “The retreat discussions were a good reminder -- for those of us in the ministry 20 years or two years – of the importance of keeping the mission statement central to all we do, and the idea of having a student and a board covenant.” Retreat attendees also shared ideas on how to structure a board, recruit new leaders and successfully transition successors.

“The retreat helped me think about what we’ll become at UT-Tyler,” said Rev. Ben West, who is serving the newly revived Wesley Foundation there. “I got a lot of great insights,” shared Rev. Jackie Collins, who is appointed to the University of Houston Wesley, “and appreciated the time set aside to focus on campus ministry, I view this retreat as an annual opportunity for me to learn how to get better at what I do.”

“I was encouraged to hear what other campuses have going on,” adds Ben Sinclair, intern at the Texas A&M Wesley. Rev. Dwayne Thompson, Director Wesley Foundation at Prairie View A&M adds, “I think of Best Practices as a collaboration of campus ministries outlining their activities and practices to demonstrate how they're used to help students continue, support and develop their Christian faith. We believe that serving the college students on campus is a specialized calling within The United Methodist Church that requires the latest and most informative materials for shaping the lives of students.  We all feel it is particularly exciting to help college students, who believe they been called, to understand and articulate their call and move forward with spiritual guidance. When campus ministry is done well, the transformation is evident in the life of college students.

Leadership Development: Lessons Learned
During the “show and tell” part of the retreat, Tom shared insights about the leadership development program at Stephen F. Austin, for students and staff. “We hold regular meetings wherein we discuss leadership blog content and topics and do book reviews together to glean new ideas,” he says, adding that several recent favorites are The Cataylst Leader and The Advantage. Several campus ministries are also using the Birkman Assessment tool and consulting (offered by the Center for Clergy Excellence) and related program called Dynamas. “Right now, as a ministry staff, we are reading and discussing The Screwtape Letters, as we mix it up between some practical resources and some that are more theologically oriented. Participants also appreciated hearing about SFA’s fundraising successes that provide resources for a more impactful ministry. “We have honed our benefit auction event over the last 14 years and shared those lessons with other campus ministers who would enjoy being able to raise $25,000 for their programs,” Tom adds.

The group also met with Eddie Erwin, TAC Director of Youth and Young Adults, and learned that he is working with conference staff to provide a new, online reporting system that will make it easier for churches to timely and securely report their college students’ names and contact information to the appropriate campus ministries. “The Beta program is underway and we are more than excited to use it this summer to know who is coming to our universities, as prior to now, students – particularly transfer students – have come and gone off of our ministry radar.” Additionally, ministry leaders and students were invited to the Fifteen Forum event for young adults hosted by the Conference in April. The retreat was sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry.

Rev. Karen Bright from the Kilgore College Wesley Foundation summed up her experience in one word, calling the retreat “tremendous!”Adds Tom, “Initially, several of the participants were disappointed we did not have a speaker this year, but by the end of our time together we were pleasantly surprised at how energizing it was to exchange best practices instead.”