Wesley House at UC Berkeley Cited as GBHEM Considers New Models for Campus Ministry

October 16, 2009

By Vicki Brown*

The old model of campus ministries - fully funded by Annual Conferences - can no longer completely address the needs of ministry on campus, directors of the Division of Higher Education (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry) concluded at GBHEM's fall meeting in Nashville last week.
At the October 8-10 meeting, directors discussed what campus ministry does now, what new models might work, and identified campus ministries that already are doing new and creative ministry.
The Rev. Bridgette Young, assistant general secretary for Campus Ministry and College Chaplaincy, led the discussion and promised board members that she plans to develop training opportunities for new campus ministers and share best practices among campus ministers and chaplains.
The Rev. Orlando Chafee, superintendent of the Mahoning Valley District, East Ohio Conference, reported that in a discussion about what campus ministries uniquely bring to the church, his group concluded that campus ministries cost money - which means people in the church want to see that they're "getting something for their money."
"Campus ministry doesn't do a good job of showing Annual Conferences how campus ministry makes a difference," Chafee said.
For instance, the Rev. Jennifer Copeland, a board member who also is the United Methodist campus minister at Duke University, said she surveyed her ministry's alumni and found that 75 percent of them have gone into non-profit social justice work full time, and 30 percent are in fulltime service in The United Methodist Church.
Mike Sykuta, an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said local churches could do most things that campus ministers do on campus, but added that most local churches don't have the desire, the wherewithal, or the passion to do so.
"And I'm not sure the church can provide the kind of 24/7 very present and personal ministry that a campus minister can do," Sykuta added.
Board members concluded that campus ministers need to be more evangelistic and visible, and that they should work to empower students to tell the story of campus ministry.
James Swanson, Resident Bishop of the Holston Annual Conference, said it has been his experience that Annual Conference members are more attentive when it is students, rather than the campus minister, who report on what their campus ministries are doing.
Cal-Wesley Held up as Model
Agreeing that the old models do not always work, the group talked about campus ministries that are doing new things.
The group discussed the new Wesley House at the University of California-Berkeley, which will "hybrid" dorm apartments to blend the personal space of a dorm room with community living areas. Upon completion in the fall of 2010, Wesley House will be home to 96 students.
The Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan (at left), chair of the Division of Higher Education, said that building will generate enough revenue to fund the Berkeley campus ministry and to plant some campus ministries at other colleges and universities.
The group also noted that GBHEM needs to resource local districts and churches to encourage cooperative ministry between local churches and campuses.
But Young added that, "Campus ministry is not an extended church youth group."
"We are committed to developing training opportunities to help those cooperative models of campus ministry be effective in reaching students, as we form stronger partnerships with local churches and districts," Young said. "Churches need to understand the campus population and the specialized skills that are needed to serve students."
Several people mentioned that campus ministries, except on the campuses of historically Black colleges and universities, tend to be largely white - and said some attention needs to be paid to increasing the diversity of campus ministries.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.