A new vision for collegiate ministry

Task force outlines ways to reach, love, teach college students

February 21, 2012


In order to revitalize collegiate ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Collegiate Ministries task force suggests several steps — establishing a shared vision and brand across the church, creating or renewing 101 college congregations, developing training and recruiting opportunities for leaders and instituting sustainable funding.

Adrian McMullen, associate for the Office of Collegiate Ministries, presented the task force’s findings and suggestions to the General Assembly Mission Council’s Evangelism Committee at its meeting here Feb. 16.

Other denominations and organizations are generally more visible, innovative and forward-thinking than PC(USA) ministries, McMullen said.

“Collegiate ministries was sort of on the back burner, so to speak, denominationally,” McMullen said.

The task force’s working vision statement is: “We are a church that reaches, loves and teaches college students to be lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.”

The task force is proposing that collegiate ministries in the PC(USA) have a two-part structure: the Office of Collegiate Ministries within the GAMC and a network in covenant with the GAMC — staffed with five regional coordinators — that will serve as an informative and directive resource for students, parents, campus pastors and congregations.

Working together, the office and network will establish an adaptive model to promote and establish local Presbyterian collegiate ministries grounded in local congregations and supported by mid-councils.

Building on the PC(USA)’s vision for 1,001 new worshipping communities in 10 years, the office and network will identify 101 university communities with the potential for collegiate ministry and start new worshipping communities within them.

“We want to get on board with that. We think it fits perfectly with collegiate ministries,” McMullen said. “We really feel like college campuses are a hotbed for newness … it’s like a new church development every four years.”

Training and support for collegiate pastors is also important, the task force says. The PC(USA) now has few options for those willing and able to serve, and there is no specialized education for campus ministers, McMullen said.

To that end, the task force is exploring several options: chaplaincy or congregational internships, campus volunteers, seminary field education and certificate or degree programs. The task force is in conversation with a few seminaries now about these options.

“If this happens — which we think it will — the PC(USA) will be on the cutting edge of this,” McMullen said. 

There is also a need for increased funding for the Office of Collegiate Ministries — which has seen years of downsizings and organizational changes — for the next five to six years, McMullen said. The office will initially fund the network, which will working with the changing synod structure to secure collegiate ministry funds.

“We are kind of sitting on the precipice,” McMullen said, adding that there is a great interest in collegiate ministries within the church now. “This is our time.”

The 10-member task force, established after the 219th General Assembly in 2010, will present its report to the 220th GA this summer.

  1. This is great! Is there anything to help local churches reach out and support students at community colleges? The students seem starved for connection and community. Thanks.

    by Susan Byrne

    July 23, 2012

  2. I'm interested in learning about training personnel for campus work. I'd consider the investment of getting trained.

    by Nancy Williams

    April 2, 2012

  3. 1) Glad to hear the big wheel is rolling. 2) I'm interested in "home" churches supporting students; we've rolled out such a program this year (soon, you'll be able to read my blog, I suspect). 3) Regarding the conference in Florida this summer--can we get podcasts of sessions and lists of SIG (special interest group) members to build an online community?

    by Nancy Williams

    April 2, 2012

  4. This is wonderful news and a good step! I wonder how campus ministries like ours who have been operating ecumenically and across traditions for many years with PC-USA supprt can also be in the conversation? And, is there a more detailed report that is available to review? i would love to see that! Thank you all for the food and faithful work here! God bless you!

    by Larry Brickner-Wood, The Waysmeet Center @ UNH

    March 1, 2012

  5. As the pastor of University Presbyterian Church on the campus of LSU I am interested in the work of this group. We have a long history of campus ministries with and outreach to the university community. Would love to be part of the conversation and to share in some new models, Please be in touch.

    by Patti Snyder

    February 27, 2012

  6. I am also very interested in ways to support our campus ministries. I have served as a volunteer for the Presbyterian Campus Ministry that serves Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities. We do not have a PC(USA) within walking distance of our campus so housing the ministry within one congregation would not work for us. We are supported by numerous local congregations and that has been beneficial. Still, much more support - especially financial support - is needed for this very critical and important ministry.

    by Linda Carter

    February 24, 2012

  7. Christian Educators can be helpful with this reorganization, too. I am working with an innovative collaborative partnership that is fostering learning/service exchange between Kibungo, Rwanda and a Fulton, Mo congregation. We will send our first USA student (Centre College graduate) this summer!

    by Kat Barden

    February 23, 2012

  8. Looking forward to hearing more. In my work with PCM@Emory, I am convinced there are many opportunities for mission and for leadership development - among students and church professionals. And it is hard work, esp. funding and support, with or without congregational or presbytery or campus support. And rewarding.

    by Sarah Erickson

    February 23, 2012

  9. love this. have the strategic places been picked out yet? I'm part of a smaller by vibrant and alive campus ministry (with almost 100% participation ever time) at the university of oregon. our group added 2 people in September (myself included) and two people in the last month....4 people this school year, some regular churches can't get four people to join in a year, so I feel like we're doing ok....I pray others can get this same experience!

    by Amy Merchant

    February 23, 2012

  10. I trust the full report will propose that we begin to raise-up another generation of leaders to serve in higher education mission fields, however diverse in setting & practice, e.g. congregation-, campus- based etc.

    by Bruce Chapman, Westminster House, Fla. State Univ.

    February 22, 2012

  11. I gather from your article that PCUSA intends to house campus ministries within congregations--is this the model you feel works best? Also, has research shown part-time campus minister positions are easier to financially support than full-time? We at Pres. Campus Ministry in Tucson, AZ are interested in hearing more. I am currently the PCM committee moderator. Thank you for your efforts!

    by Ann Brittain

    February 22, 2012

  12. I continue to thank God for Adrian McMullen and his commitment to, and work for, the ministry we do around young adults and college students in the PC(USA). His steady presence, wise ways, and creative thinking will surely lead our denomination and those of us "in the trenches" as we re-envision how we sense God's call in our midst in the arena of collegiate ministries. I look forward to the dialogue and to our future together.

    by Kristin Hutson, College Chaplain

    February 21, 2012

  13. I suppose it's a start. As a tenured pastor new to collegiate ministry, I can clearly say that it is the most difficult call of my vocation.

    by Hunter Camp

    February 21, 2012