Louisville

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.