“Call” is God’s invitation to use your God-given gifts and talents to minister in the church and in the world. The call is different for each person. Your level of interest and experience in working with young people should be an indicator of whether or not you would make a good campus minister or chaplain. Help in determining God’s call is available at www.IsGodCallingyou.org; specific information for youth is available atwww.ExploreCalling.org.
Campus Minister & Chaplain Profile
Overview of the Role of a Campus Minister or Chaplain in the United Methodist Church
A United Methodist campus minister or chaplain may be an ordained deacon, an ordained elder, or a layperson with specialized training. If clergy, they are appointed by a bishop to their posts.
Chaplains generally serve at United Methodist-related educational institutions and receive their pay from the institution. In contrast, campus ministers usually serve schools that are not related to the church, or as special staff of United Methodist-related research institutions. They are paid by the church through the annual conference budget or a local entity.
What Does a Campus Minister/Chaplain Do?
A campus minister or chaplain serves as a resource for students seeking Christian fellowship and service, overseeing a program designed to enrich the lives of the university community without respect to sex, race, creed, or national origin. He or she encourages student leadership through supervision, delegation, and participation. Ministries of worship, study, pastoral counseling, and other appropriate activities help to create a community of worship, learning, serving, and growing to a varied audience with a common bond of God’s love through Jesus Christ.
A campus minister or chaplain helps to continue The United Methodist Church’s historic mission of uniting knowledge and faith, emphasizing the need for quality Christian learning and study. He or she teaches students the importance of living a balanced Christian life of worship, Bible study, fellowship, service, and works of justice.
Where Do Campus Ministers/Chaplains Serve?
A campus minister generally serves through a Wesley Foundation, a United Methodist campus ministry on or near, and in service to, a state-run, non-church affiliated college or university. He or she is responsible for the oversight and direction of service-related activities. Wesley Foundations are ecumenical and available to all college students. They are sponsored in full or in part by The United Methodist Church and are governed by the annual conference.
A campus chaplain generally conducts programs for students at a United Methodist-related educational institution. Campus ministries directed by chaplains are ecumenical and include worship, study, pastoral counseling, and other appropriate activities including service-related activities.
United Methodist Campus Ministry Association
United Methodist campus ministers have the benefit of a professional association created to empower United Methodist campus chaplains to lead thriving ministries while advocating for strong and vital ministry in higher education.
The association provides a professional network of communication, support, advocacy, interpretation, leadership enhancement, and connectionalism.
Malcolm Frazier, Campus Minister
Campus Minister Was "Born to be a Minister"
Malcolm Frazier, the campus minister at Howard University in Washington, D.C., said working with youth at his local church in Gaithersburg, Md., brought him into ministry.
“The church school superintendent needed someone to take over one of the grade school Sunday School classes,” the 56-year-old elder said. “That was when I really became serious about the Bible. If I was going to be a teacher, I was going to understand what I was teaching.”
He joined a Bible study group and began working with youth at the district and conference level. Frazier said his engagement with scripture helped him realize his call.
“It wasn’t as if I had any type of special epiphany. It was a matter of coming to terms with who I was. I really am convinced I was born to be a minister,” he said. Before seeking ordination, he worked at Hewlett-Packard for 25 years.
When he received his first appointment, serving as associate pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., and campus minister at Howard, Frazier said it was “like a dream come true.”
“I will always have a fondness for youth ministry, and I love the intellectual stimulation I get from the students in the campus environment. They challenge me all the time,” said Frazier, who since 2000 has been full-time at Howard, where he is the director of the Wesley Foundation. Howard, a historically Black university, has about 12,000 students.
The biggest challenges he faces come from outside. “We [campus ministers] always have to justify our existence, to prove to the general church that our ministry is a vital ministry. After I completed my doctorate of ministry, colleagues would say ‘Don’t you want your own church?’ The Howard community is my church,” Frazier said.
Other struggles include finding space to do ministry and lack of financial resources. “I share an office with another colleague, so I have to find a dorm lounge or a classroom for Bible studies and other ministries,” he said.
He’s excited about the work he’s doing, especially a partnership with the mental health department on suicide prevention on campus and his role as advisor to two men’s groups. He works with Christian Brothers United, which focuses on creating a system of fellowship between men that fosters brotherhood, accountability, spiritual growth, and a desire to serve the community, and the Men of Strength Club, which focuses on modeling positive, nonviolent images of male strength. “They are committed to being allies with women in preventing violence against women, working to change conditions,” he said.
He will also be meeting regularly with students from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community on campus, since his campus ministry in March became a reconciling ministry.
His greatest joy comes in what he calls “Ah-ha! moments” when he really sees that students have connected spiritually with a certain context or idea, or have gotten a revelation “I’ve seen those happen in Bible study, counseling sessions, workshops, and especially mission trips.”
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, Campus Chaplain
Campus Ministry Teaches Sense of Community, Social Justice
by Renee Elder*
Most top college students are independent thinkers whose achievements help them stand out from the crowd.
That’s why some at Duke University may be hesitant to join a faith community that puts “us” ahead of “me,” says the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Copeland, United Methodist chaplain and director of the Duke Wesley Fellowship.
“I think the biggest challenge we face on the college campus, and probably local churches, too, is combating the sense of individualism bred into us as Americans and as college students,” Copeland says. “Duke strikes me as a place where everybody is expected to be highly successful. In order to be successful, one cannot appear to be dependent or come across as vulnerable.”
Students who get involved in the campus ministry eventually see how the welfare of the larger community at times outranks their own ambitions, says Copeland – who holds three Duke degrees, including a recently acquired Ph.D.
“The students who choose to be involved in any faith community have to be willing to say, ‘I want to be part of something bigger than myself,’” Copeland adds. “And they have to lay down the ego side that says, ‘I can do it all by myself.’ We try to teach that your greatest joys are going to come when you experience a sense of community.”
That sense of community was lacking when Copeland arrived at Duke as a freshman in 1981.
“There was no specifically United Methodist campus ministry at that time,” she recalls.
A new group formed during her junior year, and Copeland, who was raised in the United Methodist tradition, quickly joined. “I had started Duke as a biology major and flirted with computer sciences.... Then I decided to start taking classes I was interested in, and lo and behold, these tended to be English and religion classes.” She realized the work that interested her always centered on the church.
About that same time, Duke recruited the Rev. Dr. William Willimon (now resident bishop of the North Alabama Conference) to serve as dean of Duke Chapel, and he brought in a female associate, the Rev. Nancy Ferree-Clark.
“I was a junior in college, and I had never seen a woman preach,” Copeland says. “Then, my senior year, I saw worship led every Sunday by a woman in Duke Chapel. Prior to that, I had assumed if I went to work for the church it would be doing something in education or journalism.”
Thus inspired to seek ordination, Copeland went on to seminary at Duke, then moved back to her home conference of South Carolina, to accept a parish appointment as an associate pastor. Copeland later served as pastor-in-charge at both rural and urban churches before moving into part-time campus ministry at Converse College and then Furman University. In 1999, she was appointed as the United Methodist chaplain at Duke, returning to the campus ministry community she had helped to launch as a college student.
“Because this ministry had been so formative for me, I felt it was something I wanted to do,” she says.
Among the biggest differences between parish ministry and campus ministry are the hours. “Students want to start their meetings at 8 or 9 o’clock at night,” Copeland says, “where church meetings are usually wrapping up about that time.”
“One of the challenges on a campus like Duke is to help students articulate the difference between charity and social justice,” Copeland says. “It’s charity if the point is ‘I’m strong, and I’m smart; I have a lot of money, and I’m going to work on a Habitat house this weekend.’ That’s one way to be involved and make a difference, but it doesn’t affect your life. You still live in a 3,500-square -foot house and have two cars in the driveway.
“Those who seek social justice do the volunteer work, but they’re also asking the bigger questions: ‘Why are there homeless people in Durham? Why can’t everybody go to the bank and get a loan like me?’”
Knowledge of such issues breeds understanding, Copeland says.
“Once we get a student engaged in our ministry, then what I hope for in their lives is a shift in how they see the world,” Copeland says.
The goal is not to make students anti-establishment, but to help them realize the world is more complicated than they might think.
Ideally, involvement in the United Methodist campus ministry provides students with knowledge, inner strength, and the support of a large faith community – just what they need to become outspoken advocates for justice.
“If they don’t have the confidence that the things they care about are the things God cares about, they won’t speak out,” she says. “And they have to know there are resources behind them. They are not lone rangers out there.”
*Renee Elder is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.
Challenges Facing Campus Ministry
In light of a recent spiritual revival among college students, The United Methodist Church is finding new ways to respond to the needs of young people. Through the United Methodist Student Movement, a growing number of student leaders are seeking a strong role in the denomination. However, they may not enjoy worshipping in local churches with traditional styles of worship, and some of those churches may not welcome the gifts that young leaders have to offer.
Although The United Methodist Church has the largest network of Protestant campus outreach, it is represented on less than one-third of U.S. college and university campuses. As the numbers of students increase, the church must find a way to provide a more intentional witness to a burgeoning generation of young seekers.
Today’s college students have many competing demands for their time. Students with an established history of involvement in extracurricular activities may choose among a variety of activities outside the classroom. Limited funds and meeting space can handicap campus ministries.
Campus ministers may find their reach limited by the increasing numbers of students who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. This individual spirituality may affect students’ interest in participating in activities planned by organizations.
The increasing globalization of the student body poses a challenge to further develop a multicultural consciousness. Many students arrive at college with a sense of global social mission, and the numbers of international students continue to increase. The church and its campus ministers and campus chaplains must be open to and prepared to offer welcoming activities and appropriate programs and resources for students from countries other than the United States.
Campus ministry, as well as the larger church, is challenged by the impact of technology. Cell phones, e-mail, text messaging, and online courses all affect relationships on campus. While technology can isolate students, some campus ministers and chaplains are finding creative ways to use technology and social networks such as Facebook to communicate with students.
The church often cannot match the salary and benefits paid to campus ministers with those provided campus chaplains who are employed as staff of a college or university.