Resources for individual well-being are one of the greatest needs of college students on campus according to a recent assessment surveying campus ministers and university chaplains across the United Methodist connection. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) saw the increasing concern for declining mental health and well-being among college students and decided to meet these needs head on. As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, GBHEM has produced “The Awakened Life: An 8-Week Guide to Student Well-Being.”
The Awakened Life is a student-centered curriculum designed to teach psychosocial skills and help students build resiliency. The program was successfully field-tested and is now scheduled to be published in May 2019. It will be offered as a professional development opportunity for college chaplains and collegiate ministers to bring contemplative practices into the scattered and anxious lives of students and the campus community.
Meeting the Needs of Collegiate Leaders
While well-being is an ever-increasing area of concern in collegiate ministry, collegiate leaders rarely have the training and resources available to adequately address mental health concerns. Often on their college campuses, counseling centers are either nonexistent or overbooked and understaffed, and campus ministers are left as the sole providers of mental and emotional care to students. Accordingly, one of the biggest needs for campus ministers and chaplains is resources equipping them to care for students who are struggling with these issues.
The Awakened Life is intended to be a resource to foster mental, emotional and spiritual well-being using mindfulness techniques. It equips chaplains, college ministers and spiritual leaders to help students be more present and navigate emotional disturbance with equanimity by incorporating these mindful practices into their daily lives.
Research demonstrates that mindfulness practices contribute to improved mood, concentration and relationships; and with its rich contemplative history, religious faith has much to add to this conversation. This resource gives chaplains, college ministers and spiritual leaders tools to help students navigate the pressures of college living, and it offers students concrete practices to address typical anxieties and pressures related to college life.
Piloting the Program
The Awakened Life curriculum was created with the help of a team of United Methodist experts and leaders and was then piloted at four different United Methodist universities and campus ministry sites with college students during the 2018 fall semester. The pilot program provided a rich sampling of our diverse population of students. These settings included Martin Methodist College, Clark Atlanta University, University of Evansville and a church-based campus ministry at the University of Texas in Austin.
Based on the feedback from pilot site leaders, edits were made, and the final version of the curriculum has been prepared for publishing. The pilot program was an overwhelming success, and both students and their leaders noted marked improvements in their well-being.
Direct quotes from pilot site leaders:
- “The group conversation and journaling prompts were amazing.”
- “The poetry and guided meditation were huge successes!”
- “Students [have] become more aware of themselves and their surroundings.”
- “An impressive piece of work, the complete curriculum will be a valuable resource over a wide diversity of campus ministries.”
Program Release and Leadership Training Retreats
As an integral part of this curriculum, a leadership training retreat is offered for the campus ministers, chaplains and spiritual leaders who choose to use this guide. The retreat offers in vivo experiences of the practices found throughout the curriculum and training around how to best use this resource with students. For many campus ministers, we think this will be a welcomed time of connection, re-centering and support.
The Awakened Life is scheduled to be released in May 2019, and there will be several leadership training retreats offered this summer in preparation for leaders who would like to use the curriculum during the fall 2019 semester. Our goal is to prepare ministry leaders for the 2019 fall semester by equipping them with this tool and training them on how to use it. We would love to have you and your campus ministry involved! Please contact Dr. Sarah Bollinger, LCSW, director of Collegiate Ministry Leadership Development, for additional information (firstname.lastname@example.org).