Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Campus Ministers in Public Higher Education: Facilitators of Student Development

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Campus Ministers in Public Higher Education: Facilitators of Student Development

Article excerpt

This article highlights the impact of campus ministers upon students within campus ministries at public colleges and universities. Data gathered for this qualitative study suggest that campus ministers serve as facilitators of religious development, personal development, and leadership development among the students with whom they work. Implications for student affairs practice are discussed in light of these findings.

Beginning with Harvard CoUege, each of the first nine colonial coUeges was founded by the dominant Christian denomination in die region. The intent of many founders of coUeges and universities, prior to the twentieth century, was to promote Christian values and morals (Stamm, 2006) and to train clergymen (Rudolph, 1990). Over time, however, the influence of reügion upon higher education has significandy declined, and secularization has become the prevailing force in the academy (Marsden, 1992). Though The Student Personnel Point of View, one of the first documents to set forth principles of student affairs, stated that higher education should "include attention to die student's weU-rounded development- physicaUy, sociaUy, emotionaUy, and spirituaUy, as weU as inteUectuaUy" (American CouncU on Education, 1949, p. 1), many student affairs administrators on pubUc coUege and university campuses are reluctant to address the spiritual aspect of student development (e.g., Moran & Curtis, 2004).

The reluctance on the part of many student affairs administrators to address student spiritual development has not diminished the desire of many students to explore the spiritual and reügious dimensions of their Uves. In fact, data from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles suggest that today's coUege students have very high levels of spiritual interest, and many are actively engaged and involved in reügion (Astin, Astin, Lindholm, & Bryant, 2005). According to one scholar, the recent revival of student interest in reUgion and spirituality may represent one of the most vibrant aspects of diversity on coUege and university campuses today (Nash, 2001). Unfortunately, recent studies have demonstrated that some students who espouse salient reUgious identities have experienced significant chaUenges on some pubUc coUege and university campuses. For instance, researchers have found that some evangeUcal Christian students report experiencing intolerance and antagonism from others on campus (e.g., Bryant, 2005; Hulett, 2004; Lowery, 2001; Moran, Lang, & OUver, 2007; Schulz, 2005). For this reason, coupled with the decUning Protestant influence in higher education (Winings, 1999), many students who are interested in expressing their reHgious identity have turned to campus reHgious organizations in hopes of finding safe places in which to explore and to develop their spirituaHty. Christian students, in particular, are quite active in many campus ministry organizations.

Campus Ministry Organisations

Models of campus ministry have changed over the years (Brittain, 1988). From the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s, campus ministry was on campus as a passive voice, interpreting and responding to the changes and development of the academic community. In the late 1970s, the primary role of campus ministries was one of networking, to lead students to other activities. The church-oncampus model emerged in the late 1980s. During this time, campus ministries began to offer an increased number of study groups and worship services on campus, rather than within a local church. According to Brittain, this model describes the structure of the majority of campus ministries today.

A variety of campus ministry organizations exist at most pubhc higher education institutions, though one commonality is that most are affiHated with the Christian reHgion. In regard to that reHgious tradition, Cawthon and Jones (2004) differentiated between traditional and contemporary campus ministries and suggested that both types are necessary. …

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