Student Ministry Coordinator position shifts to revive campus ministry programs
For 36 years, student ministry coordinators have greeted students arriving on campus, with a coordinator on each floor organizing opportunities for spiritual growth and discipleship for students throughout the year.
This fall, one of Seattle Pacific’s oldest student ministries saw some big changes. The cohort is smaller: There are only 15 student ministry coordinators, down from 39 in previous years, with one residence hall coordinator overseeing the group. Each coordinator oversees multiple floors of a residence hall. The student participants will have slightly different responsibilities and will be older than in previous years, and — in a shift that brings them in line with other campus leadership positions — they will receive leadership scholarships and be reimbursed for on-campus housing.
Historically, student ministry coordinators have been sophomore volunteers who see the position as an entry point to other campus leadership roles, said Kelsey Rorem, associate director of campus ministries. Those young students usually grow a lot in the position, but their youth also brings challenges.
“I’ve had students trying to figure out who God is while they are providing spiritual guidance to other students. It was tricky,” said Deb Nondorf, who advises student leaders in ministry programs. “There is value to having students who are further along in their faith and SPU journey serving other students.”
All of the changes are designed to address shortcomings in campus ministry highlighted by the Campus Ministry Task Force in 2014. That task force noted that students experienced sometimes uneven spiritual engagement in residence halls and that housing constraints and campus culture led upper-division students to live off-campus, where they are less involved in campus ministry as leaders or participants.
In addition, Rorem and Nondorf hope that the scholarships and housing reimbursements make it possible for students who need paying jobs to also serve in campus leadership.
“We wanted to evaluate what is sustainable and healthy for our student leaders and what is going to help residential students grow in their faith.” – Kasey Rorem
“Students are just infinitely busy. Many have multiple jobs to even be here in school,” Rorem said. “The SMC role is a big role and we wanted to evaluate what is sustainable and healthy for our student leaders and what is going to help residential students grow in their faith.”
Luke Palmer ’18, one of two campus student ministry coordinators last year, was part of the conversation about changes. He said it would be especially important in the first year of the new program for student ministry coordinators to think creatively about working together in residence halls.
Palmer believes there will be more cross-campus collaboration than ever before, more flexibility to match the needs of specific halls, and, with the addition of Wesleyan small groups, a whole new platform for student engagement.
“Students are definitely curious about what is going on,” he said. “I personally had a ton of people asking about the changes to the SMC ministry — I was almost popular for a couple weeks.”
This year’s residence hall ministry coordinator, senior Tia Hyodo, thinks the new format will establish a stronger hall community as the halls gather more holistically around things like small groups, coffee nights, and other events.
“Each SMC has been carefully chosen and prayed over, and I have already started to get to know each one,” she said. “I can see them thriving in bringing communities together.”
Student ministry coordinators will also lead Wesleyan small groups in the SoulCare program, providing space for students to engage deeply with spiritual formation alongside an introductory Christian faith class required for incoming students.
This will be senior Jarrett Bernhardt’s third year serving in the ministry, and he looks forward to developing new ideas for the program with his three fellow coordinators in Emerson Hall.
“I’m looking forward to learning from other people and focusing on community,” Bernhardt said. “This new ministry provides an opportunity to have a new adventure.”
This story originally appeared on page 52 of the autumn 2018 issue of Response with the headline, “Peer-to-peer ministry revisited and revised.”