UMCM ESU encourages students' call


Reported by Rev. Kurt Cooper,
United Methodist Campus Ministry - Emporia State University

Project Summary

Did your project go as expected?
No. Ministry in 2020 and Matter 2.0 did not go as expected. And yet, I feel like we modified our plan and worked to move forward to engage students in the areas of faith formation and calling. Our big picture goal continues to be that campus ministry is a place where there is always an ongoing conversation about vocation and faith.

Matter 2.0 was scheduled to run during the spring and fall semesters of 2020. Emporia State University went to primarily online classes after spring break due to Covid 19. When we returned for the fall semester, classes were either online, hybrid, or in person. Campus ministry continued to be primarily online for the fall semester of 2020 and the UMCM Center was closed to the public, except for the students that lived there.

We did send out 10 copies of "Claim, Discover, and Flourish" to students for the spring semester. This in turn became our primarily devotional text for our spring devotionals online. We also used Parker Palmer's "Let Your Life Speak" as a summer reading curriculum (Ten copies were sent out to specific students). Our goal had been to have 8 to 10 students involved in Matter 2.0. Thinking back about the devotions in the spring and the summer reading program, I would say we had 4 to 6 students engaged in these opportunities.

We also did not have any excursions that were designed to explore call. Our travel for the the spring semester came to a close as we returned from spring break at the McCurdy Ministries Center in Espanola, New Mexico.

In the fall, we shifted focus and used the balance of the funds left in the Culture of Call budget line to help with the Buzz Boxes (ESU Hornets) we sent out to students each month. The hope with this was to keep a group of students engaged in faith formation with the hope that their sense of call would also be stirred. Buzz Boxes were designed to help students claim, maintain, and grow their faith during this unique time "on campus." This decision changed our focus from engagement of a smaller group of students to a larger one. It also meant that we transitioned to some degree from call to faith formation and call. We sent out a total of 96 Buzz Boxes during the fall semester (30 September, 30 October, and 36 November). The October Buzz Box contained GPAC Culture of Call items (sticker, pens, etc.).

Which of the 5 earmarks of Culture of Call did this project address? How?
  • Discernment events/experiences - No
  • Personal exploration - Yes
  • Mentoring - Yes
  • Spiritual nurture - Yes
  • Community expression of supporting individual calls - Yes
Primarily, we focused on reading, resourcing, and discussion. This focus tagged the areas of personal exploration, mentoring, spiritual nurture, and community expression of supporting individual calls. Current students are actively aware of students from the local campus ministry who have gone into ministry as a vocation or are currently seminary students.

I really feel during this time period, especially as we transitioned our plans, that key to our plan was the young adults' personal exploration, spiritual nurture and mentoring. As a campus ministry, we have really worked on keeping young adults engaged on some level. A great deal of this work has been focused on exploration of resources, nurturing their spirituality, and mentoring their faith formation.

Will the project that you undertook be continued? How?
I believe we will return to some sort of Culture of Call project in the future. It may focus more on the mix of faith formation and call. Vocation is always a topic of discussion within campus ministry. My hope would be that we could return to the topic in either the fall of '21 or spring of '22.

How did this project cultivate a culture of call in your church or district?
There are a number of ways in which the project cultivate a culture of call in our campus ministry.

I found the devotions in Claim, Discover, and Flourish, to be helpful in getting students to think about vocation and calling. I also definitely still think Let Your Life Speak is a great text for pondering vocation and calling. Much better than the copy of What Color is Your Parachute I was recommended to read when I was a college senior.

I do think the Buzz Boxes allowed us to work on a sense of community during the pandemic. It offered a chance to engage students with tools for faith formation and discerning call. A group of the students (5) read Adam Hamilton's Making Sense of the Bible over the winter break. This is a great introductory text for young adults to engage the Bible and grow in their critical thinking skills related to scripture. Reading Making Sense of the Bible added an additional discernment tool to their faith toolbox.

How were people impacted through the project?
Our hope with the initial project was that a core group of 8 to 10 students would be impacted. As this project transitioned due to Covid 19, the project took on both a small group approach and a larger group approach. The devotions, summer read, and winter read, were smaller sized groups of 4 to 6. The Buzz Box outreach reached a larger group of young adults. During the fall semester, 39 different students received at least one Buzz Box. As mentioned earlier, 96 total Buzz Boxes were sent out.

How did you tell the story of your project?
We have an online newsletter "Into The Midst" that shared a great deal about our ministry plans, hopes, and struggles during 2020. This was sent out about every two weeks during the semester. Content included information on the Matter 2.0, reading groups, and devotional activities.

What could you share about this project with others?
Always expect the unexpected. Have a plan, but be ready to modify the plan based on the ministry needs and context.