Collegiality

8 Aug

One of the blessings of serving in the West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is that our Wesley Campus Directors hold a covenantal agreement with each other and our conference liaison. Specifically we agree to be an authentic, honest and trusting community to enable effective local campus ministries through mutual mentoring (e.g. reflection, sharing resources, shared learning), building and renewing relationships (e.g. taking time to be present for gatherings), creatively addressing problems and issues and making decisions, and cooperative conference relationships in ways that manifest and/or show trust, grace, openness, and reconciliation.

We live into this agreement by meeting either face to face or virtually at least every other month, by working together to promote campus ministry at our annual conference meeting, by hosting together a statewide retreat each winter, and by participating in each other’s ministries when practical. For example, Lisa Batten, the director of the Western Michigan University Wesley Foundation came with her students to help lead our worship service one evening. I returned the favor the next week by traveling there to lead theirs. On another occasion, Lisa and her intern helped me craft a complicated grant proposal since they had completed a similar one the year before. This summer, Charlie Farnum, who directs the Wesley Foundation at Central Michigan University, took some renewal leave to put together a guiding curriculum that we will each use in our own ways. Bill Chu, director at the Michigan State University Wesley Foundation, is the former Conference Secretary and found many ways for our students to be more actively involved during our annual meeting.

From June 23-29 three of us worked together to lead a church camp for high school students. Lisa (as previously mentioned) is the camp dean for the week, I coordinate worship, lead singing and help camp run smoothly, and Christine (the director of the Wesley Foundation at Ferris State University) was a cabin counselor as this was her very first week at a church camp. It was wonderful and surprising to watch our various gifts unfold in that setting. We are very different people in our gifts, experience and theological grounding, but we worked well together building Christian community and exploring the challenges of day to day youth ministry in a camp setting. I feel blessed to have had my colleagues with me at camp this year.

Campus ministry can be a ‘lone ranger’ kind of ministry if we let it become that way. It is easy to assume that no one else understands our context. Sometimes the colleagues we have on campus feel more like adversaries as cooperation in Christ and competition for students and resources get intermixed. I hope you are blessed with at least one other person who serves in campus ministry that you can rely on, call on, or offer support to. If not, I hope you will use this missive to find someone. It’s not always easy finding time for each other, but I know it has made all the difference where I serve.

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Greg LawtonGreg Lawton was hired as Director of the Wesley Fellowship at Grand Valley State University in July 2011 after serving as the interim campus minister at the Michigan State University Wesley Foundation for a semester. He has served churches in the West Michigan Conference in youth and adult discipleship since 1997 and has degrees in Applied Science (A.A.S., Ferris State University), Hydrogeology (B.S., Western Michigan University) and Christian Education (M.A., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). He is also trained in Restorative Justice, Mediation, and other peacemaking techniques. He lives in nearby Wyoming, MI with his cat, Bob. Greg is an ordained Deacon in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church, loves to travel either on mission or for fun, and enjoys church camp and folk music.

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2 Responses to “Collegiality”

  1. Nancy August 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Greg, I appreciate this article and your commitment to collegiality across denominational boundaries as well! Glad you are my colleague! And I’ll be sharing this with my PCUSA colleagues as we are becoming much more intentional about working together and supporting each other. Blessings on the upcoming school year!

  2. Paul Charles Walley (@walleyp1) August 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    I like the suggestion to find a colleague to share ministry perspectives with ~ though not always easy to find someone who is simpatico and objective. The very least you can share your hopes and flops, dreams and duds, without letting it overwhelm you. I was
    fortunate to have a few over the years. They were invaluable.

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