Accountability and Autonomy
Peer Ministry for Campus Ministry Partner Congregations [Part 9 of 11]
Once a purpose or function of the peer ministry program has been established within the campus ministry mission, the next task of the program development team is to define accountability; to whom will the student peers report? To not pay attention to this area is to depend on the personality type of the student peers to guide their ministry. A conscientious student will seek out individuals to whom to be accountable. Such an individual will feel accountable to the campus pastor/minister, the secretary, other Christian leaders on the campus, other students and to themselves. A myriad of unrealistic and conflicting expectations will hamper the tasks of the ministry.
Another personality might see within an unstructured setting the opportunity to simply do their own thing, without sensing accountability to anyone. If the person is self-motivated and has a good sense of the Christian faith, he or she might do quite well. If the student is not motivated, nothing will happen. Worse, if the student has a sense of mission and bad theology, more harm than good will be done.
Most full and part time campus ministries of the ELCA have settled on a hierarchy of accountability. The students are directly accountable to the campus pastor/minister. In many sites, the personnel committee of the campus ministry directing committee has the responsibility of oversight of the peer ministry program. Personnel committees function both as a level of accountability and as a sounding board for the peer ministers.
Accountability assumes a job description specific for the individual. Each person in peer ministry at Southwest State University is understood to be part of a team, and has a specific role to play on that team. The contract between the student peer and the directing committee is specific in defining areas of service for the students. Staff relationships, expectations concerning attendance at weekly meetings and other indicators of performance are written into the contract. A specific area of responsibility within the total shared ministry is delineated within the contract. This year's team has an individual responsible for the off campus ministry groups, another who is involved with coordinating student led discussion groups, another who handles publicity and public relations and another who is in charge of music. All are expected to offer a small group Bible study in their residence hall settings. Next year, depending on the applicant's skills, the job descriptions may look somewhat different. The personnel committee, in designing the contracts, sought to discern the student's gifts and envision a ministry that would allow those gifts to grow and flourish while meeting the needs of the ministry.
On a broader basis, there are a number of tasks which are assigned to peer ministers in ELCA Campus Ministry. Small group leadership is the most prevalent task performed by student peers. These groups include Bible study, social/recreational, and "service groups" (which meet the needs of those outside the group). Some sites combine service, prayer and study in each student led group. A significant number of sites use student peers to lead outreach ministry teams. Other tasks assigned to student peers are publicity, making student contacts via phone and personal visits, worship planning and leadership, volunteer coordination, and music performance or planning. In all cases it is important that the job descriptions of the individual student peers serve the goals of the entire congregation or ministry.