Selection of Students
Peer Ministry for Campus Ministry Partner Congregations [Part 2 of 11]
Having established the program design, the next step in developing a peer ministry program is to recruit and select students to fulfill the expectations. Time and effort spent in the selection process will pay off well in the following year. The common wisdom is that it is better to leave a space vacant than to select the wrong person. Very needy students will take more time from the ministry than they will offer. It is important for the vitality of the entire ministry that intentional care be spent in the design and implementation of the selection process. A well-designed process goes a long way in instilling in the student peers the importance and responsibility of the position in which they serve.
The qualifications for student peers vary from site to site, depending on the program descriptions. High on the list of qualifications is a commitment to the faith in Jesus Christ, with a specific commitment to the Lutheran tradition. It is unlikely that a person who has not been active in the ministry will be chosen to serve, unless strongly referred by appropriate sources. In many settings the persons are chosen for particular gifts. Obvious examples are musical ability for those leading music ministries, Biblical knowledge for small group leaders, a gregarious personality for those who are to do peer evangelism. At LCM-SSU, we require a minimum grade point average for applicants. Other qualifications include an ability to make and keep commitments, emotional stability, and enthusiasm.(4)
Since the majority of students considered for positions are already active in the ministry and familiar to the staff of the ministry, often recruitment is accomplished by sharing information through in-house bulletins and at gatherings of the community. Personal invitations to those who have exhibited abilities for ministry have proven to be helpful. Reluctant candidates are often encouraged by such personal attention. In established peer ministry programs the current year's peer ministers are most effective in recruiting those for the next year.
The ministry/church council has an important place in the selection process. At our site in Marshall, MN, we have applicants fill out a standardized application form and request a minimum of two references. Applicants also are to turn in an essay stating how they see themselves as a potential member of the ministry team and how they expect to grow throughout the year of service. The campus pastor sits in on the personal interviews of the candidates, but does not vote on the recommendation which the committee makes to the entire council. The personnel committee recommends a ministry team consisting of the selected individuals, and the council votes on their team recommendation as a whole.
(4) Paul Miller offers these attitudes and skills that are to be sought in a peer counselor. "Beginning with 'common sense,' the lists urge that you as a counselor be open-minded, mature, kind, tolerant, sympathetic, objective, tactful, intelligent, flexible, warm and well trained. In addition you should actively come through as a good listener, a person who likes people, is able to handle pressures and anxiety without undue strain, uses humor appropriately and is skilled in interpersonal relationships" (Paul M. Miller, Peer Counseling in the Church, [Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press 1978] pp. 17-18). It is unlikely that any university student will have achieved a stage of development in which all of these are present. The opposites of these characteristics will not be present in a qualified candidate.