Peer Ministry for Campus Ministry Partner Congregations [Part 6 of 11]
The ongoing maintenance of any ministry community requires regular meetings of the team. Most sites expect the student peers to meet weekly for study, planning and sharing, in addition to their participation in worship and Bible study. At weekly meetings schedules are coordinated, dreams are dreamed and plans made, progress is celebrated, ministries are encouraged and the team bonds are strengthened. These weekly meetings are often occasions for devotions and group prayer, sharing personal and interpersonal concerns and laughter. Meetings often are times of celebration. Birthdays, holidays, and feast days are all occasions for rejoicing.
The director of a peer ministry program ought to expect to spend a minimum of five hours per week in direct supervision. In addition to the group meetings, individual contact with each student peer minister ought to be scheduled weekly. The director will need to allow time for planning and presenting leadership development events and retreats. I would find it unrealistic to expect a qualified supervisor to accomplish the tasks in less than ten hours per week.
Consistency in meeting as a group and developing an atmosphere of openness is the best method of dealing with conflict within the ministry. Airing grievances before they fester offers opportunities to use conflict as a means to growth, rather than confront it as a destructive force. Many sites use reflections on D. Bonhoeffer's Life Together as a means of creating healthy relationships within the ministry community. Other sites use the findings of personality testing such as Meyers-Briggs Personality types and Kiersey Temperament Scale to further create understanding of interpersonal relationships and leadership styles.
In spite of all of that is done to alleviate conflict, conflicts will arise that will require outside assistance to mediate. While few sites reported any defined mediation process, the common process of those reporting was to encourage the conflicted parties to practice listening to one another, then bring it to the campus pastor/minister, and then to the personnel committee or directing committee. It is well to have this process in place and understood to alleviate confusion and unnecessarily deepen conflict. In the case of conflict between the campus minister and the peers, the personnel committee is the first mediating body.
As much as interactive listening is important for ministries with other students, it is more important that it be practiced within the ministry team. The team will function best in an atmosphere of trust, in which expectations are clear and overt, and members feel free to speak without censure. Students will not feel empowered to be creative in their ministry if they do not sense trust within the team. Nit picking, lying, sharing of partial information about projects and inappropriate humor at the expense of another will undermine trust.
One area in which many campus minister/pastors expressed concern was dealing with keeping the boundaries of the ministry team porous. Peer communities have a tendency to turn inward and not welcome outsiders. "I work hard on this, reminding, reminding, reminding." "This has taken constant vigilance and has met with modest success - this is a big problem." Those who dealt most effectively with the issue have structured their meetings and program as a whole to be welcoming to others. The key is to be intentional. As
Don Ranstrom, Campus Pastor at University of California -- Davis states, "We keep emphasizing, 'think like a minister'."