The Church Council's Role
Peer Ministry for Campus Ministry Partner Congregations [Part 3 of 11]
I assume that most congregations who seek to venture into peer ministry have a statement of mission. It is part of a church council's task of oversight to assure that a peer ministry program's goals fit into and serve the mission goals of the particular ministry. No ministry exists for its own sake, to meet its own purpose. To do so betrays its definition. All ministries meet the needs of God's entire church in some way. Thus, the local peer ministry program's goals will fit the goals of the entire local ministry, just as the local expression of ministry fits into that of the entire church.
The healthy engagement of many minds in the planning and maintenance of a student peer ministry program is the best means available to ensure success. It is not necessary that every council member understand the intricacies of faith development theory, the dynamics of personality, the defining characteristics of the target group or the sociological milieu of the university. (2) It is best if the council can create an "ad hoc committee for program development," consisting of individuals who represent students, faculty, congregational members and rostered staff people of the congregation. Corporately these members of the program development committee should carry some knowledge of the above issues. The task of this ad hoc committee is to examine the milieu of the college or university to assess needs and resources, as well as to design roles and accountability into a proposed program.
The program development committee ought not be the same as the congregation's personnel committee. A program development committee will need individuals who can answer questions regarding issues of finance, property, and programming as well as personnel management. Legal issues regarding employer responsibilities (FICA, Worker's Compensation, Fair Labor standards and hiring practices) need to be considered.
After the ad hoc program development committee has completed its task, it will be essential that the personnel committee make the peer ministry program its own, being aware of its purpose and place within the entire ministry of the congregation. A personnel committee ought to intentionally maintain contact with the student peers on a regular schedule during the school year.
(2) A good brief discussion of emotional, intellectual, moral and faith development theories is found in James Moore and James P. Emswiler, Handbook for Peer Ministry, (Ramsey, New Jersey: Paulist Press 1982) chapter 2. For a thumbnail sketch of the milieu of the present university campus and characteristics of the college students of the late 90's see Jimmy Long and others, Small Group Leader's Handbook - The Next Generation, (Downers Grove Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1996) pp. 14-17.