Communities of Mentorship and Learning Together

The Society of Campus Ministers knows that people are called to campus ministry by a desire to serve and by an intellectual itch.  It is our goal to help facilitate communities of campus ministers by attempting to scratch that itch.  This autumn, we hope to introduce a non-synchronous distance learning course through which both experienced and new chaplains can enter into community and learn together.  The plan is below:


To use non-synchronous distance learning to help educate and create community among campus ministers.


The church is embracing a diversity of staffing models for campus ministries.  In some places, campus ministry is still the domain of ordained ministers, whether priests or deacons.  But increasingly parishes and diocese are turning to lay people to lead these ministries. There are some campus ministers who have enjoyed long tenures in their positions, particularly at stand-alone ministries, but the majority of ministries in the church experience a high degree of staff turn-over.  Since campuses don’t share proximity in the way that parishes in a deanery do, campus ministers often find themselves working in isolation.  It is our goal to use web-based technologies to help bring new chaplains into communities of mentorship that will ease their isolation and help them explore the potentialities of their ministries.


Non-synchronous distance learning has been increasing throughout Higher Education as technologies improve and communities experiment with new pedagogies.  We plan to use online resources to create communities of mentorship by inviting experienced chaplains, seminary and college professors, and other church leaders to offer classes on a variety of topics, and by giving participants opportunities to meet in person and online for discussion and resource sharing.  We plan to partner with Bexley Hall Seminary in the development of this non-synchronous distance learning program.

Studies in online learning have shown that it’s most effective when participants meet face-to-face for a beginning session and a concluding session.  This creates a sense of responsibility for the community that decreases attrition. In keeping with this pedagogy, we will plan a year-long series of classes that begins with provincial chaplains’ gatherings in the fall and ends at the Kindling Conference in summer.  We intend for this program to have academic rigor within a set of reasonable expectations.  Chaplains are, by vocation, interested in ideas and exploration, and we plan to speak to this interest in the courses we teach.  Finally, we seek to be co-participants in a true community of mentorship which responds to the needs and questions of every member.  We will elicit topics from each other and plan classes with those topics and questions in mind.

Class Topics

In order to determine the class topics, we have solicited suggestions from the community of chaplains.  We don’t know if we can offer classes on all of the suggestions this year, but will attempt to make sure that all topics are covered within a two year period.  Here are the suggestions so far:

  • Sexual misconduct (harassment and rape)
  • How does a campus minister build a community that will garner trust? What are the implications of moral authority, pastoral and ethical?
  • How do campus ministries respond to the increasing secularization of young adults in higher education?
  • How does one build community (especially from scratch)?
  • What is the relationship of the chaplaincy to the university? Are we are a part of the university structurally? Do we speak prophetically to the university? How do we co-exist with university structures that may not want us?
  • Ecclesiology question—what does it means to be priest outside of parish life?
  • Social justice issues that confront our ministries on a regular/changing basis



We will recruit instructors from throughout the Episcopal Church.  We will ask experienced chaplains to teach some classes, but also look outside of the campus ministry community to seminary professors, college professors, bishops, and others.  Instructors will be expected to:

1.  Set a reading list for the topic they are teaching.  Required reading should be limited to one book or two or three articles, with the hope that suggestions for further reading will be available.

2.  Record 8 -12 minutes of video or audio podcast, or just write lecture notes.

3.  Run the class, using the following schedule:

a.  weeks 1-2 students do reading

b.  week 3, students write 2 page reading response

c.  week 4, class session focused around questions and comments from response papers

1) check discussion board 2-3x a day, but only during week 4, a 15-20 minute time commitment

2)  schedule one hour-long webex drop-in session.


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