Campus Ministry Leadership Institute 2013: Inspiring, Enriching, Challenging

Fri, 06/28/2013 - 11:00am
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MOBILE, Ala. – Ninety student leaders and campus ministers from across the country gathered at Spring Hill College this week for the 16th annual Campus Ministry Leadership Institute (CMLI). During the five-day program, teams brainstorm, plan, and develop student ministry programs for implementation on college campuses, both private and public.

“Research shows that students who make strong connections at college—through organizations like campus ministry—have better retention rates and better graduation rates,” said Barbara H. McCrabb, Assistant Director for Higher Education in the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This benefits not only the faith community, but universities as well.”

Based on the U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter, Empowered by the Spirit, the institute has five goals:

  1. To ground participants' understanding of leadership in the context of Catholic faith and discipleship
  2. To provide students and ministers with a "big picture" perspective of campus ministry
  3. To develop or improve a project that will be ready to implement upon returning to campus
  4. To learn and practice collaborative campus ministry team skills
  5. To generate and share new ideas and program possibilities through networking with other campuses

“Our hope is to lay a foundation with these leadership teams that really enrich and improve their campus programs at their home schools,” said Angelle Hall, 2013 Director of CMLI and Director of Campus Ministry for the University of Missouri-Columbia. “What I love about the Leadership Institute is that students learn ‘hands-on’ how to problem-solve, communicate, build a team, and evaluate ideas.”

One session included creating five-minute “infomercials” that addressed topics such as “Forming the Christian Community” or “Appropriating the Faith.” Student teams made up of representatives from across the fifteen participating schools presented the infomercials, with creative titles like “Rosetta Stone: Catholic Edition” and “Christler Automotive.”

While the infomercial exercise was light-hearted and fun, CMLI leaders say that the lessons learned are serious and thought-provoking. “We’re challenged to think about how to better invest in people, how to make everyone feel welcome and involved on campus,” said Hall. “It helps us examine the hard questions. How can we best feed, encourage, and enrich our students’ lives?”

Each campus team leaves the institute having developed a major project ready to roll out upon returning home. CMLI directors then follow up in August and again the following April with evaluations. Teams are asked specifically if their project was implemented and whether or not it was successful, as well as what they learned at the institute.

“The Leadership Institute programs have an incredible success rate,” said McCrabb. “75 to 80 percent of the schools complete their project. Those schools report that the programs have had a positive impact or a very positive impact on their campus ministry overall.”

McCrabb also points out that the value of a CMLI experience lasts well into adulthood. “A 2005 study has shown that students who have a positive experience in campus ministry are much more likely to join a parish, contribute financially to that parish, and become involved in parish ministries. The bottom line stands out—a positive campus ministry experience often leads to parish involvement for the long term.”

During the Leadership Institute, students and campus ministry leaders also forge bonds that can last a lifetime. “This program provides incredible networking opportunities enriched by the strength of the folks who are here,” adds Hall. The group has a Facebook group and other ways for people to continue these important conversations. There’s such a value in creating these relationships and staying connected.” 

The fifteen schools participating in the 2013 CMLI Session 2 include: Syracuse, Indiana, Anna Maria, Cincinnati, SE Missouri State, University of Nebraska-Kearney, University of Missouri, Francis Marion, LSU Alexandria, SW Minnesota State, West Florida, Cal State San Bernardino, St. Mary’s University, Missouri Science & Technology and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

For more information on CMLI, visit www.usccb.org.