Friday, March 8, 2013

Peer Ministry

This Wednesday at dinner a student raised the question of how one gets on the Peer Ministry team, and it made me realize that I perhaps don't explain the role and purpose of our Peer Ministry Council as well or as often as I should.  I really ought to be highlighting this once a year, if not once a semester, especially for new students.  Here is my attempt to remedy that!

Our CCM is very much a peer ministry.  What do I mean by that?  I am your campus minister (and very happy to be that!) and there are many different ways in which I strive to minister to the student body here at WCU.  One of those ways is to assist you in ministering to each other.  That is what peer ministry is about; students ministering to their fellow students.  To that end we have a Peer Ministry Council (often times just called "Peer Council" but I don't like to forget the "ministry" part).

The Peer Ministry Council is a group of students who meet weekly to assist me in planning and organizing  the programs we offer through CCM.  Or, to put it more accurately, I assist them in planning these events.  Mainly this consists of the Wednesday night programs, and our Fall and Spring retreats, but can also include other things such as service opportunities, day trips, social functions, etc.  In addition to helping plan these activities, the Peer Ministry Council also serves as my sounding board for other ideas I might want to try out, and in general helps keep me informed about what is going on with the student body.  So in addition to being a planning committee, they also serve as kind of a student advisory board for me.

I want to emphasize one important thing.  While the Peer Ministers are very much in leadership positions within CCM, being on the Peer Ministry Council is not the only way to exercise leadership in CCM.  For example, Joseph Coca has been doing a wonderful job since last year of organizing and leading our student choir.  This is very much a leadership role, and he has done this without being on the Peer Council.  Students who attend our Wednesday night programs will know that Kevin Toole has offered a couple of wonderful presentations for us this semester, and has also put together our monastery tour this Saturday, and he is not currently on the Peer Council.  Sarah Taylor has been in charge of our weekly Adoration services for a full year now and is not on the Peer Council.  So there are very many ways to exercise leadership in our campus ministry without being a "Peer Minister."

Nor is the Peer Council about popularity.  Peer Ministers are not chosen because they are better liked than other students, nor because they are "holier" than other students.  So how are they chosen?

The Peer Ministry Council generally consists of between 4 to 7 students at a time.  There is no set number, but I find 4 to 7 to be ideal for our size ministry here at WCU.  Students are asked to serve for one semester at a time and at the end of each semester are given the option to continue serving or to step down.  So when Peer Ministers graduate or step down, openings are created that need to be filled.

The process starts simply with a conversation between me and the Peer Ministers-- not so much a conversation about who we think might be good choices for the team, but a conversation about the team itself.  What are our needs?  What are our current strengths?  What are our current weaknesses?  This conversation helps us to decide what qualities we need to look for in new team members.

Ideally, the Peer Ministry Council should be a balanced group that reflects the students involved in CCM.  If our current Peer Council is more women than men, we will want to look for more male members.  If most of our Peer Ministers are seniors and juniors, we might look for freshmen and sophomores to add to the team.  Maybe we have people who can come up with great ideas and are wonderful at behind the scenes planning, but not so comfortable in standing up and giving presentations.  We might want to balance that out by looking for new members who are good public speakers.  In other words, what qualities does the current team perhaps lack that we should look for in new team members?

Every member of the Peer Ministry Council is free to suggest names for consideration as new members.  And then that name is discussed, both pros and cons -- not making any judgment on the person, but simply discussing whether that person brings the qualities we need for a balanced Peer Ministry team.  (Remember, everyone whose name is discussed is a person that at least someone on the team thinks would make a great leader!)

As your campus minister, I have to consider two things.  1) Would this student be good for the Peer Ministry Council?  And 2) would being on the Peer Ministry Council be good for this student?  Sometimes that second consideration outweighs the first, and I am always mindful of the good of the individual student in my decisions.

In the end, the decision to invite a new student onto the Peer Ministry Council is made through consensus.  We do not take a vote.  Rather we discuss the matter until a consensus is reached. (As campus minister I do have the final say, but I have yet to disagree with a nominee reached through consensus).  That nominee is then approached, in private, by myself; told of the duties of being on Peer Council, and asked if they can commit to serving for at least one semester.  If they say yes, they are on board!

That's the process in a nutshell.  No one "applies" to be on the Peer Council, though if someone does feel a calling to serve our campus ministry community in that capacity, they are certainly free to express that to me and it will be kept in mind.  Although if you do not get asked to serve, please understand it doesn't mean you are not valued; it is more likely that a different set of qualities was needed to balance out the current team.

There are some qualifications for who can serve on the Peer Ministry Council.  It is expected that anyone being considered for PMC will have been active in campus ministry for at least one semester.  "Being active" means more than simply showing up for Mass on Sundays.  It means you have been a part of our community and participated in our programs.  It is also expected that you be a good witness for the Catholic Church.  This does not mean you have to be a saint, or a great apologist or theologian.  But it does mean that you are living a lifestyle that is not in discord with the Catholic faith, regularly attend the sacraments, etc.  You should also be a "team player" as most things are decided as a group.  No room for big egos at our table!  Finally, when you agree to serve on PMC, you also agree to make campus ministry your first priority at WCU after your academic studies.  This does not mean you cannot be involved in other campus groups; but it does mean that when conflicts arise between those other groups and CCM activities, you give priority to CCM.  Except for serious reasons, Peer Ministry Council members are expected to participate in and support CCM activities.

So, if you want to be on the Peer Ministry Council, what's the best thing to do?  My advice would be to read the above paragraph and then start to live it.  Be an active member of our campus ministry community.  Be a good witness of the Catholic faith.  Participate in the Sacraments.  Bring me your ideas.  And most importantly, don't wait for an invitation to start being a leader.  As I have said above, being on the Peer Ministry Council is not the only way to exercise leadership in campus ministry.  There is only room for so many students on PMC, so doing these things won't guarantee you'll be nominated.  But it will  likely make you a leader in our community one way or another.  And it is guaranteed to make you a valuable part of our faith family, and quite possibly draw you closer to God in the process.  That's really our only goal.

So that's the Peer Ministry Council, in a nutshell.  Our current members are Ali Daughtery, Alex Cassell, Kaitlyn Conger, Hunter Reid, Kat Sumeracki, and Rebecca Trujillo.  At the end of this semester, some of our current members will be graduating.  Others will be stepping down to allow more time for other responsibilities.  So we will be thinking and praying quite a bit this semester about the make up of our Peer Ministry team for the coming year.

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