Tertiary ministry: Students feel less alone
Students who have connected with Uniting Church ministry on campus have clearly articulated the importance and impact of tertiary ministry in a report to the Synod of New South Wales and the ACT tabled on September 24 in Newcastle.
“Through Uniting Church tertiary ministry I’ve learnt ways to connect with God and people that go beyond the surface levels of relating and thinking. It has given me a strong foundation for my discipleship, evangelism and ministries I’ve been involved in since uni.”
“In the second week I was there, I said, ‘I don’t know exactly what I believe’ and someone said, ‘Yeah, a couple of years ago, I felt like I lost my faith’. They made you feel okay that you didn’t have all the answers right now. Then you know you are not alone.”
“Tertiary ministry connected me with a congregation with the wider Uniting Church. I am involved in leading worship at our congregation. I have also been involved in the wider church through Presbytery, Synod and Assembly — opportunities I may not have had without my involvement in tertiary ministry.”
The Uniting Church has tertiary ministry on campus at the Universities of Newcastle, Wollongong, Sydney, UTS (University of Technology, Sydney), Western Sydney, New England, Macquarie, the University of New South Wales and at six tertiary institutions in the Canberra Region Presbytery.
Current tertiary ministry agents say they believe their aim is “to grow communities of vibrant believers across the tertiary institutions in which we work, for the sake of Christ and the Church”.
A research project, tabled along with the report to Synod, identifies the role and purpose of tertiary ministry as articulated by those providing it as:
- Equipping students in their discipleship and for their life beyond university;
- Helping students to participate in the intellectual sphere of university, to grasp biblical criticism and theological tools so their faith understanding can grow with them;
- Providing a safe space to struggle with faith and ask questions; and
- Providing an avenue for engaging with Christian community — especially where the 18-30 year-old bracket is less present in local congregations.
The research project said that tertiary ministry in New South Wales and the ACT had much to offer students at this critical life stage.
Tertiary ministry’s challenges identified, however, included:
- Lack of broad awareness and promotion of the Uniting Church’s tertiary ministries. Some people involved in the research revealed that they had only found out about the Uniting Church presence on their campus after they had left university.
- The need for collective solutions to enable effective connections between local churches, Uniting Church schools and tertiary ministry.
- Already-stretched personnel and resources allocated to tertiary ministry. For 2011-12 the amount allocated is $472,351 — a 5.49 per cent reduction over the 2005 to 2006 financial year. When stipend increases during this period are taken into account, this is equivalent to an overall reduction of 29.69 per cent.
- The need for an effective decision-making process relating to funding which has been intensified by the reality of funding reductions.
Despite these hurdles the report’s authors said they were “full of hope for the future of tertiary ministry”.
They also said: “The Tertiary Ministry Committee has work to do in developing coherent vision and strategy for the next five-to-ten years, and looks forward to doing this in partnership with the presbyteries, Uniting Mission and Education, tertiary chaplains and mission workers, and appreciates the support and resources available from both the Synod and presbyteries.”
Additional feedback received by the researchers will form part of a broader report to be finalised before the end of 2011.
Read the full report here.