By Vicki Brown, associate editor for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry
Children and poverty was the top choice as the 2013-2014 justice priority of the United Methodist Student Movement as determined by voting at Imagine What’s NEXT, a new student event sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
More than 560 college students and campus ministers attended the event, which focused on helping students consider the next faithful steps for their vocations, communities, churches and the world.
“We asked them to vote on priorities for UMSM and that was clearly the top choice, followed by prayer and vocational discernment,” said Beth Ludlum, GBHEM’s director of Student Faith and Leadership Formation. Resources that will help campus ministries focus on these issues will be developed and online by fall semester 2013.
“We plan to have fact sheets, Bible studies, books they can read, and each UMSM chapter or campus ministry can decide how they get involved,” Ludlum said. The Upper Room, the General Board of Global Ministries, the General Board of Church and Society, UMCOR, United Methodist Communications, and United Methodist Women are all collaborating with GBHEM on resources for the priorities.
Ludlum said she was pleased that the students attending the November 2012 event in St. Louis were in such universal agreement about what the focus of UMSM should be.
Three-fourths of students who answered a follow-up survey said that the conference changed or strengthened their call to a specific vocational path, and everyone who answered the survey said the conference increased their desire to make a difference in their community and the world.
The conference included a focus on the work of different church agencies and organizations and Ludlum said that seems to have had a strong effect on connectionalism, with 96 percent reporting they felt more connected to other students and to the UMC.
Ninety-five percent said they better understood the work of the UMC boards and agencies and the global reach of the church. About three-fourths of the students and nearly all the campus ministers said they connected with at least one exhibitor who provided an opportunity for future study or service that they are considering.
Finally, 98 percent of students reported they were strengthened in their relationship with and reliance upon God, according to Ludlum. Each student was asked to a sign a card pledging to take some action to improve their community and Ludlum said many pledged to plug into a program for children. Reminders will be sent to each student in March.
College students can apply through January 30 to be one of 12 field organizers who will be responsible for setting the direction of the UMSM, as well as helping with creation of resources. Field organizers will be responsible for connecting with annual conference advisers, campus ministers, and students in their jurisdiction; attending college student or young adult gatherings to represent UMSM; submitting up to 10 blogs each year for the UMSM Web site; and helping to maintain the UMSM facebook, twitter and web presence. Field organizers will meet twice each year for leadership training.