Reaching Catholic High School Students

St. John's University in New York City has figured out a way to reach out to Catholic high schoolers such that they end up enrolling at St. John's.

I had the pleasure of visiting with the ministry team from St. John's at their Queens campus this past week.  In addition to finding out about their approach to campus ministry through a Vincentian lens, I discovered what they call the Catholic Scholars Program.

The Catholic Scholars Program was designed to build "Catholic student density" on campus among its other objectives.  This is always a balancing act as universities welcome students from all walks of life.  With that said, Catholic colleges also desire to recruit enough practicing Catholic students such that the Catholic identity of the institution is maintained.

Director Jimmy Walters, Ed.D., described the program as a four-year experience for a select group of undergrads who demonstrate a strong faith, a desire to serve and an intention to become leaders.  Each is selected by the college, receives a partial scholarship, and lives and learns among a cohort of like-minded students.  There is a theology component, a service element and even a pastoral assignment in their junior year.  The Program is one example of how to transition students from high school to your campus. 

You may want to emulate parts or even all of the Scholars Program as it has been designed at St. John's.  Or, you may want to create one of your own, connecting Catholic high school students to life on your campus.

What are some qualities of effective transition steps from high school to college?  They may include:

  • Building relationships with 10-15 key Catholic schools in your area, encouraging them to consider your school
  • Getting high school students on campus for retreats
  • Inviting Catholic high school students for faith-related speakers
  • Inviting Catholic high school students for a "meet and greet" with a Catholic coach and her/his captains
  • Bringing college students into Catholic high schools for unique programs, mentoring opportunities or retreats
  • Hosting an annual gathering of local Catholic youth ministries for a rally or special Mass
  • Working with your local Diocesan Catholic youth ministry coordinator for opportunities to get local Catholic students onto campus
  • Identifying one person on your staff who is focused on Catholic students and their journey from high school to college
  • Creating a full-fledged program as St. John's has done 

Increasing enrollment will never go out of style for colleges.  As campus ministers, we can help our institutions be more thoughtful about how to attract more Catholic students.  


Podcast 34 with Friar Mario Serrano, OFM, Conv.

In Episode 34 we talk with Friar Mario Serrano, OFM, Conv., Pastoral Associate for University Ministry at Indiana State University. Friar Mario discusses the role that transition plays in campus ministry and what he hopes his students learn about St. Francis.

Friar Mario is the kind of person that you really want to talk to for hours- his students are fortunate to have him and to learn of St. Francis through him.

Visit the St. Joseph homepage to learn more about Friar Mario's team.

Your Next Ministry Position Can Benefit from a Beautiful Resume

I was listening to Thom Ranier's Leadership Podcast this past week and he spoke of the do's and don'ts of ministry resumes.  You can listen to it here.

This got me thinking about CCMA and why our Job Bank is the 2nd most popular page on our website.  Folks are either seriously looking for new positions or just keeping an eye on the market. 

Whatever the case, it's a good time to polish up your resume.  Is it up to date?  Are your references prepared in the event of a call?  Do you need to update your title?  These questions and many more are worth an afternoon of your time, whether you're looking for a new position or you love where you are.

Visit the CCMA Job Bank Today

Podcast 33 with Matt Zerrusen of the Newman Connection

Each campus knows how difficult it is to find incoming students and then invite them, in a systematic manner, into Catholic campus ministry.  

In Episode 33 of the CCMA Leadership Podcast, I chat with Matt Zerrusen of the Newman Connection.  Note that Matt's organization is different from the Cardinal Newman Society which has a different mission and focus.

The Newman Connection and their thorough website provides the single best database for students to find either Catholic Centers or Newman Centers around the country.  Additionally, Matt and his team provide countless colleges with the contact information for incoming freshmen.  That's a very valuable resource!

Matt also announced a new project of the Newman Connection called The Upper Room, an operating system for Catholic campus ministries.  I can't wait to see how campuses use The Upper Room to organize and then grow their ministries.

Enjoy the podcast!

Join Us for the Rest & Renew Retreat This Summer!

Each year is full of students, retreats, 1x1's, staff meetings, service events, Masses, crises and everything in between!  The question is this: how do you rest and renew after a busy year in campus ministry?

This summer, join campus ministers from around the country for Rest & Renew: Campus Ministers Retreat at Holy Name Retreat Center in Houston, TX.  

We'd love to see you for 24 hours of prayer, dialogue, reflection, fellowship and yes, REST.  Fr. Ray Cook, OMI (Chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at Rice University) will be our guide as we look back on the year and be renewed by the Lord.  

Download the April Edition of PULSE Magazine!

Our April edition of PULSE is ready for you to enjoy and share with your colleagues in campus ministry.  Our feature story on Crystal Sullivan from the University of Dayton is especially helpful in terms of keeping fresh in campus ministry ... and being successful for the long haul.

Click here to read PULSE.

Looking for your Next Campus Ministry Speaker?

Today CCMA introduces another resource as part of our Pyramid.  The CCMA Speaker Bureau is a "one stop shop" for finding an excellent speaker at a price range that you can afford.

Click here for the list of speakers.

Topics range from fundraising to evangelization to leadership.  We hope you enjoy this new resource from CCMA.

Podcast 32: Keith Borchers on Effective Teamwork

We all have been on teams that have been less than stellar.  What is it about teamwork that is so elusive?  This week's podcast features Keith Borchers from Evangelium Consulting.  Keith is an expert in teamwork and walks us through the key behaviors and attributes of effective teams.

Visit Evangelium's website for more information about their work and how they focus on Catholic teams.

4 Reasons to Use an App for Your Ministry

When the first iPhone came out in 2007, there was no "app store" as we know it today.  The phone could surf the web, take calls and handle email. I can still remember a year or so after that the many commercials that would say, "there's an app for that".  

Here's Apple's official iPhone 3G commercial:

I remember buying the 3G iPhone and feeling like I was on top of the world.  It felt so powerful to do so much with something so portable.

Today, things are different.  There are millions of apps.  It can be overwhelming to even search the App Store, whether you use an iPhone or an Android phone.  

Ministries Can Still Benefit from Apps

The fact is, campus ministry programs can still benefit from having their own apps.  Sure, the market is flooded with apps but some of the most successful campus ministry programs in the country utilize apps.  

Four Reasons to Use an App

I would offer four primary reasons for creating your own app for ministry on your campus:

  1. To get your message out.  Everyone wants to "reach more".  While a weekend homily is very effective, it is often limited in scope to those who are in attendance at Mass.  What about everyone else on campus?  For most campuses, between 50-90% of Catholics won't hear the weekend homily.  An app can fill in that gap.  By capturing your weekend messages, short blurbs or even your podcast, the app does the work for you.
  2. To communicate when students can't give you face time.  Many students are involved with more clubs than they can realistically attend.  Unfortunately, Catholic campus ministry can be seen (for some) as just another club.  An app can help you to "push out" information, reminders, words of inspiration to those who simply can't attend every event you run.
  3. To project a contemporary vibe.  While this is not the most important reason for using an app, it doesn't hurt.  If your ministry had their own app, it tells people (students and benefactors) that you're innovating and up with the times.
  4. To build community.  This is very important.  While an app can never substitute for real-life and face-to-face community, an app can be a first step.  An app can offer a venue for prayer requests and even small group dialogue.

A New and Free Resource for You

Through a strategic partnership with My Parish App, the largest provider of Catholic apps, CCMA is now offering a free app to all of its members.

We introduced this last week through a webinar to interested campuses and the response was very positive.  

This new resource fits in nicely with the third part of our ministry pyramid.

Just head over to this page that the My Parish Team has created in order to take the next steps for your ministry.  Again, it's 100% free and could be a significant asset in your desire to reach more students.  



CCMA's Role in the Future of Campus Ministry

Admittedly this post is more philosophical than prior posts which aimed for practicality.  I wrote this after spending a week in dialogue with CCMA members and our Executive Board.  As we held the Executive Board meeting on Oct. 9/10, the seeds of this post were conceived by the Board.

Many wonder about the role that CCMA will play in the ever-changing nature of campus ministry in the U.S.  

Here are my thoughts:

The St. Louis Executive Board Meeting on March 9th and 10th was an important touchpoint for CCMA.  It marked the first time the Board had met in person in nearly four years and allowed us to review CCMA's past, evaluate our present and map a course for the future.

Much has changed since 1985 when the U.S. Bishops wrote "Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future".  The core affirmations spoken in the document still hold true today as "progress has clearly been made in integrating campus ministry into the life of the Church".  The importance of campus ministry is likewise affirmed today, as it was when the document was first written, "Campus ministry is one of the important ways the Church exercises her mission in higher education."

Related to this, Empowered provides a holistic framework for campus ministry, inviting campus ministers to build systems and moments that enable the following to occur:

  • formation of the faith community
  • appropriating the faith
  • forming the Christian conscience 
  • educating for justice
  • facilitating personal development
  • developing leaders for the future

The core of *Empowered* still animates campus ministry today while new realities have emerged.  The moral climate is increasingly secular and young adults are leaving the Church at an alarming rate.  This is a serious threat to our Church and our world.  

Many vibrant campus ministry programs do exist around the country, utilizing creativity and faithfulness to the Gospel.  Their campus ministers are highly skilled, brave Catholics who do impressive work with the young people in their care.

Unfortunately, too many campuses have programs that are not performing at a high level.  Even worse, it is estimated that over 2,000 campuses have no Catholic campus ministry program at all, endangering the faith of millions of young adults.

Attentive to these movements, the Church has seen the emergence of new ministries and innovative models.  Organizations that didn't exist in 1985 today complement the work of campus ministry and at their best, broaden the reach of campus ministers into all corners of a campus.  The collaboration between campus ministers and new ministry resources is rarely easy but often fruitful, reaching more students for Christ and equipping young Catholics to transition into adult participation in the life of the Church.

Contemporary popes have urged the Church to see that evangelization and personal discipleship in Christ are foundational to all that we do in ministry.  Using relational models and with a zeal for the Gospel, campus ministry is still "one of the important ways the Church exercises her mission in higher education" (Empowered by the Spirit).

To this end, the CCMA Executive Board has identified three areas of focus which we believe will generate transformative impact on campuses around the country:

Leadership, Standards, and Formative Resources

  1. Leadership: We will lead campus ministry into its next chapter of faithful service to Christ and the Church.  Not content with the progress of our past, we will lead with zeal, innovation and professionalism in order to promote the most fruitful and dynamic approaches to campus ministry.  We will be unafraid to promote excellence and facilitate moments of collaborative dialogue.  We will acknowledge differences of approach and theology while being reminded that this is the work of Christ and not of our own doing.  The ultimate judge of ministry fruitfulness will be evangelization on campus and formation of the students reached for mature discipleship and vocational awareness.
  2. Standards: We will develop standards to drive people to the most fruitful, dynamic Catholic expressions of campus ministry. Some standards are already in place while others will be articulated in the days ahead.  The standards will work together to form a common framework for evangelization, formation, and missionary discipleship.  In all things, we will envision campus ministry programs that utilize best practices, growth and a commitment to excellence.  
  3. Formative Resources: We will offer formation, resources and training to equip campus ministers to reach this standard wherever they are, no matter the type of campus or university.  Whenever possible we will point campus ministries to the finest resources available.  

The emphasis on Leadership, Standards and Formative Resources is not a departure from what CCMA has traditionally been about, namely formation, networking and resources.  As campus ministry evolves, so too must CCMA in its approach as a professional association.

We believe wholeheartedly that campus ministers and the ministries they lead can change the world.  We are involved in a serious, joyful and noble work.  

The Church needs the absolute best from its campus ministries and CCMA is here to lead the charge.  Our work is vitally important and together, we can witness a new generation of young people who love Christ and are welcomed into the Church.  

Episode 30: Catholic Pilgrimages for College Students

In Episode 30 we talk with John Paul Lichon of Verso Ministries. John Paul is an expert at taking college students on pilgrimages to sacred sites.

Verso is generous enough to offer CCMA members $100 off the upcoming pilgrimage to Hawaii. Just enter "ccma100" in the promo code box when you sign up for the Hawaii event.

In addition, we recommend the article, "5 Reasons to Organize a Pilgrimage on Your Campus" here:

How do Others Perceive You on Campus?

Have you noticed that everyone seems to be wearing those multi-colored socks these days?  I realized I was really out of it when my black dress socks were being phased out by my wife in favor of striped socks.  When I inquired as to where my black socks had gone, she smiled and said, "You've been upgraded."

Who knew that what you wear actually has an impact on others?  

A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research  examined the theory that people who are nonconformists can potentially be viewed as having better status and more competency that those that conform. (Here's the full article).  

When you're on campus, how do you think that others perceive you?  While you might not need to wear crazy socks, are you memorable?  Does your "image" rub off on others in a positive way?  Do you have a signature look that will make you readily seen?

The point isn't so much to go out and buy socks. Rather, take a few minutes to think about how you look and how you convey when you're on campus.  Do you think others perceive you as an expert campus minister who cares about students?  

In other news, we've just updated our EVENTS page.  You should join us for one of the upcoming meetings or even our campus minister retreat.  

Time to Rethink the Weekly Bulletin?

Many campus ministry programs provide a "weekly bulletin" for students, reminding them of upcoming events and activities.  Like parishes around the country, the bulletin serves as a way to communicate.

Or does it?

The weekly bulletin is valuable, to a limited degree, for three groups of people:

1. The campus ministry staff.  The bulletin forces the team to set deadlines and think through how events are communicated.
2. The students who attend weekly Mass.  
3. Those that don't attend weekly Mass but see the bulletin on the campus ministry website.  

Of the three groups, which is most important?  I'd say #'s 2 and 3.  

If you produce a weekly bulletin, make sure that two things happen:
a) It must be a quality, appealing and brief read.
b) You must not spend too much time producing it.

It's really important to keep in mind the third group- those that don't go to Mass.  How valuable is your bulletin to them?  How likely are they to check your website?

For some campus ministry programs, it may be time to rethink the weekly bulletin.  I'm not saying that it's worthless.  What I do suggest is to talk about it with your staff and with students; they will tell you how valuable (or not) the bulletin is to them.  

Another idea might be to tweet out or text out to students the most important parts of your bulletin.  Small, bite-sized pieces of information might be better absorbed than a 2-4 page spread.

How to Respond to the Immigration Bans

I just searched three of the top Catholic websites to see if there were articles about the Trump Immigration Bans.  I wanted to see if I could find some advice for campus ministers.  Instead, there was nothing there.

If college students are talking about these things, why are we so hesitant to discuss them?  

Only when I went to America Magazine's home page did I find a reference to Cardinal Cupich's statement in response to the bans.

Relevant Magazine has this piece about nationalism and whether or not it's Biblical.

I suggest that we facilitate more dialogue rather than less.  We should not be afraid to discuss these things but should keep a few things in mind:

  1. The Trump Administration has issued a temporary ban on seven countries that, as with the Obama administration, have primarily a Muslim population.  See: The Trump Ban: Here's What You Need to Know (CNN).
  2. In addition, the Administration has issued a temporary ban on refugees.  See: 5 Questions About The Law And Trump's Immigration Order (NPR).
  3. The US Bishops have been vocally against not only the refugee ban but also the recent articulation of a wall to be built on the US/Mexico border.  The US Bishops argue that the refugee ban harms both families and those who are most vulnerable such as children and women (See: USCCB Committee On Migration Chair Strongly Opposes Executive Order Because It Harms Vulnerable Refugee And Immigrant Families (USCCB).
  4. One can be both patriotic and Christian.  It's a moral issue to protect our borders.  It's also a moral issue to welcome those that we can into our own country.  100% open borders should not be our goal, nor should we seek a nation that is completely closed off from others.  A charitable, safe middle ground ought to be the desired goal.

How are you addressing these concerns on your campus?

Podcast 27 with Michael Lovette-Colyer of the University of San Diego

In Episode 27 we talk with Assistant Vice President of University Ministry Michael Lovette-Colyer of the University of San Diego. Michael shares his .02 on retreats, "high vs. low" tech approaches to ministry and how to include your entire community in something as simple as an Advent calendar.

For more about USD:

For the USD Advent resources: