Diocese offers first campus ministry leadership program

COLUMBIA — At first glance the April gathering at Camp Kinard in Batesburg-Leesville looked like a corporate training seminar with PowerPoint presentations, motivational speakers and breakout sessions, but that was not the case. The goal of this program was to develop spiritual leaders for today and the future.

South Carolina college students and campus ministers were given the opportunity to be a part of the first organized leadership training sponsored by the Diocese of Charleston Campus Ministry Office.

Father Jeffrey Kendall, director of Campus Ministry, felt that although it is important to train campus ministers, it is more important to train the college students who work in the ministry.

“Campus Ministry rises and falls on the leadership of the students,” Father Kendall said.

The Citadel campus minister helped organize the two-part training course with Sister Rita Schroeder, a Sister of Notre Dame. She is the assistant director of the ministry and a campus minister at the College of Charleston.

Sister Schroeder picked topics offered by the Catholic Leadership Institute located in Malvern, Pa. She tailored the weekend program to meet the needs that were identified within the diocese.

“Our desire in campus ministry is to develop young leaders who can, after graduation, take on leadership positions in the parishes they join,” she said.

The institute’s Megan Burghart and Alain Oliver presented six sessions with topics on leadership, communication, and conflict resolution. They started the program by defining leadership, using Jesus’ style as the model.

The participants took a behavioral disposition test that determined which of the four basic categories they belonged to: dominant (D), interactive (I), steady (S), and conscientious (C). The students then divided into their corresponding groups and made a list of dos and don’ts when working with their personality types. For example, the C group wrote down that they did not like to be accused of overanalyzing or overthinking a problem. They did like to be given plenty of time to plan a project.

“All conflicts are the result of varying expectations,” said Oliver.

He explained why it was so important to realize that words can be like “music to the ear” or can “push a person’s buttons.” He emphasized the need to try and understand the person in a truly caring manner.

Burghart read the Christian conflict response illustrated in Matthew 18:15-17 and highlighted its wisdom. First, try to settle the dispute in private with the individual; if that does not work, bring a witness, and if that fails, go to the organization.

Catherine Kramp, a member of campus ministry at the College of Charleston, felt that the program helped her develop better communication skills, especially the part about understanding others.

In one of the final sessions, the speakers showed how to recruit new members and the students exchanged ideas and discussed their personal struggles in gathering new members. Some of the common problems in recruiting were that students were too busy to become involved, some students feared that they would immediately be placed in a leadership position, or they just did not know what the organization did.

Burghart and Oliver facilitated the discussion and talked about some of their experiences, but encouraged students to make a personal invitation just as Jesus did when gathering his apostles.

“I found the session useful in recruiting new members,” said Beth Austin, campus minister in Orangeburg. “We do not have regular meetings yet, but meet for Mass on Sunday. I can see using many of the group’s suggestions.”

Dezra Hinkson, her student, liked the idea of making monthly contact through e-mails. She looks forward to their first meeting where they will plan for the upcoming year.

The speakers were described as authentic because they shared their own stories about how they overcame their shortcomings and made the best of their gifts. The next program is planned for the fall and will include techniques on working with different leadership styles and how to make the best of one’s own leadership approach.