From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Student movement nurtures new generation of Christian leaders

Date 01 Feb 2001 14:53:46

Feb. 1, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green·(615) 742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.

NOTE: Photographs will be available with this report.

By Kathy Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist college students are traveling
around the globe, serving as ambassadors, volunteers and servant leaders.

Julie Meyers, a United Methodist Volunteer in Mission, is teaching children
in Bolivia that are among the poorest of the world's poor.

Charlotte Talley went on a 3,865-mile cross-country bike trip last fall to
promote self-esteem and self-confidence in girls and women across the
country. Outward Bound, a nonprofit, adventure-based education organization,
sponsored the bike ride.

Ben Heavner spent his first year after graduating from college living in
Zimbabwe and volunteering to help Africa University set up a university

The three young people have more in common than devoting their lives to
serving others. Each one gained support and values from being leaders in the
United Methodist Student Movement (UMSM). 

The UMSM was formed in 1996 at the annual meeting of the Student Forum.
Student Forum is a leadership conference for college students sponsored by
the Campus Ministry Section of the United Methodist Board of Higher
Education and Ministry in Nashville. Student Forum 2001 will be held May
24-27 at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. The theme for this
year's gathering is "Let the Walls Come Tumblin' Down."

The movement is a network of college and university students that extends
across state lines and ethnic and cultural boundaries. UMSM is encouraging
all college students who are active in campus ministry or their local
church, and who are seeking a strong role in the life of the denomination,
to get involved in the movement.

Each annual conference is invited to send three voting delegates and three
alternate student delegates to the Student Forum. Registration deadline is
April 20.

"It is amazing to see the dynamic student leaders that are emerging through
our campus ministries and the UMSM," said the Rev. Hal Hartley, director of
student ministries in the Campus Ministry Section. "There is a whole new
generation of young people seeking a meaningful relationship with Jesus and
eager to make a difference in our church and in our world." 

Though the student movement was formed at the national level, it has caught
fire at the annual conference level. Last year, campus ministers, chaplains
and pastors brought students together for creative events such as "Howard Be
Thy Name," "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Faith" and "Discovering Unity
in Diversity."

"The student movement is designed to connect young adults in campus
ministries and local churches across the church and across the country,"
Hartley said. "The fastest-growing area -- and the real strength of the UMSM
-- is at the annual conference or statewide level. Students are coming
together to grow in their faith, join together in missions, and learn what
it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Some two dozen gatherings are
being held this year."

"We feel that we are the forgotten age group," said Narcie McClendon,
chairperson of the South Central UMSM. "Most churches have programs for high
school students but don't really have other opportunities until you have a
mortgage, spouse and 2.5 kids. We have gotten a tremendous amount of support
from our annual conferences, and that is a big factor in our new

Jack Blair, chairperson of the 2001 UMSM steering committee, said the church
needs leaders who both understand its polity and can function within it in a
forgiving and peace-seeking manner. 

"The idea is that the church will benefit in the long run if we invest in
training future leaders to deal with a lot of these difficulties," he said.
"On the other hand, the church needs to hear the voice of its young people
now, not when they are older. The church could learn a lot by listening to a
younger voice. ... Today's church leaders could learn a lot about where the
church is going by listening to the college students."

Blair said the UMSM has been a major influence in helping him learn and see
himself as a leader in the church.

The networking has also helped more students become aware of financial aid
through the board's Office of Loans and Scholarships. In the 1999-2000
academic year, only 55 students receiving scholarships said they were
involved in their Campus Ministry/Wesley Foundation. For 2000-2001, more
than 100 successful applicants were active leaders on their campus.

For details, contact the Campus Ministry Section, General Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007; phone:
(615) 340-7415; e-mail:; Web:
# # #
*Gilbert is a staff member in the Office of Interpretation at the United
Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

United Methodist News Service
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