Student Chaplain Program
The Campus Christian Center supervises and administers the Student Chaplain Program of Berea College. The position of Student Chaplain constitutes an assignment in the Labor Program of the College. Students who work as chaplains, however, report to two departments: the Campus Christian Center and the Department of Residential Life Collegium. Student Chaplains serve as spiritual resources to the students within their assigned residences or locations, providing opportunities for Christian worship and prayer, study of Christian scriptures, dialogue about issues in Christian faith or spirituality, and interfaith education and dialogue. Student Chaplains also serve as residential assistants in their student residential halls or other locations: serving as supervisors to help student residents with the administrative procedures of the residential system and to aid them in their living in community as needs arise.
The Campus Christian Center and the Department of Residential Life have designed this program to bring the services of the Center directly to the students where they live. In this way, the Student Chaplains function to minister with the resources at their disposal through the Center and to refer students to the professional College Chaplains when those students may have needs that require additional support or help. Student Chaplains provide leadership through service, example, and intentional Christian and religious programming within the student residential system. Student Chaplains contribute to developing environments in the residential halls that promote spiritual, moral, social, and intellectual growth in the lives of students. Student Chaplains work with other members of residential staff to engender healthy contexts for academic life.
Through the Student Chaplain Program, the Campus Christian Center also provides Student Chaplains themselves with opportunities for growth in areas of religious and spiritual leadership, including learning and developing skills for counseling, programming, and religious education. Thus, this program intentionally integrates the three major emphases of the educational philosophy and practice of Berea College: learning, labor, and service.
Goals of the Student Chaplain Program
Because the College has fully integrated the Student Chaplain Program into the student residential system, Student Chaplains extend the ministries of the Campus Christian Center throughout student life on campus. The Campus Christian Center and the Student Chaplain Program as a program of the Center tangibly assist the College in fulfilling a central commitment of its mission: the commitment “[t]o stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions and to emphasize the Christian ethic and the motive of service to others.” In addition, within the residential system, principles of Guided Learning inform and shape the service and work of Student Chaplains. In helping the College fulfill its mission, as a program of the Campus Christian Center, three overarching goals that arise from the Christian commitment of the College guide the Student Chaplain Program: (1) to stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions; (2) to emphasize the Christian ethic; and (3) to emphasize the Christian motive of service to others. Moreover, Student Chaplains also carry the responsibility to fulfill these three goals specifically in light of the way in which Berea College has defined its Christian identity.
- Stimulate Understanding of the Christian Faith and Its Many Expressions
While Student Chaplains function to minister to the spiritual needs of their student peers, responsibility of this ministry extends to students from many very different Christian backgrounds, to students from entirely other religious or non-Christian backgrounds, and to students who do not espouse commitments to any religious traditions or communities whatsoever. Thus, because the work of Student Chaplains occurs within an academic context and in service to the larger mission and identity of the College and the Campus Christian Center, Student Chaplains not only minister to the spiritual needs of a religiously-diverse student population. Student Chaplains also have a responsibility to provide educational opportunities for the residents in their assigned locations to learn about the rich variety of Christian traditions and communities, opportunities that will stimulate understanding of the Christian faith and its many expressions. This variety includes Christianunderstandings of religious experience that affirm the perspectives, traditions, and values of other religious traditions as well, as the mission and vision of the Campus Christian Center states.Therefore, through many different kinds of programs and services, the Student Chaplains also stimulate understanding of the diversity in Christian experience, tradition, and communities. Such programs and services may include leading studies of Christian scriptures, developing groups to share personal experiences of spiritual challenge and growth, inviting one or more of the professional College Chaplains or other speakers and scholars to make presentations on various religious or moral topics, consulting and counseling with students during times of crisis or need, referring students to other professional ministers or counselors or organizations, recommending materials for further study on given topics, and providing information about Christian churches and other religious communities in Berea and the surrounding area.
- Emphasize the Christian Ethic
A second overarching goal guides the Student Chaplain Program: Student Chaplains have a responsibility to emphasize the Christian ethic. The mission-statement of the College clarifies its institutional understanding of the Christian ethic and how this ethic applies within the context of this specific academic community. The College has followed a definition of the Christian ethic that the founder of Berea College, John G. Fee, understood as the heart of the Christian gospel: the summation by Jesus of all divine revelation to humanity as the dual claim on humans to love God with their entire selves and to love their neighbors as people like themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Alongside this interpretation, the College adopted as its motto another biblical text: “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26). With these two inclusive biblical texts, the College follows the founder in understanding the teaching of Jesus as “the gospel of impartial love.” The values and commitments that these Christian biblical texts articulate, according to the mission-statement of the College, shape “the College’s culture and programs so that students and staff alike can work toward both personal goals and a vision of a world shaped by Christian values, such as the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice.”The multitude of historic Christian perspectives and traditions, however, also yields a diversity of Christian approaches to morality and reflection about Christian morals. In other words, despite sincere commitments, Christians and Christian communities do not always agree on all moral questions, problems, and issues: as examples, the role of women in the family, the role of women in Christian ministry, homosexuality in the Christian community, war, abortion, poverty, the use of natural resources, race, the treatment of illegal immigrants, the pollution and protection of the natural environment, and so forth. As a consequence of this plurality of moral viewpoints among Christians, the Student Chaplains have a responsibility to emphasize the Christian ethic with this fact always in mind. Whatever moral Christian perspectives and moral commitments Student Chaplains may hold personally, they have a responsibility to emphasize this institutional perspective on the Christian ethic in their work through the Campus Christian Center, so that, as representatives of the Center and the College, they demonstrate the inclusive hospitality that Berea College practices toward people of many different religious traditions or of no religious tradition.
- Emphasize the Christian Motive of Service
As the third overarching goal, those who serve in the Student Chaplain Program will emphasize the Christian motive of service. This third goal primarily represents an elaboration of the second goal. The understanding of Christian faith that guides the work of Student Chaplains as stated in the previous goals most certainly informs the ways in which Student Chaplains emphasize the motive of service. Student Chaplains will emphasize the motive of service in various ways: through their own service in their residential assignments or by example; by providing information to students about the student service organizations on campus; or through projects that they plan for the student residents with whom they work. On some occasions, the Student Chaplains will develop projects collaboratively with the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service (CELTS).
Qualifications of Student Chaplains
The Campus Christian Center expects that students who hold labor positions as Student Chaplains will possess the following qualifications and will fulfill their responsibilities in the following ways:
- Profess and exercise some form of Christian commitment or faith;
- Maintain good academic standing;
- Represent Christian traditions and communities positively and honestly;
- Exhibit authenticity, credibility, and trustworthiness;
- Maintain personal integrity and consistent character;
- Seek help, guidance, education, and training for ministry;
- Participate fully in all training, educational, and fellowship meetings for the team of Student Chaplains;
- Practice a compassionate presence and an inclusive hospitality to male and female students of all races, religions, and backgrounds;
- Demonstrate an open and positive attitude toward all people;
- Listen attentively to and empathize with people;
- Possess the capacity for meaningful dialogue with people;
- Have ability to organize and lead groups of people;
- Contribute to the planning of programs by the Campus Christian Center and programs that the Student Chaplains lead;
- Participate fully in all meetings of staff and programs in the residential hall to which the Student Chaplain has received an assignment.
Responsibilities of Student Chaplains
The Campus Christian Center requires the Student Chaplains to fulfill the following specific responsibilities:
- Work ten to fifteen hours each week in this labor position;
- Acquaint themselves with and extend friendship to the other members of the staff in the Campus Christian Center, the Student Chaplains, the staff of the residential system, and the students in the residential location to which they have received assignments;
- Plan and conduct activities for their residential assignments and for the entire campus, in consultation with the staff of the Campus Christian Center, the staff of the residential halls, and the house councils—such activities include services of worship, studies of Christian scriptures, share-groups, explorations of spiritual practices, discussions of religious topics, interfaith educational dialogues, films, opportunities for service, fellowships, and so forth;
- Serve as liaisons between the Campus Christian Center, students, and the residential staff, through personal example, encouragement, and information about religious life on campus;
- Find and develop sensitive and creative ways to connect with students on special days (like birthdays) and during times of personal need or accomplishment;
- Maintain bulletin boards with current information about religious events on campus, especially events or programs of the Campus Christian Center, such as times, places, and dates of worship;
- Attend worship on Tuesday each week in Danforth Chapel;
- Attend required weekly meetings of the Student Chaplains—Student Chaplain Labor Meeting, Student Chaplain Staff Meeting, Residential-Hall Staff Meeting, Individual Meeting with a College Chaplain; and other meetings as scheduled;
- Schedule and conduct at least one monthly meeting or program in the residential hall;
- Lead the residential hall to participate in at least one service project each semester;
- Assist the Campus Christian Center with programs, such as worship in Danforth Chapel and publicity for events, as needed and requested;
- Devote time to peer-counseling/listening as needed;
- Serve on duty in the residential hall one night per week;
- Fulfill other duties as assigned.
Term of Service as Student Chaplain
During the spring semester of each academic year, the Campus Christian Center and the Department of Residential Life accept applications for the available positions in the Student Chaplain Program, interview applicants for those positions, and make appointments to the Program for the following academic year. The College appoints students to these positions for one year at a time. Student Chaplains who have performed to the satisfaction of the Campus Christian Center and the Department of Residential Life, however, may renew their appointments, although reappointment does not automatically occur.
Application to Serve as a Student Chaplain
Students who wish to apply for a position as a Student Chaplain should contact the Campus Christian Center for more information and an Application for Position of Student Chaplain [Forms and Information. Rev. Loretta Reynolds, D.Theol. serves the Campus Christian Center and the Department of Residential Life as the labor supervisor of the students who hold these positions. Students with interest in serving as a Student Chaplain may also benefit from talking with Rev. Reynolds, one of the other professional College Chaplains, or a current Student Chaplain.