The National Study of Campus Ministries (NSCM) is a research project directed by Betty DeBerg, Professor of Religion and Head of the Department of Philosophy & Religion at the University of Northern Iowa. Her co-investigator for the project is John Schmalzbauer, Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Missouri State University. Sarah Ehlinger, who holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology and has several years of experience in both qualitative and quantitative survey research, is the project manager. The project is funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. from July 2004 through June 2007. The goal of this project is to produce a comprehensive portrait of campus ministry in America. Focusing on both programs and personnel, it will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by this understudied profession.
Rationale for Project
There is no comprehensive, current, synthetic study of the variety of ministries aimed at college and university students in the United States. The past ten years have witnessed a surge of interest in the religious lives of college students. Despite the heightened focus on student spirituality among both scholars and journalists, not much has been written about the world of campus ministry. Though many report a resurgence of religion of campus, little is known about the role of campus religious organizations in fueling it.
This proposed study will round out our scholarly and practical knowledge of religion on campus, and will provide a detailed map of the campus ministry landscape. This map will hopefully inform decision-making within church-related colleges, denominational structures, specialized ministry organizations, and foundations. It may also spur increased dialogue among scholars and practitioners, especially those from different theological traditions, resulting in mutual learning and new avenues of cooperation. We hope that worthy campus ministry efforts will be better understood and supported as a result of the dissemination of this research.
In order to maximize our understanding of the campus ministry profession, a variety of research methods, both qualitative and quantitative, are being utilized. Qualitative methods employed include one-on-one, in-depth interviews with chaplains and site visits to various kinds of Christian campus ministries. A web-based survey of approximately 1,700 campus ministers in select denominations and specialized ministry organizations provided quantitative data on campus ministries across the nation.
In-depth telephone interviews were conducted with chaplains, or campus pastors, at church-related colleges and universities beginning in May of 2005 and were completed in April of 2006. The 88 church-related schools that received Lilly-funded “Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation” (PTEV) grants constitute our sample. Topics explored in the interviews include the following:
A dozen individual campus ministers, representing each of the denominations and specialized ministry organizations selected for study, will be “job-shadowed” by researchers for one week. These campus ministry subjects have been chosen on the basis of institutional affiliation, age, length of service, region, gender, ministry portfolio, type and size of campus, and ethnicity. This ethnographic data is very rich, and gives the research team an intensive, although anecdotal, feel for the work. The field notes collected during these extensive site visits will give depth and a human face to the survey data collected from thousands of campus ministers across the country.
In the spring of 2006, a web-based survey of college and university chaplains and campus ministers within denominational campus ministries, specialized ministry organizations, and congregation-based campus ministries was launched.
The denominational campus ministries selected for inclusion included:
The specialized ministry organizations that were included consisted of the following:
Areas of investigation for the web-based survey of campus ministers included the following:
Products of Research
A variety of publications are anticipated as a result of this extensive research on national campus ministry programs. A major book, written for scholars, practitioners, and the general college-educated public, which describes in a detailed, rich way the various campus ministry programs studied will be published. Additionally, a major report will be synthesized on the state of the chaplaincy at church-related colleges and universities. Beyond the book and report, we anticipate publishing numerous articles in more popular denominational and nondenominational religious periodicals, such as Christian Century, The Lutheran, Christianity Today and Commonweal.
Throughout the duration of the project, we will be producing a number of themed reports and presentations for different audiences. You can access these materials by clicking HERE or by accessing our Research Findings section of this website.
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