By Mark Rutledge
In 1967, just three years after initial conversations leading to the formation of NCMA began, 475 campus ministers attended the second annual conference at Michigan State around the theme “Issues in Higher Education.” This was dramatic testimony to the interest, energy and resources for a national association envisioned in 1964 by both campus ministers and the national leadership of seven denominations. Patterns of campus ministry were changing from denominationally-centered ministries to ecumenical expressions, at the same time that churches’ interest in campus settings for ministry were changing from church-related colleges to public universities.
Part of the vision for a national organization of professionals reflected the changing patterns of local ministries where campus ministers from a variety of denominations found themselves naturally working together ecumenically. At the same time several denominations also began working together at the national level organizationally through United Ministries in Higher Education, and provided finances, networking, and personnel in support of this emerging association of professionals.
Discussions about the proposed association’s name, purposes, structure, membership, and activities were vigorous. The churches and their representatives saw the new association as an extension of their time-honored concern for the equipping of clergy and lay leadership for the work of ministry in higher education.
Annual NCMA conferences have been a major focus for gathering campus ministers, enhancing collegial relationships, addressing current issues in higher education and the church, and developing ongoing support networks.
Some other initiatives over the first 40 years included:
*forming support and advocacy groups such as Campus Ministry Women and LGBT concerns
*continuing education events
* mentoring opportunities for new staff through the NCMA “Partnership Program”
*publications, papers, and print resources around issues in higher education, church and society
*sending members to represent our concerns to secular national higher education meetings
*developing relationships with denominational offices for mutual sharing of concerns
*working with UMHE to maintain connectional relationships and a job-hunting service
*development of specialized ministries with non-traditional students and community colleges
*maintaining relationships with the World Student Christian Federation, supporting international student movements for peace and justice.
*cooperation in support of national ministry programs related to law, medicine, career development, peace education, and religion and science.
Fifty-five personal stories about this remarkable heritage of NCMA are told in Campus Ministry Memoirs, published by NCMA to celebrate our Golden Anniversary.
In more recent history, the concerns of NCMA and its members have reflected ongoing changes in both higher education, society and the churches. Some of these include:
*reduced denominational and funding support for full time and ecumenical campus ministries
*development of ministries beyond and in addition to the older “student work” models
*an increase in part time staff, parish-based, multi-campus, and “tent-making” ministries both lay and clergy
*continuing commitment to social justice and human rights with respect to current cultural and social issues.
*implications for ministry of student development and changes in educational delivery methods
*changes in technology, communication, and social networks
Throughout all of these changes, for the past 50-plus years our consistent mission has been to equip and support campus ministers as we seek to impact persons and systems in higher education with the spiritual resources of our faith traditions.