Campus ministries help Methodist students balance school, spirituality
Photo of MSN students courtesy of Rev. Tom Wall
By Lillian Williams
Transitioning into college can be a difficult adjustment for incoming students who are learning to balance work, education and their faith. The South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church financially supports this mission through the payment of apportioned giving. For the 2022 year, the conference allocated $655,023 of its apportionment budget for campus ministries. In 2023 the amount is $672,729.
In nine of South Carolina’s colleges, there are established United Methodist presences found in campus ministries. Also known as Wesley Foundations, these campus ministries across the state are Charleston Wesley Foundation (The Citadel, Charleston Southern University and College of Charleston), Furman Wesley Fellowship, Clemson Wesley, The Greenwood Wesley Fellowship, Methodist Student Network (University of South Carolina), Wesley Foundation at Francis Marion, The Wesley of Orangeburg, Winthrop Wesley and Coastal Wesley (Coastal Carolina).
The universal principle exhibited by all these programs is forming connections with United Methodists on campus, as well as impacting the lives of others by spreading the love of Jesus Christ. These are accomplished through weekly meals, Bible studies, worship services and community outreach.
In the last 10 years, more than 60 people were called to ministry because of campus ministries in South Carolina, and members participated in more than 200 national and international mission trips.
Not only that, but they help create an opportunity for fellowship and genuine friendship.
“Many students find acceptance for the first time,” said Steve Simoneaux, the director of Clemson Wesley. “Many students check out other groups or sit in dorm rooms alone. … This is the first time that they have found true friends, a true community.”
This connection is fostered through a variety of activities, such as weekly movie nights at Winthrop Wesley, pancake suppers for the homeless at the University of South Carolina’s Methodist Student Network or sports tournaments at Clemson Wesley.
Not only are these programs welcoming to United Methodists, but to all people regardless of their faith background. Joining a campus ministry can provide a first religious experience for some students, or simply a new expression of one for others. It can be illuminating in many ways.
“We have others who grew up in different faith traditions who were told that they couldn’t be a minister because they were female. [When] they show up here on a Methodist campus ministry, they realize that being a female does not preclude you from going into ministry,” Simoneaux said. “They have doors open to them that were not open in other places.”
For more about the conference’s campus ministries, visit https://www.umcsc.org/campus-ministries.