Living the Mission: Making a Difference in the World

CMU introduces Center for Faith and Service

In a world where life's silver linings can sometimes be difficult to find, Central Methodist University is creating a new program where students will learn to find, nurture, and create their own silver linings, thereby making a positive difference in the world.

On July 1, CMU introduces a new initiative, The Center for Faith and Service. The director of the Center will be the Reverend Lucas Endicott, CMU campus chaplain and recent co-pastor of Linn Memorial and St. Paul United Methodist Churches in Fayette.

endicottEndicott says the Center will have three legs to move it forward: a renewed focus for on-campus ministry; an expanded role with United Methodist churches; and a major emphasis on civic engagement.

The options sound a little churchy, but Endicott emphasizes that the doors are open to anyone, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof. The point is to make the world better, and there are many ways students can do that.

The first leg of the center is primarily campus-based ministry. "Campus ministry at CMU has grown exponentially over the last four years," Endicott observes. "One of the Center's main aims will be to strengthen the ministry started on the Fayette campus."

Opportunities for Bible study, fellowship events, mission immersion experiences, and other experiences will increase. "With more than 120 students worshipping together in our voluntary chapel service every Tuesday," says Endicott, "it will be exciting to see how ministry continues to expand!"

The Center will encourage the strengthening of faith-based groups and better communication among them. It will also increase the number of mission trips students take during school breaks. This past academic year CMU sponsored mission trips to Haiti, Washington, D.C., and Colorado.

Endicott is quick to point out that students on mission trips do not need any particular religious bent to join. Through the trips, students make a huge difference in the lives of people in other areas of the country and world.

Leg two is broader and combines on- and off-campus work. The Center will work closely with United Methodist Conference Churches, resourcing the students into joint projects for mutual benefit.

"It's not so much what we can get from our Methodist sisters and brothers," Endicott says, "but more what we can give to them."

The projects will run the gamut, from lessons and Bible study developed on campus then shared with other youth or congregations, to internships, help with conferences, and leadership events. Endicott says, "We want to see how we can unlock the resources we have at the University to support the United Methodist movement."

The third leg of the Center is civic engagement. "We've always done it," Endicott admits. "We've just kind of done it here and there." For instance, social organizations and athletic teams set up projects on their own, but the students often are limited by their connection with the participating group.

The Center will set up long-standing relationships for volunteer work with not-for-profits, initially and primarily in Fayette and Howard County. As the program expands, those opportunities may broaden into other areas of the Boonslick.

Endicott points out that with the idealism, energy, and passion of students aged 18-22, the world can indeed be changed for the better. "If you want to make a difference, you can be involved," he avows. "Basically, what we're trying to do is take students' assumptions, apply some critical thinking, and leave them with strong values and ethics," he adds.

At each class level, students will be guided and encouraged to learn ways of making a positive difference. The Center will help inform their values and ethics for the rest of their lives.

The model for civic engagement comes from the Corella and Bertram F. Bonner Foundation at Princeton University in New Jersey. Wayne Meisel, a friend of Endicott's who gave the Fleer Lecture at Central Methodist in 2011, served as president of the Bonner Foundation. According to Endicott, that foundation asked itself, 'have we the ability to use universities to unlock civic change?' Their answer was a resounding 'yes.'

Since that time, the Bonner Foundation has been fostering universities to establish similar centers with the focus of changing the world for the better. Central will be the first university in Missouri to adopt the model.

The Center will use the first three years to establish the programs, build student involvement, and solidify finances. Endicott already has the support on campus of three United Methodist young adult missionaries: Kharissa Allman, Tiffania Willetts, and Connor Kenaston.

Members of the Global Mission Fellows Program through the General Board of Global Ministries in the United Methodist Church, Allman, Willetts, and Kenaston will serve at CMU for two years each. All in their early to mid-twenties, the three are expected to provide energy and talent for this developing program.

Willetts reflects their sentiments, saying, "I am so excited for the opportunities we will have to reach students through campus ministry, civic engagement, and deepening our Methodist connection . . . to be able to not only minister with students but also to do it in a Methodist setting."

As the project grows, new hires will join the team, each specializing in one of the areas of the Center. University resources and charitable contributions are being combined to fund the Center.

Central Methodist University's mission statement says it "prepares students to make a difference in the world by emphasizing academic and professional excellence, ethical leadership, and social responsibility." Endicott believes many young people want to change the world for the better.

Maybe the world needs more silver linings. Or maybe all it needs are students with dedication and strong ethics, some judicious guidance, and the opportunity to change the world.

The Center for Faith and Service at Central Methodist University stands ready for the challenge.


Posted July 1, 2014