Starting An Orthodox Campus Fellowship
By Mark Stokoe
This article is provided as a general overview of the initial steps in establishing an Campus Fellowship. For a comprehensive guide please see the OCF Starter Kit.
The recommendations in this article are equally applicable to the (a) priest who wishes us begin a campus ministry, (b) student(s) who wish to begin a campus OCF, and C) parishioner(s) wishing to initiate and/or support a campus ministry. Therefore:
Do not think that you need great numbers.
In part, you only need two or three to start a group
Motivation is the key: the goal is building a campus-oriented community for spiritual growth
Motivation comes from commitment. Commitment comes from an experience of the Church as the gathering of persons who are together in the name of Jesus Christ.
How to start an Orthodox Campus Fellowship (OCF)
1.Discover your campuses.
Make a list of all the college campuses in your area, including junior colleges and church-related schools. Include even the small schools.
2. Discover your priests.
Make a list of all Orthodox priests in the area or Write to your National/Archdiocesan Campus Ministry Department for information regarding names of Orthodox priests in your area.
The Department of Youth and Campus Ministry
The Orthodox Church in America
P.O. Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791 Tel:(516)922-0550
3. Discover your lay people.
a. Search for lay people in your parish, and neighboring parishes, who are willing to work with college students or
b. Contact your National /Archdiocese Campus Ministry Department for names of lay people interested in helping with OCF's in your area.
4. Discover your students.
a. Secure the names of Orthodox students on campus. Names are sometimes available from religious preference cards. These maybe obtained through the college chaplain (if there is one), the local ecumenical campus ministry, or the office of the Dean of Student Affairs.
b. Contact the priests of local Orthodox parishes to inquire if they know of any Orthodox students attending schools in the area.
c. Contact your National/Archdiocesan Campus Ministry Department for the possibility of a computer printout of Orthodox students in your area.
d. Place an ad in the campus newspaper and/or a memo on your community's bulletin board, asking for the names of Orthodox students.
5. Discover your Orthodox Faculty and Administrative Staff Members.
a. Check with local priests, known Orthodox faculty, and alumni about other Orthodox faculty and/or staff members.
b. Page through the faculty and staff directories for names from typically Orthodox
6. Discover the characteristics of your campuses.
a. Gather the 'vital statistics' on the campuses in your area, Include: 1) the number of students enrolled, 2) how many are full-time, how many part-time, 3) how many live on campuses, how many live off campus, 4) how many are undergraduates, or graduate students, 5) how many are involved in the fraternity and sorority life of the school.
b. Check into campus resources: what service does the university or the student government offers free? Do they have mailing lists available? Do they have religious preference cards? Is 'Orthodox Christian' listed? Do they have office space available? Do they offer copying services for student groups?
c. Procure whatever documents describe rules and regulations for religious groups on campus. These am usually available from the office of the Dean of Student Affairs. It is extremely important that you follow all regulations carefully - e.g. regulations about visiting in dorms and putting up posters. Word travels from campus to campus. We need to keep an impeccable reputation.
Contact your National Archdiocesan Campus Ministry Department.
There are resources and materials available that will be of great help in getting started, such is information regarding other OCFs in the areas, training seminars, local state national retreats hr college students, and other data.
How to secure a faculty advisor
- According to the dictionary, an advisor is one who 'counsels.' That is the goal for OCF faculty advisers - to counsel wisely. I.e., to give direction to the activities of the OCF in accordance with its established aims and purposes. The advisor should be accessible to the leaders and members of the OCF, having time to make regular visits with the Fellowship. Look for someone who fits this job description.
- Make certain that the advisor you choose has the qualifications required by campus regulations. If you cannot find an Orthodox faculty member willing to be an OCF advisor, seek a faculty member who is sympathetic to the Orthodox faith. Many faculty members, both Catholic and Episcopalian, may be willing to help with an Orthodox student group.
Assure the prospective faculty advisor that he or she will not have so be involved any more than he chooses and that you will keep him informed as to all the activities of the group.
How to get official recognition on campus
- As a rule, you must have some form of official recognition or status to operate as a student religious group on campus. You may not choose to operate as an on-campus group, but if you lo, apply to the proper campus office for recognition. Information on how to qualify is usually obtainable through the Office of Student Affairs.
- Learn campus regulations for the minimum number of students in groups. There are often requirements for a specified number of students that must be involved in beginning a new group on campus. This requirement may he as high as twenty-five students. Seldom are there twenty-five students willing to start an OCF, but this need not stop the development of an OCF.
1. Ask students who may not actively participate in the organization to sign up anyway. There is nothing unethical about this. The university administration, or the student government, simply wants to know if there is genuine student interest. They do not require all students who indicate interest to be active.
2. Have students you know ask their friends to sign. Registration times are especially effective for this. Assume most students you ask will be willing to sign. Students are usually very willing to help in most any worthy cause.
3. Prepare a constitution and by-laws, if required on your campus, as well as a state or officers. (Sample Constitution and by-laws are available from your National/Archdiocesan Campus Ministry Office.)
4. Prepare a list of requirements for membership. This information must be supplied even when a constitution and by-laws am not required. The basic requirements for OCF memberships am simple and am outlined in the sample constitution.
5. Bring a student leader, and samples of OCF literature to interviews with administrative personnel. Schools are obviously more cooperative when students are involved than when off-campus people want to start a group.
6. Meet the directors of other religious groups on campus; I.e. The Newman Club, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Baptist Student Union, etc. and ask them about the requirements for recognition if you are having difficulty in obtaining information regarding this.
7. Be on time providing materials requested; pay all fees promptly and according to campus regulations. Avoid offending the campus bureaucracy, should such exist. Be courteous and gracious in all contacts with administrative personnel. Problems and hindrances occasionally arise. There are ways to work around most problems. Make a good impression!
Also see OCF Starter Kit.