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Listed below are different strategies and activities you can use to make your campus ministry meetings come alive!
PLAYLISTS for group worship and for personal enjoyment by students (send us yours!!!):
Playlist from the worship team of the Inclusive Collective - ZOE affiliate at the U. of Illinois, Chicago
Playlist from the Commonwealth of Oakland - ZOE affiliate at CMU/U of Pittsburgh PA
Original music by Motor City Wesley - ZOE affiliate in Detroit
UWorship - guide for campus ministries - from the UKirk Presbyterian USA campus ministry network
BLESSING OF SMART PHONES: a ceremony for your meeting or event, to invoke a Holy Spirit of discernment about how to use smart phones, and when to turn them off! A great thing for your group to lead at a public event on campus. With a gathering: "Lift up your smart phones!" With an individual: "Hold out your smart phone!" (celebrant puts hands around it and around the hand of the owner of the phone) "Let us take a moment of silence to be prayerfully mindful of the role this device plays in our lives..... (several seconds).... Source of needed information, means of communicating personally and professionally, platform for our education, provider of entertainment, and so much more. We are grateful for this marvel of human ingenuity, for connecting us as one human family around the globe as never before. And we take time now to be mindful of its power over our lives. We contemplate which uses are of benefit, and which are obsessions that do not serve us or others well. In what ways have we become slaves to its beeps and flashes? Do we have the discipline to turn it off for extended periods in order to have more face-to-face interaction? Do its social media posts seduce us into unhealthy comparisons of our lives with those of others, and into the commodification of our identities? Or do we use it to maintain deep relationships, ask sincere questions, and stay close to people we know and trust? On it, do we seek out reputable news sources, or do we just believe whatever it feeds us? Do we let it amplify our prejudices, or do we use it as a tool for critical thinking? Do we passively accept the preferences of the corporations behind this device and its applications, or do we claim control of our digital footprints as engaged citizens? Prayerfully, let us lift up our intentions to make wise use of our smart phones, and ask daily for inner guidance about when to turn them on and when to turn them off. Amen!"
VOTIVATOR: Sacred Voting. Get a conversation going about how to put your faith into action by voting. How does your faith inform and guide your choices? Make a big image of a hand, with a sign that says VOTIVATOR. On sticky notes that they put onto the hand, students can write their voting preferences or their concerns about public issues. Information on voter registration, candidates, and ballot issues is made available. Campus ministry students offer each other a blessing: “With which hand will you be marking your ballot in the upcoming election?” they ask. As a student lifts a hand, the campus ministry student holds it with both hands, looks the student in the eyes, and offers up this blessing: “May love guide your hand to vote for the common good!” and then urges the student to pass along this blessing to others on campus. This immersant gets a conversation going among participating students about the sacredness of voting and about their hopes and frustrations about politics and public life. It puts the sacred into the act of voting and increases the likelihood that students will actually turn out to vote.
Sacred Drum Circle. Commune in the joy of drumming! A circle of percussion instruments surrounds a low table on which are placed communion elements of bread and grape juice/wine. A leader sets a beat with the drums and instruments and invites the students to join in. Every so often, a campus ministry student stands up and goes to the table and dips a piece of bread in the juice/wine and eats it and then goes back to the drum circle – without saying a word.
Beads for the Soul. On a table set containers with beads and strings and tools for stringing. A poster shares the history of prayer beads: they started with Hindus, then Buddhists adopted the tradition, then Muslims copied the Hindus, and then Christians copied the Muslims by making rosaries! Students are invited to make any kind of string of beads they wish, to take with them. Then do the ZOE contemplative bead practice: in silence, roll a bead between your fingers each time you mindfully, compassionately observe a thought, feeling, sensation, or urge. When your attention shifts to another experience, roll the next bead between your fingers. Do this until you get to the head bead or tie knot. At this point, focus on the compassionate attention you have been giving to your inner experiences: this is the agape love that is God!
Talk About Your Faith. Very often, if we can talk about an experience, we’re more fully able to experience the experience. Our ability to reflect on it can enhance and amplify it. So it is with our spirituality. If we can find words that at least begin to describe what it is like to know God and follow Jesus, we’ll be able to know God more intimately and follow the Christ more fully. And we’ll also be better able to invite others to join us. So a great exercise in your Zoe chapter is for each student to share the way they would introduce their spirituality or faith, and how they would describe what Zoe is all about. (For more about progressive Christian identity, see the 8 Point Welcome of ProgressiveChristianity.org ) Start with the elevator pitch - a sentence or two. Then move on to the long paragraph. Here are some examples of elevator pitches:
I’m a progressive Christian…
…We follow Jesus, who taught us to love unconditionally.
…We know God as radical compassion, not as a Guy in the Sky.
…We’re about kind and just deeds, not creeds.
…We are pro-love: we’re pro-justice and pro-environment and pro-choice and pro-same-sex-relationships.
…For us, God is way more awesome than anybody's idea about God.
…We believe that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us.
…Our faith evolves, just like life on earth evolves.
…We take the Bible seriously because we don’t have to take it literally.
…For us, intriguing spiritual questions are a lot more interesting than religious answers.
Here are some long paragraphs:
Our Zoe group follows the way of Rabbi Jesus, who discovered that the center of his being was not his body or his ego, but God, who is unconditional love. He taught people to discover this for themselves, and to practice the radical compassion that follows from this awareness. He organized the Christian church to cultivate this awareness and put it into action in the world. He demonstrated unconditional love so profoundly that the Roman government considered him a threat to its authority and killed him on a cross. Out of love he forgave the people who crucified him. Jesus’ followers turned the cross into the symbol of his unconditional compassion, and his church has strived to follow his way ever since.
Questions Campfire. Under a sign with a logo of a campfire are the words “What Are Your Hot Questions?” Next to it is a board where passing students can post stickies with the questions that are“hot” for them. ZOE student leaders “prime” the board with their own “hot questions.” One to list prominently, as a conversation-starter: “What unknown in your field of study is most interesting to you?” ZOE students place their computers and smartphones on a table in the center, all of them running a video of a crackling campfire, and talk about the questions that matter to them. There’s no focus on answering the questions – just on exploring why they matter to students.
Clearness Campfire. Ever feel bewildered in the face of a tough choice or confusing personal situation? You are in great company. And having some of that great company can make your decision-making process a lot clearer. That’s what a ZOE Clearness Campfire is all about. It is a profound way for ZOE members to serve each others’ souls. It is modeled on the Quaker Christian tradition of the “clearness committee”. A member of a ZOE chapter, facing a tough decision, can ask to convene the community together for a Clearness Campfire. The student writes down the problem or decision they are facing – as succinctly as they can. They text/email it to the group ahead of time. The ZOE community gathers and sits in a circle for between 1.5 and 2 hours around a phone or laptop computer with the campfire video playing. They choose someone to be the “clerk” and take simple notes, which the “clerk” emails to all afterward. They start asking the convening student questions. Only questions. Honest questions for which they do not yet know the answers. Questions that invite your reflection. Questions that aren’t “leading” – questions that are not round-about ways of giving advice or opinions. Questions that may inspire answers that will lead to yet more questions that will invite answers that lead to yet more questions. There are times of silence, when only the campfire is crackling. Times for reflection, for letting questions and answers sink in deeper. When the convening student is ready, 15 or so minutes before the agreed-upon ending time, they ask the circle to “mirror” what they heard and saw in response to their questions. Again: no opinions, no advice – just feedback about what they noticed in the convening student as the Clearness Campfire burned. Then the convening student shakes hands with each ZOE member and all depart in soulful silence. What happens at the campfire stays at the campfire – complete confidentiality!
Dream Campfire. In the Bible, there are many instances of dreams playing an important role in people’s lives. Remembering and exploring our dreams is a powerfully transformative spiritual practice. Gather in ZOE fellowship for a “dream campfire”! Nighttime dreams are portals into the realms of the unconscious mind. Paying attention to them brings us to a higher level of consciousness, and can give profound guidance for our lives. Get in a circle with your smart phones/computers playing this video of a campfire, as a focus for your visual attention as you explore your dreams. Participants are asked to keep a dream journal and to maintain confidentiality about what is shared in the group. The first person shares a dream. Then there are questions (not comments) for the dreamer – from anyone. Questions should be “honest” – open-ended, not round-about ways of giving opinions or making judgments. Then give three minutes of silent mindful contemplation on the dream. Then, going clockwise around the campfire circle, the next person says: “If it were my dream, this is the significance it would have for me….” – then others ask that person questions. And so on around the circle. When circle is complete, the first dreamer reflects on responses of the others. And the next dreamer shares a dream!
Make a Mandala. Around the immersant table, images of mandalas are displayed – from a variety of religious and cultural traditions. (Cathedral rose windows, Tibetan thangkas, Jungian images, Native American round or symmetrical symbols, etc.). On the immersant table is a box of white sand, with containers next to it filled with colored sand. Using paper cones with small holes at the bottom, students can make their own sand mandalas with the colored sand. And they can use markers to fill in mandala coloring books or xeroxed mandala designs. On the immersant board, they can post stickies summing up the meaning and significance that mandalas have for them. A poster shares the background and significance of mandalas in world religions, including Christianity. Campus ministry students at the immersant invite students into conversation about their experiences.
Share Your Spiritual Playlist. Put up a board on which students can post stickies on which they write the names of the musical artists and groups that nurture their souls the most. Students are encouraged to share their playlists on their smartphones with each other: leaders post the list of playlists collected that day. They talk about why these artists and groups so important to them, and play songs for each other on their phones.
Make Your Own Altar. To prepare, set up a variety of “altars” – some visibly Christian, others not – all serving as “centerpoints” for spiritual reflection. At the table/tables, set out raw materials for students make their own altar to put in their dorm rooms or apartments. Gather wood scraps, glue, nails, tools, paint, interesting scraps of cloth, tea light candles, interesting objects, religious symbols, etc, for use in making the altars. Have a conversation about the kinds of altars they are making and what they mean to them.