Peer Ministries is one more way Concordia shares the love of Christ. Photo courtesy of Sonja Brandt.
By Madi Smith
Surviving college without access to someone to talk to when life gets rough can be difficult. Concordia provides multiple ways to seek support, one of those being the year old program, Peer Ministries.
Peer Ministries is a group of students who have a passion for connecting and helping students, and have been trained to do so. They are a team of individuals selected at the fall semester of every year to help support students at Concordia who express the need to talk to someone. This is an opportunity for peers to support each other and share experiences.
“Everyone needs someone to be there to listen to them once in a while,” peer minister junior Anna Baack said. “This program is a way to meet someone who deeply cares about you as a person, and have someone listen to you without judgement or distraction. I think it is a great way for you to form a relationship and just have someone be there for you always and pray for and with you.”
Director of Student Development Rebekah Freed took over the program this past fall when she got hired. Originally, the program was started by Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics Gene Brooks. From what Freed understands, a need was found in the spiritual life surveys students fill out every year, one Peer Ministries was thought to be able to fill.
“We have a lot of opportunities for students to connect with adults, whether it’s the academic resource center, or in our office, or the health center or the counselling office, but to have peer support also in that would add another level,” Freed said. “So that’s my understanding is that it came out of response of the results of the spiritual life survey as this might be one way we could meet some of those needs that students were expressing in that survey.”
It used to be that a student would go through the health center to get matched up with a peer minister, but now everything runs through Freed’s office. A student can go directly to Freed by emailing her if they are looking for support, or they can fill out a form found online on the CUNE website.
“I wanted to be a part of this program because last year I used the Peer Ministry program and loved the feeling of support and encouragement that I received from my Peer Minister,” peer minister sophomore Faith Armer said. “I was able to see first hand how impactful it can be in someone’s life. I wanted to provide more opportunities for someone else to have a similar experience.”
If a student shows interest in having a peer minister to talk too, Freed will typically ask them a few questions to see if the student has any preferences on who they would like to talk to and to determine who would be a good match. She will then use email to connect the peer minister to the student and the match takes it from there.
After the match has met, a meeting could be anything from simply getting coffee or meeting for a meal. Peer ministers also know quieter and less public areas to meet too. Meetings happen as often as the pair want them to, but typically they happen once a week for as long into the semester or year as they wish.
“A meeting usually involves meeting in a place where both of us are comfortable, such as J-Top, JD’s, Neutral Grounds, the library, et cetera,” Baack said. “We can talk about anything from school to relationships, and as a peer minister, my job is just to be there and listen. It can include a prayer at the end, and always ends in encouragement. Another way to meet would even be going to chapel or Praise together.”
The meetings are completely confidential, so anything told to the peer minister will not get spread around. The only people who even know the match is made are Freed, the peer minister and the student.
Peer Ministries is available for all students on campus, whether they have faith or not. The name of the program, “Peer Ministries,” can cause some to assume its only for those who are religious, which is false. Prayer and faith do not have to be discussed in these confidential meetings.
“I enjoy being able to be a support for other students on campus and being able to be a part of an amazing team that is so selfless and willing to serve the student body,” Armer said. “They are an amazing team of people who care so much for the well being of the campus. I am so thankful to be in this program and part of the team.”
This organization was set up to create additional access to support for those on campus who are looking for it. Peer Ministries is still growing and looking to make a positive impact on the student body.