It’s a story that really begins in the unlikely town of Berkeley,
Calif. While it’s perhaps a place known more for tie-dye, wind chime spirituality, it’s where Randy Bare and Charles Oewel became founding partners of the company, Student Center Associates (SCA), an organization specializing in the development and management of mainline Christian-based student housing.
Bare, a veteran campus minister, and Oewel, a multihousing developer for decades, combined their passions to address both the serious lack of student housing, and a growing need for resources within campus ministries throughout the U.S.
The God-developer duo first met when rehabbing Westminster House, the Presbyterian Campus Ministry Center at U.C. Berkeley. Today, Westminster House provides housing for 175 students.
SCA immediately took the show on the road, using Westminister as a model, and now a growing number of campus ministries across the country have added, or have begun plans of adding, student housing.
One of the essential components of the ministry’s housing offering is a program branded “Residential Life,” in essence providing loco parentis or “in place of a parent.” Aside from having fun, a key goal of the residential life program is to create community within the residence, one which supports a well balanced education, reducesstudent isolation and increases retention. This program also encourages and promotes socialization, and helps students lead positive, healthy lives.
Intervention in alcohol and substance abuse, date rape and sexual abuse, eating disorders and suicide are emerging problems that must be dealt with in addition to creating a community support and activity agenda for the student residents.
Campus ministries now work with property management companies to provide this “high touch” environment. Resident life is staffed with resident assistants drawn from the ministry and trained in the same manner as RAs hired by the universities. In essence, Campus ministries provide a comprehensive wellness program that benefits the residential community and the campus ministry program.
Bare and Oewel are encouraged by the partnerships they’ve developed with other campus ministries that were inspired by Westminster House, where Bare still serves half-time as Campus Pastor.
There is no religious qualification to live at Westminster House, yet the ministry does hope to attract students to their programs and services. Residents can be anything from agnostic to Catholic, Jewish or Muslim, and of course, Presbyterian.
Westminster House also promises the full college experience. Says Frances Loreto, 18, “I was sort of hesitant because I first thought it would be less social that the dorms. But the parties here are pretty exciting.”
Mark Elsdon, pastor of Pres House at the University of Wisconsin in Madison has followed the Berkeley model and recently started
construction on a 280-bed residence hall scheduled to be complete for Fall enrollment. He shares the sentiment of other ministries across the country: If it could be done in Berkeley, it could be done anywhere.
“Berkeley isn’t the friendliest to organized religion,” remarked Elsdon.