About Common Ground

The Common Ground program of Drew Theological School reflects the school’s strong commitment to eco-justice and love of the natural environment. Drew, working in partnership with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) of the United Methodist Church, provides the course work associated with the United Methodist Certification in Camp/Retreat Ministries. Common Ground courses are open to any Drew students who are interested as well as to camp and retreat leaders of other denominations. Students at Drew can complete the coursework for certification in conjunction with the Master of Divinity or MA in Ministry.

In order to complete the educational requirements for certification, each student must complete three required courses (Cert 301, 302, and 303). These courses are offered in January-February in consecutive years. Students may start at any point in the sequence. CERT 303: “The Ministry of Camp and Retreat Center Management” will be offered in January 2012. Additionally, students complete two electives. If a student has not previously taken a course in United Methodist History, Doctrine, and Polity, one of the electives should be this course.

Courses in the program are offered for academic credit at the graduate level. The reading materials and the writing assignments for the courses are intended to challenge students to broaden and deepen their own thinking on the subject matter. Students are expected to do all assigned reading before attending the intensive class sessions. It is important for students to recognize that the courses are not intended as workshop-style events but as academic course work embodying both theory and practice.

The Common Ground program began in January 2001. To date close to forty students have completed the course work for certification!

The Bible often uses the image of wilderness as a metaphor for places of spiritual hunger and a location for God’s revelation. Camp and retreat leaders live out their ministries in real-world wilderness, with the unique challenges and opportunities that camp and retreat settings provide. Leaders need skills and training to effectively meet the challenges and seize the opportunities.

Camp and Retreat Certification Courses at Drew University Theological School provide a valuable foundation in camp and retreat ministries for those entering into these ministries, and undergirds practical experience with a Biblical, theological and management framework for experienced camp and retreat professionals. This is a non-degree program; however, interested participants must apply for admission.


Next Required Course: January 2014

  • CERT 302: “The Theology and Ecology of Common Ground”
  • Instructor: Dr. Laurel Kearns, Associate Professor of the Sociology of Religion and Environmental Studies

Fall Elective classes:  

  • CERT 314: “Choosing the Future: Partnering with Ethnic Leaders, Churches, and Communities
  • Dates: October 13-18, 2013
  • Location: Scarritt Bennett Center and Haley Farm, Nashville, Tennessee 
  • Instructor: Janet Wolf, National Coordinator, Alex Haley Farm and Nonviolent Struggle at Children’s Defense Fund

Contact Cynthia Bailey Manns, coordinator of the program, for more information on these courses, cmanns@drew.edu or 973-408-3019.

Program Logistics

Who May Apply

Drew University offers the coursework required for Camp and Retreat Ministries Certification in The United Methodist Church. However, people from all denominations may to apply to the program, whether or not they are seeking certification in The United Methodist Church. An undergraduate degree is required from an accredited college or university.

United Methodist Certification Program

Drew offers the coursework for the United Methodist Certification in Camp and Retreat Ministries. If you wish to be certified, in addition to participating in the coursework at Drew, you must enroll for certification through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and follow the procedures for certification. United Methodist students must additionally complete an “Enrollment for the Professional Certification Studies in Ministry Careers” found online at www.gbhem.org working with the certification registrar of your local Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. More information is available at www.gbhem.org/certification.

Drew Computer Network Login Information

Upon admission, you will receive a Drew email address and login information. If you wish to be contacted at a different email address, you must notify both the Registrar’s Office at (973) 408-3025, and the Associate Academic Dean at (973)408-3647.

If you change your email address, mailing address, and/or phone number while you are in the program, notify both the Registrar’s office and the Camp/Retreat Certification Program Coordinator.

Your login information allows you to access CampusWeb, your online homebase for grades, billing, and other information. You can visit CampusWeb at https://campusweb.drew.edu.

Course Registration

Registration for courses is available about two months before the course begins.

In addition, you must register for housing. Housing information will be available a couple of months before a course begins here: Upcoming Courses

Courses often require homework before the class begins. Look for syllabus information about six weeks before a course begins here: Upcoming Courses

Costs & Financial Aid

Tuition for the 2013-14 year is $819 per credit. Tuition generally increases at a rate of 5% per year.

  • Food and lodging for each course range from $250-$450, depending on location.
  • Transportation to and from the course sites varies.
  • Other fees include a computer network fee and a one-time transcript fee.

Financial Aid

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry offers a stipend of $200 per credit to part-time students enrolled in the certification program. Stipends are issued after the completion of the course. More information is available at www.gbhem.org.

The General Board of Discipleship has limited “Legacy of Leadership” funds available to students with significant need. For more information, contact Kevin Witt at kwitt@gbod.org.

Contact Information

General Program Information
Nancy Vander Veen, Director of Lifelong Learning for the Theological School
Phone: (973) 408-3084 Email: nvanderveen@drew.edu

Theological Admissions
Phone: (973) 408-3109
Email:  theoadm@drew.edu

Business Office
Phone: (973) 408-3114
Email:  business@drew.edu

Registrar’s Office
Phone: (973) 408-3025
Email:  regist@drew.edu