Sheltering at home is commonplace now during the COVID-19 pandemic. This applies everywhere in Oklahoma, yet perhaps the mandate becomes more challenging for a college student who feels “stranded” on a closed campus.
For the 39 Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) in Oklahoma, the ministry opportunity does not change, but implementation involves some creativity.
One example is what the BCM at University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) is doing. Once a week during a semester, UCO BCM facilitates a midweek lunch with the meal provided by one of 13 Oklahoma Baptist churches.
Since the UCO campus is closed, Paul Lewis, UCO BCM director, and Alisha Jordan, UCO BCM associate director, are delivering meals, provided by the same churches, in individual to-go boxes to nearly 100 students who are staying in dorms.
“Local churches have stepped up and shown love to college students,” Lewis said. “Several students expressed gratitude, and they also are letting their friends know that we are offering lunch.”
Word got out on campus, and UCO’s student newspaper did a story about UCO BCM providing meals to students.
“Our awesome student leadership came up with this idea,” Lewis said. “We have 51 students involved in leadership, and they wanted to do this to keep loving on our community and taking food to them.”
Chad Coleman, associate state BCM director for Oklahoma Baptists, said all BCMs are connecting with students across Oklahoma.
“One thing that we are communicating with our (BCM) directors to do is regain and maintain community,” Coleman said. “This will help so that when we do come back together, there’s this natural step with students already being familiar with BCM and already feeling connected.”
Coleman said the majority of the BCMs at Oklahoma colleges and universities are doing some kind of online Bible study. A BCM director would provide a Bible study guide with discussion questions for student groups who would watch either a YouTube presentation of the Bible study or have a live online discussion with the Bible study teacher through a teleconferencing website (like Zoom).
“One good thing that I’ve heard from (BCM directors) is they’re having students who will join (the online Bible studies) that normally would not come to their BCM meetings,” Coleman said. “They are fringe students who don’t get involved with BCM, or they work on the nights they normally meet.”
Danny Toombs, BCM director at Cameron University, found encouraging results from doing online Bible studies. Coleman said Toombs found out a BCM student invited another student to participate in the online Bible study, and the new student started asking a lot of questions about the Gospel. This is one example of BCM students still advancing the Gospel on their campuses.
“Discipleship is still going on,” Coleman said. “The small groups are key right now, whether they are student-led or director-led, and most of them are student-led.”
Riley Sowell, one of the BCM directors affiliated with Tulsa Community College, shared how BCM continues to impact college campuses in Oklahoma.
“Keeping BCM going is important because BCM is people,” Sowell said. “Now, more than ever, students need each other. BCM is an avenue to connect and to do so safely. In differing ways, we are all battling isolation, loneliness, laziness and a lack of direction. It’s a lot better to fight together. Those who come out on the other side better instead of bitter will do so because they maintained positive relationships.”
Along with small group Bible studies, BCMs provide innovative fun activities for students. Coleman said BCM directors are providing online scavenger hunts, trivia contests and games students can play through online resources.
“When friends have fun together, they feel connected,” Coleman said. “When they feel connected, even in these times, they will feel connected when we can get back together.”
The COVID-19 pandemic may offer obstacles, but Oklahoma BCMs are helping college students get through them.