I am wrapping up my research project this week which involves Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) at 10 schools in Oklahoma. It has been a personal privilege and joy to sit down with scores of BCM students across the state, discussing their experiences with BCM. I look forward to applying what we have learned from them in ways that I hope will raise awareness about this essential ministry of Oklahoma Baptists to future generations.
If you have not read already, I encourage you to check out my other blog posts about BCM. See BCM, AN ‘ESSENTIAL’ MINISTRY and BCM: ‘JUST-IN-TIME’ DISCIPLESHIP AND LEADERSHIP TRAINING. I ask you to read them not because I am much of a writer, but because of what I have learned about the impact the BCM is making because of your church’s Cooperative Program support.
In my conversations with students, I asked them what they would like Oklahoma Baptists to know about them. I have trimmed down their responses to six that were shared in almost all of the groups.
BCM is not just another campus organization to them—it’s their community
Students universally shared with me that what they experience through being involved with BCM is unlike any other experience they have had. For many it’s the first time they realized what Christian fellowship can and should be. BCM students tell me they are involved in BCM because they want to be. Nobody is there because they are pushed to be involved. They find value in the community they experience, and they relish the opportunity to grow deeper in Christ along with others of similar age.
In BCM, students said they find a welcoming, accepting and loving group that challenges them. I see them living out Christ’s command, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Because of BCM, they love their church even more
Sometimes you hear people say BCM takes college students away from church involvement, but I have found the opposite to be true. Students are excited about their church and are involved. BCM directors also encourage and help students stay connected with a church.
Many students, after being leaders within their own BCMs, have a newfound appreciation and respect for why churches do what they do. They note that since many of their churches are smaller (most Oklahoma Baptists churches are under 80 in membership), there are not as many opportunities for them to interact with their peers in local churches. And, for many, since they are also far away from their home church, they appreciate that there is a place where they can be in fellowship with others throughout the week.
Let’s face it, the college student’s schedule is crazy. This is especially the case for those students who have part-time—and sometimes full time—work. Also, perhaps paradoxically, some students have a lot of down time in the middle of the day. They love that BCM is a place to land where they can use that time to study, hang out and talk with their friends in Christ and bring their lost friends. They also love their weekly evening worship times.
Students tell me what they love about their church is that multiple generations are in the congregation who have more experience as disciples. They don’t view BCM as their church. It’s an important supplement to their Christian experience, but there is no comparison. One student told me, “I love my church even more since I have been involved with BCM.”
Before we leave the topic of church, if your church provides meals for a BCM know this: that is the love language of all kinds of college students. Your church providing meals helps BCM students reach out to their friends. Students tell me many of their lost friends first came to BCM because of the free food. In fact, if I were asked to give BCM a new name (which I have not been asked and will not do), I would call it “FREE FOOD” because of the value the food brings and the attraction it holds for cash-strapped students and those who are weary of the choices provided to them at school.
One student said to me that while he enjoys it when churches provide pizza, he would really like it if churches brought more “grandma food.” Grandmas, you have your marching orders!
They are becoming trained and experienced leaders
Many BCM students want you to know they want to get involved with church leadership. Through the BCM, these students are being rigorously developed as leaders. They are gaining a lot of practical experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. In many cases, they are awaiting pastors and leaders to ask them to help.
Keeping in mind the crazy schedules of these students, look for ways they can contribute to the church. I think you will find that these students are high quality leaders. A good approach might be before you ask a student to take a leadership role in your church, reach out to the BCM director or associate director. He or she will have a good idea for the best way a specific student can plug into your church. The directors also will have a good idea of when might be the best timing for the student’s involvement.
Evangelism and discipleship are among their top spiritual priorities
I mentioned earlier that evangelism and discipleship are deeply embedded in the culture of BCM. When talking to students, I laid out the list of BCM Essentials and almost invariably the students indicated that evangelism and discipleship are what appealed to them most from the list (Note the essentials are: Evangelism, Discipleship, Missions, Student Leadership Development, Recruiting, and Campus Relationships).
These students are truly excited about growing deeper in Christ and reaching their friends with the Gospel. They tell me they see all the essentials are grounded in these two Christian disciplines. BCM students see a lot of potential in their generation for reaching the world. Their commitment to missions is also inspiring.
COVID-19 is only hindrance that has kept our Oklahoma BCM students from trotting the globe with the Gospel. But they are serious about reaching their generation. Which brings me to our next point.
They see themselves as missionaries to their generation
BCM students are as concerned as you are about the decline in responsiveness to the Gospel among their generation. Their strong desire is to bring a Christ-like response to a lost world. As one student said to me, “The solution is biblical, not political.”
Students are aware of the upheaval that is happening in their generation, and I believe BCM is equipping them to handle the challenge. They tell me they see the Gospel as what the world needs, not polemical debates or culture wars.
These students know and regularly share the love of Christ with people who don’t hold their same worldview. They know and have befriended people who are confused about sexuality; they lovingly respond to questions from their Atheistic friends. What they need from Oklahoma Baptists is support and understanding. As one student said, “I have a friend who told me he thought my beliefs were like something that came out of a fantasy novel.”
Students need encouragement. They are meeting the headwinds of a moral revolution serving on the front lines and are faithfully sharing the Gospel. They can say with the Apostle Paul, “a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me–yet many oppose me.” (1. Cor. 16:9)
Remember to pray for them
Students wanted to remind Oklahoma Baptists to pray for them. Because of your Cooperative Program support, your church has Christian missionaries on 41 campuses across the state. They need our prayers!
Pray for them as Paul wrote, “that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19).
Here are a few more prayer items they mentioned:
- Pray that they continue faithfully in BCM ministry despite restrictions from COVID-19, or other restrictions that may be placed on them.
- Pray for students to manage their time, so that they are successful in their studies while also staying engaged as “on mission” with BCM ministry.
- Pray that they will redeem their time while in college and be sensitive to other students who do not yet know Christ.
- Pray that BCM directors and other leaders will not be discouraged and that they will serve with intentionality while implementing the “BCM Essentials.”
- Pray that the BCMs on every campus will see spitutual fruit of people coming to Christ, that souls would be saved and lives would be changed