By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Bill Choate, the collegiate ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, is a big-picture kind of guy, especially in regard to his view of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries.
Choate believes BCM is about so much more than simply being a place for college-aged Christians to socialize. He believes — and has seen — that the ministry is having a major impact for Christ in ways that stretch well beyond the confines of a college campus.
“Tennessee BCM is training leaders for the Kingdom,” said Choate. “And that’s what is so exciting to me. The multiplying impact of transforming our culture for Christ comes from discipling and training up young Christian leaders.”
Currently, there are more than 1,000 students from Tennessee BCM who are involved in leadership development programs. “Each one of them could be changing churches and communities for a lifetime,” said Choate.
Stacy Murphree, the Baptist Collegiate Minister at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, agreed that one of the most satisfying aspects of BCM work is seeing the growth in such a broad sense.
“For me, and for all the BCM leaders, we’ve seen so many students who have gone on (from college) and are now serving full-time in the ministry or currently in seminary or serving as lay leaders in their local churches,” Murphree said. “And it’s an incredible feeling to know that, if BCM had not intersected in their lives, that maybe their path would have looked a little bit differently.”
In addition to helping teach and train the next generation of spiritual leaders, BCM is also making an impact on a daily basis at campuses all across the state. Over the past year, nearly 50,000 students were involved with BCM in some capacity.
“To me, one of the biggest things about BCM is that it gives us a chance to really view our campuses — our colleges and universities — in Tennessee as mission fields,” said Murphree. “And when we do that, we really begin to think about how we can reach students with the gospel, and how can we work with local churches to reach students who don’t know Christ.”
BCM reaches out to college students in a wide variety of ways, everything from helping students move into their dorms to ice cream socials to hosting concerts and weekly worship gatherings.
The hub for the ministry on many campuses is the BCM Center, which usually feature pool tables, at least one TV, couches, ping-pong tables and an “eating area” where students can sit and chat.
BCM leaders serve as prayer partners, counselors — and, if need be, venting posts — for the students.
“One of our most important roles is helping students navigate through the possibly life-changing decisions that they are facing in college,” said Murphree.
“We get the chance to walk alongside them as they are making these important choices. Some of them are praying through God’s call on their life to possibly full-time missions and ministry, while some other students might be dealing with other important things — like choosing a major or just simply how to live their life on a mission in terms of pursuing what they want to do.”
Outside of campus, many BCM members have become involved with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief projects, which again shows the far-reaching effects of the ministry.
“BCM students are ready to go, serve, lead, and share,” said Choate.
During last year’s Christmas break, for example, a group of BCM students traveled to Orange, Texas, and teamed up with TBDR to help aid the city’s recovery from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
Choate cited that trip as an example of how BCM can serve as a light in a dark world.
“More than one hundred students from multiple Tennessee campuses were trained and gave up a week of their Christmas break to mud out houses, make repairs, and share the gospel on that trip,” said Choate.
Murphree said the impact of the BCM is visible to her each day, both with current students and graduates.
“There are just so many great stories that I could share,” she said. “I’ve been at Austin Peay for almost nine years, and it’s been incredible to see the growth that some of the students have had in their faith. And to know that the BCM has contributed to that in some way is just amazing.”
HOW TO HELP:
TBMB collegiate ministry specialist Bill Choate noted there are specific ways that churches can support the BCM:
- Pray for the campus ministers. “Each one loves serving their university community, but the work is challenging and can be lonely,” Choate said.
- Get the word out. “Students need to know BCM is on campus for them,” Choate said. “And churches can help us spread the word by telling students about the influence of BCM, sharing student contact information with BCM campus ministers, and bringing BCM leaders into your church to tell the story.”
- Give to support BCM through Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. “GOTM and CP, along with associational program funds, are what keep BCM going,” said Choate.