FRANKLIN — Even in the face of big challenges and big changes, Baptist Collegiate Ministries continues to be effective in reaching students for Christ and helping them grow in their faith. The BCM also continues to be successful in supporting the spread of the gospel through events, service projects and giving.
Over the past six years, from 2016-2022, the BCMs in Tennessee have helped more than 5,000 students get involved in leadership development, raised over a million dollars for missions and seen over 1,500 professions of faith.
The BCM has also helped more than 800 students prepare for the ministry and seen more than 6,000 students become involved in evangelism training.
These encouraging numbers have emerged despite difficult circumstances — ranging from the increase of everyday distractions (such as social media) to a worldwide pandemic — that have developed in recent years.
The BCM directors who serve on campuses across Tennessee say that overcoming these challenges makes the success of the BCM all the more rewarding.
“One of the reasons I love collegiate ministry is because it is ever changing,” said Tiffany Hudson, the BCM director at Vanderbilt.“I enjoy change, and on a college campus, change is a cycle — one semester ends and another begins, providing new schedules, new rhythms and new opportunities. At times, the task is daunting and as believers it feels as if we are standing alone — but we are not.”
Hudson said watching students participate in BCM is encouraging because it doesn’t just shape the students’ life during their college years, but has the potential to make a lifelong impact.
“It is extremely exciting to be on a journey with college students in some of the most formative years of life — to help them navigate all the change, to show them how to love God and love others in a way that is both culturally relevant and radically like Jesus,” she said.
Jonathan Chapman, BCM director at East Tennessee State University, said he believes the work of the BCM is perhaps more important now than ever before.
“The culture is changing, and it is happening at a rapid pace, but the need of gospel impact on campus is still the same,” Chapman said. “And regardless of how much our world keeps changing, the Holy Spirit is still working in the hearts and minds of students on the college campus.
“For me personally, I enjoy the challenge of the ever changing culture. It only opens up more gospel appointments with various students and groups on and off campus. I also enjoy the opportunity to educate associations, churches, pastors, and layleaders about today’s postmodern culture and ways that they can engage in it themselves.”
The success of the BCM indicates that the ministry has shown the ability to evolve. While BCM hasn’t changed its mindset — the gospel remains the anchor point of all BCM ministries — it has changed its methods, when needed.
This flexibility has enabled BCM to continue to be effective in evangelism, said Mark Whitt, BCM director at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
“The college campus is one of — if not the — most strategic places we can be as the church,” said Whitt. “Each campus is essentially a small city that represents multiple areas of diversity, culture and thinking. For BCM to have a presence in the middle of these significantly influential places of learning is so exciting.
“As ministries, we are able to find ways to connect with students, many who have never heard or understand the gospel,” he added. “We are able to have real conversations with them in areas of faith in Christ and what it means to be a follower and disciple of Jesus. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a college student fully embrace what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. The seriousness and passion of a college student can have an impact on a ministry like BCM which will have a significant impact on the college campus.”
One of the biggest challenges facing BCM in recent years has been the pandemic, which created a whole new set of obstacles for essentially every organization and club, both Christian and secular, on college campuses. But with some creative thinking, BCM leaders still found ways to be effective.
“If you look at the numbers, it is apparent we all took a hit during the pandemic,” said Hudson. “However, I would pose the question: Did we really suffer great loss? For many, the pandemic provided a chance to really evaluate how we do ministry. It caused ministers to look intentionally on their ministry models and practices and to determine what really mattered.
“God carried our BCMs through COVID-19; we shifted and pivoted more times than we could count, but ministry continued.”
Whitt added: “Looking back, the pandemic actually gave us a launch into new opportunities.”
Chapman said this year, in a seemingly post-pandemic environment, the overall numbers are on the rise.
“This year, we have had record numbers in worship attendance, Bible studies, discipleship, evangelism, and we are on pace to take our largest group on our spring break mission trip,” Chapman said. “While the numbers are something to celebrate, we are alsorejoicing in the fact that students are open to Christian community, gospel engagement, discipleship and growing as believers.” B&R