By Ben Maddox
Collegiate Ministry Specialist, Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville
Graduating from high school is an exciting moment for students! They have spent 13 years working toward this goal. The next step for many graduates is to head off to college. For these students, there is a great anticipation for this next chapter of life. Students look forward to making new friendships, memories, and academic adventures. For parents and youth ministers, this is a proud, yet somewhat nervous time of expectancy of wondering how their students will live their college lives. A common question for many is: Will my child grow in his or her faith in Jesus Christ during these college days?
The parents and youth ministers of graduating students find themselves having to release their students to a new level of independence. As you find yourself in this position, encourage your students to live a life of faith in Christ that is “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). Trust God in what He will do in your students’ lives. If your students are followers of Christ, rest in the promised work of Christ that He will continue to work in their lives while they are away from you at college (Philippians 1:6).
As your students embark on college, the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCMs) will be there to receive them when they arrive on campus. The BCM is a campus-based ministry of Baptist churches. The purpose is to lead college students and others in the academic community to faith in Jesus Christ, to develop them as disciples and leaders, and to connect them to the life and mission of the church. As you get your students ready for college, here are a few suggestions for how to connect them to the BCM on their university campus:
(1) Expose your high school juniors and seniors to BCM students who have kept their faith vibrant in college. Provide opportunities for these college students to speak wisdom into your students’ lives as they make their transition to college. Allow these students to cover topics related to academic, spiritual, social, emotional, and physical well-being as a college student. If you do not have a current BCM student in your church, contact a local/nearby BCM director to ask for a university student to come talk with your students about the transition to college.
(2) Bring your graduating students to a local BCM worship gathering to experience a glimpse of what all the BCM offers your students. Let the BCM director know you will be bringing some students to the worship gathering. Afterwards, the BCM director can connect your students to a current BCM student to share about the BCM and what the BCM has meant to them.
(3) Teach your students the importance of staying in biblical community. Before your students graduate from high school, find out where your students are going off to college. Research the back-to-school events offered to your students through the BCM. These events are designed to help new students connect to other new students and returning students. This will help them make an informed decision about how they can spend their first few weeks making gospel-centered friendships that will greatly assist in their transition to college. Also, the BCM will assist your student in finding a local church which will assimilate them into an intergenerational group of believers.
(4) Encourage your students to see college as a great missions field. College is a close community of students from all over the state, nation, and world. These students are coming with a variety of differing worldviews. Teach your students how to distinguish between a Christian worldview and other worldviews. Teach and model for them how to share their faith with other worldviews. Lastly, place a visible reminder, like a board with pictures of current college students from your youth ministry, along with where they are studying, in the church facilities. Share specific ways the church can pray and support these students as they live on mission at their college campus.
(1) Talk with your students about how they plan to put Christ first in their lives while striving for academic and career success, talking with them about a healthy rhythm of a consistent faith, healthy lifestyle, and striving for academic goals during their time at college.
(2) Spiritual well-being: Encourage your students to research the BCM on their college campuses and local churches in the university town. The first three weeks are critical. Encourage them to set priorities of visiting the BCM in the first week of being on campus. The BCM will also assist your students in finding a local church.
(3) Include the BCM in your local tour of the campus. As you are visiting the campus before your students begin, drop by the BCM to meet current students and staff. They will be able to inform your students on how they can get involved in the BCM.
For information on BCMs and collegiate churches, visit: https://bcmlife.net/ministry-directory/.
For information on Tennessee BCMs, visit: http://www.tnbaptist.org/missions-ministries/collegiate-student-missions/locate-a-tennessee-bcm.