By Lonnie Wilkey and Chris Turner
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) in Tennessee will not be impacted by a possible Southern Baptist Convention vote to transfer the collegiate ministry assignment from LifeWay Christian Resources to the North American Mission Board.
“It is important to remember that Tennessee Baptists have provided Baptist Collegiate Ministry on Tennessee campuses for approximately 100 years,” said Bill Choate, collegiate ministry director for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
“While it is not clear precisely what action NAMB now will take to support collegiate ministry across North America, Tennessee BCMs will continue to operate as a ministry of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board with support from the Tennessee Baptist Convention network of churches, local churches and Baptist associations across our state.”
Some questions arose about the status of Tennessee BCMs after the recent spring 2021 meeting of the North American Mission Board trustees who unanimously passed a resolution formally requesting the SBC’s collegiate ministry assignment be entrusted to the organization.
The request was made as a result of changes, proposed earlier this year, to LifeWay Christian Resources’ ministry assignments. At the February 2021 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee, the EC voted to recommend the proposed amendments to Lifeway Christian Resources’ ministry assignments as defined in the SBC Organizational Manual, and those changes will be presented to messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville for their approval.
Choate observed that Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Tennessee has been a priority for many years and that the college campuses across the state are a global mission field as thousands of international students attend colleges and universities throughout Tennessee.
“The impact Tennessee Baptists have had through the decade in the lives of countless thousands of students is immeasurable,” Choate said. “The bonds between our campus ministries and ministry partners is stronger than every with amazing opportunities emerging as campuses reopen following the pandemic.”
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, agreed.
“This pending transition with LifeWay gives us the opportunity to restate without reservation Tennessee Baptists’ commitment to, and leadership role in, serving university campuses across Tennessee,” he said. “I have said it before and I say again, because of its local and global impact in evangelizing the spiritually lost and discipling the saved, collegiate ministries are a priority for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. We have an incredible team of campus missionaries and leaders performing at the highest level in Tennessee.”
During the 2919-20 school year, 40,296 collegians were engaged by 25 BCM ministries across Tennessee campuses, with 4,255 college students directly involved in BCM ministry programs, Choate said.
There were 121 professions of faith during the year and 757 college students were involved in evangelism. More than 1,120 students were involved in Bible studies or discipleship small groups and 591 collegians were involved in community ministries/missions, he added.
BCMs across the Tennessee worked diligently in 2020 to keep students involved even when students could not attend classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tiffany Hudson, director of the Vanderbilt University BCM in Nashville, said the pandemic was a call to ministry leaders to look for new and innovative ways to do outreach, discipleship and gospel ministry. College ministries utilized platforms such as Zoom, Facebook Live, Instagram and others to maintain connections with students.
Morgan Owen, BCM director at University of Tennessee-Martin, agreed. “BCM thrives because of the dynamics of community,” he said. “The obvious path to take was moving to a digital form of programming.”
Choate, who emphasized that college ministries must work hand in hand with the local church, said vigilant prayer is critical as churches and collegiate ministries continue to figure out what all facets of their ministry will look like as pandemic restrictions lift.
Choate said Baptist Collegiate Ministry in the state has benefited from its past relationship with LifeWay Christian Resources and he anticipates continued cooperation with NAMB should SBC messengers vote to approve the transfer of assignment.
“We look forward to working with NAMB as they endeavor to support collegiate ministries across North America in reaching young adults,” Choate said. B&R