Baptist Collegiate Minister Morgan Owen talks about the importance of college students connecting with a community and the value Baptist Collegiate Ministries adds to their personal and spiritual growth.
Announcer: Welcome to Radio B&R, a podcast production of the Baptist & Reflector, the official news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. Radio B&R, keeping Tennessee Baptists informed about the issues impacting their lives and churches.
Chris Turner: Hello and welcome into this addition of Radio B&R. I’m your host, Chris Turner, and today we have as our guest, Morgan Owen, the Baptist Collegiate Minister at University of Tennessee at Martin. Mo, thanks for being with us today.
Morgan Owen: Thanks Chris, I appreciate the opportunity.
Chris Turner: Well we look forward to being on campus these next two days, just shooting a golden offering for Tennessee Mission’s video, just showing what it is that Baptist Collegiate Ministry, here on this particular campus, does, but we have over 20 BCM Ministries across Tennessee on campuses that are secular, and so what is the importance of Tennessee Baptists being able to support a ministry like this. in an environment like this?
Morgan Owen: Sure, well I would say first of all, it’s important to find BCM as an important ministry to our local churches, because for many young people, as they make that transition out of the teenage years, out of high school going into college, they feel like an adult, but they’re not looked at as an adult, and they’re trying to find a place to which they can potentially use their leadership skills and grow. I think the BCM is definitely a place where we can see that happen, where we can assist the church by helping take these students and mature them, and encourage them, especially in the aspect of community.
When students come and get involved in the BCM community, they can grow. We always emphasize, BCM is not your church. You need to be involved in a multi-generational worship experience, but BCM is just unique. We are able to reach a campus by using the skills and talents that students have. They walk away, really educated and they grow up in those skills.
Chris Turner: One of the things about BCM, when kids come, they’re obviously not coming with the peer group that they grew up with, maybe even in their youth group, or their church, maybe in their school. Maybe a couple of kids might be coming with them, but they come and for the most part don’t necessarily know a large number of people. Talk a little bit about the importance of an arriving freshman to connect to community, how important it is for them to stay on track.
Morgan Owen: Yes, I think that’s probably one of the most important things, when a student takes that leap onto a college campus, and of course that kind of depends on where they are from. We have students from our area, regionally, that do the whole commuter thing. For those who are living on the college campus, there’s this value that, “I’ve got to belong. I have to belong somewhere,” and many groups are made up of those students that try to find out where I belong. BMC is one of those places. I believe that for us, at UT Martin, we’ve been able to utilize, over the last five years, an event called, Survival.
Chris Turner: Yeah, I definitely wanted you to talk a little bit about this, because this is really grab them when they get here kind of thing, and help them get connected in a purposeful way.
Morgan Owen: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen students come to Survival, and it’s been that thing that has helped them develop the relationships that they’ve kept over the years, while they’ve been in college. It’s helped them in their spiritual walk. It’s helped them in their academic experience, where they can talk with that student and find out who’s, how’s that professor, and is this a tough class? There are things that they can learn more than just spiritual skills, life skills, but just that sense of community. As they are growing in their faith, while they’re in college, we’ve used things like Survival to be a way in which students can get a jump onto the college campus, before anything’s done.
It’s interesting, after I’ve talked with students, or when I’ve talked to students after the semester has begun, I’ve basically polled to find out what they’re thoughts were with summer orientation equipping. Was their first year initiative for their freshman year equipping, or was Survival the most equipping thing? They always say Survival was the thing that really helped them make that leap onto the college campus.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and when you look and think about a parent, who has been to college maybe, and experienced the lifestyle that sometimes comes when all of the sudden teenagers are given unlimited freedom, and no supervision, talk a little bit about a parent who’s looking at sending a freshman child to a university, and what BCM can do, the role that BCM can play in the life of that student, once they arrive, four years later. What are some of the benefits to having been involved in BCM that you’ve seen in your many years of ministry?
Morgan Owen: I’d say first of all, that aspect of community and like faith, and yet there’s that value of iron sharpens iron. They push one another and they encourage one another, so one, aspect of community. Two, aspect of allowing them to use their gifts and talents. It’s possible that they simple were filling up a pew, a seat, and they were at church, but they really never either had the opportunity or they’ve never explored the giftedness that God gave them, and so BCM is one way in which a student can explore those gifts and talents.
A third way, I think it’s really important, is that when a student is preparing to go to the college campus, I know it’s a nervous time for a parent. I have three daughters that all went through … Well, two went through college and our third is a sophomore in college, and I can say that there is this value of letting go, to let them explore who they are in their faith. I believe that there’s that trust, that if you have raised them up in a way that you feel like that they need to go. Scripture says raise a child in the way they should go, and so that aspect of raising them, to raise them in a way that they can see God use them in their journey and in their search is something that a parent should trust the Lord in.
A fourth thing that I think is really important is, when it comes to the BCM, it’s a … With many of our universities having a place, a facility, where students can go to. For many of the students, it’s a home away from home. It’s a place that they can go and enjoy being with others, just beyond that community, a place that they can just hang out. The campus and this dorm sometime can be a frustrating place to be, and so that’s why we call our BCM a home away from home.
Chris Turner: When you look at the kids when they come, there really is a sense of discipleship, the purpose that you see, your role in both that of evangelism, but discipleship, talk a little bit about what you see the mission of BCM. As a director, what type of environment are you trying to create for the kids that come in, and where you’re trying to see them when they leave four years later.
Morgan Owen: That’s great. For me, I see our environment being a place of acceptance, a place of growth, and exploration, maturing and where I see a student that is a representation of kind of the got it kid, the kid that gets it, is when they are willing to take the steps forward in their faith. Take that step and be on leadership, take that step and go on that mission trip. Take that step and share your faith on the college campus with your peers. I think when students begin to take those steps, we can see the changes in their life, and often times I see those students’ hearts break for their college campus. I see their hearts break for the mission field. They go, they’re nervous. They’re scared. They come back and their hearts are broken for a place in our world that is in desperate need for the Gospel.
Chris Turner: You know that’s one of the things I’ve sees is we’ve been able to work with several of the BCMs across the state, is that kids seem to really capture this mythological idea that it’s not … There are lost people all around them. I’ve seen, from the BCMs, all of our BCM leaders, directors, really seem to be disciple making machines, and so you see these kids come in, they get it. They really start to have that heart, as you talk about, for their campus, and then you start to hear a lot of them, when they get to be juniors and seniors, several of them, because you have several of them that have gone into vocational ministry.
Morgan Owen: Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s right.
Chris Turner: You’ve also equipped several to be vocational ministers and missionaries in the marketplace.
Morgan Owen: Yeah.
Chris Turner: Talk a little bit about the importance of both of those things, because you have definitely seen a bunch of kids, and you’ve got two right now, that are preparing and are about to head off to seminary, and so they’ll be in vocational ministry, but I know you’re also as proud of those that have gone into the work place as missionaries.
Morgan Owen: Yes. Yeah, I think that’s interesting you bring that up. We see some go into the ministry, but a huge number of our students go into the work force. When I look at students, I encourage them to recognize their call as a Christian within their vocation. I’m excited about Courtney, who’s our Women’s Campus Missionary, getting ready to go down to New Orleans Seminary, but I’m just as excited for a young lady named, Brie, who’s going to be a nurse in Jackson. That’s her passion. Another young lady, Ashley, is also going to be a nurse, and they both are securing jobs. It’s exciting to see their excitement for their career, but knowing their passion for the Lord behind that.
Chris Turner: What is the thing that gives you the greatest satisfaction when you see a kid come into Survival, and white eyed, and parents aren’t real sure about dropping their kid off, and all of the sudden, you know, deer in the headlight look, and that week or so before freshman year starts, and then when they walk across that stage and graduate, that has come through, and you’ve had a chance to invest in their life. What is the thing that gives you the greatest pleasure when you see them move on?
Morgan Owen: Yeah, I’d say the thing that gives me the greatest pleasure is seeing our students care for their own, living their own. Seeing those new students come in and watching our, the older students, invest and make their moments important moments in their life. We had one young man several years ago, who was … I don’t want to say kind of the, a problem kid, but there were just some issues that he had. There was a struggle of acceptance. His birthday rolled around, and several of our older students threw him a birthday party. These people weren’t really close friends, but I can tell you by the time they all graduated, they were friends. They were very close because of that reaching out, and that caring for one another. Again, that’s that aspect of community.
For the student that comes in as a freshman or a transfer student, and then graduates, for me, I think I’m most satisfied when I see them be willing to take steps in their faith, steps in their spiritual growth, and being able to not close things off, but be willing to live out their faith while they’re in college. I’ve seen some students come through this ministry, who never went on the other side of the world, but they were seeing their campuses, their mission field, and they gave all that they could. When I see a student give everything that they are because of their faith, and their commitment, and their passion for where God’s put them, I know they got it. That makes me happy.
Chris Turner: The college years are so critical, because it is a transition from being a teenager, and being in mom and dad’s house, and that environment, and really you’re not an adult at that point. Not necessarily a full blown adult when you’re in college, but there is that transition period to college. How important is it that Tennessee Baptists support over 20 BCM ministries across Tennessee, because we’re looking at 350,000 roughly, college students that are on our campuses. Thousands from other countries, some from countries that the International Mission Board can’t necessarily get into, because they’re closed countries, but those students are coming here. Why is it so important that Tennessee Baptists support Baptist Collegiate Ministry?
Morgan Owen: I think one, it’s an investment in the future of the churches in the State of Tennessee. I think that when we are supporting our BCMs, then we are investing in those young people that will make that transition back into potentially their community.
Chris Turner: That’s right.
Morgan Owen: They will be going back mature in their faith, and grown in their faith, and even more than that, they will potentially challenge the people back at home with mission opportunities, because they’ve been there. They went on that mission trip and then they would be … I hear about that, students who begin to mobilize discipleship groups because they did discipleship. They’re mobilizing mission groups to go somewhere, because they went on a mission trip to that location, and so first of all, an investment in our churches.
Secondly, I think it’s important because we’re also reaching the world. I know for our students, we’ve seen our international ministry group reach out to students from Saudi Arabia and students from Japan. It’s great to see our students have a passion for these students who are from other countries, but yet are hungry to hear about the American culture, but we try to get beyond that, go get to the Gospel. Fortunately, the support that the Tennessee Baptists give to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry allows are students the materials that they need, and the rallying point to reach our campuses, and reach our international specifically.
I think another thing that’s important, when it comes to our churches’ benefit of, or reason why TBMB churches need to give to the Baptist Collegiate Ministry is that it’s equipping those who will be going on into the mission field, and into the ministry. Again, it’s reinvesting into the young people that will be our future youth ministers, pastors, missionaries, and so it’s a whole investment, beyond just the State of Tennessee.
Chris Turner: Yeah, and I think that’s kind of been one of the interesting things about doing these stories and videos that we’ve shot across the state in support of cooperative program and Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. It’s almost like you begin to see these students filter down into different categories. Those that work with the international students and have this heart for international missions, and they’re on that trajectory that they’re going to go to seminary, and they’re going to wind up, and their passion is to wind up someplace overseas. You’ve got others that kind of filter down and they’re looking to be, maybe go to a sin city, or something in the United States as a North American Missionary, or youth ministry at a local church, or pastor of a local church, but it’s almost like the Lord just starts to reveal to them where their place in future ministry is going to be. BCM really gives them the opportunity to explore that, solidify that call, have that call revealed.
Morgan Owen: Yeah, and I speak that as one who experienced that in my own life. When I was a student in Kentucky, I was involved in a small church of 110, and then went onto Murray State, because of my experience in BCM, BSU, back then.
Chris Turner: Yeah.
Morgan Owen: I was really able to see the call that God had on my life. I was challenged because of that community, and I was pressed forward to seek out what that future is that the Lord had for me in ministry. I’m here today because of what BCM did in my life.
Chris Turner: Yeah, that’s pretty cool, because when you really look at the relationship that Paul had with Timothy, and there was that investing in the next generation of servant. Paul, eventually knowing he was going to fade from that, but that really is the story of Christianity and discipleship.
Morgan Owen: Exactly.
Chris Turner: That we bring people along, we help equip them, and that’s the role of the mentor in the church, or the ministry, or whatever it is, so that next ministry generation can raise up and go out. From what I’ve seen and experienced, just from our BCMs across the state, these are like discipleship factories.
Morgan Owen: Yes.
Chris Turner: The kids come in.
Morgan Owen: Exactly.
Chris Turner: They get a spiritual focus. That spiritual focus really does do a lot of equipping in other areas of their lives. They mature with their academic focus. They start looking and become a little more goal oriented, and all that stems from, because they really are looking for a way to serve the Lord and glorify him through what they do.
Morgan Owen: Exactly.
Chris Turner: As you think about BCM Ministry, what is it that you really hope that maybe something Tennessee Baptists wouldn’t know about BCM Ministry, or something that you would, you know, speaking on behalf of Baptist Collegiate Ministries in Tennessee, what is that thing that you hope that some parent, Tennessee Baptist sitting in the pew, knows about our Baptist Collegiate Ministries?
Morgan Owen: I would say that I hope that parents understand that when a student walks onto the college campus, there’s often the fearful thought of what could happen, but I think it’s important for parents to know that there are people who will love their student and encourage their student, and will …. Be there also to be an advocate for their student, if they will help that student connect with the BCM on that campus. The other thing I think is important for parents to know is that it has to be the choice of the student. I’ve seen students pushed by parents, so hard that they run away from BCM.
Chris Turner: Yeah.
Morgan Owen: I would encourage parents to recognize that there is a community of faith that is pro-church, pro our Tennessee Baptist churches, that want to invest in their child, and to encourage but not press too hard, because they could be pushed away.
Chris Turner: Yeah, definitely. I think that’s the other thing I love about our BCMs and our BCM ministers, just how closely with local churches around our universities, that BCMs do work, and get involved. It’s also fun to see college students that are connected with BCM get involved with our Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief, going on some trips, helping people in Louisiana and Texas, and other places, and really catching that vision for who we are as Southern Baptists, that whole idea of going to serve, to reach people, and just how that whole world view goes together as far as what it means to be a biblical Christian.
Morgan Owen: Yeah.
Chris Turner: Well Mo, it’s real exciting to see what’s going on here at UT Martin. Thanks for spending just a little bit of time with us, and just give us, real quickly to wrap up, maybe one or two ways that Tennessee Baptists could pray for collegiate ministries across Tennessee.
Morgan Owen: Sure, I’d say first of all, be in prayer for students as they’re preparing to go out and serve in missions this summer. I’m not for sure when this podcast will go out, but for me, I’m taking a team to Canada and Maine. That’s something, it’s a heart of us as campus ministers, we not only desire to see students go, but we desire to take them to places, to let them see the potential ministries that are out there, that God may be calling them to. I’m taking a group to Canada and Maine, so praying for all of our missionaries and those going to serve this summer.
I’d say be in prayer for those students, who are in leadership for the different campuses, from different BCMs, that they get the rest that they need, the encouragement that they need, and that they are ready to really be what they need to be as that new freshman group comes onto the fall campus, or the campus in the fall, so that there is that very clear understanding to those new students that we love you, we care for you, and we want to help you as you’re experiencing college life.
Chris Turner: Awesome. Well hopefully Tennessee Baptists will be praying for that. Hopefully Tennessee Baptists that are somewhere near one of our universities with a BCM will contact their BCM minister and just find out how can that local church serve the BCM, and then maybe open a door for that BCM to somehow be able to help and serve that local church. Looking forward to all that.
Well thanks for joining us today.
Morgan Owen: Thank you, Chris.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Radio B&R, a podcast production of the Baptist & Reflector, the official news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. This and other episodes can be downloaded at baptistandreflector.org/radioBR. The ministries of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board are supported through the cooperative program, and guests received through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions. For more information, visit TNBaptist.org.