BSUs still have a heart for collegians
By Allen Palmeri
April 19, 2005
SPRINGFIELD – Dean Finley, campus minister to Southwest Missouri State University (SMS), has a philosophy of Baptist Student Union (BSU) work that essentially knows no boundaries. In Finley’s world, when it comes to reaching people for Christ in a secular environment, variety rules.
“Ministry is ministry,” he said. “We’re ministering to students.”
Finley and Billy Grady, campus minister to two-year Ozark Technical College (OTC) in Springfield, came to Panera Bread April 7 to visit with a couple of students they had never met. Meanwhile, Kevin Hall, the new minister to young adults at Concord Baptist Church, Jefferson City, had put together an “RV expedition” to meet many of the college students under his care. Two of them, Mallika Kapila of SMS and Natalie Ward of OTC, came to Panera that day and were made aware of how the BSU can help them spiritually.
“There is a lot of good, experienced leadership in the BSU system,” said Hall, who made 10 Missouri stops in two days in a 27-foot, borrowed motor home from Kentucky. “We’re fortunate to have those people. I think their hearts are definitely for the students, and they’re doing the best they can to reach the students on the campuses.”
Hall invited a representative from The Pathway to join him in the 1992 Travel Craft RV as he traveled from Joplin to Hannibal. The trip covered more than 1,000 miles of Missouri roads, stopping to visit with college students, eat and sleep. On two occasions the RV stopped twice in BSU parking lots where Hall grabbed some sleep. The first night was spent at Missouri Southern State College in Joplin, the second at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. In doing so, a wide range of BSU work was observed, ranging from evangelistic to servanthood in nature.
Finley said he and his fellow BSU ministers face an immense challenge on their campuses “meeting the huge number of needs, and the variety of needs that they have.” In response, the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is taking some steps this year to build community within the BSU culture as directors and their spouses come together for a meeting this month with MBC Family Ministries Specialist Joe Ulveling that is designed to strengthen their marriages.
Academic training is important in BSU ministry, according to Phil Gloyer, who directs the BSU at Missouri Southern State College. Gloyer earned his Ph.D. in Christian ethics from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
“I would love to encourage more of our seminary students to do doctoral work with the intent of going into campus ministry,” Gloyer said. “The problem is, they can make probably three times as much when they pastor a church with a doctorate than they could in campus ministry. I really would like to encourage seminary professors and Baptist college professors to get involved with campus ministry at a local level, to help equip our Christian students and challenge them at a higher level.
“Instead of just having BSU be an extended youth group, challenge them academically. I think BSU can even be a good conduit to bring our qualified academics on campus.”
Sometimes the challenge of BSU is simply one of building a foundation. In Springfield, at Ozark Technical College, Grady has had to start virtually from scratch in developing a student-led organizational structure that can adapt to rapid change. After two years of hard work, Grady by the grace of God alone has seen the number of participants in a lunch-time BSU meeting on Monday hit an all-time high of 29.
“My turnover (among student leaders) is just unreal,” Grady said. “It’s a lot different than a four-year campus. If you don’t let them be involved in it, then you do all the work, there’s only one of me and there’s many of them.”
The best thing about BSU work from Grady’s perspective is that his students are learning how to bring others to the meetings, where discipleship and even sanctification can take place.
“They are jumping in,” he said. “They are participating. They are doing everything they possibly can to see others come to know Christ, so that’s exciting,” he said.