Lincoln BSU director leaves comfort zone, grows in ministry
By Allen Palmeri
February 17, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Brian Valentine, a black Baptist Student Union director on a historically black college campus, found himself out of his “comfort zone" in the summer of 2003. That is when he joined a ministry peer group that was exclusively white.
Called the San Diego Summer Project, the group members – all with Campus Crusade for Christ — consisted of 35 people from across the country including Valentine, the 24-year-old leader of the Lincoln University BSU in Jefferson City. It was quite a challenge.
“I don’t think the adjustment was that hard for me, but I think the adjustment was definitely hard for them," Valentine said. “I had more difficulty bridging those gaps with the staff than I did the students."
The Campus Crusaders were joined by 150 student volunteers from around the country for the May-through-August project. Staffers like Valentine were there from May 19 through July 5 to supervise groups of five. Valentine had two students from Colorado, one from Texas, one from Pennsylvania, and a graduate student from Ohio.
After Valentine led the first Bible study, he told his young disciples that they were on their own. They were the teachers, not him, he explained.
At first they resisted, but by the time July rolled around, they were thanking him. He calls this “leading from the back"—a technique he likes to use at Lincoln in his Thursday night Bible study.
“I didn’t come to baby sit grown men," Valentine explained. “I came to encourage and admonish them, and to place them in an environment where they wanted to learn."
Valentine introduced his group to a black cultural routine as a means of helping them get to know him. He was delighted by their response.
“Every Saturday I like to get my hair cut, so three of them got to go with me on a Saturday morning," he said. “That’s part of my culture. There’s something about going to a black barbershop on Saturday morning, getting your haircut, catching up on what’s happening in the community."
He described one group member as a loner who looked like “a recovering Gothic." This shy soul required a rather creative remedy.
“My whole thing was to get him a date," Valentine said. “He needed to just ask a girl out."
He did manage to work up the courage for that, Valentine reported, but nothing came of it. This student, who was from the University of North Texas, eventually used music as a way to connect with others.
“The last night we were there the students threw a banquet for all of the staff and gave special gifts," Valentine said. “Jonathan’s gift to me was he sang one of the songs that I love. He sang it in front of the entire group, the song I had taught him. That means a lot."
A student from Penn State demonstrated meekness and a knowledge of the Bible that some pastors do not have, Valentine said. It was rewarding to see him take his place on the project’s teaching team.
“He really has a heart for the Lord and a heart for being a backbone support for whatever situation you may put him in," Valentine said.
Valentine likes to take a core group of leaders and teach them how to function as a team. This is what he does every week on the Lincoln campus as he interacts with senior Leah Porter, junior Corey Hale and recent Lincoln graduate Jamere Brown.
“Those students at Lincoln need to have ownership over their campus," Valentine said. “If they do not, it’s going to continue to decline."