Collegiate ministry needed to be changed
Several months ago I was charged with examining collegiate ministry in Missouri. As a product and former president of the Baptist Student Union (BSU) at Southeast Missouri State University, I have a deep love for collegiate ministry. God used a man named Mike Parry in a spiritually profound way in my life during those years; he stood by me at my wedding, and I still call him a great friend today.
Besides that experience, I began to look at the current collegiate structure and programming from as many angles as possible. Missouri is home to 50+ major universities which have a total enrollment of more than 300,000 students. Our current structure includes six full-time BSU directors, one part-time BSU director, and 15 “part-time” collegiate ministry workers whom we support in a limited capacity financially. We work in partnership with local associations and churches to provide financial support to these ministries.
I am very grateful for the ministry that is ongoing on campuses where we have personnel. I have heard the stories and seen the life-change that is a by-product of the existing BSU ministry. As a leader, I also want to press us further. I believe we must encourage and equip those involved in this ministry to reach more than the 1,600 students that are involved in these ministries combined on campuses that have 169,000 students enrolled.
What is even more compelling to me, however, is the fact that on any given day in Missouri, we have no presence on 32 of these 50 major campuses. That translates into about 121,000 enrolled students, or 42 percent of the student population, that have no Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) collegiate ministry representation. We also have a minimal strategic presence in our major metropolitan areas like St. Louis where more than one-third of all of our college students are enrolled. The St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas are host to about 140,000 of the 290,000 college students of our state, and we have a minimal presence at best in these two locations. When the long-term goal is to see every college student have a chance to hear and respond to the Gospel, these facts are motivational.
After doing the research, I began to call and interview respected sources of wisdom in collegiate ministry from all over the nation. I spoke to representatives from the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources as well as collegiate ministry sages like Max Barnett (Oklahoma, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), John Ramirez (New England, North American Mission Board), and John Strappazon (Oklahoma collegiate ministry director). I also spoke to people in this position with similar collegiate ministry settings from Illinois, Indiana, and Massachusetts.
Most importantly, I asked God to speak to me from His Word and through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. I then began to formulate a strategy that was ultimately placed before the MBC Executive Board for their approval June 4.
To really get a handle on the task, I consulted with my then-supervisor, Jim Austin. I needed to establish a starting place for evaluation of the overall ministry—to account for the resources and to formulate the best possible strategy for reaching more students.
I wanted us to work toward reaching all 50 major campuses in our state by reallocating our resources in a strategic manner. This includes prioritizing church partnerships where we work with and through the local church. The end goal is to see students, faculty, and staff come to know Christ and become a part of the body of Christ.
We will do this with collegiate ministry regional coordinators and collegiate ministry campus missionaries. We also want to pursue collegiate community-focused church planting. With 30 campus missionaries, the vision is that in three to five years we be represented on all 50 targeted campuses. Potentially, we could have multiple campus missionaries working on our larger state campuses.
Pray for wisdom as we seek the best possible transition for this ministry effort. We must connect with and train up the next generation of leaders in our state. Pray that your student ministry team will have courage and discernment in the days to come. (Matt Kearns is the MBC student ministry director.)