KIRKSVILLE– In order to “kick up” its college ministry, First Baptist Church here decided against gimmicks and marketing. Instead, they started with basic discipleship.
“What we’re doing isn’t revolutionary or groundbreaking. We’re just asking God to move and be glorified through it,” Ministry Leader Jason Chrisman said.
Prayer is a key component. Every day at 3 p.m., members of First Baptist pause for a moment to pray for Truman State University students. Chrisman said initially he asked the church to pray for the ministry to grow. Later, he encouraged them to pray that students would give their hearts to Christ.
“I truly believe in the power of prayer,” Chrisman said. “We’re seeing awesome things happen.”
This semester, two young women were baptized at First Baptist after making decisions for Christ. Another student is preparing for baptism.
“Our college ministry doesn’t have a slick and trendy marketing plan,” Pastor Marty Joplin noted. “We don’t even have a cool name that insulates us from the reputation of the traditional church. But the kindness and compassion of many workers have created opportunities for the Spirit of God to use the people of God to bring souls into the kingdom and that is exciting.”
Joplin rejects the idea that college students will not attend a local church. If the church offers substantive teaching in God’s Word and genuinely cares about making a difference in the lives of students and the Word, they will participate, he said.
“It requires a time and resources investment to earn their trust,” Joplin said. “Those two elements are far more important than where or how you meet and what style of worship you offer.”
First Baptist started off with food, serving supper on Sunday evenings when Truman’s dining hall is closed. Church members cook and serve the meals. In the past few years, the ministry has grown to feed an average of 65 students each week.
“It’s a home-cooked meal from moms and grandmas,” Chrisman said. “Our hope is that some of them will come to church or come to Christ, or maybe down the road they’ll remember that godly people fed them when they were poor college students.”
Chrisman, who recently completed his master’s degree in education at Truman, is a semester missionary appointed by the North American Mission Board. He has been serving at First Baptist since January 2011.
Through sustained ministry, the college Sunday School class has grown from a handful to more than 15. Even more participate in worship services. Chrisman also leads a Thursday evening Bible study in which students are reading through the Bible this year. An active college ministry has invigorated all church members. Joe Visker, a professor at Truman, and his wife, Erin, lead Bible study and assist with the meal ministry.
Baptism of new believers was a milestone for the ministry. Looking to the next school year, First Baptist hopes to be recognized as a Truman organization with a student ministry charter and possibly take a mission trip.