JEFFERSON CITY – It might not be a stretch of the imagination to say that without local churches, Baptist Student Union would not exist. Historically, BSU ministries have been started, prayed for, supported by, and funded through regional associations, local churches, and individual church members. The same is true today, over a century since the first BSU opened.
“Being an Associational ministry, the BSU is, in effect, a partnering ministry,” says Aaron Werner, Campus Missionary at Crowder College. At most of their on-campus events, members from several local churches volunteer to help with food and other logistical needs, freeing Werner and his leaders to focus on the students.
“I typically encourage individuals from our local churches to come and help out at events,” he says. “I find something for them to do when they arrive. Unless I’ve asked them to make a portion of the meal in advance.” Mike, a member of Fellowship Baptist Church, always makes the barbecue chicken for their back-to-school barbecue. This fall, the event fed over 450 students, faculty, and staff, and even the new Director of Missions rolled up his sleeves to serve.
“My goal is for them to see what the BSU is doing,” Werner adds. “By doing so, I can usually count on their support when they go back to their churches and communicate what they saw.”
At North Central Missouri College, local churches are involved in nearly every aspect of the ministry. “Three local churches sponsored all of my students to go on our fall retreat,” says Campus Missionary Christina Boatright. “One is partnering with us in our Domestic Violence Awareness Shelter goods fundraiser. Multiple churches are donating to our free student grocery pantry, and local pastors are asking about being part of our worship services on Tuesday nights.”
Collegiate Impact, a network of Baptist ministries in Kansas City, counts on partnering churches for space to hold events since they do not have their own building and most of their campuses aren’t allowing on-campus events. “Students are desperate for community and interaction. We’ve held monthly events through the summer and fall at our partnering church’s, using their parking lots and buildings to hold socially-distanced events for students from different campuses to connect.”
Heather Murray, Campus Missionary to international students at Washington University, also relied on a local church to host an event this fall. “Since we weren’t able to do our furniture giveaway this year due to the pandemic, we did a food/toiletries giveaway at a local church. The numbers were far lower than this welcome event normally brings because it was far off campus this time, but we were still able to bless and meet some new int’l students.”
Local churches supply one hundred percent of the program funding and building expenses for the BSU at Missouri Southern. “In addition, they supply opportunities for students to serve, work, and intern locally,” says Campus Missionary Jon Smith. “Pastors speak at our weekly worship service on occasion and often ask in what other ways we can be served. We love our local Southern Baptist churches!”
WMUs have a long-standing history as the backbone of the ministry at Missouri State, as told last spring in The Pathway. In addition to the WMUs’ support, “local churches provide meals for Monday nights, service opportunities, prayer support, and financial support,” says Campus Missionary Chris Wilson. “We couldn’t do what we do without them.”
Assistance from local churches and associations is even more vital than ever, with the pandemic and economic recession straining resources and ministry pathways. A portion of Missouri State BSU’s operating budget typically comes from income generated from selling parking passes to students, since the BSU parking lot is right by campus. With little happening on campus this semester, parking passes are irrelevant for most students. A local church covered the BSU’s deficit from the lost income.
Boatright says her ministry has also seen an increase in financial giving from their churches this fall. Several churches continue to help her with weekly Monday lunches, despite the added protocols of the coronavirus.
Partnership with local churches doesn’t just help the Campus Missionaries and their students; it blesses the church members as well.
“I’m 70. I don’t want to go in my Sunday School class with old people,” says Becky Woodall from National Heights Baptist in Springfield. Three times a semester, she and two other ladies provide and serve food for Monday night dinners at the MSU BSU.
“I love the young people,” she says. “They don’t just talk about their ailments. Young people contribute to keeping you a little younger than your age. The three of us absolutely love going over there.”