SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Reaching university students for Christ is vital to Southern Baptist work in the future, seminary President William O. Crews told collegiate ministry leaders gathered at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary for a series of strategic planning initiatives.
The representatives of collegiate ministries from across the country met at the Mill Valley, Calif., seminary July 23-24 to take initial steps toward the development of a “cooperative strategy” for Southern Baptist collegiate ministries nationwide.
Crews affirmed the work of the collegiate leaders, comprising local campus ministry directors, state convention leaders and those involved in the denomination’s national programs for college and university students.
“It would be a tragedy for all of us if we didn’t do something to address the needs of students in California and others areas where university populations are growing so rapidly,” Crews said. He noted that one of the faculty members joining the Golden Gate family this fall is coming with the intent to help the seminary sharpen its focus on educating leaders for collegiate ministry.
Ignoring the needs of college students means “we are in fact robbing our churches of the leadership they need to impact their communities and ensure their survival,” said Bob Royall, new associate professor of ministry at Golden Gate. “We need to dream a new dream of reaching this critical generation and turning them into fully devoted Christian leaders for our churches.”
That’s exactly what the collegiate ministry network hopes to achieve.
“The key to the future of national collegiate ministry is here with this group,” said John Moore, collegiate ministries leader for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. “We’re going to have a lot of networking together ahead of us.”
Moore reported the group has been partnering in recent months with leaders at Lifeway Christian Resources in Tennessee, the North American Mission Board in Georgia and the International Mission Board in Virginia to chart a new course for Southern Baptist Convention collegiate ministries.
The collegiate ministry leaders meeting at Golden Gate hope to find ways of translating collegiate ministry successes at the local level into effective efforts at the national level, especially in what they called “emerging regions,” state conventions and regional fellowships where student work is newer and smaller.
“I believe we are in a stronger position than we have been in since the 1920s in terms of local and regional campus ministry,” said Steve Masters, campus ministry director at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “At the same time, I think we are weaker overall at the national level.”
Among the group’s key concerns is ensuring involvement of local and regional-state collegiate leaders throughout the country in developing new approaches for reaching university students in the United States.
“This provides the opportunity to take us in whole new directions,” said John Ramirez, the New England Baptist Convention’s collegiate ministries leader. “We have to strategize carefully and correctly.”
Historically, collegiate ministries have not enjoyed the visibility or priority of other programs areas, observers said. Yet, the leaders contend, the impact of Baptist collegiate ministries is profound in denominational life.
Moore told the networking group that nearly 215,000 students were reached through Southern Baptist collegiate ministries this past year, with half of those qualifying as “active participants.” About 18,000 of them are reported as “ministerial students,” he added.
Crews affirmed the quality of students coming to seminary from Baptist collegiate ministries around the country.
“We are seeing a generation of students willing to do anything God wants them to do and go anywhere God wants then to go,” Crews said. “They are globally connected and committed to going to the hard places to serve God and reach people.” Southern Baptists, Crews added, should do whatever it takes to provide the spiritual formation and leadership development necessary to prepare them for Christian leadership and service.
Chris Turner, director of enrollment management and institutional effectiveness at Golden Gate, echoed Crews’ sentiment about the ministry potential of students with experience in Baptist collegiate ministries.
“From my vantage point, these clearly are the future leaders in our churches, on the mission fields and at all levels of denominational life,” said Turner, a former campus minister in Washington. “I hope Southern Baptists will make the investment necessary to do all we can to provide the kinds of ministries necessary to reach them and give them opportunities to grow in leadership.”
The collegiate ministry leaders expressed appreciation to Crews for the seminary’s mission in the western United States.
“You are out here in one of the most unchurched areas of the country and on the cutting edge of ministry where almost anything goes,” Moore said. “I think Golden Gate’s ministry is really something for Southern Baptists to feel good about.”
Other participants in the July meeting included Bill Henry, director of National Collegiate Ministries at Lifeway; Darrell Cook, campus minister at Virginia Tech University; Gene Parr, campus minister at Morehead State University in Kentucky; Ron Henderson, campus ministries director in Oklahoma; Scott Allen, campus ministries director at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and NCM consultant with Lifeway.