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BCM leaders renewed, refocused after Summit

BCM leaders from across the country enjoy a time of fellowship around the tables during this year’s Baptist Collegiate Network Leadership Summit at First Baptist Church Collierville, Tenn.

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (BP) – Cole Rogers said he picked up numerous new ideas during the 2024 Collegiate Leadership Summit. 

But Rogers, collegiate ministry specialist at Belmont University, said that wasn’t his biggest take-away from the three-day event.

Instead, Rogers said that being reminded that college ministry is about “being centered on prayer more than trying to plan things and get down all the details” is what had the biggest impact on him during the event, which was held this year at First Baptist Church, Collierville. 

Rodney Norvell, collegiate ministry specialist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, agreed that the conference was much more than just a seminar on how to better organize activities and events.

“Personally, I love the spiritual renewal that comes out of worshiping with the other collegiate ministers from all over the nation,” Norvell said. “We have a time of soul care, great learning opportunities and challenges from some great giants of the faith.”  

The Collegiate Leadership Summit, held every three years, is sponsored by Baptist Collegiate Network — an organization of state convention collegiate leaders.

Bill Choate, collegiate ministries director and Harvest Field 3 ministry leader for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, said the Summit, held this year May 1-3, was developed “to train and encourage SBC leaders from across North America.” Choate noted that “most of the work developing the event is done by local collegiate ministers on campuses in multiple states.” 

This year, 750 leaders gathered for three days of worship, prayer, breakout sessions, training and fellowship. Training is provided for both campus and church-based ministries. 

Zak Tucker, families pastor at FBC Collierville and a former BCM member during his college days at the University of Memphis, said the church was honored to host Summit.

“I know the impact college ministry can have,” Tucker said, “and our church believes in college ministry. Of course, I initially picked up the phone because my own college minister (Jeff Jones) called and asked if our church could host. It was a great opportunity for FBC to step up and encourage a large group of college ministers from across the entire SBC.”

Jonathan Chapman, collegiate ministry specialist at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, said that getting to know other BCM leaders from around the country is always one of his favorite parts of Summit. 

“While the messages, worship, breakouts and everything else were amazing, at the end of the day, the greatest thing at collegiate Summit is the networking,” Chapman said. 

“Being able to spend time with fellow directors from all around the country, sharing ideas, catching up and telling stories is just awesome. Each of our BCM ministries is so unique, and it is nice to be around other BCM directors who can relate.”

Norvell said the conference was a source of encouragement for the BCM leaders, reminding them of just how important their role is on campuses across the nation.

“The biggest take away is that college ministers are on the front lines of culture wars in our country,” said Norvell. “It is one of the greatest areas of need for the church to be strategic and influential.”

Chapman said he saw a large number of fresh faces at this year’s Summit.

“There were so many more young people there this time — and that was just fantastic,” he said. “Campus missionaries, for sure, but also younger BCM directors. The youthfulness and conversations from it were a blessing to see. It’s always an honor to observe and encourage the future of BCM.”

Choate said the conference is a time of renewal for the often-exhausted BCM leaders — something that they all need as the school year comes to a close. 

“This event is a huge boost to our Tennessee BCM team’s spirits,” said Choate. 

“It comes at the end of a school year of hard work,” Choate said. “Our people both learn from great trainers and are also leading breakout sessions themselves.  The sense of community — days and nights with brothers and sisters who share the same calling — is rare and encouraging.”

Many BCM leaders from outside Tennessee traveled long distances to be at Summit.

Ken Harmon, Baptist Collegiate leader in the Pacific Northwest, said: “We make the trip to Summit for several reasons, but the big one is relationships. This is the biggest family reunion in the collegiate ministry world. 

“This event also exposes our collegiate ministers to a broader collegiate work,” he said. “They are learning from people doing effective ministry all across North America.”

Kendal Danford, Baptist Collegiate Minister at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C., said she attended the conference for several reasons.

“For us, the benefit of attending Summit is to be around people who do what we do and can teach us fresh ways of doing it,” Sanford said. “I’m also here for the encouragement. Overall, we just want to make college ministry in South Carolina even better.”

Marilyn McClendon, Maine collegiate coordinator, said the conference checks many boxes for her.

“Of course I’m here to see people,” she said. “And there’s always more to learn. This meeting is always an opportunity for me to reaffirm my call to minister to college students in Maine.”

Harmon summed up Summit by saying: “I’ll miss a lot of other meetings, but I won’t miss this one.” 

This article originally appeared in the Baptist and Reflector.