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College ministry ‘blazing a new trail’

CARY, N.C. (BP) — In an effort to reach more campuses and involve more churches in collegiate ministry, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has moved away from the traditional Baptist Campus Ministry paradigm and is engaging the state’s 600,000 college students through a new Collegiate Partnerships model.

“Collegiate Partnerships is totally different than what Baptist Campus Ministry was,” said Rick Trexler, former Collegiate Partnerships team leader for the North Carolina convention, who retired in August. Previously convention staff members were “directly involved in a campus or campuses” through BCM. “Now we are consultants with churches, associations and networks, so that we can assist them in doing the ministry rather than being so hands-on ourselves.”

The Collegiate Partnerships team includes three regional consultants and two international student consultants.

Under the old paradigm, the convention staffed and administered BCMs at less than a dozen college campuses, North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder newsjournal reported. With Collegiate Partnerships, the state’s Baptists hope to have a presence on some 200 campuses.

“We left one strategy, model or paradigm. But we are building a new one,” international student consultant Tom Knight said. “… We’re blazing a new trail.”

Congregations in Boone have partnered to continue a thriving campus ministry at Appalachian State University. They formed a nonprofit organization run by a board and outlined a new vision for the ministry that included greater church involvement.

“I have been very pleased,” Appalachian State campus minister Mike Puckett said. “… More churches have invested themselves financially and are involved with boots on the ground than before.”

Puckett added, “The biggest change is that the convention has released campus ministry to the local churches so they can be about owning campus ministry rather than just being marginally involved.”

Churches around Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College have initiated a multi-phase strategy to reach students at the school’s three campuses in Asheville, Enka and Marshall. Phase one involves enlisting 100 people to prayerwalk the campuses and 100 to promote evangelism and discipleship. Two other phases involve small group disciple-making.

Ministry at community colleges in general will be an important component of the North Carolina convention’s new strategy.

“We are trying to mobilize churches to reach entire collegiate communities,” western regional consultant Jonathan Yarboro said. “That’s no longer just 18- to 22-year-olds. We have neglected the community colleges. Even volunteers want to serve on what is perceived as the big campuses — actually they’re not bigger, they’re just residential. The mission field is just as great on the community colleges as it is in the residential campuses.”

In late September, the Collegiate Partnerships team sponsored the Converge365 conference, where college ministry leaders from North Carolina and elsewhere presented different models of campus ministry for churches to consider. Yarboro described the event as “a consortium of leaders from every collegiate context imaginable sharpening and challenging each other, all for the sake of engaging collegiate communities more effectively.”

Among the concepts discussed were intentional discipleship, helping college students mature, engaging students within their fields of study and ministering to international students.

While not all of North Carolina’s Baptists agree on the methodology for collegiate ministry, Yarboro said, “We are on the same team of reaching students. All of us have the same goal. It’s all about reaching those nearly 600,000 college students.”

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