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Collegiate leaders talk discipleship at Historically Black colleges, universities

A panel discussion at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans focused on the opportunities of ministering at historically Black colleges and universities. (screen capture)

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Ministering on the campus of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities for discipleship.

A group of BCM leaders at several HBCU’s recently discussed their unique ministry at the schools during a panel on the CP stage during the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

George Lee IV is the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) director at Grambling State University in La., said many students at HBCU’s have a “spiritual” background, but often not a Baptist background.

“We have to start slow,” Lee said.

“Discipleship in an HBCU context is crock-pot ministry if you will. Many of those students won’t be familiar with our Baptist polity or theology, even to a degree. Talking about who is Annie Armstrong? Who is Lottie Moon? … Who are these missionaries? Who is George Liele?

“So starting from square one and really helping them to see how God created them ethnically and culturally on purpose. And that is not the priority, the priority is the Gospel. Starting there, and just kind of journeying along and going slow.”

Michael Aguillard is the BCM Director at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La.

He said although the presence of so many diverse spiritual belief systems is a new challenge for him, it provides an opportunity to return to the fundamentals.

“One of the things that comes to mind for me when I’m on campus and doing evangelism is some of the unique apologetics issues that we have in our communities,” Aguillard said.

“The Hebrew Israelites, the return to African spirituality, the nation of Islam. I went to a predominately white institution, and I had never met anybody from any of these organizations before. Coming to an HBCU and trying to learn how to interact with them, understand their faith, understand what they believe, and learn how to share the Gospel with them has definitely been a new experience.

“I like to focus on … having a quiet time, doing Scripture memory, learning how to do evangelism and learning how to fellowship and learning how to pray. I think all those things are important, and I think sometimes when we just focus on the basics it can really go a long way in regards to discipleship.”

With each of the represented BCMs being supported by their state convention, the panelists also discussed the importance of connecting students on HBCU campuses to a local Baptist church.

One false assumption the group pointed out was the BCMs would always point the students towards a historically-black church. Instead, there are a variety of churches the students end up joining, including predominately Anglo churches.

CiCi Lee, George’s wife, works closely with the women involved with Grambling State’s BCM, who make up a majority of the group.

She said joining Temple Baptist, the couple’s church where George is on staff, has been a blessing, despite being a different environment from her upbringing.

“I remember when George first told us that’s where God was leading us, I was like ‘certainly not, out of all the places…’” Lee said.

“I grew up in a small, black community, and it was just very close-minded. Some of the things I was taught as a child I had to unlearn growing up. But that environment (at Temple). True friendship. People knocking on our door saying ‘Here’s a casserole’. Leaning into that has been the best experience. Some of my best friends have come from me leaning into what God has called us to.

“That’s what I inspire the students that are around us (with).”

The full panel discussion can be viewed on the Cooperative Program YouTube channel.