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Collegiate mentoring strategy highlights importance of accessibility

David Williams, far end in grey T-shirt, talks with students at the BCM building adjacent to the campus of Valdosta State University. Photo by Garret Stout

VALDOSTA, Ga. (BP) — A table sits inside the office of David Williams, campus minister for the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Valdosta State University. It’s not a coffee table – small and made to hold magazines or mugs on a coaster. It’s taller and larger, one that welcomes extended conversations.

The setting is deliberate by the 35-year-old Williams, a second-year campus minister who previously served as a pastor in southwest Georgia. As weekly evangelistic efforts by the BCM extend into VSU’s campus, a big part of the training for those encounters takes place in the building that is separated only by a two-lane road from the school’s dining center.

“As the classes go through the day, students come in and sit at the table,” said Williams. “And they bring a wide gauntlet of questions.”

Those questions range from the basics of the Gospel to encountering a professor who claims to be a Christian but is clearly living outside of Scripture. They approach the topic of relationships as well as how to know if they are called to vocational ministry.

It’s a lot for one campus minister to take on alone, which is why Williams doesn’t.

Oversight and wisdom

“We have our large worship time on Tuesday, but beyond that we have discipleship groups who meet every week and go through discipleship materials. Every other week, an adult mentor from a local church meets with them to give a little oversight and some wisdom,” he said.

A key strategy for BCM, Williams added, is to build students up not only to carry the Gospel as part of the Great Commission, but to become contributors and leaders as church members.

“We have about 65 students as part of the mentorship strategy alongside 15-20 adults,” he said.

Those stories include a brother and sister who began attending BCM during Welcome Week as nonbelievers. They were saved, discipled and now the brother is leading his small group.

Ammy Gibbons, who serves in the women’s ministry at Northside Baptist Church, grew up in Valdosta and attended VSU. She is a mother of three and certified reflexologist who hosts three students at her home every other week.

“We begin with prayer and enjoy a meal together while studying,” she said.

Bible study and prayer together has led them to grow closer to each other, “but more importantly closer to Jesus. I watched each one of the ladies start to experience God more on a personal level. They started looking for Jesus moments throughout the day.”

‘Mentor in my corner’

One of those students, Isabella Mosley, serves on the BCM’s Missions team.

“Our relationship has helped me grow as a Christian this year in so many ways,” said Mosley, a Sanderson, Fla. native who is also a member of Northside. There, she serves on the college and young adults leadership team as well as in the kids ministry.

“It’s an encouragement to know I have my mentor in my corner always and she is always quick to encourage to me and the other girls in my group,” Mosley said. “Ammy points me in the right direction, which is towards Scripture and to Jesus, and shows the love of Jesus to me always.”

Northside Senior Pastor Robby Foster has witnessed those contributions.

“David has provided great leadership for Valdosta BCM,” said Foster, who has been at the church for ten years. “He is doing an outstanding job. We have seen tremendous growth in college ministry at VSU.”

A lot of that growth can be attributed to pairing students with mature believers who, in turn, can share life experiences. Day-to-day interactions largely fall to Williams and his wife, Jennifer.

As a pastor, Williams knew of BCM and its importance for developing young believers into tomorrow’s church leaders. Like anyone else, though, wearing those shoes has brought a whole new appreciation for its impact. And perhaps even more important, it’s made clear BCM’s level of accessibility that is practically impossible to duplicate.

“BCM directors are completely available to college students,” he said of those years when lifelong decisions are made. “They know that and know this building is available to them.

“So, we get to have these conversations.”