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Collegiate ministers get ‘fresh take’ at LifeWay summit

[SLIDESHOW=47889]HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — A triennial gathering involving hundreds of collegiate ministry workers “inspires us to go back to our campus with new ideas and a fresh take on things,” said Arkansas campus minister Dawn Reed.

That’s why she returned to LifeWay Christian Resources’ Collegiate Summit, hosted this year May 2-4 by First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn.

Collegiate Summit featured plenary addresses, networking opportunities and breakout sessions on issues facing college ministers. Among the conference’s sponsors were the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Samaritan’s Purse.

This year’s summit also included an emphasis on the Forgotten 50 initiative, an effort to establish an orthodox, Protestant ministry presence on the 50 college campuses in North America with the least access to the Gospel — all of which are in Canada. In a May 3 plenary session, attendees were asked to commit to pray for at least one of those campuses.

The gathering “reenergizes our passion for our students,” said Reed, Baptist Collegiate Ministry director at Lyon College in Batesville, Ark.

LifeWay collegiate ministry specialist Bill Noe said “college ministry leaders love” Collegiate Summit “because it’s great training for how to engage students with the Gospel, but it’s also great networking. It gives them an opportunity to connect with others on the front lines of doing ministry on campus.”

D. August Boto, interim president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, told Collegiate Summit attendees May 2, “The college years are a window of opportunity. [Southern Baptists] must be there. You are how we are there. You are how Jesus is there.”

Ethicist Russell Moore was one of four plenary session speakers. In a May 3 address, he said learning to define success and glory in countercultural ways are among the primary challenges in collegiate ministry.

“If we have this idea that glory means visible success and prosperity in the moment, we are not going to have ministries that understand the cross,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Faithfulness in proclaiming “the Word of the Lord is worth it even if it seems that no one receives it.”

Believers — including those in collegiate ministry — must seek “a different kind of success” and “a different kind of belonging” than the world seeks, Moore said.

Ministers might be tempted to think they are ineffective when they face backlash for their faithful preaching, Moore said. “But in reality, the Scripture is teaching that if you are not experiencing that, it is because you’re not being clear with the message of the Gospel.”

Faithfulness in teaching the Bible might cause a believer to be rejected in secular social circles on college campuses, Moore said. Yet one thing “Jesus has gifted to us that the students on your campuses desperately want and long for is a sense of genuine and real connectedness, not just with one visible group of people gathered together several times a week, but with a global body of Christ and an invisible cloud of witnesses.”

For Weaver McCracken, retired state collegiate ministry director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board, Collegiate Summit offers a taste of such connectedness.

“This is a key time to collaborate, to refresh and to catch up with others who are doing the same type of thing you’re doing,” said McCracken, a contract worker for the Baptist Collegiate State Directors network. Collegiate Summit “is probably the largest gathering of [Southern Baptist] collegiate leaders that we have.”