MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) – Zachary and Nicole Beasley met and professed salvation while attending campus ministry at Tuskegee University, and today the parents of four are serving in college ministry themselves.
Beasley’s fulltime work as a campus minister at Alabama State University (ASU) in Montgomery, where Nicole helps as a volunteer, is the second Alabama Baptist ministry at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU).
With the support of the SBC Cooperative Program, Alabama Baptists have served for decades at Alabama A&M, an HBCU in Huntsville, and are planning an on-campus outreach at the Beasleys’ alma mater, HBCU Tuskegee University.
The Cooperative Program pays Beasley’s salary, but Beasley said what he appreciates most about the funding mechanism for Southern Baptist missions and ministry is the encouragement from fellow pastors and ministers.
“It’s one thing when someone writes a check. It’s another thing when they call on you and they write a check,” Beasley said Monday (Oct. 5), a year after he joined the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (ALSBOM) as a fulltime campus minister.
“Through the Cooperative Program, I’ve had ministers and pastors reach out to me that have just called and said, ‘Hey, we’re having a meeting. We want to meet you. We want you to meet some other people, and we want to pray for you,'” Beasley said. “They’re just very supportive outside the typical support, the financial support, which is such a blessing.”
Beasley continues to serve alongside Nicole as youth and college ministry leaders at Strong Tower Church in Montgomery, a former nondenominational congregation that became Southern Baptist about six years ago. Strong Tower is a ready worship and volunteer location for students reached by the ASU campus ministry, and in turn, Strong Tower members volunteer in ministry at ASU.
Strong Tower Lead Pastor Terrence Jones was instrumental in launching the Alabama Baptist ministry at ASU. Jones, who is also a Tuskegee graduate — he accepted Christ during a campus ministry outreach years ago — approached ALSBOM Executive Director and State Missionary Rick Lance about starting campus ministries at ASU and Tuskegee. Lance agreed.
“I think under Dr. Lance a real emphasis has been made in Alabama about building bridges with African Americans,” Jones said. “When I presented the idea to him, he immediately jumped on it and literally told me that if I could find someone that I would recommend for them to hire, that they would strongly consider it.”
Jones recognized Beasley’s heart for college ministry. While Beasley was at Tuskegee, current Strong Tower Associate Pastor Alonzo Brown met Beasley at an area event and helped disciple him. “We knew his heart for ministry was the same as ours,” Jones said of Beasley.
For Lance, the college ministry posts at HBCUs speed the fulfilment of his vision and passion for the ALSBOM to fulfill the Great Commission by spreading the Gospel and fostering discipleship.
“We rejoice that doors opened and continue to open at these two historically Black colleges and universities for ministry by Alabama Baptist campus minister Zach Beasley,” Lance told Baptist Press. “He has already begun reaching students for Christ at Alabama State University.”
The ALSBOM had planned to begin a campus ministry at Tuskegee this fall, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the timeline for perhaps a year.
“Zach is a Tuskegee graduate, and we are glad to have him on our team of state missionaries for such a time as this,” Lance said.
As Southern Baptists mark Cooperative Program Emphasis Month throughout October, Lance, Jones and Beasley praise the CP for the ministry it enables.
“Gifts through the Cooperative Program are absolutely essential and vital to Alabama Baptist ministry among college and university students across the state,” Lance said. “CP directly and indispensably supports outreach on 24 campuses by State Board of Missions-employed campus ministers.”
Jones transitioned Strong Tower to a Southern Baptist congregation, he said, because of the Southern Baptist Convention’s focus on missions supported by cooperative giving.
“I just saw the missions focus locally as well as across the nation,” Jones said, “and I felt like it could be a partnership that could help us reach our ministry goals here, and there were things we could offer as well.”
Strong Tower, which Jones said averaged about 150 in Sunday worship before the coronavirus pandemic, periodically increases its giving to the CP and supports the CP by volunteering, serving on ALSBOM committees and assisting with church planting efforts.
“When you put your resources in a pot together,” Jones said, “you’re able to do so much more than you could on your own, and that was really one of the keys for why we got in it. We were trying to send missionaries overseas independently and that became very difficult, when our church is not very big.”
Through the CP, the church reaches international students at ASU. Two ASU students from Zimbabwe attend the church, and a Zimbabwean student currently serves as president of the ASU student ministry group Beasley launched.
The ASU ministry grew to as many as 40 students before the pandemic, Beasley said. As the pandemic forced the cancellation of on-campus activities, Beasley has continued the ministry through Zoom Bible studies and missions outreaches.
Students have distributed COVID-19 safety bags including masks and hand sanitizer to students on campus, shared their faith during a two-week summer Bible boot camp, and have volunteered in youth ministry activities at Strong Tower. Zoom meetings include prayer sessions every second Friday and game time on third Fridays. Four students plan to join Strong Tower, and some have requested baptism, Beasley said.
“The impact that I’ve had has probably had the greatest impact on me,” Beasley said. “Because as I teach these students, and I grow and I challenge them, I find that I accept that challenge too, to make sure that I’m living the way that I’m encouraging them to live. Personal growth has probably been the greatest thing that I’ve experienced.”