BOSTON (BP) — During their spring 2021 meeting, trustees of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) unanimously passed a resolution formally requesting the SBC’s collegiate ministry assignment be entrusted to the organization.
The request was made as a result of changes, proposed earlier this year, to Lifeway Christian Resources’ ministry assignments. At the February 2021 meeting of the SBC Executive Committee, the EC voted to recommend the proposed amendments to Lifeway Christian Resources’ ministry assignments as defined in the SBC Organizational Manual, and those changes will be presented to messengers at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville for their approval.
The proposed ministry assignment reflects extensive collaboration between the SBC Executive Committee staff, NAMB leadership and the leadership of the Baptist Collegiate State Directors. The final proposal approved by NAMB trustees reads as follows:
Assisting churches in reaching and mobilizing college and university students in the United States and Canada. Promote the advancement of college and university ministry efforts in evangelism, discipleship, churchmanship, leadership development, and missions mobilization through collaborative partnerships.
“Our team is thrilled for the potential opportunity to serve pastors, collegiate ministry leaders and students across the nation,” said Paul Worcester, NAMB’s national director of collegiate evangelism. “I believe that our college and university campuses are the most strategic mission fields in our nation. It is critical that we reach this generation of students and train them up to be the next generation of leaders for the church.
“College students are not only incredibly open to the Gospel, they are the future leaders of the next generation. The college campus is a relatively small percentage of the population, but it is a powerful percent that influences the culture at large. The college campus is a bottleneck through which almost every leader of this generation will pass at some point.”
The college population in the US totals around 20 million students. Last year Lifeway reported that more than 750 Baptist collegiate ministries impacted nearly half a million students, with more than 70,000 students involved in campus-based and church-based Baptist ministries across North America.
“It was my dream as a pastor—and it remains my dream at the Executive Committee—that Southern Baptists would reach and mobilize college students around the country,” SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd said. “As the largest non-Catholic convention of churches in the United States, it is time that we take reaching and mobilizing collegiate students more seriously than ever before. How can we not do this when we have more than 20 million college students, with one million of those being international students?”
According to a recent study by Lifeway Research, 66 percent of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly as a teenager indicated they have dropped out of church for at least a year between ages 18 and 22. The No. 1 reason stated was: “I moved to college and stopped attending church.”
According to NAMB, the average college campus in North America is 5% reached with the Gospel. Even campuses with several large ministries have a vast number of lost students that no one is engaging with the Gospel.
“Typically, if you want to know what the common thought and trend of culture will be a decade from now, you can look at the college campus today,” said Shane Pruitt, NAMB’s director of Next Gen evangelism. “It is literally where our future is being formed to be sent out as influencers. Therefore, if we want to see a spiritual awakening that will impact the culture for many years to come, we must focus on having a Gospel influence on the college campuses immediately.
“College campuses, universities, and collegiate ministries can be strategic launching pads to send out missionaries all over the world to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. Reaching college students with the Gospel and mobilizing them with Gospel is a calling and conviction for us. It is a nonnegotiable focus for Paul and me. We are so excited about the potential of locking arms with BCM directors, local church college pastors and collegiate church plants to see a Gospel impact on college campuses across the nation.”
NAMB’s request for the new ministry assignment will be referred to the EC for consideration prior to the Annual Meeting. Pending approval by the EC, and pending approval of the amendments to Lifeway’s ministry assignments by the messengers at the Annual Meeting, messengers will be asked to approve this change to the NAMB ministry assignment as well.