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NSM launches ‘radical’ initiative to reach 21st-century students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Statistics are turning Bill Henry into a “radical.”
Southern Baptists currently have the largest collegiate ministry program in the country, bigger than Campus Crusade, Navigators and InterVarsity combined. But while he’s thrilled about the impact Baptist Student Unions and local Southern Baptist churches are having on American college campuses, the director of the Baptist Sunday School Board’s national student ministry (NSM) still has to grapple with realities like these:
— Of the 600,000-plus Baptist students on campus, only slightly more than a third were being reached by SBC student ministry programs in 1996.
— Student week events at Glorieta (N.M.) and Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference centers are reaching fewer than 3,000 students annually.
— The U.S. student population as a whole — a group also targeted by SBC student ministry — topped 14 million in 1996 and is expected to jump to 16.6 million by 2005, an 18-percent increase.
Making a significant impact on campus in the new millennium, Henry recognizes, will require “a radical new approach that captures the imagination and commitment of students.”
No easy task, Henry admits, but with the help of state student directors, local campus ministers and college students themselves, he believes his staff has developed a strategy with the potential to make it happen.
During student conferences in mid-August at Glorieta, N.M., and Lake Junaluska, N.C., NSM launched “CrossSeekers,” which Henry describes as “a bold new initiative calling college students to a transformational discipleship that will enable them to change the world for Christ in the 21st century.”
CrossSeekers has three primary components: 1) a grassroots discipleship emphasis, 2) a series of “catalytic” discipleship events and 3) a publishing venture.
Explaining the first component, Henry said CrossSeekers will challenge students to make a covenant with God as an expression of their decision to live as his disciples, then join with like-minded students for support and spiritual accountability. Students making the covenant will agree to the following statements:
— I will be a person of integrity.
— I will pursue consistent spiritual growth.
— I will speak and live a relevant, authentic and consistent witness.
— I will seek opportunities to serve in Christ’s name.
— I will honor my body as the temple of God, dedicated to a lifestyle of purity.
— I will be godly in all things, Christlike in all relationships.
“When we presented the covenant to college students from around the country, they immediately got excited about it,” Henry said. “As one student put it, ‘This is something I can give my life to.'”
Phase two of CrossSeekers focuses on discipleship events held around the country with concerts by popular contemporary Christian music artists and messages from widely known Christian authors and speakers. Built around the CrossSeekers covenant, Henry said he expects these events to attract tens of thousands of students over the next few years.
With a target audience of 10,000-15,000, the first event is scheduled Sept. 4-6, 1998, in New Orleans. In addition to the concerts and speakers, a variety of “master conferences” on topics related to the CrossSeekers covenant will be held. A separate “CrossOver” track for high school juniors and seniors designed to help prepare them for the transition between high school and college also will be offered.
Henry said he envisions three such CrossSeekers events in 1999 and five in 2000, all held in different areas of the country.
“We want to permeate the country with this message,” he said. “We are praying it will lead to changed lives and a new movement for Christ among college students.”
NSM will reinforce the CrossSeekers’ message by publishing a variety of resources — the third component of the initiative. In 1998, a Bible study book and a compact disc featuring popular contemporary Christian artists are planned. Students attending the CrossSeekers event in New Orleans will receive these as part of their registration fee.
Between 1999-2000, Henry said he expects as many as 10 additional CrossSeekers workbooks and two leader’s guides built around covenant-related themes will be published.
To help the promote the discipleship emphasis, a CrossSeekers Internet site is being launched this fall, Henry said. The address on the World Wide Web will be: http://www.CrossSeekers.org.
With Southern Baptist student ministry currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, Henry stressed that CrossSeekers is being designed to “complement and reinforce” Baptist Student Unions and local church ministries to college students, not replace them.
“We have a rich heritage of student work as Southern Baptists and we are not abandoning that,” he explained. “We will involve BSU and local churches in CrossSeekers events. And I am confident this initiative will enhance our existing ministry by introducing more and more students to Southern Baptists and what we’re about.”

The CrossSeekers logo is posted in the SBCNet News Room. Photos from the Student Week ’97 conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C., are posted in the SBCNet Newsroom.

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  • Chip Alford