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Relationships key in college ministries


RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Leading a ministry to college students on campus or in a church is like being a pastor of a small church where the entire membership leaves every four years.

Nevertheless, ministry leaders must build relationships, said Arliss Dickerson, director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro since 1979.

Dickerson was among the speakers at National Collegiate Week at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.

Relationships are the “currency of your ministry,” Dickerson said in a series of workshops for new collegiate ministers, in which he noted seven key areas vital for an effective Baptist Collegiate Ministry:

— Relationships with key student leaders. Dickerson encouraged one-on-one investment with these individuals.

— Relationships with casual attendees.

— Relationships with campus leaders –- student government leaders, club leaders and others who may not necessarily be a part of the ministry but are influencers on the campus.

— Relationships with campus administrators. “You need to make your presence known to people in places such as the student affairs office,” Dickerson said. “If they know you are there and are willing to help, it will be beneficial.” He suggested helping at student orientation, for example, from passing out soft drinks to stacking chairs.

— Relationships with key figures on campus, such as coaches and professors.

— Relationships with students to whom no one else tries to relate. “We need to attract some of the top students on our campuses, but we also need to attract the people who wouldn’t have anyone else if they didn’t have us,” Dickerson said.

— Relationships with people who do -– or potentially could –- support the collegiate ministry, such as local churches and organizations willing to volunteer time, money and resources.

Dickerson told the new campus ministry leaders they also should model involvement in their local churches.

“Let [the students] see that you are involved in your church as an individual,” he said. “I teach a Sunday School class and am on committees at my church, and [the students] know that.”

Dickerson noted, “You want the student -– the finished BCM product -– to be a Christian involved in his church.”

He encouraged the group to be proud of their calling as collegiate ministers. “Remember,” he said with a laugh, “God called thousands of preachers, but only a few collegiate ministers.”

Another speaker at National Collegiate Week, Randy Boyd, collegiate ministries director for the Baptist Convention of New England, described students in the Northeast as entering college without any church background.

“About 99 percent of our college students in New England are unchurched,” Boyd said. “All they know [about Christianity] is what they’ve seen through the media, which is nearly always negative.”

Although collegiate ministry is “a huge challenge” in New England, Boyd said he thinks campuses are the greatest hope for student evangelism in the region. “We have a BCM presence on 275 campuses, but our [New England] convention only has about 240 churches.”

In addition to the Aug. 2-7 Collegiate Week at Ridgecrest, a second week was underway simultaneously at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center near Santa Fe, N.M. Both weeklong gatherings in August were sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. About 1,700 students and leaders from across the country attended both events.
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Polly House is a corporate communications specialist with LifeWay Christian Resources. Next year’s National Collegiate Weeks will be Aug. 1-5 at Ridgecrest and Aug. 3-8 at Glorieta. For more information about these and other 2009 collegiate events, go to www.lifeway.com/collegiate.

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  • Polly House