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Websites becoming effective tools for reaching college students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–University of Texas student Ashley Cook checks the mailbox outside her off-campus dormitory five days a week. The third-year student is, however, a “compulsive e-mail checker” who sifts through the contents of her three e-mail accounts as many as four times each day.

She also spends time online chatting with friends, researching, completing school projects and just browsing the Internet. So it’s no surprise that Cook originally became involved in the Baptist Student Ministry at the University of Texas in Austin after visiting the organization’s webpage.

Increasingly, ministry leaders are finding that reaching collegians with information about college ministry news and events means venturing into cyberspace with interactive and up-to-date websites.

The CollegeMinistryLINK service of LifeWay Christian Resources is a custom edition of LifeWayLINK, a website tool for ministries. The new college edition of the service features templates and designs specifically geared to churches and campus organizations with student ministries.

For several years, University of Texas BSM director Jimmy Daniel tried to offer an informative website for the ministry, but consistency proved a problem. As the technology-minded students who maintained the website graduated, it routinely fell into outdated disarray.

The dilemma wasn’t unique to UT.

Gary McClure, marketing manager for LifeWay’s e-business department, said the idea for a custom version of LifeWayLINK was “born out of feedback from campus directors and student pastors who need a Web solution to effectively impact today’s students. They asked for a no-hassle service that is easily managed by several people, therefore becoming graduation-proof.”

Daniel said the CollegeMinistryLINK service the BSM now uses is easy enough for him personally to update the material on the website.

“I don’t have to know HTML or FrontPage to change the content,” he said. “Before, I was dependent upon a student who was Web-savvy to make the changes. The simplicity is its strength.”

An effective BSM site will help current college students and high school students who are researching college options understand exactly what the ministry has to offer, Daniel said. “I felt like it was important to have a website that communicates who we are.”

The website targets new students at the University of Texas who are already Christians and are seeking a Christian environment, Daniel said. “I want to get them involved as quickly as possible so they have that Christian support,” he said, pointing out that only about 3,000 of UT’s 52,000 students attend Christian services or events.

Using the website’s calendar tool helps Daniel easily inform students of opportunities to participate in numerous BSM activities, which helps students “find a way to plug in.”

Helping students plug into a community also is one of the main goals David Anglin, college pastor at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Miss., has for the website he maintains through CollegeMinistryLINK.

Olive Branch isn’t a college town, but several schools are in the proximity and his college program averages about 50 students each week.

“I want [the website] to be a place people can frequent that becomes a ministry arm of our church and provides a sense of community,” he said. “Community provides accountability and encouragement and challenge.”

He said he hopes to one day use the CollegeMinistryLINK’s discussion board feature to keep in touch with Longview students who leave home for college.

“It seems like in college your relationships start to get deeper and the community becomes more important,” Anglin said. “The discussion board is key to creating that sense of community.”

Daniel said connecting students is important at the University of Texas, as well, and the prayer link feature of the CollegeMinistryLINK service is helping create that sense of community.

The link allows students to send their prayer requests directly to Daniel and his staff. The petitions for prayer are posted on the BSM’s site so others can offer support.

“We really have a group that prays, so I think that [link] is going to be something that is big,” Daniel said, adding that students began submitting requests as soon as the new site went live in February.
For more information on CollegeMinistryLINK, visit www.lifewaylink.com/college.

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  • Brooklyn Noel