As the staff at the Baylor University Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) talked to the incoming freshman in Fall 2020, they noticed that all of the freshmen had one thing in common: they struggled with loneliness and were worried they would not be able to make friends. With COVID-19 looming over the start of the school year, the 2020 freshman class began their college experience without the usual barrage of welcome parties, dorm get-togethers and other social opportunities. Even upperclassmen were struggling to make and maintain friendships.
Campus missionary interns (CMI) Luke Davis and Nathan Jones explained that COVID-19 has opened new doors for ministry as students who would normally be unwilling to participate in on-campus ministry events are turning to them as one of their only chances for face-to-face interaction. The two of them found a unique outreach opportunity through sports and fitness, and this new program has already seen two young men accept Christ into their lives.
“With COVID going on, people are online every day. These students are in Zoom and class, doing class online, doing homework online, doing tests online. They need an outlet to get out and be active and have face-to-face interactions and just joke around,” Davis explained.
Davis and Jones joined Chris Wommack, a First Woodway Baptist Church member, who began a push-up challenge for students outside of the Student Life Center. Each Monday evening Wommack would do 400 push-ups with Baylor students, then pray for the students afterward and share the Gospel with anyone who wanted to hear it.
Building on the relationships they began forming with the push-up participants, Davis and Jones began a touch football game that met on Monday nights after the push-ups. They initially invited their friends, but as word spread, people showed up to the games that Davis and Jones had never met before. Jones explained that Baylor students, as well as nearby McLennan Community College and the Texas State Technical College, were excited about joining one of the few, consistent in-person activities available on campus. Most intramurals and clubs either stopped meeting or met virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We started with getting a group of guys together who enjoy working out and doing those pushups. It’s easy to invite them to do those push-ups, and then from there to share the Gospel. And so we took that structure and took something that people enjoy and that they miss, and that’s football… We’ve created a space where everyone can come, we’ve got Baylor, TSTC, MCC guys,” Jones explained. “Some of them are believers, and some of them are not.”
Jones, who lives in off-campus housing, invited three young men who lived near him to come to the push-up nights. One had become a Christian a few weeks prior, and he was grateful to have a group of Christians to befriend and grow with. The two other young men accepted Christ after a few weeks in the program, where they were able to hear the Gospel and interact regularly with believers.
Beyond the push-ups and football games, Davis and Jones meet with many of the participants throughout the week for discipleship and mentoring. It is in these sessions that much of the powerful Gospel work is done.
“These outreach programs don’t need to be big and extravagant - sometimes the most effective are the little everyday things,” Jones said. “We’re building relationships, we’re learning names. It doesn’t have to be a big dramatic ‘do you know who Jesus is’ ministry, just invite them into your life, just do life with them, play sports and go from there.”
With the football nights going strong, both of the CMIs look forward to building up the young men they have been discipling.
“I think a lot of these guys we met this semester we wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t done football. And I also think we’re training up other guys to do the same, because the point of discipleship is asking people to come alongside you while you do this, now it’s your time to go do this as well,” said Davis. “I’m excited for next semester, I can see other things growing out of this.”
The Baylor BSM is part of a network of collegiate ministry that reaches over 110 college campuses in Texas. These ministry leaders disciple the next generation and provide opportunities for spiritual growth, making friends, leadership, service and missions. To learn more about BSM, go to txbsm.org.