In the late 1910s, increased college enrollment of Baptist youth in Texas created the need for a new type of student ministry, one that encouraged the expression of faith on campus while students were separated from their home churches. This new ministry was named the Baptist Student Union (BSU) and is known today as Baptist Student Ministry (BSM).
BSU operations officially began in the fall of 1919 when the Baptist General Convention of Texas named Joseph P. Boone, a Baylor University graduate, as the first Baptist student secretary. Boone, known as the father of the BSU, had earlier declined a position as general secretary of the YMCA’s Interdenominational Student Religious Organization in favor of developing a Baptist student ministry.
In the summer of 1920, Boone held a meeting at the Palacios Encampment with 15 students and five faculty members from colleges across Texas. Here, the small group laid a foundation for the BSU by drafting its first mission statement – one based on evangelism, missions, stewardship, denominational loyalty and the call to service.
A few months later, in the fall of 1920, the first state-wide convocation of BSU members was held at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, TX. The university’s central location allowed over 300 students from 20 schools to gather and discuss what BSU ministries and programs should look like on their campuses. Texas A&M University and The University of Texas-Austin, the first two campuses to employ paid collegiate ministers, and several other campuses with new ministries were represented at this gathering.
Over the next 80 years, the BSU saw periods of both growth and decline. At the height of the Great Depression, the organization was completely disbanded. Just a few decades later, it was revived and thriving, reporting 60 active unions across Texas schools. When BSU participation declined in the mid-90s, a strategic name change was approved to better communicate the organization’s inclusivity. Eventually, the newly-christened BSM emerged into the 21st century growing stronger than ever before.
Today, Texas Baptists recognizes those students who paved the road to the modern BSM, a model which has been adopted by several other states and remains strong throughout Texas. Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministries now reports 134 active BSMs on campuses across the state, reaching 124,165 students every year.
“God continues to use BSM as an opportunity for students to build communities that engage the lost student population on campus,” said Joyce Ashcraft, associate director of Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministry. “We believe if we reach the campus, we can reach the world.”
Join Texas Baptists in remembering and celebrating the history of the BSM as well as the many lives it has touched over the past one hundred years.
At East Texas Baptist University (ETBU), discipleship is an important part of BSM. This is one reason why junior Christan Phillips got involved his first semester on campus. A strong community of believers helped Christian grow in his faith and gave him boldness to share the Gospel with his roommate. Soon, the seeds that Christian planted in his roommate’s life blossomed into a profession of faith and a call to service. “This is our main focus,” said David Griffin, BSM director at ETBU, “to disciple leaders to reach others for Christ.”
Texas A&M University senior Connor Clement felt a call to ministry after getting involved with her campus’ South Asian student association. As a BSM member, she was connected to Go Now Missions, Texas Baptists’ student mission-sending program, and made plans to minister in South Asia over the summer. While there, Connor had the opportunity to share the Gospel with the family of an international peer from A&M. “It just blows my mind,” Connor said. “We went there and they didn’t know about the Gospel at all. Now, multiple people in their village know these stories.”
Kids Club is an off-campus ministry sponsored by the BSM of Dallas Baptist University (DBU). Senior Marina Love has been serving with this ministry for two years, meeting with the children of a Grand Prairie apartment complex once a week for games, crafts and Bible study. “My favorite thing about serving with Kids Club is our consistency in building relationships,” said Marina. “I believe we are put there to help guide these kids like older brothers and sisters.” Both on and off campus, BSM students from DBU build relationships with people in need of Christ’s love and the Gospel message.
Every Tuesday, BSM students from the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) serve free lunches to more than 200 students on campus. Andrew VallalGershom, a graduate student from India, serves at this event weekly. “Free Tuesday lunches are my favorite because they create opportunities to talk about faith,” said Andrew. “Some students come for the food, but others are open to discussing the Gospel with our volunteers and become involved with the BSM after attending this event.” Through providing for physical needs, BSM students at UTD are able to affect change in the spiritual lives of students on campus.