For those attending two-year community colleges, a lack of strong Christian community is a prevalent struggle. Whether students commute, work a full-time job or have a family, it is challenging for students to find others to walk through life with. However, churches are seeking to solve this problem by partnering with Texas Baptists Collegiate Ministry to start their very own Baptist Student Ministries.
“Due to the large number of college students in Texas (1.6 million), the opportunities are so vast that we need a combination of both church-based and campus-based Baptist Student ministries,” said Bruce McGowan, director of Texas Baptists’ Collegiate Ministry. “Thus, we welcome churches using BSM for access to the campus. Even our campus-based BSM's are closely connected, partnering through the financial support of churches. The ‘harvest field’ is too vast without both churches and BSMs seeking to reach students.”
Westside Baptist Church in Killeen is one of many churches that has taken the initiative to start and sponsor their own BSM. Located right in their backyard, Texas A&M University–Central Texas is an upper division college for junior and senior-level students. About 40 percent of the 2,400 students are affiliated with the military, so this unconventional student body requires a unique ministry.
Verna Watson Tolbert and Linda Cain, members of Westside Baptist Church, envisioned a place on campus where students, no matter their age or background, could come together to learn more about Jesus, while building relationships with one another. Church members and staff were drawn to the idea of pouring into the non-traditional student body.
After vision casting, members from the church met with Beth Smith, campus consultant for Texas Baptists’ collegiate ministry. She gave them a brief introduction to the ministry, and helped plan, prepare and equip the church to start their very own BSM.
Every step the church took to start this BSM was marked with prayer. They knew this call to ministry would only come to fruition by the faithfulness of the Lord.
“The first thing we did was pray about the BSM. A number of us went and prayer walked on the college campus for the students we would encounter through this ministry. Then, we were able to meet with the student advisory board to discuss logistics. The process didn’t go as planned, but we never ceased praying. The doors eventually opened and we were able to start our ministry,” said Bobby Jones, minister of discipleship for Westside Baptist Church.
The BSM began in October of 2015, named the Christian Student Ministry Warriors for Christ. Jones was appointed BSM Director, along with Verna Watson Tolbert and Mariti Jones who serve as staff. The BSM is officially sponsored by Westside Baptist Church along with Bell Baptist Association.
The ministry has 15 to 20 regular attenders of their weekly bible study. They are also involved in various other activities and outreaches.
Just a few projects students, staff members and volunteers of the BSM are involved in include setting up booths around campus to increase awareness, spending time at a local nursing home to distribute handmade blankets and helping with the church’s clothing outreach ministry.
“One family the students had the opportunity to serve ended up coming and joining our church. The mother was saved and they baptized her 16-year-old daughter and her 14-year-old son,” said Jones.
It is evident that this ministry is having an impact on more than just the students, but the community as a whole, according to Jones.
“Transformation is happening. It’s not your average college, but as long as God is working, I believe we will prevail.”
A number of professors are also actively involved in the ministry. One professor coordinated his schedule so he could lead the weekly bible study and be with the students. Other professors and staff members are available to keep the BSM running during the summer.
“The students are growing in their knowledge of Jesus Christ. We believe in the Great Commission and we do it,” said Jones. “When we are out on campus discussing the ministry, our students boldly approach conversations and share the Gospel.”
He continued, “Transformation is happening. It’s not your average college, but as long as God is working, I believe we will prevail.”
To learn more about sponsoring a BSM on a college campus near your church, contact Ginger Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit texasbaptists.org/collegiate.