Commentary: Why the 'B' in BCM is so important


When you look around your church you may notice that a lot of young people are missing. It is a common complaint as I speak in local churches that congregations are aging and young people are leaving or just not attending anymore. There are more factors than can be addressed in one column, but I want to take a moment and tell you ways that you can help stand in the gap for your church.

If you have any graduating high school seniors, please send their contact information to a BCM director or a collegiate campus minister. I meet Baptist students all the time at the University of Tennessee and tell them about BCM and they say, “Why did I not know about this? My church never told me.”  

If we are Baptists we should work together to make sure that every single Baptist student is well informed about BCM and receives a personal invitation to join. If we know that many students drop out of church in college, why would we not do everything that we can to connect them to a stable, continuous and life-changing ministry that is a part of your own church?

There are a lot of campus ministries out there, and some are good ones. Yes, there are many evangelical campus ministries, but all of them have differences both theological and methodological. 

Here are some examples. Many campus ministries have titles that are nondescript and use language such as nondenominational or interdenominational. 

At first this might seem innocent enough, but remember every group gets support from somewhere. What are the churches that are supporting them? Also know that is where that campus ministry will encourage all of their campus students to attend and they will most likely join that church during school or after graduation. At the very least, they will be influenced by them.

At first you may think that is still okay because they are Christian and that doesn’t really affect your local Baptist church. You need to know that it already has. Here are a couple of ways it affects you:  First, you have effectively passed your future to a non-Baptist church. Second, when you are looking for staff for your local Baptist church, you have given away your leaders that you should be training and passing the baton to for the future.

The theological implications are even deeper.  Several other campus ministries have distinct differences that often don’t matter on the surface but are hard for students to navigate once they have joined a non-Baptist group.  

For example, large group meetings often look similar, but once students are asked to lead they may be teaching doctrine that is different from what we believe, for example, condoning infant baptism or sprinkling, speaking in tongues as evidence of salvation, embracing LGTBQ+ lifestyles and even falling from grace are common teachings of some campus ministries.

The ripple effect keeps growing to affect institutions and resources.  BCM is able to educate students on our Baptist missions and ministries, things like the Cooperative Program, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, local Baptist Centers, compassion ministries, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  

Without Baptist students knowing or volunteering in these ministries they may cease to operate at their fullest potential. BCM incorporates discipleship with working with all these ministries.  The result is that students pray better, but they also give better and volunteer more often because they are already familiar with these resources and leaders.

Lastly is specific but vital, Baptist Collegiate Ministry is a training ground for students called to vocational ministry.  Doug Hayes served with the IMB for eight years and has been the senior pastor of two Southern Baptist churches for over fifteen years.  He said, “The years at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Tennessee laid the foundation for both. Honestly, I do not know if I would have entered into these ministries if it was not for my time spent at the BCM.”  

Other campus ministries have their own needs and seminaries too, but Southern Baptists have six premier seminaries that are already supported by your church through the Cooperative Program. You are already providing for your future students to be educated and sent out by your support just like Hayes.  

Students called into ministry in other groups will often come back to their home Baptist church to ask for support. While there is nothing wrong with that, it is not the best stewardship of your resources and future.  You are repaying for something you have already been supporting and for someone that may no longer be a part of supporting your own church’s future.  

I know that pointing out this reality will hurt some people’s feelings because Baptist relationships are vast. But in a world that is rapidly changing, our students are too valuable a resource to be haphazardly sent to school without a plan.  

If we love our students as much as we say we do, we should love them enough to educate them on the importance of being a Baptist.  We also need to let them know the valuable resources that they already have and to share the benefits of both receiving and giving support.


Rodney Norvell is a collegiate ministry specialist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This commentary first appeared in the Baptist & Reflector.