Another excellent guest piece from my friend and SBC President Ronnie Floyd.
Collegiate Students: Can We Reach, Baptize, and Disciple Them?
by Ronnie Floyd
August 18, 2014
There are an estimated 22 million college students in the United States. The ethnicities of the world dwell on our college campuses. Few places in America have greater life, potential, and strategic importance than a college campus.
Last April, I walked into our Fayetteville Campus on a Wednesday night and spoke to over 500 college students. It was not a special emphasis in which I was asked to attend, but a Wednesday night worship and Bible teaching venue led by our church. Students were reached for Christ that night, willingly responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When Jeana and I were in college, we were both impacted in our spiritual growth through what was called then, Baptist Student Union. In fact, Jeana served as a BSU Missionary for an entire summer. This is one reason that we have had a heart for reaching and ministering to college students.
80% of Our Churches Baptized Zero to One Person Age 18-29, Which Includes College Students
In our recent Baptism study conducted by pastors, we learned that of the 46,125 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, 80% baptized zero to one person age 18-29. This statistic includes college students. Just recently, I wrote about this deplorable reality relating to young adults. While most relate this to the millennial generation, it is seldom equated to the young adults on our collegiate campuses.
It is amazing to me how different people look at a collegiate campus. Most never think about the spiritual nature of campuses because they are usually caught up in the mascot of the university. At times, it seems the spiritual condition of a college campus gets a pass because of this or the ages of the students.
This I do not understand. I love the enthusiasm of college campuses, as well as the sports life. There is nothing like it at all. Yet, I cannot and will not ignore the spiritual condition of the students. Each student either has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or they do not. As Christ-followers and members of Jesus’ church, it is incumbent upon us to insure that each college student in the United States is presented the gospel of Jesus Christ.
College Students are one of the Most Lost and Unchurched People Groups in the United States
Within the last five years, I did a non-scientific study, finding how many college students attend church in our region weekly. Unsurprising to me, college students are not being reached by churches in great numbers. This is not only true in Northwest Arkansas, it is true in pretty well every region where a college campus exists. Much of this has to do with a lack of passion for evangelizing college students, but also due to churches not being an effective and attractive experience for this generation.
When we began our Fayetteville Campus, we intentionally located it five to seven minutes from the University of Arkansas. While we do not desire to have a church comprised of only college students, we do desire and do have a church that is intentionally reaching college students for Christ. We are reaching them, baptizing them, and discipling them in their faith. This past school year, 77 students came to Christ and 55 were baptized. As well, over 50 of our college students gave their complete summer to missions. By the way, we are also connecting them to the church. Yes, this people group can be penetrated by the gospel of Christ.
4 Suggestions to See More College Students Reached, Baptized, and Discipled
1. Churches must rise up and reach college students!
Many Christians believe that this is the role of various campus ministries rather than the church. I choose to believe Jesus has called and anointed His church to reach all people, including students. Therefore, every pastor and every Southern Baptist church needs to answer:
• How many college students attend the college or colleges in our region?
• What is our intentional strategy to reach, baptize, and disciple college students?
We must know the answer to these questions and get the job done.
2. Collegiate ministries must accelerate their intentionality to see students reached, baptized, and discipled for Christ.
After reaching students for Christ, one of the greatest things these collegiate ministries must do is to see them connected to a local church. Students need to be baptized and discipled in these churches. This is a partnership with the collegiate ministry and the church.
Through your gifts to the Southern Baptist Convention, we have an estimated 775+ ministry units through our Baptist Collegiate Ministries or collegiate church plants located around the nation. To my understanding, according to the most recent statistics, we have an estimated 85,000 students connected through these ministries, mostly in the south. To God’s glory, their impact is beyond this through their ministries. I am so thankful for these ministers and ministries. I humbly appeal to our campus leaders: please prioritize reaching, baptizing, and discipling these students, connecting them to churches effectively.
3. Collegiate ministries need to be connected to local churches.
While our Southern Baptist Collegiate Ministries are connected to our churches due to gifts given through the Cooperative Program and offerings,
I think the connection needs to become even more personal and direct relationally.
I pray that one day, each collegiate minister or missionary on a collegiate campus is connected to a local church directly much like what we saw in the Louisiana State BCM story shared at the Baltimore Convention this summer. A fresh look at partnership in this mission could enhance the work on the college campus as well as through the church. This is important not only for the students who will be reached and more effectively connected to the church if this happens, but it is also important for the church. Churches must be involved in this mission of reaching college students. If we do not connect them once reached, we may never connect them to our churches.
Additionally, I pray that our collegiate ministries will impart to college students a biblical understanding of the church, encouraging them to connect in membership and ministry during the years they are in college.
4. Southern Baptists, we must prioritize reaching college students.
As a denomination, we have to elevate the importance of reaching this unreached segment of our nation located on our college campuses. This is a vision beyond our nation itself, but reaching the multiple nations represented on each campus in the United States. In our vision of reaching the world for Christ, we cannot reach the world without reaching the collegiate campuses in our own nation. These are the future leaders that will one day influence the culture of our nation and the entire world. Therefore, our churches, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, associations, state conventions, and national entities must cooperate in order to increase our effectiveness in penetrating this collegiate population of 22 million people with the power of the gospel.
This is Why I Appeal to You to JOIN THE MOVEMENT
Southern Baptists, over this next year, we must move into a major season of extraordinary prayer for a major spiritual awakening. Lead now, enlist today, and spread the word to people across the world. If we want to reach these college campuses, we need the power of God upon us.
1,000 College Students will be at our 2015 Southern Baptist Convention
It is only right that in Columbus, Ohio, the home of THE Ohio State University, which has over 50,000 college students, 1,000 Southern Baptist College Students will join us from across the nation for the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention. This is another reason I appeal to you to Join the Movement. The time is now for Southern Baptists to rise up like never before.