“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is a memorable quote from A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens but it aptly describes the first couple of weeks of the fall semester for those of us who serve as Baptist Collegiate Ministries directors around the country. Late August and early September are without a doubt the busiest weeks of the year for those of us who seek to reach and teach college students. It is the worst of times because it means long days and long nights and for most of us working 14 to 28 days straight without a day free of some activity related to the ministry of reaching college students on our state campuses. It also means an extended period of brief visits with our families, something you have to get used to if you are going to work with this age group for long. You keep reminding yourself that it doesn’t last forever, but about day 11 you begin to wonder if it just might. The reason you put in so many hours in this short span is that students set their schedules during the first 21 days of the fall semester. And whatever patterns of meetings, groups, churches, and friends that are established during this three week grind usually holds up for the entire year and for many during their entire collegiate career.
It is the best of times because of the awesome potential it holds. As a BCM director you never know what the future will hold for the next Freshman that wanders in your building at the invitation of a friend or pastor back home or the next transfer student that you meet during one of the welcome week events on campus. A few will decide to attend another campus ministry, one or two might drop out completely, and some will get more involved in their local church, but almost all of the students who drop into one of the BCM events during the first few weeks of school usually stay in touch with their faith during their college days. That is one of the biggest reasons why having a Baptist presence on our major state university campuses is so critical. The BCM can become a safe outpost on the frontier of ministry that is our University campuses. It is the place where you meet like-minded people who share your same values and love for our Savior, Jesus Christ. The friends that you meet at the BCM those first few weeks are the ones who end up being roommates for years two and beyond, stay up late with you on the weekends, know who you fall in love with before anyone else, and usually end up in your marriage ceremony as bridesmaids and groomsmen!
As a director it is exciting to know that God has a plan for those students that they themselves might not even know about yet. Some of them will develop a heart for missions that just might take them around the world that will start on a spring break trip before they finish their freshman year. Some of them will go on to establish Christian business principles and will lead Fortune 500 companies in ways that will change the world. Some will enter the realm of politics and become elected officials who will direct our cities, counties, state, and maybe the nation. Some will become teachers who train up our next generation of students and learn to share their faith in appropriate ways in the classrooms. Others will become scientists who discover new materials or new procedures that will greatly enhance our lives while teaching Sunday school in our local churches. Some will become Pastors and lead our churches in the near future! Some will find their mates and establish Godly homes. Our hope is that they will also leave with the knowledge that God has been and will continue to be working in their lives and wants them to use whatever they do in life for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom.
It is also exciting to know that some of the students who are arriving on the campuses this fall who don’t know Jesus as their personal Savior will have the chance to make that decision because our BCM students happen to sit beside them in class or in the dining hall or live beside them in the dorm or apartment building. It make take a little longer in most cases than it did 20 years ago but students are still coming to faith in Christ on the college campus each year. It is exciting to see students get plugged into local churches where they grow, serve, and learn throughout their college experience because of our partnership between the BCM and the local Baptist churches who are reaching out to students. I have the honor of training the next generation of Sunday School teachers, deacons, ushers, choir members, nursery workers, youth ministers and leaders, and missionaries every four to six years. That’s why it is exciting to be at work with God on the campuses.
It is the best of times because we get to represent Florida Baptists and demonstrate our commitment to reaching this generation for Christ and training the leadership for the next generation of Christian ministry on our campuses throughout the state of Florida. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our pastors and college ministers who are working to reach the students for Christ and get them involved in the ministry of the local church. We serve as your missionaries to the Universities and State Colleges in our areas and because you give we get to cooperate with God in the changing of lives every year. This is my 16th year of working for you on the campuses of University of South Florida and now at the University of Florida and I still get pumped up about this crazy three week period that starts the fall semester. I have the best ministry position in the world thanks to you my Florida Baptist Convention family! Join us in praying for a year filled with new believers, growing disciples, and impacting the world for Jesus Christ!