By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LAKE CHARLES – Keith Cating has fond memories of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry building at McNeese State University where he is director and was once president while a student there.
But he and thousands of other alumni and students on the campus in Lake Charles are saying goodbye to the structure that was constructed in 1954, as a new BCM building will take its place this fall.
The current facility can no longer hold the growing attendance – 50 for weekly group gatherings and 240 for weekly lunches – and maintenance costs are rising annually on the building. Though Cating is sad to see the building that holds so many memories gone, he also understands the need for and advantages of a new structure, which broke ground in December 2013.
“Though it’s sad in one way, we are excited for what the future holds,” Cating said. “We believe this new building will allow us to reach more students and disciple them.”
Once complete, the new building will double in size to 10,000 square feet and include a prayer room, meeting room for worship and its weekly lunch gatherings, game room and conference room. Nearly $1.4 million has been raised in four years. An additional $300,000 is needed for landscaping and furnishings inside the new building.
While it awaits the completion of its future home, the BCM will hold its weekly meetings in the Ranch on the McNeese campus and use Emmanuel Baptist in Lake Charles for Bible studies and its office.
“I feel like our ministry is on the verge of becoming what it could be,” Cating said. “We have a lot of room to grown and this building gives us a basis for ministry for the future.”
McNeese State University of one of several Louisiana BCMs to plan building projects recently to meet demands for future growth.
Mark Robinson, Louisiana BCM state director, said he appreciates Louisiana Baptists’ commitment to improve the facilities of BCMs around the state.
“There has been a consistent effort for the last 10 years, beginning with LSUS and continuing with new projects we have scheduled over the next year or two,” Robinson said. “These updated facilities shows campus administration that our campus ministers are professionals and serious about serving students. The projects are evidence that BCMs are generational ministry for one generation of students to the next.”
At Louisiana Tech, the completion of its new building on Jan. 11, 2011, enabled the BCM to better reach 900 different students last fall, according to campus BCM director Kevin Inman. Among the features of the building are a large multi-purpose chapel used for freshman ministry, lunch, worship gatherings and outreach/evangelism nights. The building also has a large lobby with two lofts for study and discipleship groups and an office suite for staff and Bible study/discipleship small group meetings.
Located in the middle of the newest housing on campus, the building allows students more easy access to discipleship groups, worship gatherings and evangelistic outreach events, Inman said. In late 2013, the BCM drew 400 to its weekly outreach lunch, 250 in worship gatherings and 150 freshmen in discipleship groups.
“Tech BCM has always had a lot of students,” Inman said. “It is a blessed place.”
Another BCM building project completed last year was at LSU at Alexandria. Started in September 2012, the project was finished by Jan. 1, 2013, and included renovations to the kitchen and office space, as well as the addition of a small apartment.
The BCM at ULM is exploring the next step for its current building. Built in the 1970s, the structure over time has sustained a leaky roof and needed repairs to an older air conditioning unit. Campus director Chad McClurg said they will explore what to do soon.
“It’s one of those things do you repair something or with the costs do you build new,” he said. “The campus is growing and we are trying to meet the needs of the students.”
The largest student organization on campus, the BCM draws several hundred students to its Tuesday night worship and Wednesday lunch. Also, the BCM has developed deeper relationships with an increasingly international student enrollment.
“College is such a formative time in the lives of young people,” McClurg said. “One of the things I tell our students is we are here on campus and have the ability to reach students with the gospel.”
McClurg said he appreciates how the churches love the students and support them.
“Churches in this area love this ministry,” he said. “More people are going to college now and we have more students going through.
“There will always be a need for us as Southern Baptists to have a visible and viable presence on the campus,” he continued. “The investment we are making is well worth the benefits.”
Robinson expressed gratitude for Louisiana Baptists’ support and investment in the lives of college students on every campus in the state.
“I am so grateful for the vision churches have to reach college students,” Robinson said. “Their continued investment into BCM makes an incredible impact on Louisiana‘s collegiate world for Christ.”