By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
Campuses will be buzzing with students in the coming weeks and Baptist Collegiate Ministry directors emphasize the importance of establishing a pattern of building relationships with them early in the fall semester.
“Collegiate life is all about relationships,” said Ryan James, director of the Louisiana State University at Eunice BCM. “Relationships, especially to campus organizations, often begin where impressions can be made. If a student is coming to campus for the first time in which a positive, loving and relational impression is made by someone involved in BCM or a local Baptist church, that could be the kindling that initiates a long-lasting relationship.”
Most campuses resume classes for the fall in late August, giving BCMs ample time to prepare for activities and events that serve as a platform to welcome students. These include but are not limited to dollar steak nights, freshmen survival weeks, neon night, a picnic on the parade grounds, late night laser tag and a welcome back barbecue.
BCMs and churches should make every effort during the first two weeks of the semester to do all they can to reach the students, believes Louisiana BCM State Director Mark Robinson. He emphasized establishing relationships is key to reaching the students.
“The first two weeks of the fall semester sets patterns that will follow the student throughout college,” Robinson said. “So, make hay while the sun is shining.”
McKenzie Reech, a junior at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, said that the welcome back process at the BCM there was a game changer in her college experience.
She said the BCM eased the nerves of new students like herself.
She encouraged churches in the community where a college is located to make a conscious effort to have a presence on campus because they can play a pivotal role in helping students feel welcome and locate where they can worship.
She added that churches that are present on campus multiple times throughout the start of a new semester are more likely to make an impact on students. Ways to do this include hosting college students for a place to fellowship, provide a meal or attend BCM events.
“Simply put, church – mobilize yourself,” Reech said. “The Church can play a crucial part in the welcoming back process of college students just by having a presence on campus and building relationships with students.”
Steve Masters, BCM director at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, added that if a student is attending college in another area of the state, a youth minister or parent should call the BCM director to inform him that the student is attending college there.
If a church has not provided that contact information to the BCM director, that should be done as soon as possible.
“For students returning to school the key thing is there are students who get to college, get distracted and we lose them,” Masters said. “The more a visible church can be, the better.”
While BCMs are turning their attention to preparing for the upcoming school year, some Louisiana Baptist college students spent their summer on mission, including GOLA teams.
GOLA is part of an emphasis by the BCM in the state. The Cooperative Program helps fund what the BCM does on an annual basis.
GOLA stands for Go Louisiana. The college students serve on teams that spend the summer sharing God’s love through Vacation Bible Schools and soccer camps at Louisiana Baptist churches, along with one disaster relief team that served at locations in eight states. This was the fifth year for VBS teams but the first year for soccer and disaster relief teams.
Robinson said GOLA Soccer was a hit in the communities where the teams served, including at First Baptist Bunkie which reported 70 attendees and 11 professions of faith and at Baptist Temple in Alexandria, where participants were transported to and from a homeless location.
“Also, (GOLA teams at) VBS helps churches that would not have the ability to staff their VBS week,” Robinson said. “The students receive very strong encouragement from church leaders and leave with a positive attitude about the local church.”