For many years, partnerships between BSM ministries and local churches seemed a bit like that building campaign; except for the wonderful groups of women who provided amazing meals on campuses all around the state, there was often little opportunity for direct ministry. Churches made the ministry of BSM possible through their giving, but didn’t usually venture to the campus. And God did amazing things through this partnership! Students’ lives were transformed through the power of the Gospel and these students went on to become leaders in churches, church staff members and missionaries.
But along the way, things began to change. The number of students in Texas grew at a phenomenal rate. In fact, in the Houston area there are now over 265,000 students in institutions of higher learning! But it is not only the number of students which has grown, but the numbers of institutions. In an effort to bring education closer to the student, many schools such as the University of Houston have begun starting “branches” in an ever increasing number. In the case of UH, that growth has meant that in addition to the 40,000+ main campus, there are full campuses in downtown, Clearlake, and Victoria, as well as five additional teaching centers scattered around the area. In Houston we also have three community college systems, two of which rank among the largest in the state.
But it is not just the tremendous growth of the collegiate population which has fueled change. Our culture in general and the millennial generation in particular continues to move away from any mooring in a traditional Christian heritage. This means that in most of our state and secular private universities, the percentage of students involved in any evangelical church or ministry hovers between 5-10%.
The university campus has become a mission field, full of challenge and promise. But it is a mission field in which previous models are inadequate to reach.
So, over the past 10 years, BSM ministries and local churches in the Houston area have forged a new kind of partnership. For one thing, there are MANY more opportunities for hands on ministry for churches, Sunday School classes and individuals. Whether it is targeting a particular dorm or area of study for outreach, mentoring leaders or involved in outreach at weekly luncheons, those who want to connect now have a wide variety of opportunities. Of course, providing meals is still an incredibly effective way of connecting with hungry college students!
But beyond that, BSM has become the platform for both the more traditional model of paid staff, but also a way in which churches have been able to invest directly on campuses where there is no BSM ministry. Churches are adopting campuses and providing volunteers, either through their own staff or by finding key laypeople with the flexibility to be on campus during peak hours. In addition, churches are sponsoring Campus Missionaries, recent graduates who serve for a year after graduation through GoNow Missions (our Texas BSM missions organization). These Campus Missionaries serve on campus, either as secondary staff members on campuses where we have paid workers or even start ministry on new campuses! Not only that; on Sunday these Campus Missionaries are in their sponsoring churches, teaching college Bible study classes, leading outreach to students, etc…
The result? Our ministry to the incredible numbers of community college students continues to grow exponentially, with as many as 4-5 new ministries on track to start by next fall! Our ministries where we have paid staff are stronger than ever with the influx of Campus Missionaries, and our connections to the association and its churches have never been stronger. Add to that a growing base of alumni and friends who support the ministry through their direct involvement and financial support and the future is bright.
“Together We Build” is still true. We have not left our heritage, we have simply grown it to include many new ways to be involved. Let’s build the future together.