On Sundays, Alabama’s nine Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) centers are closed for church. That is, unless church is at the BCM center.
Alabama BCM centers have become a vital partner in church planting efforts around the state, said Mike Nuss, who directs collegiate ministries for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).
“Across our state, BCM, in partnership with local Baptist associations and church planting efforts of the SBOM, is often a vital ministry partner in efforts to plant churches that reach college students and young adults,” Nuss said.
The BCM facilities at South Alabama and the University of Alabama are good examples.
When Nuss was campus minister at the University of South Alabama, BCM students helped canvas Daphne-area neighborhoods in preparation for the planting of what is now Eastern Shore Baptist Church. Sonrise Baptist Church, Mobile; Forest Hill Baptist Church, Mobile; and Celebration Church, Saraland, also got support from BCM students as they got started.
“When Sonrise Baptist planted, several teams of BCM students helped them with cleaning and remodeling of their first facility. Sonrise is now having a great impact on discipling collegians in their congregation,” said Jerrod Brown, BCM minister at South Alabama.
BCM facilities also have provided temporary homes for church plants. In Mobile, Dayspring Baptist, now a thriving church in west Mobile, got its start at the South Alabama BCM. South City Church is currently using the BCM facility and is reaching young families, singles, college students and refugees, Brown said.
“These partnerships illustrate clearly what it means to be Alabama Baptists,” Brown said. “Working together allows us to do more. It is the wonderful partnership of the SBOM, the Mobile Baptist Association and these local congregations that make these types of outreaches possible.”
The meeting place is one of the first vital decisions a church planter must make, said SBOM church planting strategist Lamar Duke. Because the BCM facilities are located on campus, they offer space, parking and convenience. If they are reaching out to the college population, they have an even greater advantage.
Anchor Baptist in Tuscaloosa currently meets on Sunday mornings at the BCM facility at the University of Alabama. Pastor Harvey Edwards said the location has been a blessing for the church.
“It’s a natural place to connect with college students because we’re right here on campus — students can walk to us,” Edwards said.
Anchor Church’s goal is to be a multigenerational church that is collegiate-minded, so the college campus is its missions field, Edwards said.
But not all church plants that utilize BCM facilities are reaching out to college students — and that’s okay, too, Nuss said.
“BCM has always pointed students to the local church. Indeed one of the hallmarks of our ministry has been our intentional connection and partnership with the local Baptist church,” he said.
Many local churches do a great job of reaching out to college students, he said. But research also shows that churches designed especially to reach college students are more apt to accomplish that goal than churches that might have that as one of many ministry goals.
“That’s why collegiate church planting, especially in other parts of the country and throughout North America, is important,” Nuss said.
However, at the heart of BCM is ministry to students. BCM is a recognized student organization on many campuses and brings the critical “spiritual/faith-based” element to a student’s education and personal development, Nuss said.
“BCM exists to reach college students for Christ and grow students into disciples that make disciples,” he said.
That mission is first accomplished through BCM’s presence on campus and extends to challenging students to be involved in missions and ministry, including helping with church planting efforts, Brown said.
“We have discovered that when college students are a part of this kind of missions and ministry with churches in their infancy, it gives them a greater understanding of the Church and the essentials of a biblical church,” he said. “They see the church as intricately connected to mission and existing for the mission of reaching communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most every student that has worked with BCM in church planting efforts now has a better understanding of the mission of the body of Christ — to make disciples.”
Church planting efforts are one of the ministries supported by local church gifts through the Cooperative Program and to the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering.