College ministry leaders share disciple-making tips

College ministry leaders share disciple-making tips

By Hannah Muñoz
The Alabama Baptist

Reach every student — that’s the new focus of Alabama Baptist collegiate ministry leaders.

And to kick off the emphasis, a “TED Talks”-style event was held Nov. 12 at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, in conjunction with the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting.

The event — “UNITE: A Gathering of Alabama Baptist College Ministry Leaders” — was hosted by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM) collegiate and student ministries office, under the direction of Mike Nuss.

Featured speakers were Chase Abner, North American Mission Board’s lead church planting catalyst in Iowa; Linda Weir, director of college and Ascend ministries at Pinelake Church, a multisite Baptist church in central Mississippi; Scott Kindig, pastor of Kingdom initiatives for Community Bible Church, San Antonio, Texas; and Michael Bozeman, counselor for Alabama’s Pathways Professional Counseling.

“We are all here on Kingdom business,” Nuss said, noting that of the approximately 330,000 college students in Alabama, an estimated 200,000 of them do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.

With the night’s focus on discipleship, each speaker took turns describing and defining discipleship and its purpose in collegiate ministry.

Abner said, “It’s important not that we disciple them as students, but that we disciple them as whole people for God’s whole mission.”

Abner, who previously served as collegiate evangelism strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association, provided two keys to discipling students as whole people: see a bigger Kingdom and stop discipling so many students.

1. See a bigger Kingdom.

Some college ministry leaders are teaching students inadvertently that spiritual things are the only things that matter and in turn, students can toss aside all secular items in their life as unimportant, including classes and careers, Abner said.

But “we need to remember that through Christ, God is reconciling all things to Himself,” he said, referencing Colossians 1:20.

2. Stop discipling so many students.

Most students would better benefit from discipleship from laypeople, those who are working “normal” jobs all while living for Christ, as opposed to a college ministry leader, Abner said.

“The vast majority of our students are not gonna be church staff or full-­time missionaries,” he said. “They’re gonna work 40-plus hours a week at a job and they’re gonna carve out hours here and there to serve the church and to make disciples. So the best way we can disciple college students for that life is to let them see people who are doing that just a few steps ahead of them.”

Weir said the staff at her church defines disciple as “one who learns from Christ, lives in Christ and leads others to Christ,” based on Ezra 7:10. She also noted her ideal discipleship scenario is through small groups.

“Groups and discipleship go hand in hand,” Weir said. “This should be a group of 8–12 students in similar life stages (only underclassmen, only upperclassmen and sometimes only men and only women) sharing the gospel and sharing life.”

Kindig agreed.

“If we don’t do groups really well, people won’t be known and understood,” he said. “More time plus less people equals greater community,” Kindig said.

Kindig pointed to Jesus’ example of discipling during His ministry. “He spent three years with 12 Jewish dudes.”
Using Mark 4, Kindig showed Jesus speaking to the crowds in parables and then “when He was alone with His own disciples, He explained everything” (v. 34).

Kindig also outlined the steps of disciple-making with the acronym “FIGS: friendship, influence, growing, sending.”

Building relationships

“Friendship is where it all starts and then influence,” he said. “Then comes moving closer to the gospel and then into the Kingdom. There should be both growth and reaching out to others.”

Bozeman shared how his commitment to discipling students shifted as he began working with Pathways after serving as a student pastor for several years.

“As pastors we want to just tell people the answer, but as counselors the goal is leading people to find the answer and understand it,” Bozeman said. “Listen and they’ll talk.”

A Q&A panel also was held with the speakers, and Bozeman and Nuss wrapped up with a word for student ministry leaders.

“Your presence in the world when it comes to mental health and the struggle here and your willingness to sit across from them and say ‘I’m here for you’ makes the difference,” Bozeman said.

Nuss added, “You get students in different places in discipleship when they come to you, and they leave before you’re finished. It’s messy and it’s hard, but it’s more real that way too.

“And know that we are in this missions field together.”