Left to Right: Michelle Boggan Bush, Hope Morrow Blankenship and Cari Prickett Wilson participate in a SPOTS (special projects other than summer) missions trip to Dayton, Ohio in winter 1994.
Photo by Michelle Bush

Jacksonville State University BCM celebrates 90th anniversary

Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) began serving Jacksonville State University students around 1930. This year, BCM will celebrate more than 90 years of ministry at the east Alabama campus, with an open house and dinner after the school’s Oct. 9 homecoming game against Stephen F. Austin State University.

First Baptist Church in Jacksonville has ministered to JSU students since just after the church was formed in 1871. According to current campus minister Gary Brittain, the church initially “parented” JSU’s BCM, known then as Baptist Student Union. The church hosted the ministry until the 1960s when it grew into its own space on campus.

Now JSU’s BCM is housed in a building constructed around 1972 and renovated in 2019.

Four campus ministers have served JSU students since 1957: Leonard Roten (1957-67), John Tadlock (1968-81), Bob Ford (1982-99) and Gary Brittain (1990-present.)

Impact on students

During his 30 years of service, Brittain has witnessed the impact campus ministries have on the lives of students.

“I have seen students come to Christ and become active in the church,” he reflected. “I have seen students who in their college years hang around our ministry — but seem little interested in the spiritual side of our group — mature and become active leaders in their churches. There are pastors and church staff members who were active in our ministry.

“We have seen students go from here into missions, both international and domestic.”

In fact, two former students now are BCM’s faculty advisor and treasurer. Current JSU president, Don Killingsworth Jr., was an active participant as a student during Brittain’s tenure.

BCM provides belonging

Michelle Bush attended JSU from 1992-95 and met her future husband, David, in BCM.

She said she found a sense of belonging in BCM, and was encouraged to grow and serve — making friends, connecting with other students and becoming a summer missionary through the North American Mission Board.

“The first mission trip I went to was Gano, Texas,” Bush recalled. “And that mission home was featured in the Mission Friends book several years later when I was teaching Mission Friends at our church. I [told the kids], ‘I’ve been here. I have pictures. Let me show you.’”

Scott Barkley, national correspondent for Baptist Press, began his freshman year at JSU in fall 1992. In 1994, while working during the summer at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center in North Carolina, a fellow staffer introduced him to JSU’s BCM.

A desire for fellowship with others wanting to grow in their faith inspired Barkley to join BCM that fall and get involved in a family group that met after weekly worship gatherings. Over the next few years, Barkley went on three missions trips through BCM and served as a family group leader, director of community ministries, worship director and BCM president. Barkley also met his wife, Amy, there.

“BCM was foundational as well as transformational for me,” he recalled. “It gave me the chance to see classmates at various places in their spiritual walk and led to some great conversations on how God works in our lives.”

Setting an example

Campus ministers Brittain and Ford poured themselves into BCM students in a way Barkley said he had never seen before — setting an example that remains with him today.

“BCM is absolutely one of the reasons I became involved in my local church and chose to remain involved, as through it I was introduced to how Southern Baptists work,” Barkley explained. “Before, I wasn’t aware at all of how the SBC affected worldwide missions, but that changed with the BCM.

“I loved the spiritual discussions with my BCM friends, but also the competitive ping-pong and foosball games, late-night Krispy Kreme doughnut runs to Birmingham, laughing on the couches until we couldn’t breathe, and generally making those memories that are a part of BCM,” Barkley said.

Alumni will celebrate the 90th anniversary with a 1990s-themed event. The BCM will host an open house after the homecoming parade and kickoff of the football game. Then alumni will regather for dinner following the game.

For more information visit jsubcm.org/alumni-friends.

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