When Nate Young walked into the Baptist Campus Ministries building April 9 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the University of Alabama’s BCM, memories of his first impression of the building came to mind.
Young first entered the building in the fall of 1993. The number of students at the welcome-back-to-school event drove him back to his dorm.
Away from his home state as well as his family and friends, Young was homesick. The freshman had been voted most bashful by his high school classmates. Within a couple of days of his first visit to the BCM, he met two young men at his dorm’s dining hall who invited him back to the BCM.
“The second time I walked through those doors, I did not walk through them alone,” Young said. “They knew everybody.”
Young was later elected to the BCM student council as socials director.
“The Lord had a plan,” he said. “He placed people in my path who would push me and grow me.”
Young took part in special projects and summer trips, spending part of one summer in Ecuador. He connected with an upper classman who discipled him.
“Through that, I sensed a call to ministry,” said Young, who thought at first he would work with youth. After graduating from UA in 1999, Young went to seminary.
‘Sense of belonging’
In 2006, Young entered the BCM again. This time, he was the campus minister. He served in that capacity for 11 years.
“I got to see students take their first steps with Christ,” he said. “I saw students take their next steps with Christ. I saw students just like me get connected and find a place, a sense of belonging.”
It was through the BCM that Young learned to love the local church.
“This ministry exists because of the buy-in and the generosity, because of the missions mindset of the local church,” said Young, who is lead pastor of North River Church in Tuscaloosa. “This ministry belongs to the local church.
“In a deeply divided territorial world, things like BCM stand in the gap and join us together in connecting students with local churches, connecting students to Jesus and connecting our local churches to our campus, which is more of a challenge today than it’s ever been.”
Young contemplates a day when he might step into the BCM again, maybe as a parent of a student.
Young spoke during the celebration, which consisted of a barbecue lunch, open house and program. About 175 former and current students, as well as former and current leadership from the BCM and the State Board of Missions, trickled into the facility to reminisce and catch up with each other. They shared stories, laughter and some tears.
Television screens showed pictures of BCM students through the years — serving on missions trips; playing cards, ping pong and intramural sports; studying God’s word; praising Him during worship services; gathering around a table to eat together; handing out gospel tracts; and attending sporting events, concerts or retreats.
Stuart Bell, UA president, and Rick Lance, SBOM executive director, shared messages in a video shown during the program. Several former students and BCM leaders were highlighted during the video, too.
As part of the celebration event, Kim Andrews, lead campus minister, shared about the current environment on campus. She said there are almost 46,000 students in the Tuscaloosa area, including UA, Shelton State Community College and Stillman College. The BCM rebranded with Tuscaloosa in its logo to include the other two campuses in town.
Andrews said about 58% of UA students are from out of state, representing all 50 states and 92 countries. The campus is a global missions field, and BCM students are working to reach their peers with the gospel.
Twice a week, students set up outreach tables at the music and nursing buildings to reach students there. Students meet each Friday to learn evangelism techniques and to go out and share the gospel.
“We want to go where they are,” Andrews said, mentioning the small group Bible studies at UA and Shelton State.
Game-day parking at the building raises $10,000 a year, a big chunk of the $18,000 or so raised for summer missions work, Andrews said.
While there is not an ongoing meeting at Stillman, BCM leaders are committed to go out multiple times each semester and pray at the college.
The April 9 celebration was organized by current BCM leadership, along with several alumni. They wanted to highlight the history and celebrate what God has done in and through the BCM over the years.
In the year 1920–1921, Baptist Christian Council started meeting on campus at UA. Soon, the name changed to Baptist Student Union. It is believed to have been the first BSU east of the Mississippi River. When the Alabama Student Union building was erected in 1930, meetings were held there. That original spot is the current location of UA’s Reese Phifer Hall, part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences.
The current facility on University Boulevard opened in December 1954.
Lifetime of ministry
Barry Daniel, minister of senior adults and pastoral care for Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, graduated from UA in 1985. During his time in college, Daniel was called into music ministry and served as the choir director for the then-BSU.
For the anniversary, Daniel was tasked with gathering a choir to perform. The choir performed two songs and consisted of graduates from the late 1970s to 1990s.
“I remember junior-senior years, wrestling with God’s call to ministry,” he said. “My answer was, ‘Not me, Lord.’”
But working with the BSU choir helped prove God could do it through him, Daniel said.
View photos from the celebration here.