The international mission field is not the only answer.
A venue for sharing Christ’s love with unreached people groups lies much closer: the commonwealth’s college and university campuses.
According to Brian Combs, collegiate evangelism strategist for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, about 248,000 of Kentucky’s estimated 261,000 college students do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
“As an extension of the local church to the campus, Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministry will be increasingly effective as churches equip and mobilize the body of Christ to be light in the spiritual darkness,” Combs said.
As part of the re-visioning of the KBC Mission Board staff, Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director-Treasurer Paul Chitwood formed a task force last year to take a fresh look at the more than 20 Baptist Campus Ministry groups around the commonwealth.
Many KBC churches in college towns already support their local BCM in a variety of ways, but the task force also found that, historically, the group given the most responsibility for evangelism on the campuses has been the KBC campus ministers and the Christian students who attend the individual BCM groups.
With the startling statistics regarding lostness on campus, the task force has challenged KBC staff to become “missional strategists” to engage the local church in partnership with BCM in on-campus ministry, Combs said.
“We want to help church members discover how God has equipped them, and then find a place on campus where they can connect and allow God to use them to reach students,” he explained.
KBC Evangelism & Church Planting Team Leader Chuck McAlister said the most effective way to tackle a mission field of more than 260,000 students is to identify interest groups within the larger campus community with whom Kentucky Baptists can interact more easily.
“The affinity evangelism approach of identifying ‘communities within communities’ is the most effective strategy we are using to help people encounter Jesus,” he said. For details, visit www.kybaptist.org/get2know.
“With a new partnership between KBC and the churches, I think the result is going to be that Kentucky Baptists will be engaging this particular generation in ways that will enhance past initiatives,” McAlister added.
According to Combs, an affinity evangelism strategy on the commonwealth’s campuses will make it easier for Christian students to share their faith and create “natural entry points” for churches to get involved.
One of the most obvious affinities on college campuses are international students, Combs said. An estimated 6,000 students in Kentucky are from China, Saudi Arabia, India or other countries outside North America.
There are many other affinities.
At the University of Louisville, campus missionary Paul Gibson has identified video game enthusiasts, date rape prevention activists, student orientation leaders and others as potential affinity groups.
“We are identifying what we’re calling ‘people groups’ on campus,” Gibson said. “And what we’re doing is asking (BCM) students … to be ‘student missionaries’ to the affinity groups.”
This year, U of L BCM hosted a free lunch for all student orientation leaders, telling them more about BCM’s mission so they could pass along the information to incoming students. As a result of the lunch, one orientation leader told Gibson that she wanted to recommit her life to Jesus.
New efforts coming for the fall semester include:
- Providing members of the U of L video gaming community space to meet at the campus BCM building.
- Building relationships with a campus group that promotes awareness of domestic violence, date rape and other forms of abuse.
- Launching a partnership with Louisville’s Westport Road Baptist Church to reach U of L’s intramural sports community.
Similar connections have been made at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green according to Tommy Johnson, campus missionary.
Johnson said WKU BCM is reaching out to fraternities, sororities, dorm communities, gender groups and other affinities.
“There are many subgroups within the university population,” he said. “Our goal is to help students in those groups encounter Jesus, and we believe affinity evangelism is an approach that intersects with where those students are.”
Last spring, a “Girls Night Out” event focusing primarily on sorority members and other women, led to 80 WKU students professing faith in Christ.
The event included Marian Jordan of Redeemed Girl Ministries in Houston sharing her testimony of how Christ delivered her from seeking significance through her appearance and sexual relationships.
Johnson said BCM students followed up in person, or through messages, with every student who attended Girls Night Out.
“It was an effective outreach to an audience of college women who deal with the same struggles of finding fulfillment and identity in what the world says makes us significant but actually leave us with emptiness,” he said. “The gospel answers by showing us that forgiveness, identity and new life are found only in Christ.”
Combs said he is excited to see what God will do when more Kentucky Baptists are engaged in affinity evangelism and also taking full advantage of the support available to churches through the Cooperative Program.
“No longer do we live our life and then go share the gospel,” he said. “We get to share the gospel as we live our life.”
Kentucky Baptist churches interested in partnering with Baptist Campus Ministry to reach Kentucky’s college students with the gospel are encouraged to contact Combs by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (502) 489-3347 or 1-866-489-3347 (toll-free in Kentucky).
Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministry is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kentuckybcm.
Story by David Roach and Dannah Prather, KBC Communications