Conway BCM looks to future as fundraising begins for new facility

Caleb Yarbrough

Arkansas Baptist News

CONWAY – Conway Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) has begun fundraising for a new facility that will better equip the ministry to reach and serve the more than 15,000 college students that call the “City of Colleges” home.

BCM ministry in Conway dates back to 1927, and while the original mission of reaching the city’s college students with the gospel has never changed, there are a whole lot more students to reach today than there were nearly a century ago, said Ryan Scantling, Conway BCM campus minister.

Unlike many BCM ministries across the country, Conway BCM does not serve just one institution. Conway BCM serves students from four institutions, including the University of Central Arkansas (UCA), Hendrix College, Central Baptist College (CBC) and University of Arkansas Community College in Morrilton, which is located about 20 miles west of Conway.

While more than 15,000 college students live in and around Conway, according to an Arkansas Baptist State Convention study conducted five years ago, only about 1,500 students were involved in a local church or campus ministry, and of those 1,500, only about 250 were involved in a Southern Baptist church, said Scantling.

“That’s where our passion started growing and we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do a better job at reaching our campus and connecting more students to more churches,” said Scantling.

Today, between 500-550 college students living in and around Conway are connected with a Southern Baptist church.

Each week, Conway BCM hosts a weekly service called BCM Collective, which brings together students from all four local campuses for worship and fellowship. For the past several years, the weekly event has been being held downtown at OneChurch, Conway’s facility since Conway BCM’s own facility was not large enough to accommodate the 130-200 students that attend each week.

“Our building, that we occupied for over 60 years was pretty outdated and just didn’t really accommodate needs, so we recently had the opportunity to sell that facility to UCA,” said Scantling.

Conway BCM’s previous facility was about 3,000 square feet, and while it was a blessing and conducive facility for countless Bible studies and student activities over the years, it was not large enough, or well-equipped, to meet the ministry’s current, and constantly-evolving, needs, said Scantling.

Conway BCM used the money from selling its previous facility to purchase land in a growing part of town, where they plan to build a new 12,400 square foot facility, which will include a 300-seat worship auditorium, a coffee shop and areas for students to hang out. The facility will include three apartment units capable of housing 12 students who are called to ministry. Students living in said apartments will be able to gain practical ministerial training and experience while attending a local college or university.

“One of the things about a new building is that there are 10,000 students that set foot at UCA every day … and then another 600 at CBC. And this facility is within walking distance to both of those,” said Scantling. “This building enables us to have instant access to 10,600 students who step foot there each day. … Where else can I identify that God has brought so many 18-22-year-olds together so that they can hear the gospel? I really think that God established university campuses so that we can get the gospel to them right there all at once. They are like fish in a barrel and we have the opportunity to proclaim the gospel right in the middle of that.

“There is ministry happening without a facility, but this facility will just lay a foundation for future ministry that we are so excited about,” said Scantling.

Conway BCM’s future facility has been designed, the property has been rezoned and the ministry is currently seeking prayer and financial support for the project.

“Now we’re launching full force into a funding phase. We are looking for partners to come alongside and pray with us and even be financial contributors to this cause,” said Scantling. “We are committed to not going into debt for a building project. … So we are waiting on 100 percent of the funding before we break ground or lay a brick.”

While they are committed to good financial stewardship, Conway BCM’s leadership has set a goal of raising the necessary funding for the new facility within two years, “so that not a generation of students goes by without having a physical expression of the gospel on campus,” said Scantling.

Once funding is secure, the building will take about six months from start to finish. The total estimated cost of the project is $3.5 million.

“We think that God can do something as significant as using a building to bring people closer to him. It’s not about a building, but its about the students that are going to occupy it, the students that are on campus right now that so desperately need a relationship with Jesus,” said Scantling.

For more information on Conway BCM’s building project and fundraising campaign, visit buildthebcm.com.

Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.

© Copyright 2019 Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine, Inc. Use of this article in print or through electronic means a violation of copyright. Request permission to reprint here.

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