[Next Generation] In-depth Bible study and why it matters for college students

This article was written by Lee Woodmansee, who is the Campus Minister at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS). Lee has served in this position for nearly six years and has taught college students for over 12. 

“I always knew that I needed a group of guys to study the Bible with, but I never realized how badly I needed it until it was over. In my walkthrough of First John, it showed me so much. Not only was I taught the in-depth meaning of the text, but I was also shown how I should live out the rest of my Christian life” says Ryland, a freshman at UAFS. 

Ryland was part of a small group of men, along with Caleb and Noah, who joined every Friday to discuss John’s first epistle. Over 13 weeks, each of these men was challenged to not only consider the meaning of the text at hand but also to think about how they were to richly apply its meaning to their lives. To be sure, there were struggles along the way. “The method of study alone was something that took weeks to get a hold of,”  Ryland said. 

However, these obstacles were soon overcome, and each of these men was filled with a sense of intimacy with Christ: “1 John certainly helped me understand the depths of our relationship with Christ” said Noah. One man in the study says of his experience “I found myself in sin early on in the study… I had to apply 1 John 1:9… and trust that my sins are forgiven because of the work of Christ.” 

Whenever I teach through a book of the Bible I only ever have three expectations: 1) that the group will know the book better, 2) that I will provide a method of study for the future, and 3) the participants will share their knowledge and life transformation in the near future. Without a doubt, these three goals were met. “To have been taught in so much depth has brought me so much joy and excitement to share the Gospel with others,”  Ryland shared. “This study was an eye-opening experience and helped me learn how to strengthen my relationship with Christ even more,” said Noah. 

There are few opportunities for in-depth study as rewarding as the ones that are afforded to college students with BCM Campus Ministers. Working around the frantic schedules of students pulled in multiple directions throughout a semester has its disadvantages to be sure. However, the benefits of this kind of study far outpace any drawbacks. Today’s college students are desperate to grow in their knowledge of God’s Word, and even more desirous of being able to apply it to their lives. 

Through the ongoing ministries of various BCMs across the state, untold numbers of college students are interacting with the Word of God in ways that they have not previously experienced. I am convinced that a more critical four-year period of life does not exist when compared to the years spent pursuing a degree in college. I am also convinced that college students are particularly receptive to in-depth Bible study like no other demographic. When you marry these two elements of importance and receptiveness, the need for faithful and effective college ministry becomes clear. 

All three men, along with others, will be joining together once more during the Spring 2021 semester to examine Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. “This Bible study has been the most impactful thing in my Christian walk so far. It showed me what my life as a Christian will look like, from now until I die. For something to sound so strict, I have never felt more free” said Ryland. Freedom through discipline. Study with rigor. Application for life change. What could be more impactful? 

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