Brad Branham has served as the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) Campus Minister at Arkansas Tech University since January 2015. Additionally, he planted Hello Church on the Arkansas Tech campus in 2018.
For decades, Arkansas Baptists have been mobilizing college students for summer mission experiences. These experiences have included opportunities for college students to serve in ministry contexts in the state of Arkansas, in cities across the country, and even internationally.
During college, students face a great deal of transition. During this brief period of time, students are often seeking God’s will for their futures. Summer mission experiences offer students an opportunity to discover His plans for them.
Longtime Campus Minister Arliss Dickerson began mobilizing Arkansas college students for summer mission experiences in the 1970s. “One thing I loved about summer missions was that it exposed our students to a wider world,” Dickerson said. As a result, he found that students were “much more open to God’s call to missions.”
Many pastors and local church staff members across the state also got their start toward local church ministry during summer mission experiences. Music, Children, and Media Pastor at First Baptist Church of Dover, Caleb Reynolds, served on the summer staff at Camp Siloam during his years as a student at Arkansas Tech University. “The most spiritual growth that I ever witnessed and experienced happened at Siloam,” Reynolds said. A 2018 graduate of Arkansas Tech University, Reynolds is now pursuing his Master of Divinity degree online through Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary while ministering in Dover.
Some college students sign up for summer mission experiences at the encouragement of a BCM campus minister or local church staff member, while others come into their freshman year with an intention to serve somewhere during the following summer. Bailey Greenwood, a recent graduate of Arkansas Tech, is one such student. “I knew when graduating high school, I wanted to come back and staff for Super Summer Arkansas in college,” Greenwood said. “What I didn’t know is how much of an impact Super Summer would have on my own walk with the Lord. Getting to see firsthand the work God was doing through that camp to those kids was life-changing.”
In addition to opportunities in Arkansas, students have opportunities to serve in cities across the country. Jeremy Aylett, a 2005 graduate of Arkansas Tech, is now serving as the SEND City Missionary in San Diego, California. He had great things to say about Arkansas college students. According to Aylett, “Arkansas college students who have served in San Diego have made a tremendous impact. Our church planters are always excited to hear that Arkansas college students are coming.”
College students have opportunities internationally as well. A 2013 graduate of Arkansas Tech, Ryan Scantling, spent two summers serving internationally during his college years. “My experiences leading a team doing college ministry in Canada helped to solidify my calling into collegiate ministry,” Scantling said. He continues to mobilize college students to Canada as the campus minister for the Conway BCM.
Bruce Venable, team leader for the Collegiate+Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, believes strongly in the importance of mobilizing college students during the summer. “I have seen mission trips and summer mission experiences be a laboratory for God’s development in collegians,” Venable said.
As a result, a new initiative is being offered from the Collegiate+Young Leaders Team. A new website, ARGO2.org, is making it more convenient than ever for college students to identify summer mission opportunities. Additionally, Arkansas college students who express interest through the website in spending their summers on mission will receive encouragement and equipping from the Collegiate+Young Leaders Team. There is even a state-wide commissioning service planned for April 17, 2021. For more information, visit ARGO2.org today.