By: Jeremy Woodall
With the first day of classes fast approaching, the attention of campus ministers across our state is turning to connecting to students as they arrive on campus, especially those freshmen that are coming to campus for the first time. If we are being honest, connecting with students, introducing them to the Gospel, and getting them plugged in to our ministries is something that we think about all day, every day.
Campus ministers, along with their student leaders, are finalizing plans and preparing for those first few weeks of school. At the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) on the campus of The University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM), we call the beginning of school the “First Four,” as in the first four weeks of school. What we believe to be true is that decisions that students make their first four weeks on campus, especially students new to campus, will determine the next four years of their lives. In reality, we believe that it can determine the rest of their lives. We understand it is crucial to connect with these students to get them connected to a Gospel community on campus. The statistics are staggering as to how many young people abandon their faith once they go to college and get disconnected from a Gospel community.
To prevent this, we will spend a lot of dollars on giveaways, plan events, carry refrigerators on move in day; literally do anything and everything we can do to make a contact so we can introduce, invite, connect, and follow up with as many students as possible. We will have around 250 incoming students between freshmen and transfers coming to campus this fall, and my goal each year is to connect with every single one of them.
The work to accomplish this begins way before we get to the first days of class. We work hard to gather contact information of graduating seniors from churches across our state. We gather their information at our Lead Defend Conference that we host each year in the early spring. We make connections with youth pastors to try to host their seniors at events during the year to familiarize them with BCM before they head off to school, and yes, we do stalk on social media to find students that will be attending our schools!
One of the things our ministry, as well as other ministries in our state, likes to do is send a “Welcome to UAM” packet to these students before they arrive on campus with information about our ministry, local churches in the area, and a few goodies.
We would love to connect with your students, and we could use your help. At www.absc.org/freshmen you can input your graduate’s information and it will connect them with the BCM campus minister on their campus. It takes a few minutes but will go a long way in helping get your students connected to a Gospel community even before they step foot on campus. I hope to meet and connect with some of them!