Ryan Scantling is the BCM Campus Minister for the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR. He is also a co-host of the Lead Defend Podcast by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Sam, Johann and Reese. These names may not be significant to many people, but you would never know that with the way Jackson Kennedy talks about these guys – he believes they have the potential to change the world. For the last year, Jackson, the college pastor at Conway’s First Baptist Church, has been discipling these three young men: two UCA students and one recent UCA graduate. Johann, a recent UCA grad who is currently exploring a call to ministry says “Jackson’s influence in my life has been special…he challenges me to be the Christian man I can be…leading me to challenge others in the same way. He is a great pastor, mentor and best friend.”
Discipling the next generation has been modeled to Jackson since he was a student at Ouachita Baptist University. In the classroom, Jackson credits Dr. Terry Carter for instilling in him a biblical foundation. Jackson said, “OBU gave me a foundation in my Christian walk and now my role is to give my students a foundation in Christ in the same way.” While he credits Ouachita with giving him a foundation in ministry, Jackson says that his ability to serve at First Baptist Church in Benton during his college years gave him practical training in ministry. Clay Cunningham, the Family Ministries Pastor at FBC Benton “made it a point to take me everywhere with him, teaching and discipling me along the way.” Jackson is convinced that his time at Ouachita – he is a 2017 graduate with a degree in Christian Studies – made him who he is today. “I was discipled in college,” he says, “and it created a passion in me to replicate it.”
Jackson admits that Ouachita was “the only school I applied to” because as a high school junior, his student minister Jennifer White took him on a college visit there. “I love my students,” White says “and I want them to develop in their faith through college, so I take lots of students on lots of college visits… Ouachita is special to me… it made me who I am and I wanted to share that with others.” White isn’t surprised at all to hear about Jackson’s heart and passion for ministry now – over seven years after he left her student ministry for college. “Jackson had a huge impact on this town and our ministry while he was here.”
Jackson is still making an impact, but now he is not in his hometown of Stuttgart, in his college town of Arkadelphia or in Benton where he served as an intern. Now Jackson is reaching and discipling students on college campuses in Conway. These are students who may never know about White, Cunningham or Dr. Carter, but these are students who will know more about Jesus because of Jackson’s influence and because of those who have invested in Jackson along the way. Today, when you ask Jackson and his wife Bekah what excites them about college ministry they say “discipling students” without hesitation.