BCM Fundraising Banquet

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On Saturday evening, after months of planning, I (along with quite a few other key people – including staff, board members, friends, and students) had the privilege of hosting the first ever Friends of BCM Fundraising Banquet. None of us had ever tried pulling off an event like this, but we had a great time and raised a nice chunk of support as well. We had lots of folks in attendance from all over the High Country and the Flat Lands, including business people, church family, friends, and alumni. Three of my students told stories about their experiences with BCM, as did one of my board members. Coach Jerry Moore (of back-to-back-to-back National Championship fame) gave the keynote address. It is always encouraging to hear how God is using BCM to change and shape lives.

For many years we have been supported fully by the Baptist State Convention of NC (BSCNC) as a ministry. We were one of 9 campus ministries that received this full level of funding. About a year and a half ago the Convention made the mission-focused decision to pull away from finding campus ministries like this in order to call the local churches to “own” the mission field in their back yards. The big benefit of Convention funding was sustainability and consistent funding. Those are great things, but the unintentional result was that local churches didn’t see the need to be as involved – nor did the campus ministries see the need to work all that hard at including churches. This change in funding structure was massive, but it forced us to rethink how we were doing what we were doing. I, for one, am glad to see the current impact this change is having on our ministry at ASU and in the High Country. I will post more of these dynamics in the very near future.

While at times it felt like we were crossing the finish line, it was more like a starting line. Our goal was $20,000 in one-time and monthly pledges and we pulled in right around $10,000. I am very encouraged by this result. The banquet was about fundraising – but it was more about the Kingdom of God than anything else. Ministry requires money, sure. But if we aren’t laser-focused on the Kingdom of God, then we might as well pack on up and leave.

I am excited to continue sharing the story of God’s work on campuses in the High Country through BCM in the coming weeks, semesters, and years. I believe he is only getting started!

 

*If you would like to give to BCM of the High Country all of our contact info can be found here and I would be happy to help you sort this out.

Hosting the Nations

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Today marked the fourth quarterly board meeting of BCM of the High Country. We had business to attend to and reports to make, but at the last minute, one of the board members spoke up to share a story with us all. He and his wife have “adopted” a Japanese International student through our Host the Nations training program. The program is designed to help church members navigate the university international system and to equip them to be a host family for a student. The student doesn’t live with the family or anything like that. They serve as a designated family to connect with the student and basically show them a good time. Our purpose at BCM of the High Country starts there, but is bigger than that.

This family has been bringing their student into their home for meals and they have taken her to various places around town. She asked to go to church with them (yes!!!) and had her own personal “interpreters” there to explain the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary – talk about a big topic for your first visit to a Christian church!

He went on to tell us that some of her family is flying in from Japan for Christmas and will be staying with them to celebrate and visit. He told us he sees a trip to Japan in his near future.

Most of us have always been insiders. We have been “from here” and we know the customs and the dialects. Even if we move to new towns, we know how to manage. But most of us have probably never felt as much like an outsider as international students do. It doesn’t take much to break down those barriers that keep them so isolated. And isn’t that what Jesus would want of us anyway? With a simple meal or conversation, whole new doors open.

Not too long ago we thought about missions as something you go do. A place far away and a people far removed. You load up all your earthly belongings into a steamer trunk, hop on a cargo ship, and sail away into the wild unknown for the rest of your life. Not only has that changed dramatically – we can Skype or FaceTime almost instantly no matter how far we are from home – but the rest of the world is coming to us. Japan is about as far away from our side of the US as any other country, and yet, Japan is in our back yard. This program isn’t all that much a program. It’s simply a way to connect people. It’s up to the host family to sensitively and appropriately get to know the student, but it’s in that setting that they get to share the love of Jesus with students from all across the world.

Would you pray for this family and for this student? Pray that she would come to know and respond to the love of Jesus. Pray also for laborers. For every student we connect with a host family, there are many others who don’t get connected like this. Even in a little NC mountain town like Boone, there are people from a wide range of nations. Sometimes missions means loving people who are already in your back yard.

BCM in the Biblical Recorder

Today an article came out in the Biblical Recorder (the NC Baptist paper) about campus ministry developments in a number of locations across North Carolina. Allan Blume (BR Editor) did a great job of showing 4 very different models of ministry, including BCM of the High Country. I have copied the portion about BCM (verbatim) below, but I would encourage you to take a look at the article itself.


In North Carolina’s northwestern mountains Appalachian State University’s (ASU) student enrollment of more than 17,000 practically ties the population of its hometown, Boone. The campus ministry at ASU has been strong in recent years. It’s still thriving, but there are some marked differences.
 
When the BSC announced new models of campus ministry last year, much concern arose among the students and local Baptists invested in sharing the gospel with ASU students.
 
Leaders in the Three Forks Baptist Association (TFBA) acted quickly to insure that the ministry would stay alive. Meetings with local pastors, lay leaders, campus leaders and BSC staff resulted in a new organizational structure, new campus ministry staff, increased involvement from local churches and an energetic ministry with expanded vision.
 
Jonathan Yarboro was employed by the BSC for seven-and-a-half years as the ASU Baptist campus minister. Last year he resigned to become the Western regional consultant for campus ministry.
 
Mike Puckett is the new Baptist minister on campus. He joins Anna Kilby who has been the campus ministry’s international outreach leader for two years. “Because of Jonathan’s leadership at ASU, I came into a situation that was healthy and functioning at a high level, with solid leadership and a really good paradigm,” he said. “The biggest change is that the convention has released campus ministry to the local churches so they can be about owning campus ministry rather than just being marginally involved.”

He said that while campus ministry was strong, many local churches did not know that campus ministry existed, because they were not involved. “If a church was not deeply connected to campus ministry, they would be in the dark.”
 
Puckett said last year there were several associational executive committee meetings to talk about the future of campus ministry. A significant number of local pastors got involved.
 
Seth Norris, pastor of Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, led a task force of about eight members including a faculty advisor, current students, former students and local pastors. A new vision was described in a 10-page document that was taken to the full association for approval.
 
A new non-profit organization was formed. Although it is not owned by the association, it is linked to the association. The leaders wanted to leave the door open for churches outside of TFBA to participate.
 
Doctrinal standards were put in place for board members including membership in a Southern Baptist church.
 
“It has been very positive,” Puckett said. “The board has worked very hard to make the launch successful and to be accountable to local churches. The board members have been great cheerleaders for our ministry – supporting us through prayer and giving.
 
“I have been very pleased … More churches have invested themselves financially and are involved with boots on the ground than before.”
 
Campus leaders say they are seeing healthy cohesion and synergy in their relationships with the churches. There were eight churches involved before the new structure. Today there are 15. “There are some strong, pre-existing church relationships,” Puckett said. “But what is really beautiful is that every single church has a different kind of impact and investment in our ministry. Some are able to be very active; some serve in smaller ways.”
 
Jimmy Finch is a minister who serves as a student liaison for Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone.
 
Puckett described Finch’s level of involvement. “He comes to the campus regularly to meet with students, he attends many of the Tuesday night worship gatherings, and he engages with students. He is committed to being in relationships with college students, caring for them and discipling them, even though it is not his primary duty in church ministry. It is super exciting to see that happen.”
 
Some churches are connected for the first time in the history of Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM). “Laurel Springs Baptist is one of those churches that have really gotten involved with BCM,” Puckett said. “Pastor Tim Lynch recently came to this church, and before he even arrived in town he Facebooked me and said ‘I am moving to the area, and I … want to connect with you, and I want to help move our church toward serving with BCM ministry and being a supporter.’ He has done that.”
 
He said churches like Three Forks Baptist in the past only served meals to the students in weekly meetings. This year they worked with Kilby to sponsor an international event called, “Welcome to America” cookout.
 
“They show up with all of the burgers, hot dogs and everything needed for a big cookout,” Puckett said. “They set up in the grills and served us … about 85 percent of the university’s international student population came to this event. The church members serve us so we can mingle with the new international students and build relationships with them. They don’t feel like they are just working the meal line or just writing a check to us. They are part of what we do.”
 
Puckett is also impressed with the student leadership on campus. “They are excellent, godly young men and women who come with new vision and excitement,” he said. “They are a really strong team.
 
“Ultimately our mission is to be a missionary hub on the ASU campus. God has given us the opportunity to specialize in reaching the biggest mission field in this mountain area.”
 
Personal discipleship happens in small group gatherings throughout the week. One is called “crossover groups” which helps freshmen believers adjust to college life. They transition into discipleship groups focused on training, accountability and prayer. “We want to give them space to build community, but we also want them to focus on our mission of reaching lost students,” Puckett said.
 
The ASU campus ministry holds central weekly gatherings. Attendance ranges from 80 to 200, depending on Boone’s changing weather and exam schedules, he said. “It can be a powerful thing if you have enough students to reach a critical mass. When I did campus ministry in Ohio it was hard to get large numbers to meet together. But because we have a healthy number gathered, it helps build students to worship together.
 
“We want to make it clear to our students that our Tuesday night meeting is not what BCM is all about,” Puckett added. “It is important. We want to do it well. But we are all about teaching and training students to live like missionaries on this mission field. We want them to understand that they are not just here to learn, then one day leave and serve God somewhere else. God has called them here to reach their friends around them.”

BCM & Church Partnerships

Anytime I get to speak in a church about BCM of the High Country, I alway make sure to mention our partnerships with local churches. I have realized that while it may be easy for me to see the various relationships we have through our ministry with a diverse body of local Baptist churches, it would be much harder for an individual or for a single church to be aware of those same partnerships. BCM of the High Country wouldn’t exist without our local churches (whether they are on the mountain or off the mountain). We do not exist for ourselves – we exist to be the missionary arm of the local church on a desperately unreached college campus. We know that it is incredibly difficult for a local church to minister effectively to its membership, its local community, AND to navigate the complexity of reaching a college campus so we function as a missions outpost directly on campus in the middle of student life. 

I for one, love what I get to do! The downside of our ministry is that we can easily and unintentionally float off the radar of the local church. Drifting is a danger that we carefully guard against, and part of our strategy is to try to tell our story more effectively and consistently. This month I’m highlighting our local church partnerships. I want to honor the folks who make BCM of the High Country possible, and I want to illustrate the reality that there is more than one way to partner with us. One size indeed does NOT fit all! This summer I will be providing a detailed list of ways to connect with students through BCM. I would be happy to provide that document for you. Just send me a quick email (puckett.mike@gmail.com) and let me know that you’d like to receive it!

Our Current Church Partnerships:

Brushy Fork Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – part of Church & Chow Road Trip (Progressive Dinner for freshmen)

Dudley Shoals Baptist Church (Granite Falls, NC) – monthly financial support

First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock – provides a meal each semester – monthly financial support – Church & Chow stop

First Baptist Church of Boone – monthly financial support – Church & Chow stop – they allow us to use their facilities for worship

The Heart – provides the entire meal for the cookout at our outdoor first night of worship – monthly financial support

Laurel Springs Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – hosted a “We Love ASU Day” and invited me to speak about BCM during the Sunday service and took up an offering for BCM – provides vans and drivers to take international students to Wal-Mart when they arrive at ASU – hosts our Leadership Mini-Retreat event and provides a meal – Church & Chow stop

Meat Camp Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – monthly financial support

Mount Vernon Baptist Church – provides a meal or two each semester – monthly financial support – special financial offering for student summer missions – Church & Chow stop – international student adoptions

Oak Grove Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – Church & Chow stop

Perkinsville Baptist Church – monthly financial support – provides a meal or two each semester – allows us to use facility space for some events – Church & Chow stop – international student adoptions

South Fork Baptist Church – international student adoption

Three Forks Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – monthly financial support – sponsors “Welcome to America” cookout for international students – international student adoption

Trinity Baptist Church – provides a meal each semester – Church & Chow stop

To Ohio and Back

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Last week Kelly and Emily and I embarked on a road trip to Ohio to attend the wedding of two former students of ours. When Annie called to tell us the good news that she and Matt were getting married, we had only recently found out that we were parents-to-be. We couldn’t miss the wedding, so we put it on the calendar. Despite the challenges of traveling and attending a wedding with a 3 month old, it was a beautiful and joyful event.

Leaving the reception in Southeast Ohio to continue on to our old home in Northeast Ohio, we were surprised by a growing sense of sadness. The closer we got to our old home, the sadder we felt. You see, that’s an odd emotion (at least to some) because no one really seems to care that much about Akron, OH. To be fair, there are some people I know who rabidly love the place. Most would agree that Ohio isn’t high on the list of vacation destinations or retirement locations. That’s even more true of Akron in particular. The first bumper sticker I saw when we moved to Ohio said “Stuck in Ohio.” Interesting.

But in the three years we lived in Ohio, it became more than the place we lived – it became home. So a year ago (almost exactly now) when we began our transition back to NC, we were overcome with emotion and running short on time. This all started flooding back over us as we drove into town, saw our old house, our neighborhood, and friends. There even came a moment while driving through Akron when Kelly said, “I just want to take some pictures of everything.” We laughed about how that might have been the first time anyone has ever said that.

As we spent the next couple of days visiting with friends, the sadness began to subside. We were able to enjoy being present with people we love, but we both had a deep sense of confirmation that we had done what the Lord wanted us to do. We are where he wants us to be. It was a wonderful reminder that even when God calls us to say goodbye to people and places that are near and dear to us, he will bring us through it and he will give us joy in our obedience.

It was a surreal experience to be back in Ohio, but it is encouraging to see what the Lord is doing with us even now here in Boone and through BCM of the High Country.

The Spring is for New Things

Last time I checked, it’s been just over 8 months since I’ve posted a new update here. Certainly that’s not for lack of new things happening in the lives of us Pucketts, but maybe because of all the newness. Last time I checked in, we were just getting settled after a mostly unexpected move from Akron, OH to Charlotte, NC to Boone, NC. I alluded to lots of changes happening in the NC BCM world, and that has only progressed and continued to develop. When I accepted this position with ASU BCM, I assumed I would be taking over a fairly static ministry role with a reliable trajectory.

What I knew coming in was that the Baptist State Convention of NC (BSCNC) had made the decision to relieve their campus ministry staff of their duties and shift the ownership of the respective BCMs from BSCNC back to the local churches that surround each of the campuses. A shift this drastic is anything but painless, but the idea is to call the local churches to account for the mission fields in their own front yards. This was the rapidly unfolding situation that met us as we arrived in Boone. I can’t speak for other regions and campuses, but I can happily report that the Lord is at work here in the High Country.

Denominations and churches are not known for agile and speedy decision making – especially in a time of major transition, but in a period of around 6 months, the major building blocks were put in place to move us from Convention ownership to the launching of a non-profit organization (BCM of the High Country) overseen by a diverse Board of Directors. I am honored to serve as the Executive Director and Lead Missionary. During this time of transition, some things will remain relatively the same. The main thing that will remain is our outward focus on reaching students who are far from God. If BCM is anything, it must be a missionary hub.

There’s so much to tell that I’ll returning here to post about life and about ministry vision and updates for BCM of the High Country. Just know that I am thrilled to be where I am, and to be doing what I’m doing. Would you pray for me and my family as we hit our stride in Boone and at ASU?

Updates on Life

BCM House

 

Just over a week ago Kelly and I moved from Charlotte to Boone. We are settling into our new home and I am just getting started with my new job as the Campus Minister for Appalachian State Baptist Campus Ministries. Kelly and I both graduated from ASU and we were both involved with the BCM. When we left Boone, we never thought we would end up here again. God has been at work in major ways, far out in front of us. Nothing else could explain this transition. I’m simply thankful to have this opportunity.

There has been a lot of change happening in the NC BCM world these days. ASU BCM isn’t going anywhere. I’m thankful for that. I have only seen the very beginning of what I’m getting into here at App, but I can see God doing some really exciting things already. This is going to be a good year!

Time for Reflection

My life has been different since the move back to NC. The biggest difference has been characterized by disconnection. There are some negative aspects of that, sure. But overall, I think it’s been a good thing.

Let me illustrate what I mean:
I’ve moved away from social media.

I no longer have “a ministry” I’m responsible for.

I’m near to family and a few local friends, but mostly, I’m disconnected from my deepest community.

But I’ve needed time to think. To process. To prepare before moving forward again. Time to breathe.

It feels unnatural, but it’s beginning to feel more normal. The good and bad thing is that I know this is a temporary phase. We are in a bit of a holding pattern.

I’m excited for what’s ahead – especially because I have no idea what that is. But I’m open and preparing.

I think we all need time for reflection.

Identity

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Today marks just over a week and a half since we moved back to North Carolina from Ohio. Just 11 days ago we were Midwesterners and today we are Southerners. It doesn’t totally feel real yet, but a lot has changed in a short period of time. Even before we made the decision to relocate permanently, I knew that not doing full time traditional ministry would be a challenge as it would no longer be my “identity.” I wouldn’t be a campus minister or a pastor for a while. This is even more true now that I am in the very beginning stages of a transition into the next stage of my life and ministry.

Who am I?

Before this move, I could have answered that I was a campus minister or a college pastor. Now, not so much.

But before the move, and even now, I see this as a really good thing. Ministry can be dangerous in that those of us who do it vocationally are liable to make our ministry our identity. Strictly speaking, I am not a campus minister – I am a child of God who served as a campus minister. I loved my job, but I should love the Lord more. This transitional time is a good reminder of that.

I’m excited about what is ahead for me – but I’m trying to embrace this time I have to recalibrate.

So far, so good!

The Next Stage of my Ministry – Pt. II

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“You never know when God will change your plans.”

I’m pretty sure that I misquoted it, but the above quote captures the essence of something I heard from 2 different guys at church this past Wednesday. One was a younger guy (just a little older than me) and the other was a much older man. They said this to me separately and about different topics, but nonetheless, I heard them.

That comment, spoken in the best kind of ignorance, struck me. It struck me because I have just lived it over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve been basically silent (at least here on the blog) about my upcoming transition – partly because I’ve had a lot going on, partly because I have been sorting everything out, and partly because of what this post is about in the first place.

God just threw us a curveball.

I received a call out of the blue with a tentative offer for a new ministry position back in North Carolina. The details aren’t important at this point, but it was something that we could not reject outright without thinking and praying through it.

Keeping things concise, we fluctuated from deciding between one job or another to feeling the need to be closer to our families in NC. We recognized that the issue wasn’t so much about choosing between two equally compelling jobs as it was feeling the deep desire to be closer to family, especially as we begin thinking about having kids one day.

Hello, curveball.

We have made the incredibly difficult decision to permanently relocate to NC. We have pulled out of the church plant, reluctantly at first, knowing that to stay could very easily become damaging for us.

With heavy hearts we will leave Ohio at the end of the month. But with deep excitement we will be heading back to North Carolina.

I suppose this is what it looks like to let God call the shots. It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s not the point. We’re just looking forward to what God will do and praying for the right doors to be opened.