The Legacy of Campus Ministry

Yesterday I was having a discussion with Molly and Anna, the BCM staff here at our ASU office, about strategy and mission, when a couple of guys walked in the door. I had met them once before. One was a BSU (Baptist Student Union – what BCM was many years ago) grad from 20 years ago and the other was a colleague of his. They are teachers at a high school down the mountain. They were up for the day to speak to some Education classes, so they decided to come see us, say hello, share some news with us, and pray with us. I was already encouraged when I met these guys last year. They knew one of our recent alumni (who is now serving as a full time missionary in London with the IMB for 2 years) and had both taught her and coached her. They were excited to hear that she was a missionary and we were excited to hear that they had such an impact on her when she was growing up.

When I think of all the ways BCM (or BSU) has changed over the years and decades, it is hard to imagine that legacy that walked in our door yesterday. I often say, “Campus Ministry is a forgetful institution.” Every 4 years we have a whole new batch of students and in that time, lots of little things change on campus and in our ministry. One thing has not changed – God is impacting students lives through BCM. If you’re a student, know that what God is doing in you right now can have a ripple effect for decades to come. If you are not a student or a campus person, this is a good reminder of just how important the campus is as a mission field.

Thanks Matt, for being such an encouragement to us, and thanks to all of you who pray for us on a regular basis! We could do this without you all!

Campus Ministry: Competing or Complementing?

If you spend much time around me in the right contexts, you would probably catch on pretty quickly that I ask a lot of “What if?” questions. I do it because I can’t help but do it. I’m a Maximizer by nature. That means I’m always on the lookout for things that I can improve. Nothing drains me more than having to take something awful and make it mediocre. Nothing energizes me more than taking something good and making it great. I also really don’t like doing anything just to do it. Especially if I don’t feel like I have a good reason for doing it in the first place.

One question I started asking while I was serving as a College Pastor / BCM Starter in Northeast Ohio related to the overlap of what I was doing in my two roles. How much of what I’m trying to do in my campus-based ministry is the same thing that my church is trying to do? It became vividly obvious to me one semester while I was still the one to lead the campus small groups (5 to be exact – I could talk all day about why that was a terrible decision) and I was still teaching Sunday School at my church. In order to manage that many groups (some were as large as 12, others were 1–4) I used the same material for each one. One thing to prepare, 5 times to teach/facilitate it. It was exhausting (again, bad decision) but I made it work, at least somewhat. The trouble was when I had students showing up to both a campus small group and to the church Sunday School class. I never invited many students to the Sunday School class because they were already in a campus group. All things considered, it wasn’t that big of an issue. But it did cause me to think more clearly about my roles and the points of friction between them if I didn’t give close enough consideration to each role and the objectives that went with them.

I still believe in collegiate ministry. And I still believe that students need to be committed to a local church. But as campus ministry people, I think it would be wise for us to think more clearly about what we are doing on campus to unintentionally compete with local churches and what we are doing to complement the local churches?

The preliminary answer I would give is taken right out of my previous blog post (Breaking Twitter with Collegiate Innovation). We need to shift from making students our mission to developing students to BE the missionaries. HOW we do that is up for debate. I for one love this conversation and I believe our ministries are better for it.

Breaking Twitter with Collegiate Innovation

Last night I stumbled across a gold-mine on Twitter, a day late I might add. It all started with this question from Brian Frye. The question following this agree/disagree question was, “What implications will this have for collegiate ministry?”

The following discussion was lengthy, and it may have even broken Twitter. I couldn’t help but compile some of the highlights of the Twitter-conversation and make some comments. These are some sharp people asking good questions!

The collegiate landscape is shifting, sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in dramatic ways. Change is the only constant. However traditional or non-traditional college campuses may be, and however welcoming or unwelcoming they may be to our ministries, we do what we do because higher-ed students are the single most strategic mission field in the world. There will always be a place for ministry to college students.

The Shift: From mission to missionaries.

One key factor in this conversation is this shift. If we can move from planning and executing programs to developing and deploying missionaries, we will have a significant impact on our campuses.

https://twitter.com/evanblackerby/status/551520467496890368

There’s more than one way to reach a campus, and one large group isn’t necessarily the best answer. Business/Management guru Peter Drucker famously said that what gets measured improves. As collegiate ministry leaders we measure things. Just like most leaders (of just about anything). What we measure is vitally important to what results we actually see.

The easiest thing for us collegiate people to count is the attendance at large-group gatherings. It’s the most visible, energy-packed, resource-heavy aspect of most of our ministries. Our ministry name refers primarily to our weekly large-group gatherings and not much else. As Cole said, focusing too much on our weekly worship large group gathering can hide the true story of what God is doing, and for most of us, the weekly worship large group gathering isn’t going to be what reaches our campuses. Notice the emphasis in the tweets below. Bigger isn’t necessarily more virtuous than smaller.

It can be tough trying not to get caught in the current each semester, only to drift through to the end without serious reflection. Sometimes the best thing we can do is slow down long enough to ask difficult questions about the things we take most for granted. One of my values I communicate to my team is a freedom to question sacred cows. The biggest “sacred cow” of them all is the large group gathering. There are good reasons for this, but as you can see from the last string of tweets, God is working even in ministries that cut out weekly worship. It is exciting for me to see how people are innovating ministry on college campuses. May we never settle for “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

The Dance/War of Less/More

Pursuit of Less
At heart, I’m a minimalist. That means I believe “less is more.”

Less is difficult.

Less demands discipline.

Less requires clarity.

Assault of More
At heart, I’m a hoarder (of mostly intangible things).

More is easy. Natural.

Technology allows/excuses more.

Follow more people on Twitter.

Subscribe to more blogs.

Say “Yes,” to more committments.

Vast sums of money are made by people who can help empower others to say “Yes,” to more and more, while never giving them an additional hour in the day, or encouraging them to first ask, “Why?”

More crowds out vital. And vital is done half-heartedly in order to make room for more.

The Dance
Neverending. Always inviting.

Round
and
round.

You have 168 hours.

Split into 7 days.

The dance is learning to do the right things, not just more things.

Giving Tuesday

Dear Friends of BCM,

For me, Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday. As a good Baptist, I love a big meal and I love the time to reconnect with family I don’t see all that often. We all have our different traditions and memories attached to the holidays we celebrate, and some of us are more nostalgic than others. Regardless of the experiences we’ve had at Thanksgiving over the years, one thing is for certain: Thanksgiving is being crowded out as merely the carb-loading meal to prepare us for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. I’ve even heard of the Thanksgiving holiday referred to as “Black Friday Weekend.” It’s awfully sad to experience this beautiful gratitude-centered holiday taking a back seat to what often amounts to blatant self-centered consumerism. “Giving Tuesday” was inaugurated to refocus our attention on others and the needs of the world.

I have had the privilege of leading Baptist Campus Ministry of the High Country through a significant time of transition. One major factor in this time of transition is our financial backing. The Baptist State Convention of NC has been gracious enough to support us with annually decreasing amounts to help us begin raising up funding from outside sources. Some folks might see this as a negative thing. I am really thankful for this situation. Last month we hosted our first ever BCM Fundraising Banquet and raised $10,000 in pledges. Our goal for the end of the year was $20,000 and the Banquet was a major step in the right direction. But even if you’re like me and have a degree in English Literature, you can do the math and see that we still have $10,000 to raise this year. I want to issue a challenge. Help us reach our goal by giving. We believe that every student deserves to see, hear, and experience the gospel and we won’t rest until there’s No Place Left without a gospel presence on our campuses. We cannot do that without your financial support. Will you help us make disciples on the most strategic of all mission fields?
Until there’s No Place Left,

Mike Puckett
Executive Director
BCM of the High Country
To make a tax-deductible pledge, please send checks directly to our office:

BCM of the High Country
143 Appalachian St.
Boone, NC 28607

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.