Churches partner with BCM as students navigate ‘sea of confusion’

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MIAMI— Even with South Florida’s sunshine and ocean breezes just a few miles away, many students at University of Miami in Coral Gables find themselves swirling in a “sea of confusion.”

A partnership between South Florida Baptist Collegiate Ministry and local churches are helping students navigate those confusing waters with the truth of the gospel.

“Over the past year or so, the Miami BCM has locked in some partnerships with local churches,” said Andrew Fernandez, BCM director of South Florida. Many of the partners are church plants or Send Network churches, he said.

The church partners, Fernandez said, are “not just interested but involved and invested in reaching university students in Miami.”

‘Take-over nights’

One such church is 3-year-old Grace Miami Church pastored by Eric Bancroft who says his church has a “huge heart for BCM and the University of Miami.”

In its partnership with BCM, Grace Miami Church seeks to “offer truth to the students, in this sea of confusion, to actually communicate the word of God is a virtue.”

“When we planted Grace church, I was aware of BCM at UM but had not yet had the opportunity to connect with them until we started receiving a couple of UM students at our church,” said Bancroft. “That was the catalyst for me to connect with BCM.”

College students who were already members at Grace Church have been part of “take-over nights” at BCM. These monthly events allow the church to lead the BCM worship service, share a biblical message, and fellowship with the college students. Grace Church has been intentional about discipling its young adults to care and show love for college students.

After connecting with students, Grace Church continues to develop the relationships by supporting students’ activities and staying in touch even when the students are not in school.

“Some of the college kids are in the Frost School of Music, and when they have nighttime concerts the Grace church members go out and support them,” shared Bancroft. “Once we connect to the students, we send them care packages during the summer; we disciple and care for them while they are here.”

‘Peace amid anxiety’

For Christ Family Church in Miami, the partnership with BCM includes bridging connections between alumni and students.

“We have been intentional about connecting UM alumni … they are a source of encouragement for the students … to have alumni point them to Jesus as a source of security and sustenance and be able to talk to them as someone who has been where they are,” said Jonathan Palaci, pastor of Christ Family Church in Miami.

The pastor understands that the challenges of college life often lead students to seek spiritual answers.

“Students are under a lot of pressure, and these students specifically are looking for peace in the midst of anxiety,” he said.

As the father of a college student, Bancroft understands just how effective caring for college students when they are away from home can be.

“Don’t think of them as an academic category, think of it as someone who is away from home,” he said, adding, “Hospitality is an underused evangelism strategy.”

One key to effectively partnering with the local BCM is to be intentional, Palaci believes.

“For a local church, my suggestion would be to be intentional about including BCM as part of its missional outreach, not just something to do on the side when there is nothing else to do,” he said.

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