In August thousands of freshmen and transferring students will walk onto sun-drenched and moss-covered pathways of Florida’s college campuses looking for a group of friends, searching for activities and a place to belong. Their first footsteps will be the start of a journey that will mold and shape them for the remainder of their lives.
Through Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) these freshmen can find essentials as well as options for spiritual growth and discipleship.
“In the first few weeks of school, students make decisions and fall into patterns that can influence the rest of their college career,” said Brad Crawford, who has served as Florida Baptists’ collegiate minister in Orlando since 1999.
“If they get involved early in BCM, they find connection there. They connect quickly with other students and find community on a large campus that can be overwhelming, connect to churches and the opportunities they provide, and connect with their faith in a way that brings them closer to Jesus at a critical time in their lives,” he explained.
Through the Florida Baptist Convention’s Next Generation Ministries, led by catalyst Billy Young, Florida Baptists have ministries on more than 20 campuses, including every major university in the state.
The ministries are a multiple-pronged effort. Campus ministries are led by a team of seven full-time Convention staff who are located at the largest universities. Dedicated volunteers lead ministries on many of the smaller community campuses. And then, BCM partners with local churches to reach and minister to students in their communities.
College students are an “unreached people group,” Young said, noting that Florida’s 886,000 college students include 30,000 international students from 150 countries.
“Since 1924 we have been reaching students for Jesus Christ on the college campus,” he said. “Our desire is to see a generation of college students rise up to change the world for Christ.”
BCM offers many ways for students to get involved, said Crawford, who serves students at the University of Central Florida and Valencia College. “As they face decisions and make decisions that will impact them for years to come, they can discover God’s will through worship, Bible study, mission trips, leadership development, service and outreach opportunities.”
As the father of two children who were involved in the BCM during their college years, and a 14-year-old “who has looked up to BCM students his entire life,” Crawford knows well the life-changing impact BCM can have on young adults.
“As a parent, there is no other group of students on campus I’d rather have influencing and impacting my own children than the group of young men and women in BCM,” he said. “You can’t force your kids to get involved, but you can encourage them and pray for them as you let them know that BCM is a great place for them to plug in and make a difference during their college years.”
Florida Baptists can take steps to help college students begin their collegiate journey in a godly path. Below is a listing of BCM directors by area. Contact them to share names of new stud
Tampa Area – Nathan Schneider, BCM director
13110 North 50th Street
Tampa, FL 33617
University of South Florida
University of Tampa
Hillsborough Community College
Florida Polytechnic University
Orlando Area – Brad Crawford, BCM director
University of Central Florida
Jacksonville Area – Barry Sproles, BCM director
University of North Florida
Florida State College
Gainesville Area – Eddie Gilley, BCM director
1604 West University Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32603
University of Florida
Santa Fe College
Lake Sumter State College
Tallahassee Area – Lance Beauchamp, BCM director
200 South Woodward Avenue
Tallahassee, FL 32304
Florida State University
Tallahassee Community College
FAMU, Tallahassee – Joseph Jones, BCM director
Florida A&M University (FAMU)
UM, Miami Area – Ricky Bailey, BCM director
1200 Stanford Drive
Coral Gables, FL 33146
University of Miami
Florida International University
Miami Dade College
Pensacola Area – Tony Olesky, BCM director
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
University of West Florida
Pensacola State College
By Barbara Denman