Read it and weep

The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has announced a major reorganization and downsizing — with the biggest cuts coming through the virtual elimination of campus ministry, where 10 people will lose their jobs.

According to an article posted by the Biblical Recorder, executive director Milton Hollifield said the substantial downsizing (which must still be approved by the Board of Directors in May) has nothing to do with the Convention being 20 percent short of its already beleaugered budget, which has been in decline for years. Instead, he insisted that the reorganization is all about discipleship, a desire “to stop the bleeding of the loss of people [who are] being led to the Lord, but they’re not being discipled.”

And there has been significant bleeding. In 2011, for example, the BSCNC reported 23,930 baptisms and 19,565 other additions, according to the Annual Church Profile compiled by LifeWay Christian Resources — but despite adding 43,495 people to the rolls, total membership increased by just 297, from 1,243,644 to 1,243,901. While “Total Membership” can be misleading because at least a fifth of the “members” are non-resident and many others are on the rolls in name only, the meaning doesn’t change from year to year. The numbers indicate that Convention churches are losing members about as fast as they are gaining them.

Developing strategies to try and stop people from leaving by the back door as quickly as others come in the front is a smart thing to do. But is virtually eliminating campus ministry the way to do it?

I can’t tell you how many people I have known who have told me how much their real growth in discipleship began in college, through a positive experience in Baptist campus ministry, and how that strong start has stayed with them for a lifetime. That was my experience, as well, albeit many years ago.

But apparently that sort of discipleship came in low on the totem pole when Convention leaders looked for ways to restructure and “stop the bleeding” of church members. The plan adds 11 positions but cuts 16, including 10 in campus ministry, and basically eliminates the campus ministry team, formerly led by Rick Trexler. Trexler will now lead a new team called “Collegiate Partnerships,” and will be tasked with persuading churches in college towns to take up the slack and continue providing some sort of service to students.

There was a time when Baptists in North Carolina were national leaders in effective and meaningful campus ministry, with a Convention-funded leadership team that was second to none. But, most moderate to progressive folk were weeded out years ago, and now even more conservative campus ministers funded through the Convention will get the ax.

If you read the article and follow the links to more details on the BSCNC website, you can see Convention leaders doing their best to put a positive spin on a tragic reduction in a strategic ministry. You can read it and believe the shift will actually make things better, or you can read it and weep.

18 Comments

  1. Not surprised, but deeply saddened by this. I met my wife at a statewide BSU conference at Ridgecrest during my freshman year at WFU, and involvement in campus ministry really helped me to grow as a follower of Christ, and confirmed my call to ministry.

    Not funding and encouraging campus ministry is very shortsighted – like eating the seed corn one has saved for next year's crop.

  2. Appears NC is following California who did away with a GOOD campus ministry many years ago and has never regained that momentum by asking the local churches to do it. Most just did not have capable leadership to accomplish it.

  3. What a blow to leadership development. Don't pay now you will pay later.

  4. How sad, especially now that my daughter will soon be attending one of our Baptist campuses! We as Baptist will pay for this decision! We need to continue to spiritually feed our young adults in college so they will continue to attend and serve in our churches. Local church leaders are stretched to the limit and will be unable to pick up this extra ministry.

  5. This break my heart. I saw this coming long ago while I serve on the Board for NC Baptist when they did spit Youth and Campus department of NC Baptist. It came down to we will do this our way and their nothing you can do about it. This broke my heart then, and now my heart is broken again. Marvin.

  6. Fortunately, our Baptist colleges fund their own campus ministers. It used to be more of a partnership, but for several years now the Baptist schools have been independent of the Convention. All of them, to the best of my knowledge, maintain one or more campus ministers or chaplains on staff, and that should not be affected by the recent move. It's ministries at the state universities that will suffer.

  7. For all practical purposes, campus ministry in NC was eliminated when Milton Hollifield took over. That was the time for weeping. Unfortunately, my feeling at this point is good riddance. Campus ministry was near and dear to my life. It shaped who I am as a person and minister. For the last 15 plus years, I have had to recommend to graduates that they stay away from NCBSC campus ministry. Has anyone thought about what happens now to all of the wonderful facilities? The Battle House in Chapel Hill is worth hundreds of thousands easily due to location and land. More money for Uncle Milty. So thankful to have had the opportunity to experience the quality ministry of people like Bob Phillips, Bob Clyde, Velma Ferrell, Jim Greene, Kay Huggins, and their colleagues.

  8. I think it is appropriate to be sad. I did my mourning back in 2003 when the first round of "weeding out" took place…where many of us in campus ministry saw this day coming.

    That said, this move is an opportunity for campus work to be re-imagined. Folks like Wanda Kidd have been working tirelessly to do that.

    Ministry is not the work of a denomination or institutional structure. Ministry is the practice of people who care. This news begs the question: "Do you care?"

    If so, do something.

  9. Marvin:

    Do you think those folks that took over the NC Baptist Convention will ever admit they destroyed it by cutting its heart out by removing those that would not follow them to the T?

    I also do not think that anyone left in charge of the NC Baptist Convention is open to suggestions and criticisms–IMO.

  10. All I can say is, "Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do." How blind! TRUE discipleship in my life, over and beyond the training I received growing up (which was good, too) began in college at the Baptist Student Union. It was through BSU (now BCM) that I began to do summer missions, the agent through which God called me into full-time vocational ministry. I would hate to imagine the man I would be today without the Baptist Campus Ministry. God totally and radically changed my life– CHANGED MY LIFE through the work and ministry of the BCM. After a recent funeral, I shared with my wife, "Whenever I die, please be sure that there are no flowers sent. Please be sure that all people send money to the Baptist Campus Ministry instead." Now, of course, I hope not to die soon, but a mere three weeks ago did those words come from my mouth. I credit God, of course, with that change in my life, but I cannot and will not discount His hand at work through the BCM. To cut this program will prevent countless others from having the opportunities that I did. It is a shame. A crying shame.

  11. My heart has hurt all weekend and I have wept. I was one of the speakers at the International Student and Scholar Conference at Caswell this past weekend sponsored by Baptist Campus Ministry. It was absolutely wonderful — worth every penny of money spent and every ounce of energy invested. Over 180 students/scholars from nearly 40 countries represented. My life was impacted and my prayer is that their was too. To think that this kind of event might not be able to continue breaks my heart!

  12. To RS: You left out great patriarchs like Hank Greer from ASU and Joe David Fore from WCU. I'm glad my daughter made it through BSU now BCM as I did. But my freshman son will feel the affects in the coming years up at AppState.

  13. I recently attended a UNC campus for my undergraduate degree, and was very involved with BCM. I feel i began to live out my faith while there. I am so sad that this is happening. Is there any way that the powers that be could reconsider? Students need BCM there is a need for more ministries looking to serve our colleges and universities.For me BCM is the last thing i cut! These students are the future leaders of our country.

  14. I always said my college ring should have said BSU instead of B.S. as that is really what I majored in. BSU was really a lifeline for me not only in college but life thereafter. I can honestly say that my time in BSU shaped who I am to this day and is a factor on who I am as a teacher.

    If there was ever a hope to reach college kids in non-traditional ways, BSU was the way to go. Very disappointed.

  15. My heart breaks. That is all I can say at this point.

  16. Rick was a campus minister in KY back in the early 80s when a bunch of us were coming thru some quality BSU programs. He's good people. Like most short-sighted cuts, there's a huge downside coming that no one in power wants to own (but is certainly happy to pass along to the next generation).

  17. How very sad – BSU was where I encountered Bonhoeffer and Clarence Jordan for the first time; where I developed the relationships that have sustained since graduating from WFU in the early nineties. It was where the groundwork was laid for my years as a professional with Goodwill Industries – And yes, I met my wife thru BSU as well. It was the cultivating ground for who I have become. So sad that these types of experiences are no longer valued…

  18. One point of clarification/correction – the Baptist State Convention has continued to contribute funding for campus ministers at Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Wingate, Mars Hill, Chowan, and also Meredith, even after the change in relationship. That funding is not directly affected by this restructuring. It is always possible that declining revenues or future decisions will effect a change, but for now, my understanding is that this funding will continue. In addition, I believe that student conferences and student missions are continuing under this restrestructuring.

    A key question, suggested by another comment, is whether churches will work together, hopefully not just to replace, but to exceed, what is lost. There will need to be some careful and creative work done to provide student ministry in ways that respect the needs and concerns of each school – simply barging in and demanding to set up shop on campus is likely to receive a chilly response, and rightly so. However, if churches and associations become energized by this mission, it could be a very good thing for both the churches and the schools.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This