The Board of Directors of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) signed off on a new strategy and structure designed to plant more churches, strengthen existing ones and tackle areas of “lostness.” The board meeting was held May 21-22 at Caraway Conference Center and Camp in Sophia.
Entitled “Impacting Lostness through Disciple-Making,” the five-year strategy will now go before N.C. Baptists this fall at the BSC annual meeting in Greensboro. The plan will take effect January 2014.
At the heart of the new strategy and structure is the desire to reach 5.8 million North Carolinians, who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. To help accomplish that, the strategy focuses on making more disciples and mobilizing Baptists through training and engaging more ethnic groups located in eight population centers. Read related story
“The reality is that North Carolina Baptists have failed to reach those who are spiritually lost within the borders of our state,” shared Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, in his report. “And in reality we are not making many disciples of those we are reaching.”
Board members approved the BSC’s plan with an overwhelming majority. But approval didn’t happen without nearly an hour and a half of discussion and debate – nearly all of which focused on the future of N.C’s Baptist Campus Ministry.
Under the new plan, the BSC’s Collegiate Partnerships team will work more closely with churches, part-time leaders, volunteers and associations. Together, they will develop networks to strengthen and expand campus ministry throughout the state.
The main point of contention for some N.C. Baptists has involved the BSC’s plans to no longer support full-time ministry positions on college campuses. This would eliminate nine campus ministry positions.
The nine campuses with full-time staff positions include Appalachian State University, Boone; East Carolina University, Greenville; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill; UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, and Western Carolina University, Cullowhee.
Since announcing the plan, the BSC has received numerous letters and emails from N.C. Baptists regarding campus ministry. The BSC distributed letters for board members to review during the meeting. Those letters voiced concerns that campus ministry will no longer exist or be as effective.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” said Hollifield. “I want to reach more students. I want to keep the students connected to the churches. … I have no interest in us losing the presence of Baptist Campus Ministry on these campuses.”
Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer, talks with Patrick Austin and Sydney Stikeleather, both representing Baptist Campus Ministry, following the Board of Directors meeting May 21.
The strategy will have to be contextualized and based on the individual needs of each campus to be most effective, Hollifield added. He cautioned that many of the final details of the plan will not be worked out until a 2014 budget is approved in the coming months.
“It’s a new model that is in the process of being formed,” Hollifield said. “We’re going to use what model we need to use to be effective on those campuses.”
For now the BSC plans to hang on to their campus ministry facilities, some of which are old, rarely used or in need of repair. How each building is utilized in the future will depend on the specific needs of the students, Hollifield said.
One statistic that is fueling the need for change with campus ministry, Hollifield said, involves the number of college students who are leaving the Church after graduation.
“When they leave home and go away to college, more than 85 percent never return to church,” Hollifield said. “You look at these thousands upon thousands of students that are on these campuses … [and] I’m concerned that many of these students are not connecting with a local church while they are there. … I’m concerned there is a tendency to see the campus minister as their pastor, and … they don’t get connected to the church.”
Board members also raised questions and concerns regarding the number of college students who are active in campus ministry efforts.
According to a BSC report, there are around 1,000 total students involved in campus ministry at the nine schools that have a campus minister. BSC staff shared during the meeting that about 2,400 students were “reached” last year through campus ministry on more than 38 N.C. college campuses.
“That’s less than 100 people per campus,” said Phil Addison, a board member and pastor of Stony Point Baptist Church. “You’re talking about campuses that have 10,000 to 20,000 people on them. Don’t get me wrong. What’s the value of a soul? I understand that. But at the same time, we have to be realists and stewards. ... Something is going to have to change. It’s got to change.”
“I personally … see [the new strategy] as a good thing. I see it as an opportunity to let other churches get involved.”
But some board members expressed skepticism about the new plan. Concerns involved manpower, logistics and an uneasiness with a new approach toward campus ministry.
“I’m really bothered by this,” said Gerald Morris, a board member and director of missions with the Tuckaseigee Baptist Association. “That’s where I met my wife. ... I did not grow up with a family that went to church on a regular basis. … That is what kept me going. … This has been thrown out there so fast.”
Sydney Stikeleather, an ex-officio board member and president of the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM) for the state, also expressed concern about the strategy. She explained how she had felt like a rug had been “pulled out from underneath [her]” when she learned UNC-Charlotte, where she is also president of the school’s BCM, was losing its full-time campus minister.
But during and after the meeting, Stikeleather expressed optimism toward the plan.
“The main thing I took away from this meeting is that none of these people want to see campus ministry end,” she wrote in an email to campus ministry leaders across the state.
“They recognize the need of the gospel on campus, and they want to spread God's love in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
Stikeleather appealed to fellow campus ministry leaders to get involved and work with Baptist leadership, churches and associations.
“No one understands your campus and your students better than you,” she wrote. “You are a vital part of the success of BCM in the future. … I must ask you to do one of the most difficult things us sinful, selfish, prideful human beings can do: let go and trust God. … I am excited about the future of BCM. I am excited to see churches take a stronger role in the lives of our students. I am excited to see more students in churches. More than anything, I am excited to see what God has in store for all of us.”
In other business …
board members approved a name change for Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, which is owned and operated by BSC. If approved by N.C. Baptists this fall, during their annual meeting, the new name will be Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Read more about Fruitland.
the BSC’s Executive Committee approved the naming of the Jim and Nancy Jacumin Family Retreat Lodge, an 80-bed facility that includes meeting rooms, and kitchen space. The lodge is part of Caraway’s New Beginnings campaign to expand and improve the campus. The Jacumins are members of East Valdese Baptist Church in Valdese. Jim Jacumin is a former N.C. senator and former member of the Board of Directors. The Jacumins gave $250,000 toward the construction of the lodge, which is set to begin in the coming weeks.
board members learned that high-speed Internet will be available on the Caraway campus within two weeks.
The next Board of Directors meeting will be held Sept. 24-25 at Caraway.