WACO—After two decades when Baptist Student Ministries functioned a part of Baylor University’s student life office, the university and the Baptist General Convention of Texas relaunched BSM as a chartered on-campus student organization.
Baylor and BGCT leaders signed a cooperative agreement Sept. 19 at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center representing a renewed vision for BSM at the university.
After reading a Scripture passage from Psalm 133—“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity”—Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life at Baylor, and Burt Burleson, university chaplain and dean of spiritual life and missions, joined BGCT Executive Director David Hardage and Bruce McGowan, director of Texas Baptists’ Collegiate Ministry Team, to sign and offer prayer over the agreement.
“Denominational heritage, connections and involvement are one of the keys to a vibrant Christian university,” Burleson said. “Baylor and Texas Baptists have been invested in one another for a long time and both have thrived because of that. As we move further into what many consider a ‘post-denominational’ era, our relationships and partnerships with the BGCT are all the more important.
“I’m thankful for the rich history of student ministry we’ve known together and for this new affirmation of the work we will do in the years to come.”
The last two decades, when BSM was related to and considered as a department in Baylor’s student life office, led to some important ministry on campus, Burleson said.
However, BSM, BGCT and Baylor leaders discerned it was time to move to a more traditional campus ministry model centered in a chartered student religious organization, he added.
‘Re-envision and reinvigorate’ BSM at Baylor
Hardage expressed his gratitude to Baylor leaders “for their wonderful willingness and eagerness to re-envision and help us reinvigorate Baptist Student Ministries on this campus.”
BSM, a cooperative ministry of Texas Baptist churches, operates on 110 campuses across the state. The student-led organization provides opportunities for spiritual growth, making friends, leadership, service and missions.
“We believe in Christian higher education and have from the very beginning,” Hardage said. “We also believe in the spiritual movement of God on the campus of these (Texas Baptist) universities, and that’s what we hope, believe and pray for regarding Baylor and BSM here in the days, weeks, months and years to come.”
At Baylor, BSM’s mission is to equip Christian men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating catalytic discipleship and vocational excellence within a dynamic community, BSM Director Charles Ramsey explained.
BSM engages Baylor students during its regular Thursday night meetings at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center, as well as additional opportunities throughout the week for prayer, Bible study and missions.
‘A new chapter’
“BSM has a special place in the history and character of Baylor University, and the agreement signed today marks the beginning of a new chapter in our shared ministry,” Ramsey said.
“It is a timely recommitment to the centrality of the gospel in the founding vision of the university and an affirmation of our joint mission to equip Christian men and women for worldwide leadership and service. It signifies that Baylor has strong ties to its Baptist heritage, and that BSM will continue to take a central role in strengthening this partnership by equipping students to make a difference in the lives of those they will lead and serve,” he said.
For almost a century, BSM—previously known as Baptist Student Union—has played a significant role in the spiritual formation of Baylor students, Jackson noted. It has served as a foundational experience for students as they lived their life based on God’s plans and purposes, not their own, he said.
The foundation for a national vision of campus ministry that eventually became Baptist Student Union was laid at Baylor on Oct. 21, 1905, when six students formed a prayer covenant after attending a student YMCA meeting. Fifteen years later, Joseph P. Boone, one of the participants at that meeting, became the first full-time Baptist student worker in the South as Baptist Student Secretary of the BGCT, according to Baptist historian H. Leon McBeth.
In addition, many of Baylor’s activities and traditions find their roots with the BSU, including Welcome Week, which started in 1979 as a ministry of the BSU, the Baylor Religious Hour choir, Missions Emphasis Week and Spring Revival Week.
“At Baylor, we want to not only inform the mind, we want to inform the heart and the soul. That’s an exciting journey for us, and praise be to God that we are not on it alone,” Jackson said. “We have many, many good partners, and we have one particularly good partner today in the BGCT. We are so excited about the work that we’ve been doing, especially around Baptist Student Ministries. It is with great energy and enthusiasm that we gather today, and we look forward to a renewed relationship for the BGCT, BSM and Baylor University and a future where the vital nature of BSM on this campus will continue to grow.”