Clayton Bullion has been the Baptist Student Ministry director at Tarleton State University in Stephenville since 2009 and is a contributing author on the Collegiate Collective. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on collegiate ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated leader to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured yourself, click here.
Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
Right out of college, my wife and I were International Mission Board missionaries in the Middle East, and then I served as a refugee resettlement case manager in Fort Worth for a few years before coming to Tarleton.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Midland but spent my teenage years in Brownwood.
How did you come to faith in Christ?
A group of students at my high school began praying for their lost friends, sharing life with them, and inviting them to church. I was one of their lost friends! For my 18th birthday, they bought me a Bible. I began to read it, and Jesus met me there in the Gospel of Matthew during spring break of my senior year of high school.
Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
I have a bachelor’s degree from Howard Payne University and a master’s degree from B.H. Carroll Theological Institute.
Why do you feel called into campus ministry?
I saw God move in my life in college and saw that if someone was going to impact the world, the place to start would be the college campus. I kind of stumbled into my calling.
What is your favorite aspect of campus ministry? Why?
We literally have an unlimited supply of workers for the harvest field! Every year, more than 2,000 freshmen come to my campus, and I have the opportunity to engage them with the gospel, establish them in their faith, equip them to be ministers of the gospel, and then to export them in May to the nations, the marketplace and the church just as another 2000-plus potential workers come in the fall.
What one aspect of your ministry gives you the greatest joy?
See the above. That really jazzes me.
What would you like more people to know about campus ministry?
If you reach the campus, you reach the world. College students are the most moldable, trainable and send-able demographic on the planet.
Describe a situation or event that provides an insight into collegiate ministry.
Two students land on our campus as freshmen. Student One is from a broken home of abuse with some cultural Christian commitment. Student Two grew up in a nonreligious home. What is the outcome?
For one of them, their cultural faith would live on almost nonexistent in their daily life, work and family, and the cycle of abuse probably would continue with their kids and grandkids. The other probably would get a job, make money and raise a family with the same values, and they would enter into eternity spiritually broken generation after generation.
Enter the gospel.
Student One has a dynamic encounter with Christ and walks in freedom from sin. Student Two encounters the gospel and finds hope, takes that hope to classmates and family, who come to Christ.
Student One and Student Two both are led by God to impact others with the gospel and are going into ministry. They are a part of planting the gospel in hard places where there is limited gospel exposure. Hundreds—maybe thousands—of people are impacted with the gospel. It’s not only the people they impact but the future of their future children and grandchildren that are changed.
This is actually the story of two of our students. The sin details are a little different, but the salvation story is the same. God steps in and changes students’ lives on our campus! And not just for our campus; this is the story of thousands of college students who have been impacted on college campuses across Texas and the United States.
Now, take away the campus ministry. What do you have? The cycle of sin continues, and generations miss the gospel. If we reach them in college, we change the fate of a generation and the generations that follow.
What priorities or goals guide your ministry?
We want every student on our campuses to be within arm’s-length of the gospel.
Based upon what you have observed from campus ministry, what do you think about the future of our country and/or world?
From what I’ve seen, I would say as goes the campus, so goes the world. We are seeing more students completely buy into this lifestyle that Jesus is Lord and rearrange their lives and priorities around the gospel. At the same time, we are seeing students completely sell out to rejecting the gospel. I think we will see this more and more on a larger scale in the U.S. in the next 10 years.
Based upon what you have observed from campus ministry, what do you think about the future of the church?
I think the church will be in good hands. It will look different than it does now, but that is the way it has to be. You don’t reach tomorrow’s culture with yesterday’s methods. We will have to engage culture more and more. It will be a “go to them” instead of them coming to our culture. I think our students are in a spot to lead that charge for the next generation church.
But as goes campus ministry, so goes the church. If we want young families in the church and new ministers in 10 years, then we have to invest in campus ministry. If we want deacons and elders in our churches and quality senior pastors and denominational leaders in 20 to 40 years, then we have to invest in campus ministry.
If you could launch any new ministry, what would it be? Why?
We love launching new ministries! We are trying to plant new campus ministries all over Texas and the Northwest. Right now, we have about 13 Tarleton BSM alumni and staff on about 15 campuses. In our minds, it is unacceptable for there to be a place where students are living life without the gospel interrupting their lives; so, we are going to spend our lives and our resources planting the gospel there.
What key opportunities will campus ministry undertake in the next 10 years?
Campus ministry in Texas is undergoing a shift in staff and funding, and it is creating some really exciting opportunities and will multiply our ability to reach the college campus!
Many of our local BSM staff across the state are raising 100 percent of their own salary in order to serve with BSM. With this shift, we are able to utilize the generosity of the Texas Baptist Cooperative Program and also continue to add staff and multiply ministry without fear of not having enough resources or being limited in fulfilling God’s vision for our campuses.
Seventy-five percent of the Tarleton BSM staff raise their salaries, insurance and benefits. Staff raising their salary has enabled us to bring on more staff to reach multiple campuses, include more ministry partners in what God is doing on our campus, and has widened our base of people praying for us.
I’m not a prophet or a son of a prophet, but I think in the next 10 years we are going to see three times the number of campus ministers—all of them raising their own salaries—and that is going to help us finish the work in reaching all 170-plus campuses in Texas and also see dynamic, gospel-multiplying work on campuses across our nation started by former BSM students, who were trained and sent out to start work by Texas Baptists campus ministers.
What is the impact of your ministry on your family?
This is probably one of the coolest jobs for a family. We have college students constantly running through our house, and our kids are constantly on campus. Our kids have an endless supply of babysitters, aunts and uncles, and the people they look up to and want to be are 20-somethings who are sold out to Jesus.
My family is better when college students are involved. I think the reverse of that is true as well.
What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
2 Timothy 2:2 is the verse I find myself saying the most: “…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” It’s the roadmap to making disciples.
Other than Jesus, who is your favorite Bible character? Why?
Barnabas, the original hero-maker. He was instrumental in both Paul’s and Mark’s faith journeys. Without Barnabas, we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament, and yet he only shows up in a couple of chapters in Acts. He changed the world, not because of what he did, but because of who he invested in.
If you could get one “do over” in ministry, what would it be, and why?
I would have started earlier. This is the most fun I’ve ever had.