FINDING FAT FRESHMEN/STUDENT LEADERS
Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) Campus Minister Cole Penick is looking for FAT college freshmen at the University of Arkansas. No, he’s not using a politically incorrect term to refer to their body size. He’s searching for Christ-centered leaders who are Faithful, Available and Teachable (FAT). He adds another phrase too–hungry for more.
This fall, there will be over 5,000 new Razorback freshmen. “We’re hoping to see 200 freshmen try something with us in the first month,” Penick said. Those who stick with the BCM need ownership of the ministry in varying degrees; it’s a balancing act. On the one hand, he said, if he sets the leadership bar too high, no one can reach it. However, if he sets the bar too low, students feel like they have nothing to do. One leader who needed a high bar, Cade Pylant, “came in ready to hit the ground with strengths like discipleship, evangelism and leadership.” Penick saw his potential and plugged him in quickly because “leaders go where they get a chance to lead.”
Penick said the U of A BCM builds future ministry success: “I do think we’re one of the best places to send students who are considering ministry because of our community of believers here, the excellent churches with whom we partner, and all the opportunities to grow as a minister.”
While Penick spoke about plugging freshmen into leadership roles, another minister gave advice on student leadership in general. “I think if you choose the right people first before you develop leadership, you save yourself trouble and headaches,” said Jared Farley, BCM campus minister at Henderson State University. “Our leadership door is open to anyone and everyone, but not everyone will step into it,” Farley said, adding that he looks for two characteristics which he says, “go hand in hand.” First, he wants students who are humble (who do not think they know it all, who want to be trained, equipped and led) and teachable (able to take correction, to listen, to learn). Additionally, they must maintain Christian character. He noted, “The main thing is to have a consistent relationship with God. Before we start training for ministry, evangelism, or the outward things, we make sure students know what it means to be in a relationship with Jesus, how to read God’s word, and the importance of communicating and gathering with others. That’s our foundation.” Finally, his leaders focus on evangelism and discipleship. Farley gives students simple tools to reach their campus like the Three Circles of Evangelism. He also wants to keep discipleship uncomplicated, “very simple and reproducible. It must be simple enough where if a student does discipleship with us they say, ‘That’s easy! I can do this!’”
Recruiting student leaders and using student leadership to reach the campus is important to Corley Shumaker, assistant campus minister at the BCM at Arkansas State University. “We recruit leaders by helping a student see that they have leadership potential and suggesting that they become a part of what we’re doing, which is training leaders and reaching the campus,” she said. “Student leadership is critical to reaching the campus because college students respond best to their peers. We as campus ministers can spend all our time sharing the Gospel on campus, but our impact is limited without the help of student leaders. Also, if we don’t have student leaders who are interested in reaching the campus, we’ll never reach it.”