Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A Door of Opportunity

During the 2008 Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Memphis, participants were involved in a discernment process to address the question, “What has God prepared for us now?” Through prayer, discussion, and response to a written survey, they were asked to rank six primary topic areas and 47 specific issues in their importance to the CBF movement. This is one element in a process of planning for the future.

A preliminary report produced one very interesting result. The top ranked issue in both discussion groups and the written survey was “invest in young Baptists.” There were other significant responses, but I want to camp here for a few minutes.

One reason that this is so interesting is that this has not been the place where the CBF movement has put its greatest emphasis up to this point. Certainly, we have supported theological education, developed the student.go missions program, and partnered with the Passport ministry for youth and children, but these emphases account for less than seven percent of the CBF budget in 2007-2008. State and regional organizations are beginning to place some emphasis on ministry with college students and young adults, but there is so much more to be done. In our own state organization, this has not been a priority.

I am grateful for the efforts that have been made especially in calling out and training future leaders and involving students in missions, but there is a need for a broader ministry to those who will be the future lay leaders of moderate Baptist churches. The strength of our churches is ultimately based on the quality of the people in the pews.

Although some will argue that college students and young adults are a touch audience, at least one survey point out their readiness to respond to spiritual opportunities. The Ivy Jungle Network conducts an annual survey of collegiate ministries. This year’s report states that although most of these ministries are still on the margin of campus life, 52 percent of the ministries reporting have experienced growth in the past three years. They also report that more students are connecting with local churches.

In a general overview of students involved in collegiate ministries, respondents found that students tended to be cause oriented (social justice, environmental issues, etc.), spiritually hungry, eager for community, and spiritually growing. Moderate Baptists cannot leave this ministry to conservative and parachurch groups.

These are days of opportunity for Fellowship Baptists. Here is another door that God is opening for us.

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