Calling Out the Called: Equipping College Students for Vocational Ministry through BCM

Since its inception, Baptist Campus Ministries, or Baptist Student Union as it was known in 1920, placed and continues to place an emphasis on equipping students for vocational ministry. The founding rationale for BSU/BCM was “The winning of others to Christ and his church; the enlistment of Christians in Bible and Mission Study; the training of individuals in the practice of Stewardship and Service as taught in the New Testament; the calling out the called for special service, and the utilizing of Christian workers in denominational activity.”[1]

We initiated a “Vocational Minister’s Roundtable” at the BCM at UAB in 2014 to help aid us in “calling out the called for special service”. The concept is fairly simple. In addition to the ongoing discipleship these students are involved in, three to four times each year students who are called to vocational ministry meet for a meal. A pastor or other minister is invited to join us for dinner which includes a two to three hours long discussion about vocational ministry. The students benefit from listening to pastors and others as they give practical insights into the opportunities and challenges of vocational ministry. There is also a “Question and Answer” time which allows students to inquire about specific concerns they may have as they begin the journey of vocational ministry.

In addition to this time with experienced ministers we also equip students in the proclamation aspect of vocational ministry. Each Spring we invite junior and senior students called to ministry to speak at one of our weekly worship services, “ABLAZE”. The students agree to meet with me to discuss the passage of scripture they are going to use as the text for their message. The students are guided on how to develop a sermon outline from Scripture and how to effectively use illustrations in their message; a “preaching lab” if you will. Within a few days after a student speaks, the student meets with the campus ministers for feedback, evaluation, encouragement and pointers on how to be a more effective communicator. Some of the most impactful messages in our ministry are delivered by these students.

The last avenue of equipping I will mention is to attempt to give students practical experience in a local church. This sometimes comes through helping place students as part-time student ministers or children’s ministers. Other times, when I am called to fill the pulpit at a church and I already have a commitment, I recommend a student to be the guest preacher. Students also help with Disciple-Now weekends at local churches among other places of service.

There is no magic elixir or one perfect way to equip college students for vocational ministry. It does take focused effort. The ways students have been equipped for ministry has varied during the first century of BCM work on college campuses. It will continue to change. I am certain, however, that as we move into our second century of Baptist ministry on college campuses we will continue the founding principle of “calling out the called for special service”.
   [1] Joseph P. Boone, It Came to Pass: The Birth, Growth, and Evaluation of The Baptist Student Union and The Baptist Chairs of Bible (Ann Arbor, MI: Edward Bothers, Inc., 1953), 18.

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