This month thousands of students will walk onto sun-drenched and moss-covered pathways of Florida’s college campuses for the first-time searching for a place to belong. Their footsteps are the first of a journey that will mold and shape their lives for a lifetime.
Through the Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) students can find these essentials, as well as options for spiritual growth, discipleship and opportunities to partner with a local church.
Involvement in BCM can ease the transition of students from high school to college life, said Lance Beauchamp, BCM director at Florida State University.
“It is important for students to find a place where they find others who are like-minded on a college campus and something that keeps them motivated to look beyond themselves,” he said.
Unlike many Christian organizations on campus, Florida’s BCM directors encourage students to get involved in local churches for additional spiritual guidance. They work with local student ministers and pastors to engage students in both locations.
Ricky Lindsey, minister of students at First Baptist Church in Plant City, said one of his goals is to “build a bridge between the church and the campus ministry” of their Tampa-area schools to “extend beyond our church walls.”
Matt Seitz, college minister at North Central Baptist Church in Gainesville, partners with the University of Florida campus ministry to impact the lives of students. “If you are a church in a college town like Gainesville and are not actively involved in the life of BCM, you are ignoring the real reason God allowed you to be there. Not engaging your campus is bad stewardship. BCM is our outreach arm on campus.”
The Jacksonville BCM has collaborated with First Baptist Church of Jacksonville to plant Campus Church, a congregation now thriving on the University of North Florida campus. And Christ Fellowship in Miami has planted a campus ministry at Florida International University.
Baptist Campus Ministries also prepares students for a lifetime of mission service. Each year, hundreds of students will go on mission trips to worldwide locations during their Christmas, spring or summer breaks. Many will feel God’s voice calling them into full-time mission service.
Others like former State Baptist Collegiate President Micah Roden found that their involvement at Florida State University’s BCM prepared them to serve God as a disaster relief volunteer while maintaining a professional career.
According to Billy Young, Florida Baptists’ Next Generation ministry catalyst who supervises collegiate ministry, “Mobilizing college students to go on mission helps instill a focus to live on mission long after the brief college years.”
BCM programs exist on 20 Florida college and university campuses. There are BCM directors on state university campuses, employed staff and volunteers throughout the state. Baptist ministry centers are located on six campuses—Gainesville, Tampa, Miami, Pensacola and two in Tallahassee.
“We have an amazing opportunity through our campus ministries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to close to 90,000 college students,” said Young. “Florida Baptists have a great system in place to help our college students develop a strong foundation in Christ.”
Florida’s collegiate ministry is supported by gifts from Florida Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program.
Below is a listing of BCM directors by area. Contact them to share names of students attending Florida colleges.
Tampa Area – Rahul Agarwal, BCM director
813-988-6487 ~ email@example.com
USF BCM ~ 13110 North 50th St. ~ Tampa, FL 33617
University of South Florida
Hillsborough Community College
State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota
Lakeland Area – Bruce Sabin, BCM director
863-241-7858 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Florida Polytechnic University
Orlando Area – Brad Crawford, BCM director
407-823-5336 ~ email@example.com
University of Central Florida
Jacksonville Area – Barry Sproles, BCM director
904-707-6760 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
University of North Florida
Florida State College
Gainesville Area – Eddie Gilley, BCM director
352-376-4405 ~ email@example.com
UF BCM ~ 1604 W. University Ave. ~ Gainesville, FL 32603
University of Florida
Santa Fe College
Lake Sumter State College
Tallahassee Area – Lance Beauchamp, BCM director
850-222-4444 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
FSU BCM ~ 200 S. Woodward Ave. ~ Tallahassee, FL 32304
Florida State University
Tallahassee Community College
Baptist College of Florida
FAMU, Tallahassee – Joseph Jones, BCM director
850-544-5755 ~ email@example.com
Florida A&M University (FAMU)
UM, Miami Area – Matt Wofford, BCM director
305-284-6083 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
UM BCM ~ 1200 Stanford Drive ~ Coral Gables, FL 33146
University of Miami
FIU, Miami Area – Gus Hernandez, BCM director
786-205-7347 ~ email@example.com
Florida International University
Miami Dade College
Pensacola Area – Tony Olesky, BCM director
850-473-7474 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
UWF BCM ~ 11000 University Parkway ~ Pensacola, FL 32514
University of West Florida
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.