Campus Ministers Express Concern Over Decreased Funding

( [email protected] ) Oct 10, 2003 10:07 AM EDT

If the declining pattern in funding for Baptist collegiate ministries continues, campus ministers warn, the ministries could become the work of interested individuals rather than that of churches.

Following the decrease in the budgets of national and state conventions and of churches, financial support for Baptist collegiate ministries has plummeted to an all time low.

Experts point to interdenominational struggles as another reason for the demise of campus support; in particular, states with two rival Baptist conventions show a strong pattern of decreased funding.

When churches pull out of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, for instance, they pull funding from the college ministries affiliated with the convention unless church funds are designated especially for those outreaches.

"Statewide, it's a tough time," reported Darrell Cook, director of the Virginia Tech Baptist Student Union. "Watching different resources, we see we won't be able to do as much here."

Ministers also argue that the lack of funding comes from churches discounting student ministries that already receive support from State and national conventions.

"Sometimes churches defund the BGCT, and that affects us," said Joel Bratcher, the director of the Texas A&M Baptist Student Ministry. "Sometimes they give directly to the BSM, sometimes they don't."

In lieu of the decreased funds, campus ministers have had to examine their programming in terms of long-range effects.

"We have had to ask ourselves why we are on campus and what would Texas Baptists support," said Bruce McGowan, director of BGCT Center for Collegiate Ministries. "It has helped us ask what do we need, what do we do, and get creative."

Some re-adjustments include cutting staff positions and hours; currently, there are 886 Baptist collegiate ministries led by 512 full-time directors, 170 part-time directors and 160 volunteer directors. In many cases, only one staff member gets paid. As a result, college ministries have become overwhelmingly dependent on volunteers.

"There's a mentality the Cooperative Program is bottomless and covers everything," said Eric Black, a volunteer at the University of New Mexico a Albuquerque. "… Money only goes so far. People are floored we are not supported by the Cooperative Program."

"We have always called ourselves a ministry of the churches," said Arliss Dickerson, director of Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Arkansas State University. "More and more we are becoming a ministry of interested individuals."

In some cases, the individual support come alumni "Our alums have done a great job filling those gaps and serving those needs," Cook said.

In Texas, the BGCT has been able to stave off budget cuts at the state's largest campuses, but funding cuts have impacted some smaller campuses. Some positions were eliminated or reduced. Several ministries were combined to one regional effort. Associations now pay part of the salaries on six campuses.