Camps and Coffee: Using Summers to Meet Students and Youth Leaders

Brandon Brister
College students gather in front of cars to pose for a picture

Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) in Oklahoma continues to grow because of the relationship we have developed with Oklahoma Youth Ministry leaders. Our ministry partnership continues to produce a clear path forward for high school grads looking to connect with BCMs in Oklahoma and beyond. This partnership has grown significantly in the past 20 years and has created lots of amazing connections.

After 12 years serving the local church in youth ministry roles, I became the BCM director at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. I loved working with college students, but I began to realize that most of the youth ministers I knew did not have a relationship with the BCM leaders on our campuses across the state. As a result, many of the students graduating from our SBC youth ministries had never heard of BCM and did not know that BCM is their church’s ministry on the college campus they attend.  In the end, BCM became just one of many organizations trying to connect with them during the first few weeks of freshman year and in many cases those initial weeks passed without connection.

Today, most of the 3000 graduates who attend a Baptist summer camp in Oklahoma are introduced to BCM and meet, in person, students and staff from the BCM on their campus. The impact has been incredible. Many of these make great connections with BCM before they get to campus and immediately join in the work to reach out to other students. Some of our campuses meet 10-20 students each year, but others meet 150-300. Many of these students become our leadership students during college and go on to be missionaries, pastors, and community leaders across Oklahoma and around the world. 

How did this happen?

Opportunities are forged through trust over time. In Oklahoma there are different groups of leaders guiding our camps. Falls Creek and Super Summer are our largest camps, but we also work with associational camps as well.  Falls Creek is our state-wide youth camp run by Oklahoma Baptists youth ministry team, Super Summer Oklahoma (SSO) is a Leadership Camp that is owned and operated by Local Church Youth Pastors, while our associational camps are run by local associations and churches.

Our state BCM team recognizes that the camp leaders are under no obligation to give us an opportunity to be part of their camps. This perspective causes us to approach them humbly, as potential partners rather than thinking we are entitled to anything. In each case, our state BCM leadership and our local campus leaders have served these camps faithfully for years. These faithful actions, over time, have developed a high level of trust and subsequently incredible opportunity at each of these camps. 

Our state office started by allocating money to provide student outreach teams to the camps. We also found ways to provide for specific needs like lanyards for Super Summer with BCM branding or a late-night entertainment option a few nights of the camp week for students to enjoy as we promoted BCM…we hosted concerts and watched the OKC Thunder playoff games outside on giant screens. BCM leaders have driven tens of thousands of miles to camps for picnics with grads or a late-night mixer with inflatables and food because they want to meet students. We did all these things for years, and eventually they invited us to be an ongoing part of the team for graduates at these camps. 

At Super Summer we were invited to help with curriculum and allowed to arrange campers by the campus they would attend in the fall to help them connect with other students they would see in college…in many cases these “family groups” were led by BCM student leaders from the campus they would be attending.

At Falls Creek, we were invited to create a teaching experience for graduates and were given valuable time in the schedule. Each year we work to present a high quality and meaningful experience for graduates that will help them as they prepare for the Next Chapter of their life, and each year the Falls Creek leaders add opportunities for students to connect with BCM.

The other relationship we all need is with the youth leaders in our local area. We want these local partners to know that BCM is their ministry. We are partners. As partners we need to know each other, pray for each other, and serve each other. Ask the youth leaders you know if there is a regular youth ministry leaders’ lunch in your area and if so, join them and get to know them. If not, get one started or meet up with them for coffee. Listen for ways you can pray for them and how you and your students can serve them. Be faithful. Opportunities are forged through trust over time.

Brandon Brister is the Director of the BCM at the University of Tulsa. You can follow the ministry on IG @tulsabcm.

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