Located in Cookeville, Tennessee, Tennessee Technological University is a regional university with a strong emphasis in engineering. The campus primarily enrolls students from Tennessee, however, there is a significant population of students enrolled from other countries. With a good balance of students from both urban and rural settings, TTU’s campus is appealing because of its welcoming environment, nurturing culture, and effective yet practical academic approach to preparing students for careers (the median job income out of college is second in the state next to Vanderbilt). Cookeville is a medium-sized, friendly city, and TTU’s campus life vibe is very traditional, which the students also enjoy.
This campus ministry spotlight features the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at TTU, known as TN Tech BCM. We asked TTU BCM’s collegiate ministry specialist Ben Maddox to share some of the highlights, challenges, and opportunities involved with his ministry role to the students at TTU. Here’s what Ben had to say, as well as some ways you can pray for him, TN Tech BCM, and the students of Tennessee Tech.
BCMLife: Tell us about your campus ministry and mission.
Ben Maddox: Our weekly schedule consists of a weekly, Tuesday evening worship gathering called Common Ground. This event meets at 8 PM and averages around 200 students. On Thursdays at 11 AM, we host Soul Food, in which a local church provides a meal and a message, drawing around 150-250 students. Also on Thursdays at 7 PM, we host Portico, which are disciple-making community groups for freshmen and transfer students. These groups are led by upperclassmen, and the groups meet in the fall semester to lay a foundation of what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples in college. In the spring semester, these groups transition to Kaleo Communities (see description below). We have 20 upperclassmen who lead 10 family groups with 50-60 transfer students and freshmen involved.
Kaleo Communities place themselves in strategic places to reach other students, based on where they live, play, and study. These groups meet weekly to reflect on the focus passage from Common Ground, based on guided questions that move the students beyond knowing the passage to how are they are to live these truths in faith together and individually. As these groups grow to 8 or more students, the facilitator develops a student within the group. Once each group is in a healthy position with 8 or so students, the groups multiply to gather at another specific people group or mission field to continue the disciple-making process of walking with God together. We currently have 13 groups of 90-100 students.
All in all, we have somewhere around 80 student leaders who lead in some aspect of our ministry. We have close to 400 students involved in the overall life of TN Tech BCM ministry.
When it comes to missions, we take part in disaster relief efforts when possible. This past fall, we took a group to serve in Houston after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation affected numerous communities. During the winter, we will serve in Houston once again. In the spring, we will have students taking part in BeachReach at Panama City Beach in Florida, as well as some students serving with a Re-plant Church in Phoenix, Arizona. During the summer, our students serve with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board’s Collegiate Missions in SendTN missions, which includes mission opportunities in Tennessee, North America, and International opportunities.
BCMLife: What do you sense are the challenges facing today’s college students?
BM: One of the biggest challenges we see is the influence of tolerance and relativity within our students’ Christian community. Because of their deficiencies of not walking intimately with God regularly in Scripture and biblical fellowship that points one another to Jesus, the “voices of the world” tend to have a very subtle influence on their patterns and focus of life leading to a diminished power of the gospel in their lives and selective obedience and convictions to the commands of Jesus Christ.
In addition, we see a huge challenge with students setting and keeping godly priorities in their everyday lives. Students are distracted by technology. They are experiencing greater stress and anxiety levels than previous generations because they are so accessible and over-exposed with today’s technology. Students have a fear of missing out (FOMO) because they are aware of what everyone is doing as they scan social media and forget to live life as God wills for their personal life.
BCMLife: As a college ministry leader, what is the most rewarding part of your role?
BM: There are several rewarding parts of my role. Here are just a few:
- I enjoy watching students walk with God and develop a love for Him.
- I enjoy walking with students as they develop a heart for God and His will for their lives, discover how God has uniquely made them, and develop passions that lead to callings for their lives and careers.
- I enjoy seeing students develop leadership abilities that reflect a biblical view of leadership that will shape how they lead in their careers, families, and current and future churches.
- I love seeing students have a love and genuine concern for other students’ walks with God.
- I love hearing stories of how Christ-followers are loving and engaging the hard to love on their campus.
- I love seeing God develop within the students a heart for the nations and how God is inviting students to be a part of giving up their free time to reach the unreached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
BCMLife: What have been some great opportunities for outreach with your college ministry either on your campus and/or in your community?
BM: We have a group of students who are weekly in our international dorm playing games and having conversations with international students. These students have developed genuine friendships that have led to disciple-making relationships with their international friends. They have weekly times of storying through Scripture and answering their questions about our Christian worldview. This has led to great conversations of planting gospel seeds. Recently, we found out that a Japanese student returned to Japan and then gave her life to Christ.
We have also seen a number of seeker students engage in our Kaleo Communities during the past two years. Our students are reaching students who would not have come to the BCM. We have seen a number of these students come to faith, and we have seen many great gospel conversations take place that are moving the other seekers closer to faith in Christ. We have also seen several groups multiply.
We encourage our Portico and Kaleo Groups to serve their students on campus through acts of kindness. We had one Portico Group make 170 cookies with encouraging notes. They passed them out in two of the dorms where these freshmen lived. We also do Gospel Surveys on campus. This semester, many of our freshmen students participated and allowed us to show them how to do the surveys. Then, it was fun serving with them to complete the surveys with students on campus.