New partnership stirs excitement around ASU ministry
    August 12 2013 by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor

    The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) will partner with a network of churches in the Western part of the state in an effort to strengthen campus ministry at Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone.
     
    The three-year agreement comes a few months after the BSC rolled out a new structure and strategy to impact lostness throughout the state. The BSC’s strategy includes an effort to increase campus ministry across the state by equipping churches and associations to impact more colleges and students for Christ.
     
    “This is the first group that has stepped up to the plate,” said Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSC’s executive director-treasurer. “This is a group of churches that [is] taking responsibility to say, … ‘We’re going to work to provide a ministry on the campus of Appalachian State University.’”
     
    Led by the Three Forks Baptist Association (TFBA) in Boone, a network of churches are working to create a self-sustaining non-profit organization that will support and guide campus ministry at ASU.
     
    The BSC’s partnership funding and new structure and strategy will officially launch Jan. 1, 2014.
     
    Some churches and associations, including those with TFBA, voiced concerns earlier this year when BSC’s leadership announced plans to no longer fund full-time campus ministers.
    08-12-13campus.jpg

    ASU photo
    With the Appalachian Mountains as a backdrop to its campus, Appalachian State University attracts students from all over the world, not just North Carolina. A new partnership will allow Baptist churches and the local association to work together to reach students on the campus.

     
    In addition to ASU, the BSC’s decision directly impacted eight campuses in the state. Those other campuses include: East Carolina University, Greenville; North Carolina State University, Raleigh; University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill; UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Pembroke, and Western Carolina University, Cullowhee.
     
    BSC leadership contended its purpose is to expand, not limit, the reach of campus ministry across the state.
     
    “I want to reach more students,” Hollifield told the BSC’s Board of Directors when they affirmed the strategy in May. “I want to keep the students connected to the churches.”
     
    That’s a challenge Seth Norris, pastor of Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone, said he can support. This fall, the church is expecting about 30 ASU students to return to the congregation. Many of the students lead a tutoring program for at-risk middle school students.
     
    “This is our Jerusalem,” said Norris, who pointed out that ASU has a slightly larger student population at about 17,000 than the town of Boone. “I look up and I see the signs for our university right in front of us. ... If we deny that, my question is ‘are we being faithful to the Great Commission?’”
     
    Norris will help lead the new campus ministry partnership involving BSC and area churches. He is the chair of a task force that was formed by TFBA to create a non-profit organization that will rally support for ASU campus ministry.
     
    Questions still remain on the details of the partnership. For now, the network plans to use funding received from BSC’s partnership agreement to help support a part-time campus ministry position through at least the 2014 spring semester.
     
    By the end of the three-year partnership, the non-profit will be expected to be fully self-sustaining.
     
    The non-profit will not be a ministry of the association, said Barry Nealy, TFBA’s director of missions. To avoid “turfism,” he said the non-profit will need to consist of representatives from associations and churches beyond TFBA. “If [TFBA] leads this ministry then other associations and churches may feel that it’s our territory, and they’re not invited to the party,” said Nealy, who is on the task force.
     
    “And that may minimize the funding that [the non-profit organization] need[s]. … It would be very difficult to do this … unless we get some funds beyond our borders.”
     
    “It’s a lot of work,” added Norris. “[But]… I’ve never seen our churches unite in the short time I’ve been in our association around anything like this before. It’s been just powerful to watch.”
     
    Both Norris and Nealy admit they were initially troubled by the BSC’s new approach to campus ministry.
    After the BSC’s Executive Committee approved the new strategy in April, the TFBA sent a letter to BSC leadership. The letter voiced concerns about losing their full-time campus minister Jonathan Yarboro.
     
    Yarboro had led the campus ministry from a handful of students in 2006 to later filling a chapel on campus with more than 200 students. Many of those students have become actively involved in missions, and the ministry has partnerships with at least 13 churches in the area.
     
    “When I first heard about [the new strategy], I was a skeptic,” Norris said. “We’ve seen so many beautiful things happening through campus ministry, so when I hear that the most visible work of the state convention in our area is having its funding removed, obviously I became a skeptic, initially. …[But] it’s becoming real and so my skepticism is now turning into encouragement.”
     
    “There was a disappointment there,” added Nealy. “We just felt like this was an exceptional [ministry].”
     
    “Maybe God has a better plan,” he said. “That kind of helped me turn the corner, recognize that this didn’t have to be negative, unless we all wanted to make it negative.”
     
    Since then, Yarboro has accepted a position under the new strategy as the western region consultant for BSC’s new Collegiate Partnerships team. His duties as a consultant began Aug. 1.
     
    In addition to consulting on campus ministry at ASU, Yarboro’s role has expanded to helping other campuses throughout the western part of the state.
     
    Since Yarboro began his new duties, Mike Puckett, a former ASU campus ministry intern, has accepted a part-time, interim campus ministry position at ASU.
     
    For now Yarboro, a third member of the task force, remains optimistic about the future of campus ministry.
     
    “The excitement over what’s gonna happen … is building,” he said. “There are a lot of ways that we don’t know what the specifics are going to look like, but I think we can partner together to make things even better than what they have been.”
     
    “We’re hoping that … Appalachian will become contagious [and] breathe some hope into some other areas.”
     
    For more information contact Yarboro at (828) 264-7641, or jyarboro@ncbaptist.org.
    8/12/2013 2:59:41 PM by Shawn Hendricks, BR Managing Editor | with 0 comments




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