HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. – It’s been more than a year since COVID-19 caused the shutdown of colleges and universities across the nation. In March 2020, students barely back from Spring Break packed up their dorm rooms, moved home and shifted to online classes. College athletes hung up their sneakers and cleats, and graduation ceremonies were canceled.
The ripple effect of the pandemic left college ministers in churches and campus ministries wondering how they would reach the nation’s more than 20 million college students if they weren’t on campus.
But collegiate ministers are resilient and innovative. “If anyone can figure out how to do ministry in the age of COVID-19 it would be collegiate ministers,” said Chad Stillwell, director of collegiate ministries for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
More than 600 ministry leaders from 35 states gathered for the 2021 Collegiate Summit, May 5-7, to celebrate not only how God has transformed the lives of students this past year but what He’s done through 100 years of Southern Baptist cooperative collegiate ministry.
The event, held at First Baptist Hendersonville, Tennessee, was peppered with interviews of ministry leaders representing multiple decades of collegiate ministry going back to the 1940s. Each spoke of the changes they’ve seen in ministry since their days as students to today.
“One thing that doesn’t change is the gospel,” said Meghan Berry, who serves at MERCYHouse in Amherst, Massachusetts. Berry ministers to students attending Smith College and Mount Holyoke College.
“The last year and a half has been incredibly challenging,” Berry said. “But God told me to remain faithful.” She shared that seven students had been baptized at a recent baptism weekend, many of them a result of ministry during the pandemic. “Be faithful with little, and God will trust you with much.”
Ministering in the age of COVID-19 was a theme that ran through the summit. The past year looked strangely different from years past. From online small groups to virtual meet ups, collegiate ministers found creative ways to reach and disciple students in a time of COVID.
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