Lifeway is an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention that funds all of its ministries from the sales of literature and services. Due to the Covid19 pandemic, Lifeway began to see consecutive weeks of steep revenue decline in March. As a result, Lifeway announced plans for budget cuts of $25-30 million including spending freezes and staff layoffs. They have also announced the cancellation of many events and camps, including BeachReach and Collegiate Week at Falls Creek in Oklahoma and that they will no longer host them in the future.
Lifeway has indicated they will "continue to serve churches in ministering to college and university students by providing ongoing Sunday School curriculum and short term Bible studies."
The task of leading and serving college ministry was assigned to Lifeway by a vote of the Southern Baptist Convention around 1970 . At one point, the National Collegiate Ministry office at Lifeway had a staff of 15-20 full time staffers with consultants in many different roles. As changes developed over the years, the National Student Directors Association (an organization of the College Ministry Leaders of each Baptist State Convention) began to fund some initiatives and hired a part time contract worker to coordinate the work of several volunteer committees to do what had previously been done by the much larger staff at Lifeway. Their purpose was to fill the void left by the loss of these college ministry staffers.
When Bill Noe was notified of the upcoming loss of his position, he and Lifeway officials began discussions with the officers of the National Student Directors Association about how they might pick up some of the overall direction and services previously provided by Bill and four part time contract workers that had served with him. The contract workers positions were terminated by Lifeway at the end of April.
The Collegiate Ministries Summit has been a once every three year event sponsored by Lifeway and it had previously been announced for May 5-7, 2021 in Nashville. Lifeway has indicated that event will still be held and that Bill Noe will be employed as a part time contract worker to make it happen as planned.
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS AS COLLEGE MINISTERS HAVE HEARD THE NEWS:
-One common question has been, does providing young adult Sunday School and other short term Bible study materials fulfill the assignment given to Lifeway by a vote of the Southern Baptist Convention?
-A few years back some had asked whether the role of college ministry should be assigned to the North American Mission Board. But, their focus has been on planting campus based church plants. How would that work with promoting and benefiting the work of the 600 plus BCM/BSM/BSU ministries?
-Should the contract worker position provided by the National Student Directors Association be upgraded to a full time position? Weaver McCrackin currently serves in that role. And, is there money available to do that? There is some discussion that they will hire an additional part time contract worker to do social media, maintain collegeministry.com, etc.
-New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has been a major supporter of college ministry and two years ago announced plans to endow a Collegiate Ministry Chair. Would they be interested in possibly hosting a college ministry office and position at the seminary and/or possibly tying it to the Collegiate Ministry Chair?
-When there is a question about college ministry, who at Lifeway is the contact person about college ministry?
-One idea that has circulated in recent years has been, should the College Ministry position be assigned to the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention rather than just one agency? Would this be possible now?
My point in sharing this is for information and to help us as the college ministry family in charting the best way forward. As young adults continue to walk away from faith and church, the college campus must be one of our prime mission points. As resources change, how do we do this best?
Arliss Dickerson is a college ministry coach, blogger, and author. His new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com. Type in his name or the title.