Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Major Change in Southern Baptists' National College Ministry

Bill Noe, who serves as Southern Baptists' National Collegiate Ministry Leader, has been notified by Lifeway Christian Resources that his position will end July 15th.

 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.


-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, 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  Type in his name or the title.


  1. Arliss, thank you for this thorough update. I had received word of Bill's departure early in the week and was disappointed, you can imagine. New times call for new approaches. Thanks for highlighting some possibilities. In the interim, praying for all those who work with college and university students--future leaders all!

    1. Hey, this isn’t about the post. I saw your name. My last name is also File. From Greenville, Illinois. Any connection? You can email me at

  2. Thankfully, state directors a number of years ago, particularly from the Deep South created the Baptist Collegiate Network! At least that group will continue to advocate for Colligiate ministry in all its forms.
    Loosing LifeWay support especially Bill Noe creates a considerable challenge. Unless NAMB makes a radical change in philosophy no help is coming from that direction.

    I think Baptist would be shocked at how little NAMB gives to support BSM/BCM/BSU. I’m thankful for what God is doing in Collegiate Church planting, but that is only a part of Baptist Collegiate Ministry.

    I am convinced God has opened the door for Baptist to reach College Students in North America. However the real question is will Baptist respond or loose the blessing of working in one of the greatest mission fields in North America! Thank you Arliss for continuing to carry the torch! Bruce McGowan

  3. I have long thought our Baptist Collegiate Ministry needs a national organization and national identity separate from Lifeway or NAMB. I think BCNet has the organization, skill set, talent and momentum to maybe further organize a national organization and national leader. We can forge forward with greater vision, greater strategy, and unified effort without the controls of another entity that was not 100% looking out for our interests in collegiate ministry.

  4. Please post this on Baptist Collegiate Ministry Partners Facebook page,

  5. It is not suprising but it is heartbreaking. When an organization gives up on reaching young adults it is a dying organization. SBC needs to read the hand writing in the wall.

  6. Thank you Bruce for what you did for college ministry in Texas, I came out of SHSU under Don Coleman and Rae Wright and worked with BSM in the Northwest for several years. I love what God has done and continues to do in and through BSU/BSM/BCM. I am praying that Southern Baptist will continue to see a great harvest just waiting for workers on the college campuses. Arliss thank you for your love for college students and your continued service over the years.

  7. Lifeway is the Titanic, at one time considered unsinkable. The main difference is they are sinking slower than the Titanic. They've completely brought it all on themselves, pandemic or no pandemic. While I am sorry for those who've lost their jobs over the years - those who truly saw their employment as a calling - I don't have any sympathy for the organization. The new leadership inherited an absolute mess. It'll take a miracle to turn it around.

  8. Thanks for more news, even if sad news. As we have created a grassroots network for baptists is ISM-International Student Ministry, we have had to ask similar questions over the last two decades. Many of us have become self-funded, some through MSC but others not even included in that realm due to NAMB changes. God has brought the nations to our campuses and it has been a delight to help encourage many baptists to touch the nations from here in Boston and across the country. Happy Father's Day to Arliss & all other fathers of children, students, and national movements reaching students. Thanks for prayers especially for we who serve in vastly under-reached and strategic areas of our world.