The students of Francis Marion University’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry have a message for their school: “God belongs on my campus.”
What started as a small group’s outreach effort several years ago has turned into an event-based experience open to all who are part of Francis Marion’s diverse student population.
“It’s a strong statement to say, ‘God belongs here.’ But we believe God belongs in the biology department, on the sports teams, in the honors college, and in every aspect of what we do on campus,” said BCM director Kendal Danford. “Wherever people are, that’s where we belong.”
A few years ago, a Francis Marion student captured the message from a Christian rap song that told the story of young people who proclaimed that God belonged in the midst of their hometown. The student challenged his Bible study group, saying they could do the same at Francis Marion. The idea took off. The group printed the phrase “God belongs on my campus” on hoodies and began wearing them.
Others in BCM joined the movement, and Danford ordered t-shirts with the phrase. Students wore the shirts as they prayer-walked the campus and the city of Florence and while they worked in a homeless shelter and served in the local chapter of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Danford said people began to ask questions, and they decided they could do more with the message.
BCM held its first “God Belongs on My Campus” event in the fall of 2016. A second event was held on Jan. 23. Danford estimates close to 300 people attended.
“It was the most diverse group of people worshipping together,” he said, “and we want to carry that on campus. We want to reach our whole campus … so that they can lift up Jesus’ name, too.”
Not everyone has embraced the “God belongs on my campus” message. BCM students report being challenged by professors and other students. Danford said those encounters are opportunities to engage people in gospel conversations.
“No t-shirt can lead a person to Jesus, but it can start a conversation that leads to the Spirit moving in a person’s life,” said Danford. “We are challenging students to not just wear the t-shirt, but to live out the gospel in words and actions and in how they treat people.”
Ken Owens, director of collegiate ministry for the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said the Francis Marion emphasis represents a bold declaration that God is worthy of worship and devotion, including on a college campus.
“It was so moving to see a diverse group of students gathering together to worship the Lord and to declare their desire to serve Him,” said Owens. “I am so grateful that BCM is taking the lead in bringing unity around the gospel on campus.”
— Julia Bell writes for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.