Collegiate Ministry leaders gather for largest-ever Summit conference

More than 700 Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) leaders from across the United States and Canada gathered May 1-3 for the 2024 Collegiate Summit held near Memphis, Tenn. This was the largest showing for the equipping event that is held every three years and is organized by the Baptist Collegiate Network.

The conference is known for featuring valuable resources, well-known guest speakers, and networking opportunities. This year, leaders from over 400 campuses and church ministries were looking to enhance their ministries that collectively touch more than 55,000 students each week.

One of those leaders was Adam Venters, BCM director at the University of South Carolina, who has attended several Collegiate Summits over the years. Calling it “an incredible time to refresh,” Venters and his ministry team bonded by reflecting on the end of the school year, reimagining ministry, and vision casting.

“One of the highlights for me was attending a super helpful session led by University of Arkansas BCM Director (and event leader) Ryan Scantling on enhancing large groups,” Venters says. “It helped me evaluate our large group gathering and think through some practical steps for using that time to reach more students.”

Jenny Caylor, who serves as campus missionary at Estrella Mountain Community College in Arizona, calls the Collegiate Summit “one of the best opportunities to be encouraged as a college leader because these people get what we do, they care about students, and want to help all of us better reach our campuses.” Caylor also appreciated a breakout session designed just for female leaders, saying “it was incredibly encouraging to be with other women who are doing the same thing. It served as a good reminder at the end of a very busy year that we’re not alone and what we do matters.”

This was Truman Loupe’s third Collegiate Summit as a participant, but the first serving as a breakout leader. The college pastor from Bridgeway Church in Mississippi brought several team members with him and says the time away together was relaxing and educational. “We walked away with big and small ideas that we think will be a benefit for our ministry. I have been personally blessed by former Summit leaders, so being able to help equip other leaders in the breakout this year was truly an awesome experience. I already can’t wait for the next conference,” he says.

Networking is an important aspect of the conference for Venters, who notes campus leaders are “often one of very few in any given area. Most campuses only have a handful of ministries on them, so this gives us much-needed time together and with so many college ministers from a variety of places.” The event provides the space for these leaders to share experiences, insight, and discuss relatable challenges.

The 2024 Summit included guest speakers Bill Elliff, Shane Pruitt, Tom Richter, Zane Pratt, and Paul Worcester. New this year was a micro-conference for large church college ministry leaders with breakout session topics designed to better equip these leaders and to make connections for them moving forward. Austin Davis co-led the topical conversation-based sessions with Bellevue Baptist College Pastor Daniel Harris, of Tennessee.

“We talked about how to have an engaging worship that attracts and disciples, effectively discipling a college ministry as it continues to grow, and explored what an effective campus outreach looks like in today’s culture,” says Davis, who serves as campus pastor at the Starkville campus of Pinelake Church in Mississippi. He estimates close to 30 large churches were represented in the micro-conference, with about 70 total participants.

“The Summit was encouraging in all the right ways and was a growing experience for me and my entire college team. There’s nothing better than being in a room worshipping with 700 college ministers from around the country — all facing the same struggles, moving in the same direction, and wanting to be in college ministry for the long haul,” Davis says.

The next Summit will be held May 5-7, 2027.

— Julia Bell, of Columbia, S.C., is a freelance writer working with The Baptist Collegiate Network, a national network of Southern Baptist collegiate ministries.