Church's college-age crowd roll to New Mexico each year
GLORIETA, N.M.(BP)--Since 1995, students from Shadow Hills Baptist Church in Las Vegas get rolling every August -- on a bus to New Mexico.
In 1995, Shadow Hills sent its first group of seven students to the annual Collegiate Week at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center. This year, they brought "95, counting the bus drivers," said Daniel Cassels, a student leader from the Nevada church. "We are the largest group here."
Cassels said about three-fourths of the Shadow Hills group are college students and one-fourth have careers but are of similar ages. About 40 percent received scholarship help from the church to attend, said Shadow Hills college/career minister Tim Robinson.
"I went to the church business manager and said we'd like the church to provide scholarships of $275 each for those who needed it. We didn't want the lack of money to stop anyone from coming," Robinson said. Church members donated money, the Nevada Baptist Convention contributed and LifeWay's National Collegiate Ministry department also helped with the fees.
"One church family gave $550, enough for two scholarships because their daughter had come on scholarship one year and had benefited so much," Robinson said.
The promotion for the 2001 Collegiate Week started as soon as the group returned from the 2000 event. "As soon as we got back, we had people giving testimonies about what the week had meant," said Cassels. Then in January, the church began heavily promoting Collegiate Week.
"I told them to invite their friends, to bring anyone who wanted to come whether or not they went to church anywhere," said Robinson. As a result, about 20 percent of the ones who came are completely unchurched.
Robinson has been the part-time college/career minister at the church since January. However, he is no stranger to collegiate ministry.
He was actively involved in campus ministry when he was a student at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, including service as state Baptist Student Union president. Then, following seminary, he worked in collegiate ministry in Louisiana until moving to Nevada two years ago.
He characterized the Las Vegas students as "intellectually honest. They are truly examining their beliefs. You have to be sharp and prepared for them. More than once I've had to tell someone, 'I'll have to study that and get back to you next week.'"
As a result, Robinson said, there aren't many decisions for Christ made that haven't been seriously considered first. "This makes for a new Christian who is on fire and ready to do whatever is necessary. They aren't casual Christians."
Robinson said the college/career ministry groups at Shadow Hills meet at three different times during the week.
"There is a Wednesday night Bible study at my home that my wife and I host. This draws one crowd," he said.
Then there is a Saturday night service that attracts another group. The Sunday morning service attracts yet others, Robinson said.
"It is sort of like having three different college/career groups," he said. "We all get together for fellowships. For some of the students, it's the only time they will all see each other."
One Saturday night a month the department hosts what it calls Koinonia night when all the groups get together for fellowship.
"This isn't a time of preaching or study," Cassels said, "just fellowship and outreach. Everyone brings unchurched friends and we just have a great time."
Sunday school focuses on Bible study, Cassels said, recounting a profession of faith that took place in a class.
"There was one girl who came to church a lot, and she said she believed in God. But after seeing the prayer of salvation in the Sunday school book, she realized she had never prayed that prayer. So right there in Sunday school, she became a Christian. It was so awesome!" he said.
Robinson said he started teaching MasterLife, a discipleship study published by LifeWay, after students said they wanted more in-depth study.
"They said they wanted to study doctrine and apologetics. They want to be able to ask the questions that are bothering them, as well as to be able to answer the questions their friends are asking them," he said.
Robinson said ministering in Las Vegas is challenging, yet rewarding. "People in Las Vegas are open to listen to what you have to say, whatever it is. But they are slow to make a decision. They really ponder what they hear. But once they do decide to become Christians, they are sold."
About 2,000 people attended the Aug. 4-10 Collegiate Week event sponsored by LifeWay's National Collegiate Ministry Department. The next Collegiate Week at Glorieta will be Aug. 3-9, 2002.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: STUDENT MINISTRY VETERAN, FROM 7 TO 95, and NOT EXACTLY 'N SYNC.