Collegiate Week: LifeWay event finds new 'home'

by Chris Doyle/Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, posted Friday, August 10, 2018 (10 days ago)

DAVIS, Okla. (BP) -- Bill Noe kept using the word "home."

Van Simmons, student strategist for the International Mission Board, was one of the many collegiate experts who led breakout sessions at Collegiate Week.
Photo by Chris Doyle
Apparently, it was the best word to describe Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, which hosted Collegiate Week, Aug. 5-9, an annual event sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. As LifeWay's national collegiate ministry specialist, Noe serves as Collegiate Week's program director.

"As I started talking to Falls Creek leadership, it became increasingly apparent that this probably could work out, and it would be a great home," Noe said when asked about the process of moving Collegiate Week, which had a long history of meeting at Glorieta Conference Center in Glorieta, N.M. "Just every conversation, every visit, every step along the way made it more and more obvious that (Falls Creek) would be the perfect home for Collegiate Week."

Noe's programming team had been exploring other possible locations that would allow them to use all of the venue for Collegiate Week's traditional meeting time in early August.

"We realized there aren't a lot of places big enough to handle a camp like this," Noe said. "And that limited the pool, unless we wanted to go to a college campus, and the timing of the year makes that rough."

Ben Stuart, pastor of Washington, D.C., Passion City, was one of the three Collegiate Week's key speakers.
Photo by Chris Doyle
Noe said Falls Creek was always on his team's radar, especially with Collegiate Week drawing many students from Oklahoma schools. Though there were some initial hesitancies since many were unaware of the recent campus improvements and new facilities, such as the Mathena Family Event Center and Centennial Plaza.

"It has been overwhelmingly positive, just people's excitement about these facilities, about this staff," Noe said. "The staff here are incredible, so responsive and helpful, and it's just obvious they want us here and value the ministry of Collegiate Week and believe in college students and how God can use them to take the Gospel to the world. We share that same heart with Falls Creek which is what makes this a great home for us."

Attendance is also up from last year, as Noe said about 500 more students attended Collegiate Week this year. Average Collegiate Week attendance over the past few years has been around 1,200-1,300 students. Noe said, counting college ministry leaders and their families, this year's Collegiate Week drew nearly 2,000 in total attendance.

Collegiate Week, Noe noted, continues to be one of the most important events of the year for college ministries. The event serves as a time of encouragement and spiritual renewal before the school year begins.

Collegiate Week participants spend time in prayer groups in the Mathena Family Event Center, one of Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center's newest facilities.
Photo by Chris Forbes
"All of these folks are about to leave here and go straight into the busiest ministry season of the year," he said, "straight into Welcome Week and straight into students coming back to their campuses. What Collegiate Week helps us do is provide student leaders an opportunity to train them up, pour into them and get them ready to be launched out onto their campuses to minster with the Gospel."

This year's Collegiate Week featured three key speakers. Ben Stuart is pastor of Washington, D.C., Passion City. He previously served as executive director of Breakaway Ministries, a weekly Bible study on the campus of Texas A&M University, which thousands of college students attend. David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, was another speaker. And Jonathan "JP" Pokluda brought the event's final message. He is the pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas, and leader of The Porch, an influential young adult gathering that has equipped thousands to "live out their faith on mission."

Speaking about the three Collegiate Week speakers, Noe said, "They are phenomenal communicators who have a lot of experience communicating directly to college audiences."

Passion City Worship, led by Jeff and Jourdan Johnson, served as the worship leaders of Collegiate Week.

Breakout sessions were also a major part of Collegiate Week programming. Noe said nearly 70 breakouts were offered throughout Collegiate Week, covering topics such as "Dealing with Doubt," "How Do I Know What God Wants Me to Do?" "Purity is Possible," "Grace and Truth for LGBT Topics," "The Practice of Gospel-Centered Dating" and "How to Share the Gospel with People of Other Faiths."

"One thing that has blown me away this week is hearing breakout leader after breakout leader say, 'My room was packed. We had 200 people,'" Noe said. "It is just evident that this generation of college students want to be prepared and to be poured into to be able to take the Gospel back to their campuses."

Chris Doyle is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
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