For many years members of the Flint-Bristolwood Congregation in Michigan watched as Baker College next door grew until it touched their property. Today, the campus surrounds the church, presenting a unique outreach opportunity.
The congregation, which recently finished its fourth season of college ministry, has created a wonderful community with the Baker students. It offers a safe environment for young people who are away from home for the first time. Two programs define the campus outreach.
The Beats & Eats program on Sunday nights offers free food, games, and group events for resident students. Congregation volunteers cook the dinners and oversee activities. Members also donate mounds of cookies.
The InBetween Café in the church’s lower level is a hangout for students between classes during the week from 1:00–10:00 p.m. Besides the student café, the site features a video gaming room and a computer lab. Students can drop in to unwind, chat, or study. Tutoring also is available.
Events include video gaming tournaments, a Valentine’s dance, pumpkin-carving contest, a night for music and poetry, a Fear Factor contest, concerts, and more. Friday brings Big Movie Night. Student volunteers largely run the program.
It draws students from all walks. Most have some Christian background; others are not familiar with faith. A big challenge leaders must overcome is a mistrust of organized religion.
The program grows by giving unconditionally, creating relationships with each student. This happens over time by listening, helping, and encouraging the good unique to each one.
Gradually, a sense of community has formed with students and staff. Students respond by taking leadership positions, managing the InBetween Café, updating the Facebook page, creating a website, packing food for the Kids Weekend Lunch Program, hosting a community pig roast, tutoring, and countless other ways.
Many students have testified at Sunday services. The potential for good works in this age group is endless and exciting. This vision of being part of God’s family will go wherever they go. In sharing with others we share God’s love, experiencing community in Christ.