In 1919, Texas Baptists began a ministry for college students. Our first Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) was planted at Texas A&M and UT, but soon included most of the major campuses in Texas. God has done so much in these past 101 years within Texas BSM, so we have a lot to celebrate! While our methods of ministry have changed with the times, our model of funding (until recently) has not. The path from a traditional model of funding into a support-based model has not been easy, but because of our embrace of support raising, we are better equipped to engage college students to follow Christ and to transform the world.
For most of our existence, Texas BSM was funded exclusively by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. BSM did some fundraising for specific BSM missions, but salaries were generally covered by the Convention. However, in the past five years, church giving to the convention declined at the same time that Texas BSM began to grow. You don’t need an accounting degree to see the problem. We needed to hire more staff and didn’t have the means to do it. We needed to do something different—and fast.
We explored a lot of options in order to fulfill the vision God had given us. Finding big givers and grant writing helped, but these half measures weren’t going to be a long-term solution. It wasn’t until we attended the Support Raising Leaders Conference in Florida in 2018 that we felt a solution was attainable. If we could have our new hires support-raise their own salaries, then we would be able to financially answer the calling God has put on BSM. As we began walking on the path towards support-raising, the problem of finances was easing. However, so much of our culture up until this point screamed budget-driven, and we were still figuring things out.
Our transformation from a budget-driven culture to a vision-driven culture, both in finances and in our ministry mindset, is due to one reason: massive buy-in from leadership with openness to change everything. Other Baptist state conventions like to ask how we moved from a convention-based giving system to one that is dependent on a support-raised staff. I, personally, think they believe that if they hire the right person or give enough program budget, then boom, you got yourself a ministry that is financially sound. However, the cost is far greater. It’s such a cost that it’s hard for me to expect other organizations to do the same.
So, here’s the price we paid to change everything so that we can continue to bring Christ to Texas campuses:
- One retiring executive director who devoted his last few months towards starting a brand new culture.
- One incoming executive director who promotes support-raising every chance he gets.
- One associate director at Tarleton State who chooses to sacrifice time to lead and facilitate Bootcamps.
- Multiple administration staff whose job responsibilities permanently changed in order to facilitate multiple staff who support-raise.
- 40-50 campus directors not only accepting but completely buying into the new model.
- One full-time staff member dedicated to support-raising.
- A willingness to support-raise in a convention that doesn’t.
- An openness to change identity.
- Financial sacrifice to get the right MPD software, administration costs, etc.
- Not just buy-in from leadership, but real courage and vision.
- Staff leaving the ministry due to the changes.
- Prayer. Lots of prayer.
This happened because God acted within these changes. It has been a highlight of my life to see these acts of God happen in the small moments of day-to-day life. It’s my belief if your organization has a conviction of the Spirit to move into support-raising and you pay this price, you can build a healthy support-raising organization. The obvious payoff is a financially stable ministry. What I wasn’t prepared for was the benefits that you receive in a support-raising culture that aren’t so obvious.
James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” I’ve always used that as an encouragement to ask God for things that I normally would not ask. However, I think an inverse reading of that text could be, “don’t be surprised when God gives you what you ask.” To date, we have 53 missionaries on campus who are raising support and we are planning on hiring at least 18 more in July. We would not have these staff or their work to share the gospel without the benefit of support-raising. On top of that, we as an organization are supported by more than 1,500 financial partners from these support-raisers. Could we do what we do without that partnership? Even if we could “press the button” and be instantly fully-funded, could we do what we do without that prayer network?
For me, the truly massive benefit of our shift came in a conversation with Reagan Reid. Reagan was a support-raising staff member at UT-Arlington but was later hired to be a director at a different campus at Tyler Junior College. This position was supported by the convention, so Reagan no longer had to raise support. Great news, right?! Not so, according to Reagan. The first conversation I had with Reagan after he was promoted was, “Can I still raise my salary?” Reagan got what true partnership means. And he’s not the only one.
Our executive director, Mark Jones, likes to quote his old pastor, Paul Powell. While pastoring Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX, Dr. Powell often said, “You either have growin’ pains or dyin’ pains.” From where we are, we still have a lot of growin’ pains to look forward to. And whether we feel the growth or the pain, we are thankful that God is with us in every organizational change and every ask. I am so thankful that I get to see the work of God be done on campus by the harvest workers.
This article is submitted by Jessica Wood of Support Raising Solutions. Support Raising Solutions is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.