From The Alabama Baptist

Everyone’s got a story — if someone will just listen.

That’s the idea behind the Campus Story Project, an outreach effort that starts with a tent in which something like coffee, donuts or bottled water are offered, and a sign that says, “What’s your story?”

A team from Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) and Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile took that project on the road to campuses all over the state during spring break at the end of February.

They partnered with BCMs at five other college campuses and taught them how to share their testimonies so they could stand at the tent and ask that simple question as students passed by, said Beth Gardner, campus minister at Metro Mobile Baptist Campus Ministries.

“Really, it was all about us taking the time to listen,” she said.

As students passed, BCM members would engage them in conversation and ask if they would share a personal story about the most incredible thing they ever experienced, a personal transformation, someone who influenced them or a major life change or transition.

Then, Gardner said, they would listen well.

Earning the right to share

“I think the key is listening to people” she explained, “that’s just so important — to listen to them first and earn that right to share with them.”

As the conversation moved on, the BCM students would ask if they could share a story of their own — and depending on which kind of story the student told, they would share how Jesus was the most incredible thing they’d ever experienced, how He had transformed them, how He had influenced them or how He had given them a changed life. Then they would share the gospel.

Metro Mobile campus minister Jerrod Brown said he believes the Campus Story Project is “so worthwhile and beneficial to the students sharing Jesus because it puts them in a setting to naturally talk about Jesus and develop those skills.

“What they learn and practice transfers easily into their personal lives,” he added. “The project is a great connection to students sharing personally [afterward].”

Brown said it is built around simple actions that connect with people — caring for them, inviting their stories, putting others first, listening well and sharing Jesus boldly.

“We developed this project because we discovered people who would be open to conversations about life and faith if Christians will simply be loving and invite them into the conversation,” Brown explained.

On the road

During the week, the team led by Brown and Gardner — which included a handful of Mobile-area college students and Jeremy Montgomery, student pastor at Dauphin Way Baptist, and some of the students from his college ministry — drove more than 1,200 miles, taking the project around the state.

On Sunday, they led an evangelism training event for students at Auburn University at Montgomery, Tuskegee University and Alabama State University (ASU). On Monday, they were at Troy University; Tuesday at Jacksonville State University; Wednesday at the University of Alabama at Huntsville; Thursday at the University of North Alabama; and Friday at the University of Alabama.

Gardner said it was a rewarding trip. In the past, their BCM has done other types of missions trips — all of which were great — but she loves how this one puts sharing the gospel at the forefront and helps encourage and equip students at other campuses.

They first tried the Campus Story Project in 2020 but had to cut the week short as schools began putting COVID-19 restrictions in place. Gardner said she was glad they were able to bring it back this year, and she’s excited to see how God moved and is continuing to move.

Building confidence

After the week was over she heard from Zach Beasley, Baptist campus minister for ASU and Tuskegee, that the Friday after their visit, his students hit their campuses to share their stories and the gospel, and three students gave their lives to Christ.

“We had done evangelism on campus before, but the students were a little nervous and weren’t sure how to stop people,” Beasley recalled.

It helped having t-shirts to hand out that had the gospel message printed on them — “every college student loves a soft t-shirt,” he said. But even more, he could see the confidence in the students stepping out to share their stories.

“We could really see the elements of what they taught us,” Beasley noted. “One thing Beth said that resonated with me and one of my students — she mentioned listening, and that’s probably the best tool in everything we’re doing. We saw people hear the gospel and respond.”

He’s grateful for the investment Brown, Gardner and their team made on campuses around the state.

“It’s been a blessing,” Beasley said. “I’m grateful for what they’re doing. I’ve benefited from it, and my students have too.”

This story republished with permission from TAB Media Group. This article also appeared in Fruitful, a special publication produced by TAB Media in partnership with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.