When new students arrive at JSU, they are flooded with opportunities to get involved with campus groups and events in order to enhance their college experience-to engage in what JSU has to offer.
A local college ministry has taken this idea to heart, and students are responding.
Engage JSU is a joint ministry of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Eagle Point Church.
“Our mission statement essentially is that we want our students to do exactly what they were told during orientation,” says Will McGee, College/Teaching Pastor at First Baptist.
“We want them to be involved on campus, in all spheres, whether that be Greek life, whether that be athletics, whether that be dorm life, etc. We want them to engage in all those spheres and pockets of campus as believers in Jesus, and be involved for the good of the university, for the good of their peers, for the good of one another; to proclaim the message that we believe is the greatest message on earth.”
Although the church has had a college ministry for several years, Engage JSU as it is now began in August of 2011.
What started out as a group of 11 students meeting in McGee’s home has grown over the past two years to a group of over 70 students who meet in the sanctuary at FBC.
“I came essentially to pastor the college students who were already coming to our church,” McGee says. “But what we saw was just the need on campus for more students to be reached. We started to see students come to our events who weren’t necessarily part of our church. They would go home on the weekends to their church, or they went to another church in the area, but they liked the community we were forming. So that’s when we decided, ‘This is larger than just this church.’”
During the school year, Engage JSU meets on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church for a worship service that includes music and teaching.
Throughout the week, they have small groups that meet to do Bible studies. There are co-ed studies, girls-only studies, and guys-only studies. They also have a Sunday school class that meets at FBC each week before the 11:00 service.
“We have, in my opinion, the best worship band in town,” McGee says of the Monday night services.
“We play a mix of original songs and familiar songs. Then it’s filled with about 20 or 25 minutes of teaching. Then typically, the students will go grab dinner or ice cream when we’re done.”
Engage JSU also hosts several events throughout the year, such as movie nights, game nights, and cookouts. But the students involved are not only engaging in JSU, but in the community and the entire world.
“Throughout the months, we do mission trips,” McGee explains. “We’ve done Baltimore, Haiti, East Asia, some students have gone to Thailand.”
Students are also involved in Renovation Ministries in Anniston, International Justice Mission, and the WellHouse.
Because Engage JSU is a college ministry of the Southern Baptist church, the group’s values and theology fit with that statement of faith. However, the services and Bible studies are really for all evangelical denominations.
“We have a contingent of Southern Baptist students, born and bred,” says McGee. “But we do have a large number of Pentecostal students. We have a number of Reformed Presbyterian students that come and are a part of what we do. And on any given Monday night, we may have up to 10 or 15 countries represented at our Bible study. So that brings a whole sort of diversity, not just in language and ethnicity, but in worship styles and traditions.”
For more information or to get involved, visit the group’s website, engageJSU.com, or the Engage JSU Facebook page.