The Benston Review: National Collegiate Week (and a little news)

First, the news. I found out that I need to leave 3 days earlier than I thought – which leaves very little time to pack for the year-long road trip. I’ll be leaving the 16th, hopefully. If you can, pray for me this week – I’ve got lots to do before I head to Chicago.

If you’re new to this blog, you can read all about my impending trip around the country by clicking “About the Trip.”

Now for Collegiate Week. (If you missed my earlier “snapshots” from the Week, click here.)

Glorieta - main plaza

When I go to conferences across the next year, I want to provide a helpful view, particularly for college ministers to determine how they – and/or their students – could benefit from the conference. (Or just to tell ya’ what’s up in ministry to students.) But since I haven’t actually started the Road Trip, I wasn’t in full “reporter mode” this past week. Still, because Collegiate Week is such an important part of many calendars, I want to fill you in on this year’s National Collegiate Week.

Whether you want to read all this or not, feel free to comment or email me with any questions (my email is now on the “About Benson” page.) If you went to Collegiate Week, PLEASE feel free to comment and let us know your memories of the week!

Here’s how this will go: I’ll give you the Basics – a description of what Collegiate Week generally looks like. Then, the specifics of this year’s conference, with a very small amount of commentary. Finally, I’ve got some other sites that cover Glorieta & Ridgecrest in different ways – blogs and Facebook groups, specifically. So if at any point you get bored with me, just scroll down there and click on them. In the future, I’ll try to do a better job of specifics and commentary -like I said, I’m approaching this a little differently because I haven’t actually started the Trip yet.

The Basics

National Collegiate Week is the major annual event for Southern Baptist college ministries. No other event comes close to the scope or breadth of this conference for SBC ministry except for Summit (which only takes place every three years – and is only for minister-types, not students). It’s not specifically Southern Baptist; not all the speakers come from SBC churches, and its topics are valuable for any ministers and/or students. Yet its population and promotions are certainly Baptist.

The conference meets concurrently (or at least close) at the two Lifeway Conference Centers, in Glorieta, NM, and Ridgecrest, NC. Presumably, groups travel to the closer location, but I’ve gone to Ridgecrest (from West Texas) before, and we had at least one Atlanta-area group with us in New Mexico this week. (Sometimes it can be fun to take a longer road trip!)

Across a week (which, for whatever reason, sometimes starts in the middle of the calendar week), students and ministers are exposed to packed days of big-group Bible study, worship, small groups, and seminars. Oh wait – and “fun stuff” options, too: sports tournaments, hiking & other “natural activities,” late-night hangin’, beautiful weather, and as much free time as you want.

The major speakers are usually top-notch (and there are usually 2 or 3 different ones throughout the week), the worship is superb, and seminar choices are extensive and taught by people who actually know what they’re talking about. It’s not unusual for each “seminar hour” – there were 10 in all at Glorieta – to include twenty or more seminar options (you can see some examples below). Yes, you’ll get a lemon now and then. But by and large, I really like my seminar choices (and after 7 years of this stuff, you get good at pickin’!). The teachers usually include college ministers, state collegiate directors, seminary profs, ministry heads, pastors, and the like.

For most ministry leaders, though, it’s not just our benefit we’re thinking about – it’s the benefit for our students. They get exposed to some very weighty teaching, and I can’t think of a better way to prepare for a new semester (or, in the case of new freshmen, the start of college). The Week can obviously be great for bonding in a college ministry, too. And students have a blast, because they have what they love: options. Not just options in seminars, but options about what they do, how much they attend, how much they sleep, etc., all day every day. That’s why I say it’s like Youth Camp for college students – all the joys of Camp with none of the Rules. And who doesn’t love a Road Trip to the mountains?

But despite all this, here’s the best tip I can give you: Regardless of how much you hear about it, to “get” Collegiate Week, you’ve got to show up just once. Just come and see. If you come once, you’ll come back – and you’ll bring students / friends with you, without a doubt. I can give two examples of this working:

1: My first experience with Collegiate Week was back in 2001. Just a college minister friend and I, in his truck, with no students. That week, we heard Dave Edwards and Mercy Me, got Tim Elmore in the leaders’ sessions, went to lots of seminars, and enjoyed the cool air. That one visit was all it took to win us over; there was no chance we weren’t gonna bring back students the next year – and it got me going for the next six years (so far).

2: When I served as college minister last year, I knew that principle: “Take a few this year, and you’ll have no prob with word-of-mouth next year.” So we did. I took 6 students, we tried to cook our own food, and we loved it (except for the food part). This year, even though I’m not in that position anymore, that same group took about 25 students – because the word-of-mouth was that strong. (Although they and I bought the meal plan this time.)

As you can tell, I really like Collegiate Week. But I can promise you that the SBC is not paying me to give the props. I’m just a Collegiate Week fan (apologist?), and proud of it!

Some Specifics of Collegiate Week 2007

Speakers, Glorieta: Dr. David Platt and Landon Dowden

Speakers, Ridgecrest: Dr. Jeff Iorg, Greg Pinkner, and David Edwards

You can read these guys’ bios within the respective Collegiate Week programs (Glorieta, Ridgecrest) or check out the links in this post, if you’re not familiar with ’em. Obviously, I only heard Platt and Landon this year. But last year’s Glorieta lineup was Iorg and Pinkner, and, as I noted above, I’ve heard Edwards before. So here goes:

The speakers this year at Glorieta actually stuck really closely to the theme, “The Mission of God.” In the mornings, Landon Dowden, a pastor from Baton Rouge, gave us a great view of God Himself, mostly stickin’ with the Book of Isaiah to reveal the God who is worthy of our mission and our lives. Really, really good. I’ve definitely heard about Landon (he’s done some stuff here in Texas), but I’m not positive that I’ve ever actually heard him speak. Now I have, and I’m a fan.Dr. David Platt

David Platt, meanwhile, busted our heads in (as usual) with a focus on living out the mission of God – because, indeed, we are made for His glory. It was incredibly powerful; if you’re not familiar with this guy, you would certainly benefit. Start here. And notice that he’s 29, is pastor of a mega-church, is a former seminary prof, and is Doctor David Platt. And a really nice guy. Even a little goofy, in a happy way. His son, Caleb, is the son he was in Kazakhstan adopting the week I visited his church… You might also never hear a speaker who so obviously loves the Bible; indeed, a couple of years ago at Ridgecrest I heard him preach Romans 1 – 8. As in, he quoted it. Memorized. With passion.

These guys are both New Orleans Baptist Seminary guys, so kudos to that school.

I will say this: Last year was also phenomenal in this respect. How amazing that the president of a major seminary, Dr. Jeff Iorg of Golden Gate, would come talk to a bunch of college students! Meanwhile, I remember Pinkner bringing the thunder at night – his “church talk” that week, for example, was one of the most impactful I’ve heard, and I wish that particular 70% could hear that truth that boldly.

It’s been a bit longer since I’ve heard Dave Edwards speak, but he’s been at this for a long time, for sure. I will say that I’ve never laughed harder in a Bible study than I did that first Collegiate Week listenin’ to Dave.

Dave Hunt, who led the band at Glorieta, was excellent. I know – because I’ve heard him say it before – that David Platt likes ministering with him because he’s solid, an oft-overlooked necessity for worship leaders.

As for seminars, I would check ’em out yourself in the programs (Ridgecrest, Glorieta). It gets a little hectic, with schedule, leaders, and the actual seminars all discussed in different sections. But I encourage you to take a look at the class descriptions (page 41 in the Ridgecrest program, page 49 in Glorieta’s) and the faculty listing (at the back of each). And the “hecticness” of the program simply highlights how BROAD this conference truly is.

As for me and my house, I got to attend seminars on… Diversity in Collegiate Ministry, Developing a church College Ministry, God’s story, Martin Luther, “Wikiworship,” Having “weighty” College Ministry, and Biblical worldview. If this sounds generally rather “heady,” remember that I was preppin’ for a year-long research trip. (That’s the key: pick based on what you need to hear now.) And that’s the greatness – you can pick all kinds of stuff; I could have just as easily gone to seminars about Missions, Relationships, Witnessing, Service opportunities, “Mad communication skills,” Leadership, and so-so-so many more.

So is that enough of a Review for ya’? If not, here are a few other sites dedicated to Collegiate Week, from elsewhere. I haven’t read through everything, but it looks like some of these guys did more of a day-by-day blog, including the specific teaching topics for the week. Again, it was a great week.

Blogs from Glorieta: from an Arkansas college minister, from a student at the U of Louisiana at Lafayette

Facebook groups for Glorieta from OK City students

The national Ridgecrest Facebook group

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