DENTON--Friends, alumni and students of the University of North Texas Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) celebrated the grand opening of of new, fully funded $2.3 million BSM building on Saturday.
In its over 50 years of existence, the BSM has hosted thousands of free lunches and worship services, seeing many students come to know Christ and even more deepen their level of faith and knowledge of God's Word.
When the UNT BSM first opened its doors in 1960, the student population was around 6,700. Today, the student body has reached over 37,000. Not only did the original building begin experiencing structural problems, but it also became too small.
The new facility, which has been in use since last November, was built with a great deal of intentionality for meeting ministry needs. The 10,000 sq-foot space has a larger meeting area, ideal for seating a large number of students for worship and free lunches. It also has a spacious kitchen for serving meals, a prayer room, a missions room, discipleship room, office spaces and a large room for student leadership team meetings.
"We don't want this building to be just where we stay but where we go out," said Stephanie Gates, UNT BSM director. "Our hope is that this would be a sending point, a starting point for our students to go take the Gospel. They can come in here to get equipped, to get trained and to get invested in and then take the Gospel out onto our campus. "
Stephanie Pickens, a UNT alumna and now a BSM intern, has watched the school grow and the ministry of the BSM expand in recent years, saying the bigger building is a blessing.
"With our presence on campus being even bigger than it already was will show students that we are here and we will have a bigger student leadership team because of that," Pickens said. "We will be able to make more disciples and student leaders and they will be able to go out and make more disciples who will make more disciples."
A number of people have been praying for the provision of a new space since 2008. In November 2014, demolition of the old building began in preparation for construction to the new building, conveniently coinciding with construction for the university's new student union located across the street.
After less than a year of construction, the $2.3 million BSM building came to completion with no debt, thanks to generous donations from various alumni and churches, Texas Baptists, the Mabee Foundation and Denton Baptist Association, with Texas Baptists Missions Foundation assisting in fundraising efforts.
Dr. David Hardage, executive director for Texas Baptists, addressed the crowd of generous BSM supporters at Saturday's grand opening event.
"This is the day the Lord has made for us to look ahead at the ministry that's going to happen here and the lives that are going to be changed here because they came through those doors," Hardage said.
Though buildings come and go, Gates reassured the crowd the mission of the BSM and the focus on God's Word will remain the same.
"Our prayer is that we would see students love the Lord and meet the Lord, that they would know what it means to be a part of the local church, that they would know how God has gifted them and called them to do ministry, and that they would know when they graduate they can step out to serve and be leaders in the Gospel kingdom wherever it is that God takes them," Gates said.
Did you know, in the school year 2014-2015, Texas BSM:
- Saw 9,400 students weekly involved in Baptist Student Ministries
- Enlisted and trained 2,500 students as leaders, not positional leaders but "laborers for the harvest", investing and serving in the lives of other students both Christian and not yet believers.
- Involved 2,500 students in sharing the Gospel and 3,114 students in discipleship training that reaches others resulting in over 48,000 spiritual conversations with both believers and not yet believers.
- Sent over 482 Go Now Missionaries around the globe and engaged over 6,000 students in local, state and international missions.
- Engaged over 1,900 international students out of the 59,000 International students on campuses in Texas.
BSMs are located on over 115 college campuses in Texas. Find a local BSM near you at texasfreshmen.com.