By Sharon Mager, BCMD Staff Correspondent
DOVER, Del.—College students at the University of Delaware are trash talking for Jesus. That is, they’re using trash collection to introduce themselves to others and make the Baptist student ministry more visible.
Every few weeks Baptist Student Ministry (BSM) volunteers knock on dorm doors and offer to take out the trash. Campus minister, Blake Hardcastle, said students are usually a little leery at first and want to know why the BSM students want to do the dirty work. Hardcastle said they tell them they’re the BSM on campus and that they’re doing a service project.
“Then they may say ‘why are you really doing this?’ and we say ‘We’re a Christian group trying to show people that God cares about them and we’re showing that in a small way by taking out their trash,’” Hardcastle said and, adding with a laugh, after a few visits the students are saving their trash for them.
On Fridays, BSM students give away free hot cocoa and donuts in the cooler weather and snow cones when it’s warmer.
Hardcastle said about 25 percent of the freshman on campus pass by the BSM building on their way to class and by making those initial contacts, he’s hoping to make a favorable impression and to encourage students to stop by the building for other BSM events and outreaches.
Blake Hardcastle has been ministering at the University of Delaware for 13 years, starting as a US2 missionary and later as a North American Mission Board career missionary.
“Some things haven’t changed. Students still have the same needs,” he reflected. But Hardcastle’s own life has changed. He and his wife Jenny have had three children while ministering—Nathan (8), Jack (7) and Sam (4). Life is definitely busier.
Hardcastle was in the 7th grade when he was saved at a youth camp a friend had invited him to. “One evening the speaker explained that God could be your Father and you could belong to a spiritual family. I talked and prayed with him afterwards. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I know I asked Christ to save me and for God to become my Father.”
Hardcastle began feeling called to collegiate ministry while involved with the BSM at The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he received his undergraduate degree in biology.
The summer after his senior year he attended National Collegiate Week (LifeWay’s annual collegiate conference) and became drawn to the USC-2 missions program, and eventually felt God leading him to Delaware.
The ministry at University of Delaware started off slow but has steadily gained momentum. Over 40 students attend a large group meeting weekly and three to four small groups, with six to 17 participants meet at various other times.
One shift in campus ministry that Hardcastle noted is that churches are stepping up to try to incorporate students into their church bodies and to support the campus ministries in various ways. Ogletown, Hockessin, Friendship and Bethany are among those making an effort.
Hardcastle said that could make a big impact on students’ Christian growth.
“They get a bigger taste of what the church is and the way God uses relationship to sanctify us, not only in our own slice of demographics,” Hardcastle said.
One particularly helpful and impacting way to minister, he said, is for families to come along and “adopt” students. A family may take an interest in a student, invite him or her to their home and be there for that student. It provides discipleship in passive life ways, he said.
Each year BSM students and friends, some who are not believers, take mission trips. This year they’ll go to Charleston to do work on homes, painting, fixing them up. Hardcastle said the trips are a huge relationship builder and those who are not believers get a chance to witness God’s love first hand. Many students who attend mission trips later get involved with the BSM and make decisions for Christ.