Bethel hosts its first baptism service this November.
By Sarah Nelson
Campus Ministries will be hosting a baptism service for the first time in Bethel history this fall.
Though the official date is undecided as of yet, the baptisms are likely to occur in mid-November at the Seminary chapel, according to campus pastor Laurel Bunker.
The fall service is hoped to be accompanied by a spring baptism that may take place in the outdoors, according to Bunker.
For years, Bunker says she tried to receive the green light to perform a baptism service on campus. She met resistance from those who felt baptism is a rite of the church versus a Christian university.
To that, Bunker recognized how many millennial students are not necessarily attached to a church, whether this is because of student’s new home in college or not finding a church right away. For these kinds of students, Bunker believes a baptism at Bethel would be much more personal with friends by their side.
And so, Bunker says, she declared Campus Ministries would go ahead with the service.
“I just said we’re doing it,” Bunker said, laughing.
Her supervisors, she said, affirmed her desire to move forward with the baptism, saying they “can’t keep asking permission” from those who aren’t involved with the day-to-day ministering of students.
Since Bunker announced at the Koinonia worship service Aug. 27 that Campus Ministries would host a baptism service this fall, she has received an “avalanche” of responses. According to Bunker, the event has received possibly the most positive feedback from a Campus Ministries-orchestrated project. One of those responses include a recent Bethel graduate hoping to participate.
Preparation sessions will be organized for those hoping to be baptized to help students understand the history of the practice. For those who have been baptized as infants, Bunker and assistant pastor Jason Steffenhagen want to assure the baptism service will not replace their infant baptism.
In the evangelical world, baptism is symbolic of a decision one makes once they understand salvation. For those anticipating pushback from their parents over their decision to be baptized at Bethel, a question and answer session may be held in the months leading up to the service.
“There is something unique and special about it (baptism) that is a marker in their (students) journey. That tells the world and tells themselves that this is who I am,” Steffenhagen said. “This is one of those things that when we get through hard times we can look back and remember when we were baptized and the commitment God made to you.”
“These are students who are wanting to stand before their friends and others and say ‘I take my faith seriously,’” Bunker said. “It also flies in the face of a culture that says millennials are walking away from Jesus. No, they’re not. Our students are saying ‘We’re sold out. Yeah we have some issues with what we see in churches sometimes, but that doesn’t mean we’re walking away from Jesus. We take it seriously.’ I think it’s pretty exciting.”