PITTSBURGH (BRN) – Since 2011, Kim Carson has served as a Baptist Resource Network (BRN) collegiate minister at California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U).
Cal U is located southwest of Pittsburgh in California, Pennsylvania and, as of 2020-2021, has a combined campus population of nearly 7,000 undergrad and graduate students.
Though Carson has witnessed God transform the hearts of students at Cal U for more than 10 years, her start in college ministry dates back to when she, herself, was a student.
“I was involved in campus ministry and I lived and breathed campus ministry. Every time there was a mission trip, an activity or a Bible study I was involved,” recalled Carson.
After completing her undergrad degree at the University of West Florida (UWF), Carson went to work as a North American Mission Board (NAMB) missionary at her alma mater. She served at UWF for six years while also pursuing a master’s degree in Christian education at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
As graduation approached, Carson started to seek what was next, asking God for clarity and provision.
“I was like, God, what do you want me to do? I’ll do anything,” said Carson. “I had no idea that God was gonna call me to move out of the south to the north, but as I graduated, I just felt like more and more God was leading me to move to Pennsylvania.”
Carson graduated in 2010 with her master’s and, after a year of raising support, moved to Pennsylvania to serve at California University as the leader of the NewLife campus ministry there.
From her first days in college ministry to now, Carson has noticed a generational shift amongst students.
“I would say whenever I first started in ministry, in 2003, I was ministering to like the early edge of the millennials, so my ministry just kind of was ministering to millennials for a long time, and then there started to be this shift – maybe five or six years ago – [and] I started to feel like things were a little different.”
Carson continued: “And it was like, huh, well, it doesn’t make sense why these kids don’t want to do it this way, or their view on life was a little bit different. But that was my first experience of a generation shift, to where the Gen Z students were starting to make their entrance into college life.”
This generational shift caused Carson to rework her ministry and make necessary adjustments according to meet the needs of this new generation.
“I had to start doing things a little different. I can’t point to any one thing that I did, but it was just like this evolution over time of like, well, maybe I need to change my method here.”
Although her transition of working with Gen Z happened slowly over time, Carson expressed an appreciation for this new generation.
“They are different than their millennial, older brothers and sisters, but they are resilient. They’re learning resilience through the pandemic and through a lot of other things that they have to overcome, like anxiety, and they’re just an incredible group of young people and I love that I get to work with them,” said Carson.
She also shared that there is no “cookie cutter approach” to college ministry and that every collegiate minister has his or her own approach to reach the next generation.
“Even on our collegiate team that’s spread out across Pennsylvania and South Jersey, we all have different flavors of ministry. We do ministry differently, and I think that it’s really important to know your audience, to know the people you’re working with and for and the people that you’re serving,” said Carson.
Currently at Cal U, the majority of Carson’s ministry is made up of young women. In fact, this semester alone, Carson is mentoring eight young ladies – something she finds to be a joy and a privilege.
“I love ministering to college students period. I’ve had some guys that have looked up to me and still call me mom to this day, and it’s really sweet. [But] right now, just getting to minister to these young ladies, it’s just an incredible privilege to me.”
Carson continued: “Like, I’m just in awe that God blessed me do this…to be trusted by God to share his love and faith and endurance and perseverance with young people, it’s just an honor.”
Along with serving as one of the BRN’s faithful collegiate ministers, Carson is also involved with the BRN’s women’s ministry Woven Women, which she first heard about at the BRN’s Accelerate Conference back in October.
“I was connected with Mary Landis who is the women’s ministry consultant for the BRN and she and I got to talking and became quick friends. I just felt very passionate about a lot of the ministry she’s doing and that she’s bringing up and developing,” said Carson.
Woven Women is a network level community that provides intentional discipleship, leadership development and missional engagement for women in leadership and their local church.
Presently, the Woven Women ministry offers Lunch and Learn events that provide discipleship and training as well as a lending library, network wide Meet and Greets and a Pinterest resource board.
In the near future, the ministry will also be providing resources for women struggling with infertility, miscarriages and loss.
“I love this ministry [and] I love that I get to be a woman in ministry here in Pennsylvania. I am valued by the BRN [and] by my fellow collegiate ministers across the region, and it’s such a joy to be a part of the BRN in that way, and even to serve at Cal U,” shared Carson.
“There’s just so much opportunity and so much life to be found in this young age group of college students and, like I said before, it’s just an honor and a privilege to serve this generation.”
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The “50 Stories of Transformation” series, told in honor of the Baptist Resource Network’s 50th anniversary, highlights the many ways God has moved throughout Pennsylvania, South Jersey and beyond. Your generous support of the Cooperative Program makes this ministry possible and fuels evangelism and outreach in our local churches and all over the world! Thank you!