Houston’s First collegiate ministry finds vast landscape, plenty of gospel opportunities
Houston is not your typical college town. The Bayou City boasts more than 40 institutions of higher learning, from four-year universities to junior colleges to tech schools, according to the city’s website.
College ministry opportunities are vast and far different from those in communities dominated by a single major university, as Hunter Mullennix, Houston’s First Baptist Church college ministry associate at the church’s Loop campus, has discovered.
Mullennix, 25, came to Houston’s First in June 2022 following graduation from a state university in Denton in the prior year.
He said he had asked God to provide “a route for me not to go to college,” but had surrendered to the inevitable and ended up going to school in Denton. Today, he is pursuing a master’s degree through Southwestern Seminary part-time.
During his time in college, Mullennix majored in religious studies, where he “learned a little about a lot of religions” and repeatedly heard negatives about Christianity in his classes. “It was liberal, not biblical Christianity,” he said, adding that it was certainly different from what he had learned growing up in church. He got involved in a college ministry at a nearby church after some soul-searching in which he concluded he had been living a “double life”—juggling fraternity life with occasional church attendance.
“The Lord started to draw me back to Himself” through collegiate ministry at that church, he said. Mullennix dropped the frat life and spent a year in volunteer leadership before he was asked to join the church staff part-time as a college ministry intern in 2020, “right in the middle of COVID.”
Mullennix married his wife, Hannah, in June 2021, following graduation. Both felt called to ministry and Mullennix began an eight-month stint in the International Mission Board’s journeyman program. After Mullennix filled in one evening preaching at his college ministry, Hannah voiced what both had been separately thinking: perhaps it wasn’t the right time to pursue IMB work, but rather, college ministry.
After others in his church had affirmed their calling to college ministry, someone recommended they contact Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Collegiate Associate Mitch Tidwell and attend a Roundup event in May 2022. Tidwell, whose nephew had been involved in the ministry where Mullennix was serving in Denton, asked him to supply his resume.
Shortly after, Jarret Garber, minister to college and The 5, The Loop’s 5 p.m. Sunday service, phoned and had a 90-minute conversation with Hunter and Hannah. After that conversation, the North Texas-raised couple started considering a move south.
“We discussed the state of college ministry in Houston and what they wanted to start at The Loop, expanding out of a Sunday school class,” Mullennix recalled. The chance to start a college ministry practically from scratch was appealing. Hunter and Hannah visited in early June and moved to Houston three weeks later as Mullennix accepted a part-time position as the college ministry coordinator at The Loop.
A college ministry with a unique paradigm
With 15 campuses within 10 minutes, Mullennix said the Loop’s goal is to have a presence on each. For now, students from four universities and several community colleges and trade schools participate in college ministry at the Loop.
“It’s different than serving students from one college,” Mullennix said. “We have an assortment of students who come to our programs.”
College ministry is part of the 5 p.m. service, with a college life Bible study from 6:15 to 8 p.m. following the multigenerational evening worship. Students and leaders walk through biblical literacy and application curriculum focusing on evangelism and discipleship—basically, how to be a Christian.
The Sunday evening Bible study is “the biggest thing we do so far,” Mullennix said, adding that it’s hard to do things on campuses since they are trying to reach multiple schools that are spread out. Meeting at the church offers a central gathering place. Small groups also meet at the Mullennixes’ apartment and in other locations on Wednesday nights, and growth groups of two to three college students led by those who have already been discipled meet weekly, too. Currently there are 11 such groups, Mullennix said.
“Many [who are] leading are people who came to Christ this semester or who came and found community. They are encouraged to find people to disciple,” he said. He estimates that 60 students are involved on Sunday nights, during the week, or both. A 15-person leadership team assists in the ministry.
“Hunter has been able to get students on mission pretty quickly,” Tidwell said.
Summer college ministry looks a bit different at the Loop as well. Unlike typical college students living away from home, many Houston-area students are year-round residents of the city.
“We don’t send a lot of people back home each year,” Mullennix said. Thus, there are more hands available for summer outreach. This will enable the Loop’s college ministry to have a presence at freshman orientations on various campuses throughout the summer, inviting incoming students to Bible studies geared to prepare them to walk with the Lord while in college.
Mullennix said he hopes to have a college intern and student volunteers on as many Houston-area campuses as possible during orientations as the metro college ministry grows.