Read Dr. Schubert’s response to this story here: http://acuoptimist.com/2013/10/schubert-sbcs-will-continue/
For the first time in almost four decades the university will not send hundreds of students to far-flung locations on Spring Break Campaigns.
The decision to discontinue SBCs came as part of the university’s increased emphasis on local ministry, said Jan Meyer, interim vice president of student life and dean of students. Meyer, who has overseen the Center for Christian Service and Leadership, said the decision also corresponded with the departure of Jen Rogers, whose position as director of student ministries was eliminated as part of university-wide budget cuts.
What began in 1976 when a group of ACU students went to Guatemala in response to an earthquake, transformed over the years into a multi-city, multi-country mission effort that grew to involve hundreds of students. The end of the program has left some students who planned to be involved in 2014 Spring Break Campaigns surprised and disappointed.
“It is unfortunate that SBCs will not be continuing this year because some students, myself included, came to ACU to participate in mission trips like SBC,” said Blair Agan, who served on the SBC committee last year and planned to again next spring.
Meyer said she and others in the CCSL began planning Service in the City, a local outreach effort to take place during spring break next year, six months ago and decided to hand Spring Break Campaigns off to Halbert Institute for Missions.
“CCSL is trying to get students committed to service in Abilene so they learn how to connect in the community,” Meyer said.
After the Spring Break Campaign office was moved the Halbert Institute on the second floor of the Onstead-Packer Bible Building in the spring, HIM director Chris Flanders decided Spring Break Campaigns were not a good fit for the institute and handed the program’s responsibilities to the Office of Student Life.
After that, Meyer said, budget cuts led to the departure of Rogers, who usually planned and organized the campaigns. This left no one to take care of the operation and resulted in its termination, she said. The CCSL is making changes to avoid further risk-management and liability issues that existed with Spring Break Campaigns.
“What we’re going to do is include out-of-Abilene opportunities that other organizations and churches are sponsoring on the CCSL website,” Meyer said. Those serving opportunities will be offered through local churches and organizations, she said, such as the university’s Body and Soul Program, Beltway Park Baptist Church, Global Samaritan and University Church of Christ.
After the initial campaign to Guatemala in 1976 led by Max Lucado, who went on to become a well-known author, missionary and San Antonio minister, the campaigns became a Students’ Association committee. Lucado , in 1977, secured SA funding for a mission trip to Des Moines, Iowa. ACU continued to fund campaigns to single destinations, and the program gradually grew. By 1986, the program had spread to a dozen cities in the United States with more than 250 participants. At its height, more than 500 students were traveling all over the globe.
Students who planned to be involved in the Spring Break Campaign committee for 2014 said they were not informed about the transition to a local approach and the end of SBCs and reacted with disappointment and frustration.
“Spring Break Campaigns were an integral part of ACU, but now that we aren’t having them anymore, students will be forced to branch out to other churches and organizations,” said Blair Agan, senior political science and communication major from Lake Jackson.
He said he was disappointed because Spring Break Campaigns have been a part of student life for so many years.
“Spring Break Campaigns gave students the opportunity to travel to exotic places and help people,” Agan said. “You can volunteer locally any weekend, that’s what weekend campaigns are for.”
Bryson Shake, senior communication major from Abilene, led a campaign last year and planned to serve on this year’s SBC committee. He said he was shocked when he heard the news.
“I don’t think it was handled well publicly,” Shake said. “The fact that it hasn’t been communicated to students yet really hurts the university’s reputation and makes me question a lot of things.”
He said communication between students and faculty and staff in preparation for last year’s campaigns also was troubled.
“Last year, when it was under the Halbert Institute, it was a train wreck,” Shake said. “There was no guidance or leadership from the Halbert staff, and we couldn’t go to the CCSL because we were no longer covered by them. So the students had to handle a lot of SBCs last year. We struggled with figuring out, ‘Where do we belong in the university?'”
Shake said while some have argued declining participation was one reason for discontinuing Spring Break Campaigns, he disagreed.
“Last year we had nine campaigns with 150 participants, and I thought that was an amazing turnout considering it was basically student-led,” Shake said.
Meyer acknowledged the change this year was not clearly communicated at the end of last semester.
“Now it’s like somebody dropped the ball. It’s like we’re playing cleanup,” Meyer said. “We expected some students to be disappointed, but we need to use our time, energy and resources more wisely and focus our effort and attention on Abilene community.”
Stacy Campos, sophomore nursing major from Garland, went to Chicago, Ill., on a Spring Break Campaign last year and was looking forward to the opportunity to go somewhere new this year.
“I went because I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and it was a good way to experience that because it wasn’t long-term and it wasn’t that expensive,” Campos said. “Now that I know they aren’t being offered anymore, I’m kind of upset.”
Wilson White, who served as SBC chair last year, said discontinuing Spring Break Campaigns will make it harder for students to find mission trip opportunities unless the void is filled with some other program. Now, he said, students will have to look else-where.
“I believe the local approach is good, a lot can be done in Abilene or just within Texas. Focusing more in Abilene can allow for students to build many relationships and connections close by,” said White, who graduated in May with a degree in history. “However, Abilene does not offer the same exotic or exciting locations that Spring Break Campaigns did, or some of the unique opportunities or experiences that the SBC sites had to offer.”