In 2011, when a few players from the Samford football team began their own bible study in a dorm lobby, they could never have imagined the thousands that would be touched by their ministry nearly a decade later.
In Birmingham, AL and across the southeast, there is one local ministry that is doing things a little differently. RANSOM, or Radical Athlete and Student Oasis Ministry, is a diverse, student-led, and family-like group of athletes and students spreading the message of Christ throughout local campuses and communities. RANSOM strives to bring students on each campus to know about the love of Jesus and what He can do in their life.
What started as a Football player bible study on Samford’s campus in 2011 has now morphed into a multi-campus ministry with locations at Murray State University, Campbell University, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of South Alabama, Alabama State University, and Birmingham Southern College. RANSOM just closed on a 96-acre property that includes a 10-acre body of water. RANSOM founder Jeremy Towns and others are raising funds for a building to allow for retreats and conferences in the future. Utilizing God’s word and all of Gods people, RANSOM is making a difference.
While it has grown drastically in size and impact since its inception, RANSOM has not changed in the way it operates. With no full-time staff members, RANSOM is made up of all student leaders, giving students valuable leadership experience along with spreading the gospel.
“The vision for RANSOM expanded over the years,” explained Towns. “The core vision is that college students and others would know Jesus and make Him known. I always wanted RANSOM to be student led on each campus. It allows college students to get hands-on leadership experience as faith leaders.”
When Towns and the members of the football team bible study they were attending started doing mixers with the female bible study, none of them had any grand plans for RANSOM to take off the way that it did. The founders did not worry too much about where RANSOM was going, just that they helped as many people know God that they could.
“It spread organically,” said Towns. “People started coming to RANSOM at Samford and wanted something similar on their own campus.”
Towns went on to spend multiple years in the NFL after his time at Samford, but RANSOM lives on with new groups of students taking the reins. One of those students is Nelson Jordan.
Jordan, a Samford football player, and current RANSOM president has been attending Ransom since his freshman year. While he started as a member of the “Love” team, a group that visits with people before services and recruits students to visit RANSOM, he knew RANSOM was the place for him because of the people that were already there.
“I saw all types of people there. Black people, white people, Indian people. It became so simple for me; the love of God is for ALL people…I was like I want what these people have.” Explained Jordan.
RANSOM is very intentional with their diversity. They make it a point to play diverse worship songs, have diverse representation in leadership, and have open conversations on culture and current events.
The diversity of RANSOM is something that has really resonated with Ty Boles, a student leader and current “love” team member.
“We want to be diverse because the kingdom of God is diverse,” said Boles. “This is not just a church service this is an intentional family.”
While sometimes ministry work can lead to surface level counting of how many people you reach, Jordan and the other RANSOM leaders are avoiding that. He says that their main goal is not to achieve a certain number or size, but to fulfill God’s plan.
Jordan went on to say, “We want to reach whoever God calls us to reach. If it’s all of campus or 20 people, we want to do what God calls us to do.”