By Joe Isenhower Jr.
ST. LOUIS – When 21 “stakeholders” met here for a Jan. 3-4 LCMS campus-ministry think tank, they shared information about what is happening in campus ministry in the Synod and about what they’d like to see for such ministry in years to come.
The LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM) hosted the think tank involving representatives of three LCMS campus-ministry-related Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs), the Synod’s Lutheran Student Association, LCMS universities and seminaries, and leaders of the national Synod.
“I believe there has to be more coordination, collaboration and support for campus ministry to increase its capacity,” ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day told the think tank participants. “You are some of the most crucial stakeholders in this discussion.”
In 2002, the Synod’s former Board for Mission Services closed its national campus ministry office, primarily for financial reasons.
The Rev. Richard Manus, who headed that office at that time and has since been in parish ministry, told the group that he feels the four official campus-ministry organizations “now encouraging campus ministry and mission among districts and congregations have a solid sense of what they are about, based upon scriptural and confessional principles as they understand them.”
Manus added that he believes those organizations “would benefit from interfacing from time to time on the leadership level” and at national campus-ministry conferences such as one being planning synodwide for Jan. 3-5, 2013, in
Day said that with the Synod’s restructure there have been ideas to “engage and support the work of campus ministry,” and that the significance of campus ministry and the need to support campus ministry surfaced at the LCMS National Mission Conference last fall.
“I believe even more could be done if we work together,” Day said. “Campus ministry could be a real model for others.”
He explained that the ONM would primarily work with the Synod’s districts to support campus ministry.
Day mentioned opportunities to share the Gospel with increasing numbers of international students on U.S. campuses and said “the Synod cannot stand on the sidelines when we realize that our church is losing a great number of young people after they go off to college.”
He pointed out that the think tank was not intended to be a decision-making meeting, and urged representatives of the four groups to go back and discuss “possibilities” with their boards.
Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison told the think tank participants that the attrition rate in the Synod for youth – from some dozen years ago until now – is 40 percent or more. He added there are a number of indicators pointing out the importance of family and multigenerational ministry for retaining young people in the church.
“You know all this because you live it,” Harrison told those in campus ministry.
“I know that we need to and can elevate campus ministry in the LCMS by working with one another to come up with what’s best,” Harrison said.
He mentioned the need to “elevate apologetics” to help LCMS college students defend their faith. Others at the think tank agreed, noting the importance of catechesis for campus ministries.
Harrison also spoke of the need for using advanced media resources in campus ministry, such as those offered by the Synod’s KFUO Radio.
He shared his “dream” for an “LCMS youth corps … offering [short-term international service] opportunities from high school-age on.
“And wouldn’t it be great to have a high-powered website with resources to share,” Harrison proposed, “where every single pastor could keep up with his college students?”
In an overview of the Synod’s “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” emphasis, Harrison stressed the need for repentance.
“How many young people are burdened with sin or looking for solid content to help them stand up to their faith?” he asked.
“I urge us all to confess our sins, ask for forgiveness and work so that we can help kids in this world that is so horrid,” he said. “We have to be the family of Christ and support each other for the sake of the kids and their faith.”
The leaders of the four official Synod-related campus ministries who shared information with the task force are:
- Marcia Mittwede of Austin, Texas, co-president of International Student Ministry Inc., a Synod RSO that reaches out to international students at U.S. colleges and universities nationwide;
- Jon E. Jensen of St. Louis, executive director of the Lutheran Campus Ministry Association (an RSO also known as LCMS Campus Ministry), which serves the campus-outreach efforts of full-time and part-time Lutheran ministries at colleges and universities nationwide.
- the Rev. Marcus T. Zill, a full-time campus pastor in Laramie, Wyo., and executive for Christ on Campus, the campus-ministry component of Higher Things, which is a Synod RSO; and
- the Rev. Jay Winters, a campus pastor in Tallahassee, Fla., and adviser for Lutheran Student Fellowship, the LCMS college and university student-led organization established by action of the 1986 Synod convention.
Those leaders joined others at the think tank in stressing the need to coordinate their activities and increase the capacity of their organizations in areas such as resource development and fundraising.
In round-robin sharing and open discussion, participants shared how they relate to campus ministry and what they would like to see happen in such ministries.
Robert Gleason, an organizational-change consultant serving as a resource for the Synod restructuring, was facilitator for the think tank.
Toward the end of their time together, Gleason asked participants “what was most meaningful” about it so far.
Synod Third Vice-President Rev. Dr. Paul L. Maier, who led a campus ministry for 41 years, was first to respond, answering it was “the idea that the four campus-ministry organizations are interested” in coordinating efforts.
The Rev. Ian Pacey, a full-time campus pastor in Tucson, Ariz., said that for him, it was that even in small-group settings, “there was consensus that we’re all on the same page regarding the realities of campus ministry.”
“Maybe it’s just the fact that we’re here talking, dialoguing, getting to know one another at the International Center in St. Louis,” said Zill. He also voiced thanks for Harrison’s, Day’s and Chief Mission Officer Rev. Gregory Williamson’s participation in the campus ministry think tank. Zill noted that Williamson’s first day in his new position was “with us.”
“It was so good to hear the history of each group – how each got started and how we got to where we are,” said Mittwede.
And Dr. Angus J.L. Menuge, a faculty member at Concordia University Wisconsin, in Mequon, said he found it “very encouraging” that so many think-tank participants share “the same hopes and goals.”
Posted Feb. 1, 2012