By Joe Isenhower Jr.
ST. LOUIS — With a burst of applause, some 400-plus students, campus ministers and others at the closing session of the Synod’s Jan. 3-5 “UNWRAPPED” campus-ministry conference on Saint Louis University’s campus here greeted the unveiling of an “LCMS U” logo that signifies a new approach to campus ministry in the church body.
(To read a related story about the conference, “Worship, study central as 425 gather for ‘UNWRAPPED,'” click here.)
The logo’s simple design features a bold green collegiate-style “U” overlaid by a blue pennant with a white cross and the letters “LCMS.”
That design “represent[s] the Synod bringing the cross to bear on our life together at the university level,” said the Rev. Marcus T. Zill, after he showing the logo on a screen for the first time at that session. “And this conference is a big part of that.”
Zill is coordinator of Campus Ministry for the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM), which hosted this first Synod-sponsored campus-ministry conference in more than 10 years. Pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Laramie, Wyo., he chaired the five-member planning committee for this year’s conference.
All five committee members also participated in a Synod campus-ministry think tank in January 2012 hosted by the ONM. That think tank came on the heels of a ONM-convened National Mission Conference in fall 201 that identified campus ministry as a priority for the Synod — especially in light of increasing numbers of international students at colleges and universities stateside and burgeoning secularism on their campuses.
“We have been hard at work … toward a fresh new face – a new name, a new logo, a new structure, as we seek to put campus ministry back under the hood … something that we can rally around going further,” Zill explained to the conference audience just before showing the logo.
Zill also pointed out that the Synod’s new approach to campus ministry is meant to support and expand campus ministry beyond the 300-some existing “intentional campus ministry locations throughout the Synod.”
An introduction on the new lcms.org/lcmsu Web page describes LCMS U as “the place to connect and support our students, congregations and campus ministries, so that we can boldly bear witness to Christ on our nation’s college campuses.”
“The challenges to Christians on campuses are well known,” that introduction states. On practically every college campus there are challenges to the biblical worldview, doctrine, ethics and practices. Thus, the chief purpose of LCMS U is to encourage, support and aid students, faculty and staff in their response these challenges to the truth of God’s Word.”
The Web page lists four “initial areas of emphasis” for LCMS U:
- a chapter network and a planned “chapter drive” this spring “to improve our network and encourage the development of new campus outreach,” according to the website.
Zill explained to the conference that the chapter drive will seek to gather data for the Synod “of where campus ministries are” and how they can best serve LCMS college students on their campuses. He added that there will be no need for distinctions between full-time, part-time and contact congregations, as had been the case for Synod campus ministry.
“That’s because we believe every congregation is a contact congregation for college students,” Zill added, “and it’s hard to put everybody in that kind of a box.”
Each chapter will be asked to designate two contact representatives – a student and another who is not a student.
Zill also explained that each chapter “may apply to have a custom LCMS U logo created,” using its school’s colors.
- “training opportunities throughout the year, beginning with an annual summer staff training institute,” as noted on the Web, to help “those interested in starting or refocusing campus-ministry efforts.” Zill said such events might start this year.
- student involvement, “so that you all can take ownership in the best way possible,” Zill said.
He added that the Synod’s student-led Lutheran Student Fellowship (LSF) “has done a tremendous job over the years. … We’re working with LSF and we’re going to be working with those of you who haven’t been involved with LSF as we transition t LCMS U and increase our lovel of student involvement.”
- national campus-ministry conferences “just like this one,” Zill continued. His question, “Do you want another conference like this?” elicited loud “whoops” and applause.
For more about LCMS U — including information on the membership drive that is planned to begin in March, logo files for download, connecting to its Facebook account and links to related sites — visit www.lcms.org/lcmsu.
Zill is one of three campus pastors who have served the ONM in campus ministry on a part-time contact basis, since August. The others are the Rev. Ian S. Pacey, campus pastor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., and the Rev. Jay A. Winters, pastor of University Lutheran Church and Campus Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
They work closely with the Rev. Steven T. Cholak, who also began in August as the ONM’s full-time project coordinator for Special Ministries (through its Youth Ministry unit), including campus ministries; and the Rev. Bart Day, executive director of the ONM.
“It is true that the United States is now the third-largest mission field in the world,” Day said as he welcomed participants to the conference. “And my feeling and belief is that The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s engagement in that mission field — the most important and critical area where we could engage — is with all of you on college campuses.”
“It is a pleasure for our office to help support all of the work of campus ministry,” Day said, mentioning “so many of you here, so many campus-ministry sites that continue to do vital and wonderful work, so many congregations of the Synod that reach out and help campus ministries, so many district that are highly involved financially and otherwise supporting campus ministries.”
He added to that list the board of LSF and Recognized Service Organizations, including the Lutheran Campus Mission Association, the “Christ on Campus” component of Higher Things and International Student Ministry. Those organizations essentially carried out campus ministry in the Synod throughout the more than 10 years since the closing of what was then the LCMS Board for Mission Services’ campus-ministry office, in 2002.
“It’s really a pleasure and privilege for us in the National Mission office of the Synod to uplift and support all of that work; and we hope that your work on campuses will be blessed and will continue to expand as the Gospel of Jesus Christ goes forth in your particular places,” Day told the conference.
The LCMS perhaps did a pretty decent job supporting you in your high-school years,” the Rev. Dr. Terrry Dittmer, director of ONM — Youth Ministry, told the conference, citing the 2005 National Study of Youth and Religion, which found that the Synod “is one of only a few church bodies who retains and maintains a relationship with 86 percent of its young people through high school.
“However, the record is not so good when it comes to young adults,” he added. After high school, it’s as abysmal as any church body. Demographically, young adults are known for their spiritual disinterest and ambivalence.
“So, the fact that you are here is a tremendous affirmation of youth and young adults in our church body,” he added.
“At the same time,” Dittmer noted, until recently “campus ministry has been on the low end of the totem pole” for the Synod.
He spoke of “a new partnership” in which LCMS Youth Ministry “took the reins of young-adult ministry” — resulting in a task force, a website, servant events, and a corps of volunteers at the LCMS National Youth Gathering and other support for young adults.
Dittmer noted that after restructuring mandated by the 2010 Synod convention, “the LCMS has established campus ministry as a priority. It has the ear of the President’s Office [and] the unbridled support of ONM Executive Director Bart Day. In the restructuring process, youth, young adult and campus ministry have been brought into a new and hugely logical relationship and partnership.”
He spoke of Cholak as “a staff person who is our connection to campus ministry and the efforts now led by Zill, Winters and Pacey. “We’re anxious to work with these three wise men over the years, developing a campus-ministry support system and a referral system.
“We’re excited to see this conference being unwrapped — literally,” Dittmer added — “to see the new energy being given to campus ministry in our church body.
“Hopefully,” Dittmer concluded, “the vision and commitment to campus ministry with grow over the next few years. LCMS Campus Ministry will be a significant voice through young adults like yourselves — a voice for the Gospel on our campuses — both church-related and public schools across the nation and even around the world.”
Posted Jan. 30, 2013