Update on the Future of LCMS Campus Ministry
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Ps. 111:10).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Many throughout the Synod have expressed great concern for the future of campus ministry. I want to update you briefly concerning the plans underway through the Office of National Mission (ONM) to increase Synod support for that ministry.
At the beginning of this year, the ONM hosted a Think Tank on Campus Ministry made up of campus pastors, workers and other invested parties from throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. By every standard, the meeting was a great success. I was deeply impressed with the passion and dedication of everyone involved in campus ministry. These individuals and the countless others whom they represent are intensely dedicated to campus ministry. They deserve our thanks for all that they have done to support this important work, especially since the Synod’s Campus Ministry Office was closed in 2002.
Over the two days together, we were able to develop an understanding of the purposes, unique needs and support required for the ongoing work of campus ministry. While there are many things to work out, it is clear that the Synod once again needs to provide direct coordination and support.
In order to build on this consensus and chart a common path forward, President Matthew C. Harrison and I have requested a follow-up meeting with representatives from each of the four main groups involved in Synod campus ministry circles: Christ on Campus (Higher Things), International Student Ministry, Lutheran Campus Mission Association and Lutheran Student Fellowship. That meeting will hopefully take place in March and will provide us with direction as we move forward.
There is a fifth critical partner in campus ministry: districts of the Synod. Many districts continue to work and fund campus ministry despite diminishing congregational support. Another important task for the ONM will be to coordinate closely with districts who are involved in campus ministry. Working together we can accomplish all that our Lord has given us to do.
At the same time, the committee tasked to put on a national campus ministry conference is hard at work. In the past, such conferences provided opportunities for students and staff to get to know one another and engage in dialogue about topics facing our young people on campus and worship the triune God they proclaim together. I am confident that this conference will accomplish all that and more.
The efforts of all of these devoted individuals represent a rekindling of our Synod’s desire to make campus mission and ministry a substantial part of the Synod’s future. Among the many things learned at our January meeting is the truth that campus ministry is not just an essential part of the Church’s mission, but it is also one of the most strategic mission and ministry outposts that we have today. We are in a unique moment in time. The need and opportunity to be present on our college campuses is greater than ever. It is time for the LCMS to be a leader in campus ministry.
We still have work to do. As we move forward together, I am heartbroken to hear that even more LCMS campus ministry properties are being put up for sale. The actions to sell these facilities are sending mixed messages to those who work in campus mission and ministry as a labor of love. Our campus pastors, workers and volunteers are growing discouraged, and the college students they seek to serve are dismayed to hear these reports.
I beseech these districts’ Boards of Directors, the congregations and pastors of the districts and others who may be considering similar action to collaborate in researching other alternatives. While I recognize that there may be a time for the sale of campus ministry properties, the sweeping nature of that which is taking place is simply unprecedented. The sale of these properties in such prime locations is irreversible and will greatly diminish the Synod’s presence on these college campuses. We as the Church can’t support campus ministry while at the same time defunding our campus ministries or selling their facilities.
Please, let us slow down and find solutions together. I challenge all of our congregations and pastors in every district to consider how we might, by the mercy of God, work together to increase our support for Word and Sacrament campus ministry. Yes, we know these are challenging times financially. Yet the time our young people spend on campus provides a golden opportunity to help strengthen them in the faith of our Lord, Jesus Christ, an opportunity we must not allow to slip through our fingers.
May God grant us the foresight equal to those who have gone before us who built these campus ministry facilities for the sake of the spiritual needs of our Lutheran college students and for reaching the lost on the secular universities of our nation.
It is clear that campus ministry in our Synod is at a crossroads. The opportunities are as great as ever. Please know that we are doing everything we can to support campus ministry going forward. We are more committed than ever to support campus ministry through the ONM and to do so as soon as possible.
While we work toward this end, please continue to join all of us in praying for those who labor in campus ministry and especially those dear ones whose souls we desire to seek and save. May God, the source of every good and perfect gift, grant us a full measure of wisdom as we deliberate on the future of campus ministry in the LCMS.
Rev. J. Bart Day
Executive Director of National Mission
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