Steadfast on Campus

March 2nd, 2012 Post by

The college campus is a windy place. Life-long Lutheran students are suddenly carried away from the foundation of the apostles and prophets by every wind of doctrine. They appear to be helpless as the waves of rationalism, emotionalism, synergism, etc. bear them away from Christ. They are bombarded with new ideas that are foreign to their Christian worldview and conflict with everything they have been taught. Unaware of the danger, they follow the enticing voices of the world, their own sinful flesh, and the devil who still asks, “Did God really say…”

How can we help these students from falling away? St. Paul says in Ephesians 4 that Christ gave the Office of the Ministry so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Thus, the LCMS does well to provide Word and sacrament campus ministry. Campus ministry is nothing other than the faithful preaching of Christ crucified and the right administration of the sacraments for college students.

What should pastors and congregations do to support campus ministry for the sake of their students?

First, find out where your college students are and help them find a confessional Lutheran campus ministry where they may attend. Sadly, once our high school graduates move away to college, they can become out of sight and out of mind in a hurry. I confess that I have done this very thing! Please be mindful of the students and contact them. The gentle nudging toward the one thing necessary is worth it.

Second, I highly recommend that the home pastor contact the campus pastor of the church where you wish your student would attend. This is good for so many reasons, but initially it is important for the faithful soul care of the student who may desire to receive the Sacrament from the campus pastor.

Third, I beg you, take care of things in your own congregation for the long run. Do not try to lure youth into your congregations by entertainment and emotional appeal. Students who are exposed to this in their home congregations are, in my own experience, easily drawn away to the seeker-driven churches. Rather, I plead with you to remain steadfast in the pure Word of God. Teach your children the liturgy and sing Christ- centered hymns. Teach them the catechism from their youth. Without a doubt, those students who have been grounded in Law/Gospel preaching, frequent reception of the Lord’s Supper, Christ-centered hymnody in the Divine Service, and ongoing catechesis are the ones who are able to stand steadfast on campus amid the wind and waves.


Associate Editor’s Note: With this post we introduce Pastor John Wegener to BJS as a regular writer. Here is some biographical information for him:

Rev. John H. Wegener was born on September 22, 1974 in Ames IA a minute after the birth of his twin brother. He was baptized on October 6, 1974 at St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hubbard, IA where his father (The Rev. Thomas C. Wegener) served as pastor. He was confirmed in 1984 at Faith Lutheran Church of Waterloo, IA. He graduated from West High School in Waterloo and then attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA where he earned a B.A. in Graphic Design in 1997.

In 2000, he began his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. He served as vicar at Emmaus Lutheran Church, in Fort Wayne from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003. He received his Master of Divinity from CTS in 2004. He was called to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Readlyn, IA and Immanuel Lutheran Church of Klinger, IA where he was ordained and installed on June 13, 2004. He served there until July, 2007 when he accepted the call to serve the campus ministry at College Hill Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa near the University of Northern Iowa. He was installed there on July 1st, 2007.

John met Ms. Heidi M. Johnson while in college at the church where he now serves as pastor. They were married on August 8, 1998 at Grace Lutheran Church in Waterloo, IA. John and Heidi have four children: AJ, Aleah, Javan, and Michael.

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  1. Rev. Steve Bagnall
    March 2nd, 2012 at 16:13 | #1

    Campus pastor at my alma mater!

  2. Rev. Richard Woelmer
    March 2nd, 2012 at 17:04 | #2

    Thank you for your service as a campus pastor! As a campus pastor myself I agree with you wholeheartedly. Most students don’t know what has hit them, and think, “Well, this may seem strange, but this is the real world. I guess I’d better get with the program.” They swallow it without giving a thought to comparing what they are hearing to God’s Word. To make matters worse, campus ministry facilities on campus or right next to campus are being closed, making it even harder to have a visible presence and helping confused students see through the darkness. People have to realize that this is where we lose the majority of our young people.

  3. helen
    March 2nd, 2012 at 21:12 | #3

    [Some campus ministries are so liberal as to be useless.]

    Home Pastors of confessional churches should find their counterparts in the University town and encourage their students to attend there.

    Our congregation has attracted several grad students by various routes; one came with a recommendation from his undergraduate campus Pastor (Marcus Zill). Another was directed to St Paul by his brother, who heard about us on Issues Etc. :)
    St Paul is near the “North Campus” of UT Austin, surrounded by apartments largely housing students, so it’s very accessible and students are welcomed by the Pastors and members.
    Our youth, with the Associate Pastor, regularly attend Higher Things in the summer.

  4. helen
    March 2nd, 2012 at 21:16 | #4

    The comment about finding confessional churches was meant only in the cases where the “campus ministry” is inadequate. (Editing isn’t seeming to work on this one!) :(

  5. March 2nd, 2012 at 22:23 | #5

    Welcome aboard John, glad to have a voice for campus ministry regularly writing here at BJS!

  6. Nathan Raddatz
    March 2nd, 2012 at 23:42 | #6

    John is a great man and confident that he is a faithful pastor.

    I would encourage people to forward these remarks to my District (MNS) for consideration. There is evidence that the mission committee in the district thinks that campus ministry ought to be done differently. This is sad.

  7. Pastor Donald Jordan
    March 3rd, 2012 at 00:09 | #7

    Thanks for your prayers and support of Confessional Lutheran campus ministry in Northern California as Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church, Chico, California serves the students of Chico State and Butte College. We are especially grateful to the faithful women of the CNH LWML for their mission grants that assist greatly. This is a great mission field for Christ’s church as sound theology and worship is provided to serve these young people away from their home, family, and church.

  8. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 3rd, 2012 at 12:50 | #8

    John, I am surprised that your circuit let you write for Steadfast!!! :-)

  9. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 3rd, 2012 at 12:51 | #9

    PS: John and I are in neighboring circuits in Iowa East!! We meet together at various times.

  10. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 3rd, 2012 at 13:35 | #10

    PPS: How do we really know that the picture is John and not his twin??? :-)

  11. Mrs. Hume
    March 3rd, 2012 at 15:55 | #11

    The whole college thing has taken on a life of its own. It is kind of like an idol for some people. Parents stress going to college almost to the point of a non-negotiable of greater importance than it really deserves. Some parents inadvertently speak of it like it is more important than truly important things like character, sobriety, chastity, or even thrift. When we hold college in such esteem regardless of the objective good it actually contributes to our children’s lives, we set it up as an idol for them. When we stress that they have to get that education like their whole life depends on it, we give them false hope. In fact, a college degree is not the end all be all. I am not knocking education, just the exaggerated value we attribute to it. If my sons want to be accountants or engineers, that is fine we will support them, but I would be willing to spend the equivalent amount to help them start a plumbing or roofing company or even a farm. If it is worth $50k to become a CPA, it is worth $50k for a downpayment on a farm or roofing equipment. Our children need to think broader than college.

    The mental, spiritual and emotional degradation college students suffer in college doesn’t start with anti-Christian professors of low moral character, although they are a problem. It begins with parents who too greatly esteem college education and by inference those who provide it. We sow the seeds of misery for our children when we practically venerate college education as though it saves our children from some horrid fate. It doesn’t. It is just a tool to help them in their careers and earn a living. And that, only if they graduate with a valuable degree, which most don’t.

    Colleges aren’t just selling an education. They are selling an experience and they are selling it to people who are at least inexperienced when not also imprudent. The alcohol and hook up culture on many college campuses is a soul sucking environment often with complicit university policies like morning after pills in vending machines. Rather than promote healthy behaviors, many university administrations actively promote destructive behaviors ignoring the vulnerability of young people.

    As parents, we need to stop framing college as an unqualified good, and counsel them about the pros and cons. Debt and opportunity costs are real. College can be a helpful tool if used as such, but it can just as easily be worse than an expensive waste of time.

    Parents set their children up for misery with the sort of unspoken yet pervasive, don’t ask, don’t tell policy parents have with their children about their sex lives in college. No one really wants their son to tell them he is hooking up on a weekly basis. So, we don’t talk about the struggle for chastity in an overtly promiscuous sexual environment. And by far the worst is the perverse and extremely common expectation that students not marry till they get a degree as though no human being without a degree from at least State U warrants the love and commitment of marriage. Probably most parents would never say, “Honey, you are too immature to get married, just keep hooking up or have a long term “relationship” until you graduate and get on your feet financially.” But students can still infer that meaning from their parents if parents don’t explicitly offer better guidance.

    I feel a knot in my stomach for the way our children are so harshly and blithely dispatched to the depravity of our college campuses as well as the way the public and parents exercise so little oversight of the institutions we generously support as they turn out citizens often worse off mentally, spiritually and emotionally than when they entered. I say turn out, not graduates, because while drunkenness, indebtedness and illicit sex abound, graduation rates are not on the rise despite ever rising enrollment.

    Perhaps we and they wish to believe theu can handle the pressures even though the evidence shows many cannot.

  12. Wallenstein
    March 3rd, 2012 at 20:13 | #12

    Rev. Richard Woelmer :
    To make matters worse, campus ministry facilities on campus or right next to campus are being closed, making it even harder to have a visible presence and helping confused students see through the darkness. People have to realize that this is where we lose the majority of our young people.

    What safeguards are in place to keep the “Willow Creek Lutheran” LCMS districts from selling campus ministry properties and making those (confessional) congregations homeless. I would hate to see a repeat of the actions of Minnesota South all over the country.

  13. John Eberhart
    March 4th, 2012 at 06:30 | #13

    @Mrs. Hume #11 The college years and early adult years seem to be the black hole into which many of our younger generation has fallen into. A large percentage of our kids have dissapeared from our churches during these years yet when you question pastors for a solution they have the somewhat out dated idea that since the kids have been cathechized they will not fall away. Unfortunately that is not the case since many have not been taught extensively enough. Many of them have been let to sit idle in confirmation classes since it is sometimes easier to concentrate on the ones that really want to learn. `

  14. John Rixe
    March 5th, 2012 at 17:28 | #14

    A note concerning the ULC@UCLA: “I heard it from the district president himself The Chapel at UCLA is off the list of properties to be sold. Thank you to everyone who is praying for us, and Thank you to Larry Stoterau for helping us keep our ministry”  -Rev. Mark Jasa, campus pastor UCLA.

    From Facebook page “Save LCMS Campus Ministries”  Please *like* this FB page.

  15. Old Time St. John's
    March 5th, 2012 at 18:15 | #15

    @John Rixe #14
    This is such good news! The clear priority of the Church should be Word and Sacrament ministry. Preserving this existing congregation seems consistent with that, and a very good move strategically as such a prime location would be extremely difficult to replace, once sold. Any word about the other two campus ministry properties that were possibly for sale in that district?

  16. helen
    March 6th, 2012 at 17:51 | #16

    @John Eberhart #13
    The college years and early adult years seem to be the black hole into which many of our younger generation has fallen into.

    Your Pastor is ideally an influence on our teenagers. But parents are a more powerful one; they have them from birth onward, more time than any Pastor can devote.

    Most children try to live up to their parents’ [reasonable] expectations. That is not to say they won’t sometimes do things you wouldn’t approve of… but do they know what you would and wouldn’t approve of? Teaching them that, and squaring those expectations up with the Christian life is the job of parents!

    When students shop for a school, trade school, community college or university, they should also be looking for a church or solid campus ministry. They will be thinking along those lines if they were encouraged to participate in youth groups all through high school. [And if Dad attends services regularly, I’m told that is the best predictor of their future attendance at church.]

  17. Carl H
    March 7th, 2012 at 09:29 | #17

    “Campus ministry is nothing other than the faithful preaching of Christ crucified and the right administration of the sacraments for college students.”

    No teaching? Bible study? Counseling? Service opportunities? Fellowship? Leadership development? …

  18. John Rixe
    March 7th, 2012 at 10:28 | #18

    Suggestion for prayer of the church this weekend

    To bless and preserve all campus ministries of Your Church, especially at ULC -Minneapolis in its time of trial; to bless the students of our colleges and universities with the proclamation of Your pure Gospel, which alone has the power to save;

    We implore you to hear us Good Lord


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