Reporter — Think tank engages campus ministry reps, Synod leaders

I posted Pastor Marcus Zill’s Reflections on the Campus Ministry Think Tank a few days ago, and he mentioned that his thoughts were preliminary and that a Reporter article would be coming out shortly. Here is that article:


Think tank engages campus ministry reps, Synod leaders

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 incampus.gif 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 St. Louis.

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 on Reporter Online

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Reporter — Think tank engages campus ministry reps, Synod leaders — 23 Comments

  1. I don’t find much difference in what is reported than what was being reported back in the 60’s and 70’s. I would like to know what will be different this time around? I like the start but want to see something more far reaching and better–if I might use that term.

  2. Lots of talk, but let’s see the proof. The bureaucrats aren’t behind this, as evidenced now with the sale of campus ministry properties in Minnesota, California, and Arizona. Were any District President’s involved in this?

  3. It all sounds good, but is there tangible funding that will allow campus ministries to continue on their own? Please provide a funding/grant report because that is what is needed. Follow the money and it will tell you a lot in the church.

  4. What incentive is there for the four competing RSOs to talk. Is there even a requirement that the groups have to agree on anything. The RSOs reside in separate bunkers and possess competing budgets and redundant staff that offer duplicate services. At what point do the functions of one group end and the responsibilities of the other group begin.

    What have these groups been doing while campus ministry properties have been for sale. Was one or more of the four groups clamoring for the sale and subsequent conversion of the confessional ULC in Minnesota into a homeless non-denominational coffee house church? I understand that Higher Things was formed because the group sponsoring the National Youth Gathering decided to abandon confessional Lutheran worship and practice.

    By supporting Willow Creek style Church Growth programs, one or more of these four groups have conditioned college-age youth that there is next to no difference in theology between the LCMS and non-denominational churches. And the LCMS wonders why so many students abandon the LCMS for the non-denominational campus ministry, where the coffee and the praise bands are superior. You reap what you sow.

    Please pardon my skepticism, but these problems have been dodged by our leadership for decades. I hope that this communication will result in more than the casual “show and tell” sessions of what each group is doing. Please please please do not sell any more campus ministry properties. Lord have mercy.

  5. Campus ministry is one of the most important mission fields on this continent. Youth make a difficult transition when they stop living the faith of their parents and begin to live their own faith. And, they make that transition at the same time they begin to experience all aspects of life on their own terms – apart from the security of family and home congregation.

    In my opinion, there are three fundamental requirements for successful campus ministry:
    1. Because campus ministry is a mission, it must be supported by the church. It is unrealistic to expect campus ministry to be a self-supporting endeavor.
    2. Because campus ministry is a mission, the church must be prepared to meet the students where the students are in their faith/life journey. It is unrealistic to expect the students to meet the church where the church leadership thinks the students ought to be.
    3. The church must critically evaluate the message that it proclaims – both intended and incidental to its proclamation. Students want and need to hear the message of saving faith. They do not need and might be put off by too much emphasis on teachings that are not essential to the message of saving faith.

  6. Johan Bergfest :.3. … Students want and need to hear the message of saving faith. They do not need and might be put off by too much emphasis on teachings that are not essential to the message of saving faith.

    I was with you right up until this passage, with which I must disagree. Lutheran students who arrive on campus already catechized are going to want to engage in much more complicated theological issues than they learned in middle school, particularly since they are newly somewhat alone in the intersection of faith and life at the same time as they join, for the first time, an often faith-decrying context with professors who contradict and often even ridicule the Biblical teachings with which these students grew up. Emphasis on and capability to discuss apologetics is crucial for that time of life. College life is exactly when not to cut back to the basics.

    Having said that, for students who are not yet Christian, being able to clearly articulate the essentials of saving faith as well as to discuss apologetics is crucial.

    And for both, being able to convey these truths respectfully and prayerfully and to have fun with these discussions all at the same time is really important. These are specific skills that would be helpful to any pastor, but that are especially important for campus ministers.

  7. The Central Illinois District has supported 4 campus ministries
    for over 50 years. The University of Illinois, Illinois State
    University, Western Illinois University, and Eastern Illinois
    University have chapel/buildings and campus pastors.
    The District laity look at these campus ministries as mission
    outposts for LCMS youth. It is intended to be their church
    home away from home. A District has to bite the bullet and
    support these campus ministries with financial support and
    not expect to make money on them. The Lord will bless
    this ministry of Word and Sacrament.

  8. We don’t need more synod and district support from the top. That has caused these problems. We need more local support so they can own and administer their own churches. If these became self-supporting years ago we wouldn’t be dealing with this. The leadership has been bad and contributes to this. Start a local fund drive for campus ministry now! Don’t depend on administrations and St.Louis. Do it yourself.

  9. Old Time St. John’s :Emphasis on and capability to discuss apologetics is crucial for that time of life. College life is exactly when not to cut back to the basics.

    What is there to saving faith besides the basics? And, there is nothing about saving faith for which we need to apologize.

    Having said that, I’d also suggest that the argument between Christianity and secular academics is largely contrived. It is contrived by academicians who attempt to use the logic of their respective disciplines to challenge matters of faith, i.e. matters to which their logic does not apply. It also is contrived by theologians who attempt to use Scripture and logic, based on personal interpretation, to argue matters unrelated to saving faith. Simply stated, it is a false dichotomy and the church does students a disservice when it helps to perpetuate it and force students to choose.

  10. @Johan Bergfest #9
    Apologetics is making a Biblical case for something, not apologizing.

    Have you considered fields of study lately, and which ones would challenge students’ beliefs? Common university teaching in the fields of biology, physiology, astronomy, archeology, history, genetics, anthropology, world religion, philosophy, and others can be difficult to reconcile with Scripture. It is a wonderful thing when a campus ministry helps student to sort these issues out.

  11. These meetings are nice, but I think it would be more beneficial if Synod and Districts simply sent the majority of their executives and full and part time staff members back to parish life and gave the offerings sent them to the most needy pastors and churches on the front lines. Every district office, the Purple Palace and any other non-worship structure owned by Synod should be sold before any Sanctuary used for Word and Sacrament Ministry is gotten rid of. Most pastors out in the field are well equipped to carry out their vocations with little help from District officials. They may need additional offerings, prayers, and mutual consolation, but I doubt they need much else from their Synod and its executives. Our Synod and District offices need to downsize. Synod executives and employees surely do many good works for the church, but it appears their positions have become a luxury we can no longer afford. Besides, they could do even more good for the church serving at her alters and pulpits and in the public square.

    If $40,000,000.00 or half of Corporate Synod’s budget were freed up and sent directly to the Synod’s neediest 500 congregations each of these churches would receive $80,000.00 a year. This seems a better use of offerings than the consulting and oversight services being provided by Synod now.

  12. How much did this conference cost us? Will an equal amount spent be given to assist campus ministry churches? What is needed on the local scene is money to fund campus ministry and that wasn’t apparently addressed and until it is, all this talk is cheap.

  13. It appears that our elected synod district leaders weren’t at this conference? Isn’t that the real problem if the property is owned by them? If they decide to sell, there is nothing you can do. Herein is the problem and it all comes down to money as the bottom line. We have only seen the beginning of the end of many campus ministries, apparently, unless the district leadership changes.

  14. Think tanks and conferences are important for mutual encouragement.  We should be grateful for the volunteer participants.  However, the issue of sale of campus properties is urgent and irreversible.  I pray and hope that Pastor Day and Pastor Williamson get personally involved. 

  15. Instead of more conferences, what is needed is a tank of money. Who has some bucks to buy these churches? Can CEF or Foundation step up to the plate? How about some grants from foundations? Let’s talk money and get to it for the sake of campus ministry.

  16. @Bill #15

    I thought these properties were owned outright. The parishioners of the churches in the respective districts paid for them already so as to provide a place of worship for their own students as well as a mission to the campus. Why would they need to pay for them again?

  17. Mostly they are owned outright, but the districts hold title in most cases. That means that they are tempting sources of funds when the districts get into trouble.

    The concept that the districts hold them ‘in trust for the synod as a whole’ has fallen by the wayside and needs to be reemphasized.

  18. How about a national offering for campus ministry? And how about the districts cutting their bloated salaries and staff? Something is wrong when these districts like SoCal are cutting off their local churches. What a shame.

  19. Why do we need FOUR RSO’s dealing with campus ministry?

    I understand Christ on Campus; it was organized to provide an orthodox Lutheran voice in campus ministry.

    How are the other three different from each other and what kind of programs do they advocate?
    Are they just three other shelters for people who would rather be bureaucrats than field workers?

    I’m interested to see that there was a representative from Austin TX although I’ve never heard of the organization she represents. At last report, Texas district has two campus ministries, at UT Austin and at College Station, for Texas A&M (Kieschnick’s alma mater). The DP has said that subsidy for them should end.

    Confessional (UT) students, who attend my church, tell me the UT congregation is essentially dead. It shares quarters with the elca. (When I was associated with it, most of the LCMS officers were Concordia students. Concordia has now moved out to the fringes of Austin so I suppose they do not come to UT campus.)
    Concordia U. does not have a Word and Sacrament ministry that I’m aware of. The church which was attempting to establish one for them was disinvited this year; it was never supported by the school, which is “praise” oriented. [Some would say that phrase that is complimentary to the program… or lack thereof.]
    The district has also cut funding for Lutheran Church for the Deaf, situated across the street from the state school for the deaf. The church reaches Lutherans and non Lutherans with the Gospel, a mission if there ever was one, but not profitable! (I expect to hear that the district is selling the land out from under them any time now. It has appreciated considerably and is probably a prime location for more apartments.)

  20. Good question.

    It used to be Campus Ministry was under North American arm of Synodical Missions if I recall correctly. In the early 2000s, due to budget issues, there were cut backs as described above. One of the cutbacks was the reduction of the full time Campus Ministry staff positions, such as the one filled by Pr Manus. The Lutheran Campus Ministry Association (LCMA) was created as a mission association originally, and later became a RSO. Lutheran Student Fellowship (LSF), and International Ministry, Inc (ISM) were overseen by the LCMA and became RSOs too.

    Why the need for the different ministries? International Student Ministry focuses on reaching out to International students, faculty, and their families on college campus with the Gospel and usually English conversation programs, cultural activities, and the like. LSF is focused on students (undergrad and grad) on college campuses. It ironically was established by ULC in Minneapolis (UMN campus ministry) and other campus pastors with two goals in mind: 1. Nurture LCMS college students with Word and Sacrament and provide a church home for them on campuses.; and 2. Reach out and share the Gospel on college campuses, especially to the unchurched.

    -Luvable Lutheran

  21. Here is an “Update on the Future of LCMS Campus Ministry” from the WMLT blog site. The article notes that the four main groups involved in Synod campus ministry circles are

    1. Christ on Campus (Higher Things),
    2. International Student Ministry,
    3. Lutheran Campus Mission Association, and
    4. Lutheran Student Fellowship.

    Representatives from these four groups will meet with Pres. Harrison and ONM Exec. Dir. Day in March.

    The article also notes that “a fifth critical partner in campus ministry” are the districts of the Synod.

  22. @helen #20
    @luvable lutheran #21

    I was involved with some of these things in the late ’90s. I think around 1988 or so at synod convention, campus ministry was given a priority. We had long had youth ministry, but what happens when they go to college? For understandable reasons, while youth was already in Congregational Services, campus/college ministry was put into missions. The Lutherans Student Fellowship was the complementary student led arm, similar to what LYF is. Like it was in North Dakota where I grew up, this student organization would elects its own officers: at the college level to have fellowship events, regionally to have retreats for getting together and learning, and nationally where the students themselves fully plan and execute a bi-annual national gathering. LSF would register at their college like any other club or organization. The great benefit was to let the students function on their own, learning by doing all the leadership positions that any given congregation has. LYF and LSF done right can be excellent training grounds for leadership.

    During my time, Bob Lange was the Campus advisor. He also had a real heart for the foreign students who came to our American colleges. (part of why campus ministry fell under Missions) becuase they were a bit different in background form what born and raised LSF students were assumed to be, he reitred out of Campus and headed up the Internatinal Sutident Miinistry (ISM, Inc.) So ISM was kinda spun off of LSF/Campus. Shortly thereafter, Richard Manus was called to the Office of Campus Ministry at the IC. (I was there)

    Higher Things was developed as a concern and correciton to the liberal shift to what has happened to the youth gatherings (FYI the ELCA youth gathering is going to have a doosy this next time). Being interested in continuing the confessional support of these youth as they go to college, and in light of the apparent attack of college ministry, Christ on Campus has come into being.

    Finally, when LSF started, I saw a database with numbers attached. ULC Minneapolis holds the designation “1”, being the first campus group to charter and join the LSF. Then ULC Pr. John Pless was instrumental in the development and foundation of campus ministry. Where Christ on Campus fits in, I don’t know. But LSF and ISM were supposed to be overseen by Campus Ministry, of which those pastors sorta belonged to the LCMA “union.” (please escuse the anaolgy) So at least three of the groups really should be strongly interconnected.

    Jason Kiefer
    LSF National Secretary 1996-1997
    LSF National President 1997-1998
    National Volunteer Coordinator 1999-2000 (missionary in North American field)

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