Steadfast on Campus — A Cry for Help and a Wish List

Your graduating seniors are heading off to college.  They’re leaving the herd and the lion is waiting. For some of them, this may be the last time sitting in the pew of a Lutheran church—it may be the last time they’re in church- period!  Believe me, BELIEVE ME, we need to help them find a confessional Lutheran church home away from home.

I don’t know the stats.  But I do know from the school of experience that many of our Lutheran students are finding their way to other churches of other confessions (or no confessions!). Their new friends on campus are showing them where they go.  Para-church groups are inviting them to their Bible studies.  Most of their peers don’t even go to church!  The busyness of studying, social life, part-time jobs, and everything else leaves no opportunity to squeeze in a little time on Sunday for the Divine Service. Sadly, and I’m very serious, even our students who have faithfully attended church with their families from their conception in the womb, have been baptized and well catechized in the faith, have heard the greatest Law/Gospel sermons ever, and have faithfully received the Sacrament, are suddenly gone.

Perhaps slightly (or extremely) ignorant of the danger that lurks on the college campus, students are easy prey and need our help.  This is my cry for help on their behalf, because frankly speaking, they might be consumed so quickly that their cry is too late or never heard:

One way to help is rare, but it shouldn’t be!—Another pastor will call me or contact me about his student who is now attending college near our church.  He will tell his student about our congregation.  He will provide contact information as needed.  He will do whatever he can to make sure his student continues steadfast in hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament.  He will be sure to direct his own dear son/daughter in the faith safely to another herd— another community of confessional Lutherans who gather together for protection against the enemy.

I wish all pastors would do this for their students.  But my wishing doesn’t stop here, oh no, it does not stop here…

I wish that more parents would stop by the church building with their son or daughter during orientation (because it’s kinda important).

I wish that pastors would check in from time to time to see how their students are doing,

I wish that pastors would teach their students what to look for when attending another church (Christ-centered, liturgical, Law/Gospel, right administration of the sacraments, etc.) and what to avoid.

I wish that congregations would remember those who have gone away to college (send them one of those Christ on Campus care packages!

I wish, simply, that we all would consider helping our students in whatever way possible as they leave home.

Please help your students find other like-minded Lutherans wherever they are going.  Help them find a pastor and congregation who will protect them from the lies they will hear on campus.  A great place to begin is the list of campus ministry chapters on the Christ on Campus site:

I’d like to hear from you.  What else can we do to help our college-bound students?

About Pastor John Wegener

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.


Steadfast on Campus — A Cry for Help and a Wish List — 17 Comments

  1. What else can we do? We can encourage, support, and, if unfortunately necessary, save our existing campus ministries. We can advocate at a local, District, and Synodical level for retaining our historic campus ministry properties. We can financially contribute to them, in recognition of their past work on our behalf and our inability to pay toward it while we ourselves were students. And we can pray for them. These ministries are the cutting edge of retaining our students in the Faith.

    In particular, we can help save ULC-MN, a most exemplary and faithful campus parish.

  2. In his recent Higher Things Video Rev. Borghardt had another suggestion: Be Lutheran in doctrine and practice especially in evangelism and youth mnistry:

    It’s not surprising that our Lutheran youth are confused and wander when they are subjected to a buffet of religious beliefs.

    Stop ushering Lutheran youth to non-denominational retreats and think it doesn’t matter.
    Stop placing “relevant” style over doctrinal substance.

    Do not apologize for being Lutheran.

    Passionately preach and teach what a difference being saved solely by grace makes.

    I also suggest reading Rev. Dr. John Oberdeck’s book, Eutychus Youth: Applied Theology for Youth Ministry: Reaching Youth on the Ledge.

  3. “The church is losing her young people. This is a concern we all share. While some fall away during high school, by far the greatest losses occur during the college years. Our young adults are bombarded by a secular worldview that is antagonistic to their Christian faith. College campuses have become a place where the truth of God’s Word is mocked, the divinity of Christ is questioned, and the church is scorned.

    While the Synod has a tremendous system of Concordia colleges and universities, the vast majority of our young people attend secular institutions of higher education. Showing great foresight, past generations gave of their resources to establish campus ministries at major universities throughout the nation. However, over the years, as both local and national support has decreased, a number of campus ministries have been dissolved or closed. The recent events surrounding the sale of University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis, Minn., a vibrant and thriving campus ministry, are but another tragic chapter…

    Now is the time to renew our efforts. While many have faithfully labored in campus ministry, they have not always received our support. The Synod simply cannot afford to sit on the sideline while faithful campus congregations are being closed. College students need Word and Sacrament ministry. They need faithful pastors and workers who will care, teach and prepare them for life in, but not of, the world. In short, they need Jesus.”   – Pastor Matt Harrison

  4. A modest suggestion: Continue to support our Concordias too. Institutions consist of those who attend them. If you cannot attend a Concordia or don’t think it’s right for you or your student/young adult, that’s fine. However, if all our Lutheran youth actually investigated and possibly attended a Concordia that would be very siginificant.

    Full Disclosure: I teach at CUNE.

    Having written these things, I fully support campus ministries at all universities and especially Christ on Campus.

  5. @John Rixe #3
    Later in this same superb letter, it is worth noting, Pastor Harrison asked the entire Synod to financially support the congregation at ULCMN. As far as I know, this is unprecedented–I know of no other time when the Synod’s administration has requested financial support for a specific congregation. It demonstrates clearly how important this is.

  6. If there’s not a Higher Things chapter at the campus, if you fill out the form here LCMA will personally give your student’s information to the campus pastor or the pastor of the nearest LCMS church. The confessional degree of the congregation will be whatever it happens to be, LCMA takes the campus or closest church regardless of where in the LCMS spectrum it falls, but at least the student will have something.

  7. Trying to get the youth to remain in the church is not only a challenge for the LCMS, but for other traditional church denominations as well.

    It really bothers me that the non-denominational churches have the gall to sheep steal even from the Amish (Skip to 9:20 in the video for the cause):

    As you watch the video, note how Ephraim the Amish dad never considered himself a Christian until he was lured away by the non-denominational prayer tent. Amazing!

  8. The Mormons are smart. BYU is run with a set of rules that promotes student loyalty to the mother church. They also heavily subsidize BYU so that church members graduate with very little student loan debt. Note the difference in tuition prices for church members versus non-church members:

    Regarding the Concordias: Make the tuition dirt cheap for LCMS members, and they will come. Run the campus with a strict set of rules, such as instituting mandatory church attendance. If the Mormons can do it, then why not the LCMS?

  9. @CMP #4
    My son attends Concordia Seward and loves it. My daughter ….ahem, takes after me and will not be persuaded.

  10. I’m not remotely an expert, and don’t have any kids yet, but FWIW here’s my 2 cents. Kids leaving for college and stepping out from under the authority of their parents are going to simply do what reveals the condition of their hearts. Those who love Jesus and have been taught to fear Him will continue to do so. Those who know what they believe and why they believe it will build their lives upon it. And those who understand why Lutherans worship they way they do and the primary importance of Word and Sacrament ministry to the live of a believer WILL seek it out. Now, how many of our students go off to college in this state? The battle is, for the most part, either won or lost before they leave. The problem is, how many of our ADULTS does this even describe?

    Forcing Concordia students to attend worship Mormon style, whether they want to or not, may not necessarily be effective. Sure, it will provide them with more opportunity to hear the word of God so that those without faith who didn’t want to go in the first place might be made believers by hearing, but for the most part, kids forced there against their will just do their time and shut off their brains upon entering. They will simply continue with their drift out of the church after graduation. The solution isn’t to make them go to church: If we don’t teach them why, nothing will help.

  11. @Miguel #10
    I think there’s some truth in what you say, but unless college students are 100% financially independent, college is like freedom on training wheels. I honestly think my son knows what he believes, why we worship as we do, etc. but he also knows that financial support comes w/ strings attached. We’re not going to pay for bad grades, we want regular calls home, and he’s expected to go to church. He knows I’ll ask him if he went. (I’m not sure he knows that his college pastor sends his hometown Pastor notes when he communes, but he does.) I do have less control when he’s away at school than when he’s home for the summer, and I’m sure he makes his share of both good and poor decisions, but the difference is less black and white than you make it out to be. I would council parents against giving up on their college student children. Our impact certainly diminishes when they are on their own, but it’s not entirely gone.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  12. @Lumpenkönig #7

    Is the non-denominational mission “sheep stealing” or compassionately leading folks away from an oppressive cult centered on ignorance (no school beyond 8th grade) and control?  

    “The Amish believe that God carefully weighs the individual’s total lifetime record of obedience to the church and then decides whether the person’s eternal destiny will be the reward of Heaven or the punishment in Hell. If a person is baptized into the Amish church and later leaves the church or is excommunicated, they have no hope of attaining Heaven.”    Sola gratia?  

  13. @John Rixe #12
    I do not agree with the rigid, nonsensical rules the Amish impose on themselves. For example, they do not believe in cars, yet they will own them and hire non-Amish to drive for them. It seems more like a strange lifestyle than a religion. I only mourn the complete loss of cultural identity whenever Amish families are deliberately lured away to another church. Do the non-denoms really need to throw the baby out with the bath water?

    By the way, those same non-denominational churches would argue that the Lutheran church is an oppressive, “Catholic Lite” cult centered on ignorance. Leading Lutherans out of their denominations and into their churches is part of the “Great Commission”. The non-denominational Lions are on the prowl on college campuses all over the country. Since Willow Creek Lutherans are taught in “missional” LCMS churches that denominational differences do not matter, no one should be surprised when young people leave the LCMS for that non-denominational church across town. You reap what you sow.

  14. Fun observation: students for whom church is optional in high school rarely attend church in college.

    A far bigger problem than students leaving home and being on their own for college is the parents who act like: (a) church doesn’t matter, (b) doctrine doesn’t matter, or (c) they don’t care about their children’s spiritual life. I’ve even seen parents who are always in church and even the father is president of the congregation who make church optional for their children. Unsurprising their children don’t attend church in college. Until heads of households teach their children as they ought, everything else we try is severely handicapped.

  15. @Matthew Mills #11
    Words of wisdom, from someone who’s been there. I agree completely, though sadly, as a teacher I have noticed all too many parents who have abandoned their role to influence their children for righteousness while they are still living at home.

  16. CMP :

    However, sometimes it seems our Concordia system can be just as much a problem as other universities…
    Then watch the video “Chapel in the sand.” CUNE has contemporary chapel every Friday, Praise! on Wednesday night, and less traditional chapel on Thursdays. This isn’t just Lutheran hymns set to guitar, it’s your standard CCM band with dimmed lights, fancy colored moving lights, a performing band with the lyrics projected behind them, and sometimes a smoke machine…

  17. A few years ago, Francis Schaeffer said, “It would be better to send your college student to a secular school, where he knows his faith will be assaulted and can be on guard, than to send him to a denominational school where faith is undermined by people he should be able to trust.”

    I’m afraid the Concordias I know anything about have become such ‘undermining’ denominational schools. A friend’s daughter went to Irvine but she does not participate in “worship” on campus. She was referred to a solid Lutheran church, where she is a member and often brings other students.

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