Campus ministry can help keep students connected to the Body of Christ through regular worship opportunities, Bible studies, relationships with mature Christians, and fellowship in a Christian atmosphere, continuing to help them grow in their personal relationship with Christ during their time away at college. The University Lutheran Chapel, a ministry directly funded by the Nebraska District, offers the truth of God’s love through Jesus Christ to college students and young adults on and around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.
Since the 1950’s, the Chapel has served college students who are searching for truth and answers in a world which often seems to offer neither. A number of LCMS pastors who participated in campus ministry while attending UNL consider their time at the Chapel as a key part of their faith life.
Faith growth and vocation
Several pastors shared that campus ministry was a crucial part of their decision to move into ministry. Jess Snoberger, wife of Rev. Adam Snoberger, pastor at Trinity, Grand Island, said that, “the community of believers at the Chapel solidified our faith at a point in our lives when big life decisions were being made about our futures. The community of the Chapel not only deepened our faith, but also impacted our entire future. Due to the ministry at the Chapel, (my now-husband) Adam changed his career path entirely when we made the move for him to attend Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, a year after graduation… We met at the Chapel and built a life together rooted in faith.”
Likewise, Rev. Roger Schlechte, President of the Rocky Mountain District LCMS, shared that campus ministry was important in sustaining his faith, and that Chapel pastor Rev. Norden instructed his then-future wife in Lutheran doctrine.
Rev. David Feddern of Zion, Hampton, said, “My involvement in campus ministry helped lead me to the ministry after I retired from the U.S. Air Force.”
Campus ministry keeps students connected and growing in faith
Rev. Kevin McReynolds, who formerly served St. Paul, Central City, and now serves in Arkansas, explained the importance of campus ministry in the faith life of many college students, noting “how fundamentally important it is for guiding young people through a time in their life when they are first away from home and their home church. It is a time when they need to learn to live as they have been instructed and catechized—but with some careful shepherding and supervision. The seeds of faith were watered during my time at the Chapel and became the roots that now have blossomed into the ministry in which I now serve.”
Rev. Brad Knorr, St. Paul, Westport, CT, said that the Chapel “was invaluable in my faith life. My personal relationship with Jesus jumped during college (how many people say that?). ULC and Pastor Bill were invaluable during those years, and I look back to see those years as building off my parents’ discipleship of me and launching me into an eternal relationship with Jesus. I’m tremendously thankful.”
Campus ministry serves as a refuge in a chaotic world
Rev. Jeffery Leichman of Northern Illinois District notes that many campus ministries, “just have a local pastor fill a part-time role. Having a full-time chaplain for the students was excellent—many Bible study opportunities,” providing “a quiet place with other Christians [that was a] support against the temptations of life.”
Rev. Thomas Engler, Prince of Peace, Menomonee Falls, WI, explains, “Campus ministry is probably much more necessary now as the society and public university atmosphere has changed greatly over the past 40 years since I entered college. Christians need a place to worship, gather for fellowship with like-minded believers, and be fortified and strengthened in their knowledge and faith, not only for themselves, but to be winsome witnesses to their campus peers.”
Rev. Perry Sukstorf, St. John, New Orleans, LA, describes the Chapel as “a refuge, sanctuary, and resting place from a world that is out to devour students. Openness and a welcome heart will always be found with the current leadership at the Chapel. With this openness comes a desire to get to know each person in order to form a relationship with them that moves them to seek a relationship with Jesus Christ. My own son says that growing up with me as his pastor he was just ‘faking it,’ but when he got to the Chapel, he really began to believe what he had been taught as [Pastor Steinbauer] was discipling him toward being a disciple of Jesus.”
Service to the community and the world
Though still impacted by COVID, the University Lutheran Chapel currently hosts 50 to 70 students for weekly worship and lunch, gathers thirty students in five Bible studies weekly, serves in the community the first Sunday of each month, disciples 17 students weekly, and hosts five trips throughout the year that draw a vast diversity of students. More than 26,000 students live and study at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln each year, with 2,700 of those international students from around the world. The Chapel also delivers furniture to 15 international students on average each month, provides four Bible studies to 15 international students weekly, and matches an English-speaking conversation partner to 25 international students that meet weekly. Most of the international students that the Chapel has an ongoing relationship with come from some of the least reached countries of the world (e.g. Iran, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria). In the past ten years, the Holy Spirit has worked in the hearts of 43 international students and seven American students to bring them to the waters of Holy Baptism through the work of the Chapel staff and students.
God has used the people and ministries of the University Lutheran Chapel, with their mission being “to strengthen college students’ faith in Christ,” to reach students with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It has also become a church home for many students and a ministry center for the larger community, where people are served in many ways with God’s love and compassion. Improvements to the facility after the recent renovation project has created space for new ministry partnerships. Concordia University, Nebraska partners with the Nebraska District to offer programs at the Chapel, and GracePoint Institute for Relational Health provides Christian counseling to church workers, students, and many others.
Your partnership in campus ministry is vital
Because of the support of Nebraska District members and congregations through regular offering gifts and special designated gifts, the Good News of Jesus is proclaimed to those on Nebraska’s university campuses who have never heard of Him and to those who are growing in the faith they received at their baptism. Congregations and individuals who would like to become partners in campus ministry through regular financial support or a one-time gift can call Kim Myers at 888-643-2961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.