Inviting all to know Christ’s love—
Let’s face it, college age-young adults have a lot going on in their lives. Having just completed one chapter of life, they are now on to the next—whatever and wherever that “next” is. For many, the next chapter includes some form of post-secondary education. It is a time when many focus on the training, education and mentoring needed for the career of their choice. Oh, and there’s other things happing too! Add to the list working a job (or two…or three) to pay the bills, meeting new people and growing relationships, figuring out the rhythms and responsibilities of being more independent…AND all the stress, pressure and anxieties that come along with “growing up”. On college campuses across the country, students are contemplating who they are, and also discerning whose they are…as they look to find way to deepen their understanding of God and the world. They find themselves asking questions and seeking understanding. And, in this moment of life, many seek an authentic community to share this experience and help shape it. This authentic community, rooted in Christ’s love, is the mission and purpose of Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry and what campus ministry in general is all about.
As a partner ministry of the Nebraska Synod, and more broadly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry (NeLCM) is a network of campus ministry locations located in academic communities across our state. We are connected together broadly as part of the LuMin (Lutheran Ministry) Network of the ELCA, and directly as NeLCM location ministries here in Nebraska. These ministry sites include Chadron (Chadron State College); Kearney (University of Nebraska-Kearney); Lincoln (University of Nebraska-Lincoln); Beatrice (Southeast Community College); Wayne (Wayne State College); Omaha (University of Nebraska-Omaha and Creighton University); and Peru (Peru State College).
Each location ministry is unique. The size, scope and general make up of the college community varies from location to location. Two-year verses four-year campuses, rural versus urban and residential verses commuter campuses make our ministry sites diverse. It also makes it difficult to have a “cookie cutter” approach to providing campus ministry programming. The largest and longest serving ministries, the Lutheran Center at UNL and Campus Lutheran at UNK, each have their own physical space. These campus ministry sites include space for worship and gathering as a community nestled within or adjacent to campus. Other locations, like the Omaha-area campus ministry, are partnered with local congregations. St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Omaha offers their church as a gathering place for students and activities that take place each week. Chadron State’s ministry functions in a similar way, in partnership with Immanuel Lutheran Church in Chadron. In other locations, like Wayne, Beatrice and Peru, ministry leaders host events on campus for students, as well as partner with area congregations to offer support for students.
While each location is unique in its size, geography and design for ministry programming, all are united in our mission to offer an authentic welcome to all. Pastors and Deacons, student leaders and other staff help to provide support for all we serve together across our varied ministry settings. A couple weeks ago, our NeLCM location ministries had the opportunity to gather together for “Pillar of Fire”. Students from across the state met in Ashland at Carol Joy Holling Camp for an overnight retreat. While touted as a friendly competition between team “Pillar” and Team “Fire”, the event is truly a gathering for growing faith, and friendship among all who participate. It was a joy to see students take time away from their hectic lives to breathe in grace and breathe out the compassion and love that we are gifted from God through our Savior Jesus Christ. Our campus leaders along with camp staff provided a beautiful environment to enjoy each other’s company, to expand individually in faith and leadership, and to grow collectively as community. Simply put, it was beautiful. And it is an example of how we invite people more deeply into Jesus Christ and the community that bears Christ’s name. Campus ministry is a vital part of the college experience, providing students with opportunities to know WHOSE they are as they grow closer to God and to one another. Each of our ministry locations serve as a “home away from home” for students and an opportunity to talk about faith, wrestle with questions, and work together to find a clearer understanding of our place in God’s world.
Pastor Elisabeth Pynn Himmelman, our campus pastor serving the University of Nebraska in Kearney at Campus Lutheran shared the following recently on a Facebook post. It has stuck with me, and captures well what the Holy Spirit is up to in this place we call Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry:
“Being a pastor is weird. Messy. Hard. And so
holy. Pastoring young adults is just the very
best, most holy, authentic thing. They tell
beautiful stories and aren’t afraid of asking
hard questions. They lead the way, and they
recognize God being up to good things and
leave room for doubt and despair and hope all
mixed into one. God’s grace and expansive
love is made real in these faces.”
That, friends, is who we are and why we gather together to serve Christ by serving others through our Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministry.