Chad Van Meter, minister of discipleship at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, joined University Lutheran on June 1, 2017, as the director of community ministry on a part-time, temporary basis. On loan from Holy Cross Lutheran Church, where he will continue to serve part time, Chad will develop the community ministry position for ULu and provide direction for campus outreach in the new location. (Note that during his six-month tenure at ULu, Chad will still be called at Holy Cross and deployed by Holy Cross.)
Because Pastor Herman is ministering to a year-round church in addition to developing this opportunity to create a whole new student outreach, the leadership at the Indiana District determined that Pastor Herman needs someone to minister alongside him. “The long-term goal is to find a full-time DCE person to fill this role,” says Chad.
In addition to developing the director of community ministry position, Chad intends to help Pastor Herman energize the first-floor space and ministry at the new location. “The plans are amazing,” says Chad. “It’s a great opportunity to develop community engagement. We’ll be finding ways to connect and intersect with thousands of university students. A coffee shop is one way we can do that.”
The new location offers a unique opportunity for these types of connections. “Our goal is to make practical connection points,” says Chad. “In addition to a coffee shop, that can include such simple things as providing a place to study or hang out.” It is Chad’s hope that these connecting points will lead to long-term relationships, giving students a place to go when they need to talk or want to worship. “The reality that we face,” says Chad, “is that students aren’t sitting around on Sunday morning looking for churches. Unless we’re going to them and interacting with them on their turf, there won’t be any conversations happening any time soon.”
The campus ministry will also provide a way for the church to support students as they transition from high school to their professional lives. As Chad notes, the Lutheran system does a great job of investing in students through their elementary and high school years. But when these students head off to state colleges, they encounter professors who are openly antagonistic to their faith and traditional values. Students on university campuses also struggle with isolation, a huge party scene, and a culture of escapism.
“It’s a hard landscape for anyone,” says Chad, “let alone young people who are still finding their way. If we can be there for them at this time in their lives,” he says, “that’s a big deal.” Chad is hoping that the ministry he and Pastor Herman develop will serve as a model for other college outreaches. “I’m excited about the possibilities,” he says. “Of course, we’ll be learning a lot as a we go. We’re not approaching this arrogantly but with lots of prayer and needs assessments. Our days will be filled with dreams and ideas and excitement,” he continues. “We definitely appreciate the prayers of everyone as we move forward.”