Closing a campus ministry because it works?

University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis is the LCMS campus ministry to the University of Minnesota.  It has ministered effectively to generations of college students, quite a few of whom have gone on to seminary and the pastoral ministry due to its influence.  My oldest daughter went to the University of Minnesota, and though exposed to some of the worst excesses of left wing postmodernist academia, she graduated battle tested and more firmly grounded in her Christian faith than ever, thanks to her involvement with University Lutheran Chapel.  It is theologically conservative, confessional, liturgical, and connects to young people.  But maybe that’s the problem.

The Minnesota South District wants to sell the property–which is a church that looks like a church in a prime location just off campus–so that it can take the money and start a different kind of campus ministry, one that follows church growth principles.  But do those ever really work with sophisticated college students?  It sounds like the approach that actually does work is being thrown out in favor of an approach that may or may not, but which accords more with the theoretical convictions of the mission executives in the district.

This sounds like what happened with the then-synodical radio program Issues, Etc., which was shut down by advocates of reaching out in evangelism even though the program reached out in evangelism to more people and did so more effectively than virtually any other synodical venture (save the daily Divine Service in ordinary congregations across the country).

The real reason for shutting down Issues, Etc. (now going strong on the web, as you can click in from our sidebar here) and now ULC seems to be the hostility of church-growth advocates who insist that contemporary worship and pop music and feel-good sermons are the ONLY way to do “mission” and that confessional, liturgical efforts must not be permitted no matter how effective they are.

Steadfast Lutherans » The U of M LCMS Chapel is a Church Growth Dream Come True, by Pr. Rossow.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    The problem with this proposal is that should the desired CG methods fail or perform below expectations, there is no recourse. The currently effective ministry location will no longer be an option.

  • SKPeterson

    The problem with this proposal is that should the desired CG methods fail or perform below expectations, there is no recourse. The currently effective ministry location will no longer be an option.

  • Paul

    The basis for the article by Pastor Rossow seems to come from nothing more firm than a conversation with the pastor at the chapel and this post is based on his report of that conversation. This is a flimsy basis to report anything as fact.

    As I understand it, it is premature to say that the District knows what it wants. The proposal has only made it out of committee and has not yet come to the District Board of Directors. Furthermore, committee proposals may reflect only the opinion of a majority and only a limited view of the issues at hand. That’s why committees don’t have the power to make such decisions on their own.

    What I do know is that our Districts are going broke. The other District-owned chapel which is in my town costs the District more than $200,000 per year to operate with full time chaplain and facility costs. District staff has already been cut. District Missionaries are being cut. What’s left to cut? If every committee must cut, what should they do? They need to propose something.

    I know our District Mission executive and I take issue with the motives attributed to him. Has anyone spoken with him besides the pastor who stands to be cut? Has he written such things or spoken publicly about such ideas? Not that I know of. In fact, my own experience with him is that he is not a ‘church growth’ advocate. So today I’ll speak well of him and put the best construction on his motives since I have no reason to believe those claims.

  • Paul

    The basis for the article by Pastor Rossow seems to come from nothing more firm than a conversation with the pastor at the chapel and this post is based on his report of that conversation. This is a flimsy basis to report anything as fact.

    As I understand it, it is premature to say that the District knows what it wants. The proposal has only made it out of committee and has not yet come to the District Board of Directors. Furthermore, committee proposals may reflect only the opinion of a majority and only a limited view of the issues at hand. That’s why committees don’t have the power to make such decisions on their own.

    What I do know is that our Districts are going broke. The other District-owned chapel which is in my town costs the District more than $200,000 per year to operate with full time chaplain and facility costs. District staff has already been cut. District Missionaries are being cut. What’s left to cut? If every committee must cut, what should they do? They need to propose something.

    I know our District Mission executive and I take issue with the motives attributed to him. Has anyone spoken with him besides the pastor who stands to be cut? Has he written such things or spoken publicly about such ideas? Not that I know of. In fact, my own experience with him is that he is not a ‘church growth’ advocate. So today I’ll speak well of him and put the best construction on his motives since I have no reason to believe those claims.

  • Dan Kempin

    Careful, now. Are we sure we have all the facts here?

  • Dan Kempin

    Careful, now. Are we sure we have all the facts here?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Church-growth tends to lean toward the pragmatic. It starts becoming more about the numbers and making people feel good, and it’s very sad to see such an approach. I hope that this campus ministry somehow continues its work anyway, because there’s more to effective ministry than simply making it a numbers game.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Church-growth tends to lean toward the pragmatic. It starts becoming more about the numbers and making people feel good, and it’s very sad to see such an approach. I hope that this campus ministry somehow continues its work anyway, because there’s more to effective ministry than simply making it a numbers game.

  • Dan Kempin

    Oops! You beat me to it, Paul, and you also put expression to many of the thoughts in the back of my mind. As a former member of the MN-S, I seem to recall that this has been brought up before and that finance was a big part of the discussion.

  • Dan Kempin

    Oops! You beat me to it, Paul, and you also put expression to many of the thoughts in the back of my mind. As a former member of the MN-S, I seem to recall that this has been brought up before and that finance was a big part of the discussion.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Unfortunately our church body has a long history of doing this kind of thing for the sake of “Missions”. We abandon great blessings in key mission locations for the sake of larger, cheaper, newer – following the people of God as market forces and culture lead them along with the carrots of “missions” dollars and promises of growth – which when these fruits have materialized are simply just a reshuffling of the deck chairs into larger groups huddled together away from the real life of mission. Just look at the many downtown churches which have all but been abandoned for the sake of Lutherans migrating and fleeing away from city centers and the neighbor in need for the sake of the easy life of suburbia. This has been the status quo in our church. There have been a few brave contrary voices. I personally lean upon their faithful witness and steadfast encouragement when the task so often seems impossible.

    In our church body, we particularly seem to suffer the weakness of blindness to the true mission to the lost for the sake of following the money where “missions” is much more feasible (which means moving the church to where the Lutherans have recently migrated to bigger and better (usually also more cheaply constructed and more cheaply maintained homes). Unfortunately LCMS Lutheran demographics are not necessarily determinative to where the lost also live. But the way our “missions” leaders have talked over the past 70 years, you get the feeling they think all of this american cultural garbage is gospel truth.

    Anyway, in my opinion, forsaking a fine chapel already in place and more or less paid for in the midst of a secular campus for an uglier, less purpose built chapel structure, for the sake of LCMS “missions” unfortunately sounds like business as usual for this church body.

    I serve a little old church in a downtown situation. A mission field that is in serious need of support – but we get by pretty okay, despite so many challenges. But its hard – we’re just not used to looking for the real value inherent in these faithful old chapels and the individuals and families they have catechized and served and the lost which seem to be gathering all around them. The cultural forces are just too sweet which would rather we moved away from historical and now often ideal witness locations for the sake a few more “mission” dollars. This is a sad reality being upheld in our LCMS culture everyday across the country. The cost of this delusion are extremely high – when the lost are forsaken by church leaders chasing money.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Unfortunately our church body has a long history of doing this kind of thing for the sake of “Missions”. We abandon great blessings in key mission locations for the sake of larger, cheaper, newer – following the people of God as market forces and culture lead them along with the carrots of “missions” dollars and promises of growth – which when these fruits have materialized are simply just a reshuffling of the deck chairs into larger groups huddled together away from the real life of mission. Just look at the many downtown churches which have all but been abandoned for the sake of Lutherans migrating and fleeing away from city centers and the neighbor in need for the sake of the easy life of suburbia. This has been the status quo in our church. There have been a few brave contrary voices. I personally lean upon their faithful witness and steadfast encouragement when the task so often seems impossible.

    In our church body, we particularly seem to suffer the weakness of blindness to the true mission to the lost for the sake of following the money where “missions” is much more feasible (which means moving the church to where the Lutherans have recently migrated to bigger and better (usually also more cheaply constructed and more cheaply maintained homes). Unfortunately LCMS Lutheran demographics are not necessarily determinative to where the lost also live. But the way our “missions” leaders have talked over the past 70 years, you get the feeling they think all of this american cultural garbage is gospel truth.

    Anyway, in my opinion, forsaking a fine chapel already in place and more or less paid for in the midst of a secular campus for an uglier, less purpose built chapel structure, for the sake of LCMS “missions” unfortunately sounds like business as usual for this church body.

    I serve a little old church in a downtown situation. A mission field that is in serious need of support – but we get by pretty okay, despite so many challenges. But its hard – we’re just not used to looking for the real value inherent in these faithful old chapels and the individuals and families they have catechized and served and the lost which seem to be gathering all around them. The cultural forces are just too sweet which would rather we moved away from historical and now often ideal witness locations for the sake a few more “mission” dollars. This is a sad reality being upheld in our LCMS culture everyday across the country. The cost of this delusion are extremely high – when the lost are forsaken by church leaders chasing money.

  • Jonathan

    Is University Chapel not also a “congregation” in the LCMS? Wouldn’t the membership have to vote to go along with this hair-brained idea? Can the synodicrats just go ahead and force this on a congregation? Are the pastors there called to serve? Or can the pastors simply be replaced at will by the synodicrats?

  • Jonathan

    Is University Chapel not also a “congregation” in the LCMS? Wouldn’t the membership have to vote to go along with this hair-brained idea? Can the synodicrats just go ahead and force this on a congregation? Are the pastors there called to serve? Or can the pastors simply be replaced at will by the synodicrats?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My question is why CG is so expensive?

    It seems like it takes resources from many congregations to underwrite these endeavors. Everything I read shows they are heavily subsidized. Am I missing something?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    My question is why CG is so expensive?

    It seems like it takes resources from many congregations to underwrite these endeavors. Everything I read shows they are heavily subsidized. Am I missing something?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Just look at the many downtown churches which have all but been abandoned for the sake of Lutherans migrating and fleeing away from city centers and the neighbor in need for the sake of the easy life of suburbia.”

    I don’t get it. The downtown churches are just buildings. When the congregations move, they build new buildings. The people are the church, not the buildings.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Just look at the many downtown churches which have all but been abandoned for the sake of Lutherans migrating and fleeing away from city centers and the neighbor in need for the sake of the easy life of suburbia.”

    I don’t get it. The downtown churches are just buildings. When the congregations move, they build new buildings. The people are the church, not the buildings.

  • Mary

    Here is a website with a fuller explanation of what is happening.

    http://ulcmn.org/Files/Pages/SaveULC.html

  • Mary

    Here is a website with a fuller explanation of what is happening.

    http://ulcmn.org/Files/Pages/SaveULC.html

  • http://jwinters.com Jay Winters

    Thanks for the article.

    I’m confused about the following, and was wondering if you could explain:
    “hostility of church-growth advocates who insist that contemporary worship and pop music and feel-good sermons are the ONLY way to do “mission” and that confessional, liturgical efforts must not be permitted no matter how effective they are.”

    My questions include:
    1. Who are these “hostile church growth advocates” on the MNS board or is it the entire board? I mean, if we’re picking a fight, shouldn’t we do so by name, or is that an 8th commandment issue?
    2. Have they “not permitted” “confessional, liturgical efforts” before, or is this their first time?

    There’s a little sarcasm there, as I’m sure you’ve noted.

    I disagree with the closing of ULC. I also disagree with turning this into a polarized and politicized issue as is being done here and at Steadfast Lutherans (surprise, surprise…).

    There’s enough in terms of real practical issues here for us to have a intelligent conversation and protest without creating boogie men.

    in Christ,
    Jay Winters

  • http://jwinters.com Jay Winters

    Thanks for the article.

    I’m confused about the following, and was wondering if you could explain:
    “hostility of church-growth advocates who insist that contemporary worship and pop music and feel-good sermons are the ONLY way to do “mission” and that confessional, liturgical efforts must not be permitted no matter how effective they are.”

    My questions include:
    1. Who are these “hostile church growth advocates” on the MNS board or is it the entire board? I mean, if we’re picking a fight, shouldn’t we do so by name, or is that an 8th commandment issue?
    2. Have they “not permitted” “confessional, liturgical efforts” before, or is this their first time?

    There’s a little sarcasm there, as I’m sure you’ve noted.

    I disagree with the closing of ULC. I also disagree with turning this into a polarized and politicized issue as is being done here and at Steadfast Lutherans (surprise, surprise…).

    There’s enough in terms of real practical issues here for us to have a intelligent conversation and protest without creating boogie men.

    in Christ,
    Jay Winters

  • Jeremy

    If that church is doing so well, and they really disagree with this plan, they can always just secede from their parent organisation and start their own organisation. Even if the church was not doing as well as this article claims, a church can rent out a public auditorium at the library for real cheap. Who says a church has to have an elaborate, expensive building? However, if the church wants the financial support of its parent organisation, it has to accept the parent organisation’s authority.

  • Jeremy

    If that church is doing so well, and they really disagree with this plan, they can always just secede from their parent organisation and start their own organisation. Even if the church was not doing as well as this article claims, a church can rent out a public auditorium at the library for real cheap. Who says a church has to have an elaborate, expensive building? However, if the church wants the financial support of its parent organisation, it has to accept the parent organisation’s authority.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “However, if the church wants the financial support of its parent organisation, it has to accept the parent organisation’s authority.”

    If the ULC is now supported by unrestricted funds, maybe it would get more support with restricted funds. If giving is up for restricted uses and down for unrestricted uses, maybe the congregations are telling the District something.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “However, if the church wants the financial support of its parent organisation, it has to accept the parent organisation’s authority.”

    If the ULC is now supported by unrestricted funds, maybe it would get more support with restricted funds. If giving is up for restricted uses and down for unrestricted uses, maybe the congregations are telling the District something.

  • Dan Kempin

    Wow. I’m throwing the 8th commandment flag here.

    First, FROM THE ULC’S OWN WEB SITE, (courtesy of Mary), we have an explanation for the reasoning behind the proposal from the district. The ULC, situated on prime and valuable real estate, could be sold in order to expand campus ministries to other sites not currently served. While I do not wade in on whether I agree or disagree, (since I no longer have a vote), this is hardly the confession hating liturgically averse church growth persecution machine. I imagine that people could debate and disagree rather vociferously on whether it would be wise to close a site that is effective and would be irreplaceable, or whether it would unwise to sit on such a valuable financial resource when it could be used to fund other ministry.

    Besides, I know both the DP and the mission exec, and the assertion of their motives is not consistent with what I know of them. I would expect a more solid basis than hearsay before calling their motives into question.

  • Dan Kempin

    Wow. I’m throwing the 8th commandment flag here.

    First, FROM THE ULC’S OWN WEB SITE, (courtesy of Mary), we have an explanation for the reasoning behind the proposal from the district. The ULC, situated on prime and valuable real estate, could be sold in order to expand campus ministries to other sites not currently served. While I do not wade in on whether I agree or disagree, (since I no longer have a vote), this is hardly the confession hating liturgically averse church growth persecution machine. I imagine that people could debate and disagree rather vociferously on whether it would be wise to close a site that is effective and would be irreplaceable, or whether it would unwise to sit on such a valuable financial resource when it could be used to fund other ministry.

    Besides, I know both the DP and the mission exec, and the assertion of their motives is not consistent with what I know of them. I would expect a more solid basis than hearsay before calling their motives into question.

  • Stephen

    To take things a different direction:

    As a born and bred LCMS Lutheran who then spent about 20 years in the ELCA but finally left and have returned to the LCMS over the increasing emphasis on cultural relevance away from doctrine, this is striking. What is also striking is that nearly every LCMS parish in my city has video screens (except one that I know of) and rock bands whereas I cannot recall a single ELCA parish we attended here having any video screens. Admittedly, the ELCA parishes do a fair share of rock band type stuff, but I wouldn’t say there is any more of it. And I didn’t see a screen until we started attending LCMS churches. The newest buildings put them up big. It’s like going to a drive in movie!

    The point of all that is that it has been harder to find an LCMS parish that emphasizes the liturgical traditions than it was to find a “high church” ELCA parish here (Austin, TX). One would imagine it would be the other way around I suppose, at least I did.

    I think it is true from my observation that the more we reach for this “style” of worship the more the content slips as well. It took me a while to figure this out because, well, I used to be one of those rock and roll youth ministers. I wouldn’t say I was ever an advocate except that it does appeal to kids. But I also found kids lacking in any doctrinal grounding when this kind of worship avails. Becoming a parent, I realized I didn’t want that for my children. I took a closer look at the hymnal in ELCA too, and the flaws in the language became increasingly obvious.

    That said, there are people and pastors in the ELCA dedicated to the liturgical traditions of the church, though I realize that in both cases, it is meaningless if the church loses its preaching. If the LCMS does not learn that lesson it is already on the way down. I expected all kinds of liberal politics in the ELCA, but I didn’t expect to hear Lutheran pastors in the LCMS talking like Rick Warren, but I have. I know now that this is an ongoing argument in the LCMS and I am glad it is happening, though it sounds like perhaps the CGers are winning at the moment.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, but offer an observation. It feels to me like desperation rather than faithfulness, similar to a church body that cares more about other kinds of cultural relevance than historic confessions.

  • Stephen

    To take things a different direction:

    As a born and bred LCMS Lutheran who then spent about 20 years in the ELCA but finally left and have returned to the LCMS over the increasing emphasis on cultural relevance away from doctrine, this is striking. What is also striking is that nearly every LCMS parish in my city has video screens (except one that I know of) and rock bands whereas I cannot recall a single ELCA parish we attended here having any video screens. Admittedly, the ELCA parishes do a fair share of rock band type stuff, but I wouldn’t say there is any more of it. And I didn’t see a screen until we started attending LCMS churches. The newest buildings put them up big. It’s like going to a drive in movie!

    The point of all that is that it has been harder to find an LCMS parish that emphasizes the liturgical traditions than it was to find a “high church” ELCA parish here (Austin, TX). One would imagine it would be the other way around I suppose, at least I did.

    I think it is true from my observation that the more we reach for this “style” of worship the more the content slips as well. It took me a while to figure this out because, well, I used to be one of those rock and roll youth ministers. I wouldn’t say I was ever an advocate except that it does appeal to kids. But I also found kids lacking in any doctrinal grounding when this kind of worship avails. Becoming a parent, I realized I didn’t want that for my children. I took a closer look at the hymnal in ELCA too, and the flaws in the language became increasingly obvious.

    That said, there are people and pastors in the ELCA dedicated to the liturgical traditions of the church, though I realize that in both cases, it is meaningless if the church loses its preaching. If the LCMS does not learn that lesson it is already on the way down. I expected all kinds of liberal politics in the ELCA, but I didn’t expect to hear Lutheran pastors in the LCMS talking like Rick Warren, but I have. I know now that this is an ongoing argument in the LCMS and I am glad it is happening, though it sounds like perhaps the CGers are winning at the moment.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight, but offer an observation. It feels to me like desperation rather than faithfulness, similar to a church body that cares more about other kinds of cultural relevance than historic confessions.

  • Dan Kempin

    Whoah! And I just noticed that the ULC website posted a district document clearly stamped “confidential!” This is not making us look good.

  • Dan Kempin

    Whoah! And I just noticed that the ULC website posted a district document clearly stamped “confidential!” This is not making us look good.

  • WebMonk

    I don’t know anything firm about the real facts of this situation, but just based on what the article does (and doesn’t) talk about, I think there has to be a LOT more to this issue than what is reported here.

    How many people is the existing church dealing with? Are there five students in regular participation, or are there five thousand and five? And what about costs? A big building is nice, but they are also extremely expensive to maintain. Can they afford the building, or are they going broke? Students are notoriously poor, and so a campus-oriented church is going to have a difficult time paying the bills. If they have a huge building that costs $300K/year to maintain, but they only have 50 students, then there’s no way they can keep up the costs. Has the church been shrinking rapidly and can’t afford their location? How many actual attendees are there vs the on-the-books members? If they have 800 members on the books and the building to handle them, but only 100 actually at the service, they’re going to run into a financial brick wall. Maybe they already have.

    LONG before casting rather nasty aspersions upon all involved, would it kill a person to do a little bit of checking up?

    Right now this sounds like the LCMS version of conspiracy theory nuts – a nebulous liturgical-hating shadow group is out there trying to get rid of all the good liturgical people! Maybe they have bin Laden squirreled away, safe and sound, too.

  • WebMonk

    I don’t know anything firm about the real facts of this situation, but just based on what the article does (and doesn’t) talk about, I think there has to be a LOT more to this issue than what is reported here.

    How many people is the existing church dealing with? Are there five students in regular participation, or are there five thousand and five? And what about costs? A big building is nice, but they are also extremely expensive to maintain. Can they afford the building, or are they going broke? Students are notoriously poor, and so a campus-oriented church is going to have a difficult time paying the bills. If they have a huge building that costs $300K/year to maintain, but they only have 50 students, then there’s no way they can keep up the costs. Has the church been shrinking rapidly and can’t afford their location? How many actual attendees are there vs the on-the-books members? If they have 800 members on the books and the building to handle them, but only 100 actually at the service, they’re going to run into a financial brick wall. Maybe they already have.

    LONG before casting rather nasty aspersions upon all involved, would it kill a person to do a little bit of checking up?

    Right now this sounds like the LCMS version of conspiracy theory nuts – a nebulous liturgical-hating shadow group is out there trying to get rid of all the good liturgical people! Maybe they have bin Laden squirreled away, safe and sound, too.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, there seems to be more here than meets the eye. I respectfully recommend that this entire post be removed or revised, lest we slander out of ignorance those rightly called or duly elected to handle this issue.

  • Dan Kempin

    Dr. Veith, there seems to be more here than meets the eye. I respectfully recommend that this entire post be removed or revised, lest we slander out of ignorance those rightly called or duly elected to handle this issue.

  • WebMonk

    Ah, I really need to read the comments a lot more carefully – it looks like a lot of what I just said has already been pointed out and even has some documentation. I’d still be interested in know how much the ULC is bringing in compared to their expenses – they seem to mention what their expenses are, but not what their income is.

  • WebMonk

    Ah, I really need to read the comments a lot more carefully – it looks like a lot of what I just said has already been pointed out and even has some documentation. I’d still be interested in know how much the ULC is bringing in compared to their expenses – they seem to mention what their expenses are, but not what their income is.

  • Joe

    Dan – you know what would be helpful? If the Minn South would talk with people who are asking questions. Since at least April 21st, people (including reporters) have been contacting the district seeking a statement or an interview re: t his issue. Minn South has responded with form emails and nothing else. This is a one-sided story to date because the other side refuses to take part in the discussion.

  • Joe

    Dan – you know what would be helpful? If the Minn South would talk with people who are asking questions. Since at least April 21st, people (including reporters) have been contacting the district seeking a statement or an interview re: t his issue. Minn South has responded with form emails and nothing else. This is a one-sided story to date because the other side refuses to take part in the discussion.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Webmonk, from the budget documents posted on the ULC webpage Mary linked to, the district-owned buildings cost about $70,000 a year to maintain. The ULC congregation pays below-market rent to the district to offset the majority of these costs. To bottom line it all financially, it appears that the ULC receives about $17,000 annually from the district to maintain its operations, and the ULC is willing to forgo $5000 of that in order to save costs.

    ULC claims their congregation has been consistently growing over its long history, but I do not have any numbers on membership or attendance.

    The sale is meant to endow ongoing district-wide campus ministry (according to a plan which is untenable in the U of M area, though it may work elsewhere in the district–I simply don’t know).

    Your desire to find out the facts to avoid presumption and libel is very admirable. Still, I’m not sure how relevant these kinds of facts should be to the analysis. Hard economic reality ends many churches–a sad fact we must simply endure. This case, however, is a choice. Achieving peak operational efficiency in campus ministry doesn’t seem like the right grounds on which to decide whether or not a congregation will continue to exist. Offering this up as a legitimizing explanation does nothing to dispel the charge of this whole snafu being a result of church-growth style management–at it’s core, operating a church according to standard business practices pretty much is church-growth management.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    Webmonk, from the budget documents posted on the ULC webpage Mary linked to, the district-owned buildings cost about $70,000 a year to maintain. The ULC congregation pays below-market rent to the district to offset the majority of these costs. To bottom line it all financially, it appears that the ULC receives about $17,000 annually from the district to maintain its operations, and the ULC is willing to forgo $5000 of that in order to save costs.

    ULC claims their congregation has been consistently growing over its long history, but I do not have any numbers on membership or attendance.

    The sale is meant to endow ongoing district-wide campus ministry (according to a plan which is untenable in the U of M area, though it may work elsewhere in the district–I simply don’t know).

    Your desire to find out the facts to avoid presumption and libel is very admirable. Still, I’m not sure how relevant these kinds of facts should be to the analysis. Hard economic reality ends many churches–a sad fact we must simply endure. This case, however, is a choice. Achieving peak operational efficiency in campus ministry doesn’t seem like the right grounds on which to decide whether or not a congregation will continue to exist. Offering this up as a legitimizing explanation does nothing to dispel the charge of this whole snafu being a result of church-growth style management–at it’s core, operating a church according to standard business practices pretty much is church-growth management.

  • helen

    Can the synodicrats just go ahead and force this on a congregation?
    They can if they own the building!

    If the complainer about publicised “Confidential” material will please read ULC’s web site, they will find the the “Confidential” stamp was meant to keep anyone who cared out of the loop, (and maybe a little CYA for the bureaucrats who knew this move wouldn’t be popular, if known).
    You will find that the district ignored its own agreement to keep ULC part of any discussion about ULC.

    IOW, this smells as bad as the Oakland lawsuit (abandoned after wasting $2 million on lawyers… both sides) but ULC hasn’t got $2 million, or even the measly $15,000/yr that the district contributes to its upkeep, so far.
    Deep pockets, anyone?

  • helen

    Can the synodicrats just go ahead and force this on a congregation?
    They can if they own the building!

    If the complainer about publicised “Confidential” material will please read ULC’s web site, they will find the the “Confidential” stamp was meant to keep anyone who cared out of the loop, (and maybe a little CYA for the bureaucrats who knew this move wouldn’t be popular, if known).
    You will find that the district ignored its own agreement to keep ULC part of any discussion about ULC.

    IOW, this smells as bad as the Oakland lawsuit (abandoned after wasting $2 million on lawyers… both sides) but ULC hasn’t got $2 million, or even the measly $15,000/yr that the district contributes to its upkeep, so far.
    Deep pockets, anyone?

  • helen

    NOTE: My comments above were base on information available last week. I haven’t checked yet for anything additional.

  • helen

    NOTE: My comments above were base on information available last week. I haven’t checked yet for anything additional.

  • Steve Gehrke

    Interestingly, perhaps, is that ULC was a pioneer in contemporary worship from the 60′s to the early 80′s. Over $200,000 in the mid-1970′s was spent to take out the church pews, close off the chancel area, etc. http://www.ulcmn.org/About/History.html

    When the LCMS broke off joint campus ministries with other Lutheran bodies in the early 1980′s, their were only 2 regular attendees at ULC in early 1983. I was one of those two, and at the time I attended primarily because of the convenient location. I posted my personal experience with the transition from contemporary to liturgical worship at ULC at BJS:
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=14559

    Rev. John T. Pless rebuilt ULC as a liturgical, confessional campus ministry which was a 180 degree change from the campus ministry model used for the previous 20 years. The congregation is now multi-generational, not exclusively students.

    The property itself is certainly valuable real estate. Other venerable businesses near campus have been sold to developers to be torn down with something new built on the site. I know nothing about the situation other than what has been posted online at ULC, BJS and here, but the lack of trust seems rooted in the fact that the congregation in that place had been left out of the loop in discussions about its facility and do not seem to be included in plans for future campus ministry if the property is sold. Hence their shock to find out how far along the plans were before they were notified.

    The District plans seem to emphasize the same approaches that were tried in the 60′s and 70′s without notable success, however one might use that term appropriately when discussing a ministry and congregation. They expect students to attend congregations remote from campus and I personally am doubtful as to the viability of an approach, regardless of the worship style used at the remote congregation (speaking as someone who has taught at both urban and college-town universities and interacted with different kinds of LCMS campus ministries).

  • Steve Gehrke

    Interestingly, perhaps, is that ULC was a pioneer in contemporary worship from the 60′s to the early 80′s. Over $200,000 in the mid-1970′s was spent to take out the church pews, close off the chancel area, etc. http://www.ulcmn.org/About/History.html

    When the LCMS broke off joint campus ministries with other Lutheran bodies in the early 1980′s, their were only 2 regular attendees at ULC in early 1983. I was one of those two, and at the time I attended primarily because of the convenient location. I posted my personal experience with the transition from contemporary to liturgical worship at ULC at BJS:
    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=14559

    Rev. John T. Pless rebuilt ULC as a liturgical, confessional campus ministry which was a 180 degree change from the campus ministry model used for the previous 20 years. The congregation is now multi-generational, not exclusively students.

    The property itself is certainly valuable real estate. Other venerable businesses near campus have been sold to developers to be torn down with something new built on the site. I know nothing about the situation other than what has been posted online at ULC, BJS and here, but the lack of trust seems rooted in the fact that the congregation in that place had been left out of the loop in discussions about its facility and do not seem to be included in plans for future campus ministry if the property is sold. Hence their shock to find out how far along the plans were before they were notified.

    The District plans seem to emphasize the same approaches that were tried in the 60′s and 70′s without notable success, however one might use that term appropriately when discussing a ministry and congregation. They expect students to attend congregations remote from campus and I personally am doubtful as to the viability of an approach, regardless of the worship style used at the remote congregation (speaking as someone who has taught at both urban and college-town universities and interacted with different kinds of LCMS campus ministries).

  • Steve Gehrke

    Correction: “nearly” $200,000 was spent to retrofit the church to meet’contemporary worship’ needs in the 1970′s, not “over” $200,000 (according to the ULC history site). I apologize for not proofing my original posting more carefully.

  • Steve Gehrke

    Correction: “nearly” $200,000 was spent to retrofit the church to meet’contemporary worship’ needs in the 1970′s, not “over” $200,000 (according to the ULC history site). I apologize for not proofing my original posting more carefully.

  • Paul

    President Harrison just declined to comment on precisely this matter of which he says he is well aware at the all-state Pastors’conference in Minnesota. If he feels it is premature to comment on the matter to several hundred LCMS pastors, then perhaps it is the same for the blogosphere.

  • Paul

    President Harrison just declined to comment on precisely this matter of which he says he is well aware at the all-state Pastors’conference in Minnesota. If he feels it is premature to comment on the matter to several hundred LCMS pastors, then perhaps it is the same for the blogosphere.

  • Paul

    According to the MN South District President just this afternoon, the question of the University Campus Chapel was raised by the district Finance Committee some months ago. A special committee was formed to look into the matter on behalf of the Board of Directors and was to report back to the Board of Directors at their May meeting which will be held this coming Tuesday as regularly scheduled. The committee was instructed not to publish its recommendation until it was presented to the Board of Directors. That’s why the document mentioned above was marked ‘confidential.’

    Furthermore, the Minnesota South District President explained that both campus ministry pastors have been invited by the Board of Directors to come to this meeting at which the proposal will be presented. Each campus pastor is scheduled for 20 minutes of presentation to the Board of Directors followed by 20 more minutes of discussion between the Board and the campus pastor. That’s nearly 90 minutes for the campus pastors to present and discuss their concerns.

    Following our District President’s presentation to our District Pastor’s Conference, I confirmed this with the campus pastor in my town who was at today’s meeting. I won’t speak for him regarding his feelings on the matter, but he did tell me that he has been fully aware of the meeting this coming Tuesday, “what it’s all about” and the time he has for a presentation and discussion about his campus ministry. He has known for some time. He says there are no surprises in the report being brought to the Board of Directors.

    Now this, my friends, is primary source reporting. It was witnessed by several hundred (supposed to be all) of our District Pastors. The Synodical president was in attendance.

    In summary, the District Finance Committee raised the question. The Board of Directors appointed a committee to look into it. They will present the report to the Board of Directors for the first time this coming Tuesday. It all seems proper and above board to me.

    I heard nothing about the liturgical style of the campus ministry at the University of Minnesota. I heard nothing about a desire for using Church Growth techniques. It was not started by the Mission Executive or the District President. So unless it can be shown that the DP and Mission Exec. lied in the presence of the Synodical President and all (most?) of the Pastors of the District, I am inclined to take them at their word.

    By the way, even though District receipts have dropped off significantly over the past few years, the District Treasurer reported to the Conference in no uncertain terms that the District is not “I repeat, certainly not in a financial crisis.” She reported that they need to take proactive steps (several district office staff are not being replaced following their retirement this Spring), but the Minnesota South District does not have an operating debt at this time.

    So much for “somebody said that somebody said.” I hope that this puts the matter to rest and that apologies will be made concerning disparaging remarks about MN South District staff and officers and other name-calling in today’s comments to this post.

    “Synodicrats”? Really? And I do believe that the Board of Directors has the right to receive a report that it requested from a committee that it formed before those committee members speak with the press. Let the parties concerned receive the report, make their presentations, and have their discussions before everybody and anybody starts forming opinions – not to mention broadcasting aspersions – about a report that hasn’t yet been made.

  • Paul

    According to the MN South District President just this afternoon, the question of the University Campus Chapel was raised by the district Finance Committee some months ago. A special committee was formed to look into the matter on behalf of the Board of Directors and was to report back to the Board of Directors at their May meeting which will be held this coming Tuesday as regularly scheduled. The committee was instructed not to publish its recommendation until it was presented to the Board of Directors. That’s why the document mentioned above was marked ‘confidential.’

    Furthermore, the Minnesota South District President explained that both campus ministry pastors have been invited by the Board of Directors to come to this meeting at which the proposal will be presented. Each campus pastor is scheduled for 20 minutes of presentation to the Board of Directors followed by 20 more minutes of discussion between the Board and the campus pastor. That’s nearly 90 minutes for the campus pastors to present and discuss their concerns.

    Following our District President’s presentation to our District Pastor’s Conference, I confirmed this with the campus pastor in my town who was at today’s meeting. I won’t speak for him regarding his feelings on the matter, but he did tell me that he has been fully aware of the meeting this coming Tuesday, “what it’s all about” and the time he has for a presentation and discussion about his campus ministry. He has known for some time. He says there are no surprises in the report being brought to the Board of Directors.

    Now this, my friends, is primary source reporting. It was witnessed by several hundred (supposed to be all) of our District Pastors. The Synodical president was in attendance.

    In summary, the District Finance Committee raised the question. The Board of Directors appointed a committee to look into it. They will present the report to the Board of Directors for the first time this coming Tuesday. It all seems proper and above board to me.

    I heard nothing about the liturgical style of the campus ministry at the University of Minnesota. I heard nothing about a desire for using Church Growth techniques. It was not started by the Mission Executive or the District President. So unless it can be shown that the DP and Mission Exec. lied in the presence of the Synodical President and all (most?) of the Pastors of the District, I am inclined to take them at their word.

    By the way, even though District receipts have dropped off significantly over the past few years, the District Treasurer reported to the Conference in no uncertain terms that the District is not “I repeat, certainly not in a financial crisis.” She reported that they need to take proactive steps (several district office staff are not being replaced following their retirement this Spring), but the Minnesota South District does not have an operating debt at this time.

    So much for “somebody said that somebody said.” I hope that this puts the matter to rest and that apologies will be made concerning disparaging remarks about MN South District staff and officers and other name-calling in today’s comments to this post.

    “Synodicrats”? Really? And I do believe that the Board of Directors has the right to receive a report that it requested from a committee that it formed before those committee members speak with the press. Let the parties concerned receive the report, make their presentations, and have their discussions before everybody and anybody starts forming opinions – not to mention broadcasting aspersions – about a report that hasn’t yet been made.

  • Steve Gehrke

    “Paul”,

    To anyone on Cranach, yours is not “primary source reporting”. It is a second-hand anonymous blog post. Much of what you say sounds positive, I am glad to hear what you report, and I would be happy to see this confirmed somewhere other than in an anonymous comment.

    For now, I base my opinion based on what is posted publicly at ULC’s site. http://www.ulcmn.org/Files/Pages/SaveULC.html

    In my posts here and on BJS, I related my personal, formative experiences at ULC and how its ministry has positively impacted my life. I also offered some of my personal opinions about what makes a campus ministry effective. You may certainly disagree with the latter.

    I am not defending comments made on this thread here or on BJS that disparage motives of officials at the MNS; I agree that is not appropriate. However, as I am an “alumnus” of ULC, I am inclined to take the ULC congregation’s word about how the process has been unfolding and accept the sincerity of their fear that the future of their church is in jeopardy. I post infrequently to blogs, but in this case it seemed that I had some direct personal experience with ULC at a pivotal time in its history that I thought some might find helpful in understanding the situation.

    For the record, I would like to note that I have not had direct contact with anyone at the church for over a decade, other than to read their newsletters and send donations. I’m simply relating my direct experiences with ULC and offering some of my opinions about campus ministries in general based on my own and my students’ experiences with them.

  • Steve Gehrke

    “Paul”,

    To anyone on Cranach, yours is not “primary source reporting”. It is a second-hand anonymous blog post. Much of what you say sounds positive, I am glad to hear what you report, and I would be happy to see this confirmed somewhere other than in an anonymous comment.

    For now, I base my opinion based on what is posted publicly at ULC’s site. http://www.ulcmn.org/Files/Pages/SaveULC.html

    In my posts here and on BJS, I related my personal, formative experiences at ULC and how its ministry has positively impacted my life. I also offered some of my personal opinions about what makes a campus ministry effective. You may certainly disagree with the latter.

    I am not defending comments made on this thread here or on BJS that disparage motives of officials at the MNS; I agree that is not appropriate. However, as I am an “alumnus” of ULC, I am inclined to take the ULC congregation’s word about how the process has been unfolding and accept the sincerity of their fear that the future of their church is in jeopardy. I post infrequently to blogs, but in this case it seemed that I had some direct personal experience with ULC at a pivotal time in its history that I thought some might find helpful in understanding the situation.

    For the record, I would like to note that I have not had direct contact with anyone at the church for over a decade, other than to read their newsletters and send donations. I’m simply relating my direct experiences with ULC and offering some of my opinions about campus ministries in general based on my own and my students’ experiences with them.

  • http://somewebsite.somedomain.com Carol-Christian Soldier

    the lcms is doing its best via the district heads to close down the very viable UCLA Lutheran Chapel-
    now you inform us that the district heads of Minn are closing the UoM Lutheran Chapel-

    the stupid / short – sightedness of the leadership of the lcms is appalling-
    the youth are the building blocks of the future of the lcms-
    Carol-CS

  • http://somewebsite.somedomain.com Carol-Christian Soldier

    the lcms is doing its best via the district heads to close down the very viable UCLA Lutheran Chapel-
    now you inform us that the district heads of Minn are closing the UoM Lutheran Chapel-

    the stupid / short – sightedness of the leadership of the lcms is appalling-
    the youth are the building blocks of the future of the lcms-
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    BTW-I am sending this post to others who have the same concerns as I-
    Carol-CS

  • http://carolmsblog.blogspot.com/ Carol-Christian Soldier

    BTW-I am sending this post to others who have the same concerns as I-
    Carol-CS

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Apart from the cost of the ministry, one thing I remember from my “bright college days” is that students in parachurch ministries, but not involved in a local church, had about a 90% likelihood of falling away from the faith after college. Those in churches, about the opposite.

    Given that parachurch ministries are fertile ground for church growth methods–get ‘em in, get ‘em the Gospel, let’s see where it goes!–it would seem that adopting these methods might be tremendously harmful to the church as a whole.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Apart from the cost of the ministry, one thing I remember from my “bright college days” is that students in parachurch ministries, but not involved in a local church, had about a 90% likelihood of falling away from the faith after college. Those in churches, about the opposite.

    Given that parachurch ministries are fertile ground for church growth methods–get ‘em in, get ‘em the Gospel, let’s see where it goes!–it would seem that adopting these methods might be tremendously harmful to the church as a whole.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I wonder why poster “Paul” has not checked back in here to report that in spite of what the district presented at the joint pastor’s conference, there was a vote taken on this issue by the pastors there and they went on record opposing any move to sell ULC.

    I’ve been saying that I think decisions like this would be more palatable in a district if/when the district office building would be sold, since it is only being used for mere administration, not actual Word and Sacrament ministry, and those proceeds given to support ongoing actual ministry.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I wonder why poster “Paul” has not checked back in here to report that in spite of what the district presented at the joint pastor’s conference, there was a vote taken on this issue by the pastors there and they went on record opposing any move to sell ULC.

    I’ve been saying that I think decisions like this would be more palatable in a district if/when the district office building would be sold, since it is only being used for mere administration, not actual Word and Sacrament ministry, and those proceeds given to support ongoing actual ministry.

  • boaz

    Stamping something confidential doesn’t make it so. And all of the ulc docs are available on mm souths web
    Veiths post was entirely fair. The funds are to be used to pay a campus ministry consultant, just what we need in the lcms, and the alley is proposed as a sponsor of campus ministry, despite being a cottage grove mission plant that has nothing to do with the university. The alley is your typical praise band church.

  • boaz

    Stamping something confidential doesn’t make it so. And all of the ulc docs are available on mm souths web
    Veiths post was entirely fair. The funds are to be used to pay a campus ministry consultant, just what we need in the lcms, and the alley is proposed as a sponsor of campus ministry, despite being a cottage grove mission plant that has nothing to do with the university. The alley is your typical praise band church.


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