Campus Ministry in COVID-19
Despite COVID-19 related challenges and an open position for their full-time student ministry staff person, Campus Lutheran at University of Missouri (Columbia) are continuing to successfully inspire their students through Jesus Christ. Two part-time students have stepped up to lead their student ministry. “It’s working out very well,” shared Rev. Dr. Kent Pierce, Senior Pastor at Campus Lutheran Church.
The student leaders help organize The Gathering each Wednesday night. Being that it is traditionally a large group event, there were safety concerns regarding COVID-19 restrictions. As an alternative, the students have been meeting as one group (socially distant) for 20 minutes of introductions and worship, and then break into small groups with student leaders. Pastor Pierce shared the good news that Mizzou students “have done a great job in terms of outreach and have connected with quite a few freshmen this year.”
Campus Lutheran has continued fostering fellowship with their weekly student lunches, held Sundays at noon. It’s the only food-based event currently on their calendar. Instead of their typical buffet, lunch is now served individually, seats have been reduced and tables spaced appropriately.
Community outreach events are still happening as well. Students have organized a Trick or Treat canned food drive for the Central Missouri Food Bank, encouraging neighbors to donate on Halloween by leaving items on their front porch.
Another positive outcome of COVID-19 conditions Pierce says is “exciting to see,” is that because a significant portion of the congregation worship online, students are serving in volunteer roles, as they still attend in-person. Students assist as greeters and perform important tasks like scanning temperatures. “The students have really stepped up,” Pastor Pierce said. “We invest in our students as leaders and raise them up to do exactly what they’re doing right now. It’s wonderful to see.”
Students at Campus Lutheran in Columbia
International Student Ministry (along with International Student Incorporated) in St. Louis recently held a Trunk or Treat event to collect food for international students. “Many international students have had to live off campus this year,” explained Sharon Riordan, Director of ISM, St. Louis. “We noticed that their cupboards were bare. Four area churches took part in collecting food: Village Ladue, St. Paul's Wildwood, King of Kings and Lord of Life. Thanks to them and thanks be to God!”
Replacing their annual dinner event, ISM supporters gathered in beautiful weather for an outdoor benefit on October 10th to hear Jared Magero from Kenya and Junnan Wu, originally from China, as they shared how the Holy Spirit called them to Christ. Village Ladue donated the space and Faith Oakville provided music. “Concordia Seminary Ph.D. student Jared is the oldest son of 14 children from a small village in Kenya,” Riordan said, “yet our Lutheran Christian faith is so similar. He shared how the Holy Spirit worked through his grandmother to bring Jesus to his family and his entire village.”
Riordan prays that large gatherings can take place again next semester and that ISM can hold their popular Easter dinner. In the meantime, ISM is focused on their Friendship Family Program. If you’re interested in getting more information or would like to apply to be a friend to an international student (which can be done virtually), please contact Sharon at email@example.com or 314-452-6406. “Students may feel particularly isolated at this time, so it would be great for them to look forward to talking with new American friends,” Riordan clarified. “And the closeness that develops between students and their American ‘families’ can easily lead to sharing your faith.”
ISM gathers food for students in need and host an outdoor speaker event.
Springfield Lutheran Student Center
One of the biggest changes with Covid the Springfield Lutheran Student Center has experienced is deceased student traffic. As most students back on campus are online, there’s no downtime in-between classes to socialize. But there are still finding opportunities for Christian fellowship to make meaningful connections.
“We’ve resumed our Tuesday evening meals,” said Becky Edwards, Director of Campus Ministry. “We eat outside and in keeping with safety restrictions. It’s not ideal, but it still gives us a chance to interact. We’re making the best of it.”
Students are also holding a monthly socially distant outdoor movie night and bonfire (complete with individually packaged hot dogs and s’mores). “They’re having a lot of fun and bringing in new students. It looks a little different this year, but we’ve adjusted as best as we can,” Edwards reflected, “I’m fortunate to have very creative students.”
Outdoor worship and socially distant fun for students at Springfield Lutheran Student Center.