Blanke, Young honored for passion and service by NADCE
Two Concordia alums received top honors for their service and dedication at the National Association of Directors of Christian Education conference in January. Dr. Mark Blanke CO ’82 GR ’92 received the Dale E. Griffin Master Statesmen Award, and Christine Young ’17 was named Outstanding New DCE.
The Dale E. Griffin Master Statesmen Award, named for Rev. Dale E. Griffin, who served the LCMS as editor of The DCE Bulletin for 28 years, fostered regional DCE conferences around the country, helped draft key DCE-related Synodical resolutions, as well as interpreting DCE ministry within the International Center, has been awarded three times in the last 34 years, including Griffin.
Blanke said he was “extremely humbled” by even being in the same group with the prior recipients, including Griffin, LeRoy Wilke and Bill Karpenko.
“It was a gift to get to know Dale while he was in ministry,” Blanke said during his acceptance speech. “I’m proud to be associated with him.”
DCEs, Blanke says, have the opportunity to engage in the specific ministry of enhancing the intentionality and effectiveness of Christian education in the church.
“While it is a difficult task, it is an immense blessing to be charged with such a vitally important role in the spiritual development of the believer,” he says. “I think everyone wants to expand their energies on things that are meaningful and that impact others. DCE ministry fits that to a tee.”
In the 40 years of his service to the LCMS, Blanke has compiled an extensive resumé, serving as a DCE in California before becoming the DCE director at Concordia University Chicago. Currently, he serves Concordia, his alma mater, as DCE program director, director of strategic planning and university institutes and is the director of the Institute for Religious Education.
“Serving as the director of a DCE program has been a real blessing,” he says. “Our students are individuals who come from churches where they have been nurtured and are the most intentional of their peers relative to their faith life. It is a joy to have the opportunity to work with such individuals to see them grow to become effective at helping others to learn about God.”
Bill Karpenko, a previous recipient of the award and former Concordia DCE program director, introduced Blanke before the award was presented. Karpenko told the crowd that Blanke is a perfect example of someone who is an advocate for ministry and supports the growth of DCEs.
“He instills passion, curiosity and energy to the formation of DCEs and DCE ministry,” Karpenko said of Blanke. “He loves Jesus. He loves the church; he loves his family.”
One of the future DCEs Blanke worked with at Concordia was Christine Young, who was named the 2022 Outstanding New DCE at the conference. Young serves as Director of Student Ministries at Grace Lutheran Church in Germantown, Wisconsin.
“It was an incredible honor to receive this award,” she says. “It was also humbling when I thought of all the people who have poured into my life throughout the years. I am not where I am today because of myself.”
During her acceptance speech, Young said she was here because of God and what He’s been able to do in her life. Through her congregation, Young was blessed with an “incredible” DCE and small group leaders.
“There was something in how my congregation cared for me,” she told the crowd, “I was able to just have my congregation fill in all of those gaps and teach me to love Jesus and I’m so grateful for them.”
It was that care she received from her congregation and working at a summer camp for seven years helped her realize her passion and calling for youth ministry.
“I found that I love ministry, I love children, I love teaching kids about Jesus and through that experience, I became a leader and realized God has given me these incredible gifts,” she says.
When she first arrived at Concordia, Young says she may not have been ready spiritually for what she signed up for.
“With Tim [Rippstein], Thad [Warren] and Mark [Blanke] walking along side me for four years, I became the person that I always wanted to be, but didn’t know I could be,” she told the crowd. “These last few years of ministry have really been such a blessing to me because I’ve been able to be who I always needed as a kid and that is my ultimate goal—to be the DCE that I needed, especially when I was a teenager. If I can do that, then it is more than I could have ever asked for.”