In Ministry Together Initiative

Published by Amy Crawford 1 year ago on Tue, Jan 24, 2023 4:11 PM


Concordia Nebraska’s In Ministry Together program came about following a conversation between university president Dr. Bernard Bull and assistant to the president for church engagement and university professor of theology Rev. Russ Sommerfeld

“It’s simple. We’re trying to make a difference in both church relations and church engagement. Church relations is how we related to a church, its congregation, schools and district.  We want to make them aware of who we are,” explained Sommerfeld. “But church engagement is engaging with those congregations, schools, districts, missions and others.  And we’re trying to figure out how best to do that. We keep coming back to collaboration and partnership.” 

During their conversations, Bull expressed to Sommerfeld that he would like to visit all of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod schools in the United States. Then the duo narrowed that list down to just Lutheran high schools. Then an even shorter list was formed as a place to begin. Bull’s visits began in the spring semester in 2022. 

“To test it out, we started with four Lutheran high schools here in Nebraska,” said Sommerfeld. “The initial idea was that President Bull would be the face of Concordia in these visits. But we also looked at these high schools and their own unique mission in service to God. So in addition to him being there, we thought about who else on our team needed to be there to explore ways that we can work together with these schools. We consider ourselves in ministry together, and that becomes the overall purpose.” 

Bull is now striving to visit about five or six Lutheran schools each semester. He sometimes offers a devotional to students. He may speak in theology class. He may present on a topic.  He may speak to students about church work vocations. And at every visit, he makes time to visit with school administration and faculty. He is passionate about discovering the challenges that today’s Lutheran educators face, realizing the blessings of school ministry and discovering resources that may be needed or lacking.  

“When we were at Sioux Falls, for example, we learned that they have a Christian reconciliation aspect throughout their curriculum,” explained Sommerfeld. “Is this something we could explore more? Is this something we should bring to the attention of our education students?” 

Various others have accompanied Bull on his campus visits. Concordia’s undergraduate and graduate admissions staff, regional ambassadors, church work recruiters, alumni and university relations staff, and professors have all visited schools with Bull as members of the In Ministry Together team. 

In the future, Sommerfeld and Bull would like to see the program include an opportunity to meet with parents of Lutheran high school students, as well.  

“We would like to engage with parents and talk with them about vocation and church work opportunities,” said Sommerfeld. “At one visit, I had the opportunity to each confirmation classes. That was a very fruitful time for me to be with these young people and to talk with their parents about the opportunities that God gives for calling young people into church work.” 

Bull’s most recent visit was to Faith Lutheran School in Plano, Texas. 

“He wanted to have the opportunity to be among Faith Lutheran’s students and faculty to learn more about classical Lutheran education and spend a day there,” said Sommerfeld.  “He’ll come back and tell us a lot of things.” 

Faith Lutheran School classical Lutheran school that serves students in preschool to grade 12.  A large number of the school’s 2022 seniors chose to attend Concordia Nebraska. 

“Concordia Nebraska is a highly distinctive Lutheran university,” said Bull during his visit with the school’s students. “We seek to raise up people to be faithful leaders and faithful witnesses in the world today. Not only do we offer outstanding academics, we have a campus culture that is created by students themselves. Concordia is a place not only to receive but to also contribute to that culture. It is a pleasure to visit school campuses like this one to not only share with you what is happening at Concordia, but also to hear from you about what is happening here in Lutheran education.” 

Sommerfield pointed out that a variety of different Concordia faculty and staff are constantly interacting and networking with Lutheran schools and others. 

We really do want to be in ministry together with these Lutheran schools,” he said. “Different members of our faculty and staff connection with a wide variety of different schools in different ways. We want to continue to build established relationships and also reach schools with whom we would like to have relationships. We are constantly learning to coordinate our alumni relations, admissions, advancement and outreach efforts. We want to keep developing this idea that ministry together is a two way street, not a one way street.”