Over the past decade, the LCMS has experienced loss after loss – but not everywhere. Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor (CUWAA) is a bright example of hope for us. It shows what happens when institutions teach and live their Lutheran faith – and act like it.
Could leadership be the difference?
It’s All In the Numbers
- In 2021, Synod congregations baptized and confirmed 1/3 fewer children and adults than in 2010. During those same years, the ministry of CUWAA brought 90 young adults to the baptismal font. These numbers are a testament to how CUWAA models the Christian faith — and students respond to God’s call.
- In 2021, 405 of our 970 (42%) LCMS undergraduate churchwork students chose CUWAA for their training as teachers, youth workers, DCEs, and pre-seminary students. The other 5 schools (Irvine, Austin, Seward, Chicago, and St. Paul) shared the rest. CUWAA has more churchwork students than all the other Concordias and is a clear preference for young Christians choosing church work for their training to serve our churches.
- The same goes for all LCMS students in all career paths. In 2021, 47% (1,099) of all LCMS students in the Concordia University System chose CUWAA.
- All students experienced the blessing of the strong Christian witness of CUWAA. In a survey completed in 2022, 80% of the graduating students at CUAA and 60% of CUW graduates responded that they grew in their Christian faith while at Concordia – and that’s by design.
- While students may graduate with majors from nursing to history to education to business and more, 82% of students say faculty regularly integrate the Christian faith into their curriculum.
- And their Christian experience is more than just in the classroom. More than 1,000 students participate in chapel and campus ministries at both campuses.
It seems that two diverse campuses in Wisconsin and Michigan share one thing in common: leadership focused on educational excellence and faithfulness to God’s Word and our Confessions.
And leadership, not fear, is what we need to move forward as a Synod. Leadership builds up. Fear tears down.
LEADERSHIP IS THE KEY
Other Concordias are faithful, too, and also have strong leadership. But now that we’ve lost three Concordias in the last decade, perhaps we should look at the example of leadership at a Concordia that seems to be working well.
And as we consider drastic and controversial changes to our Concordia system, we should be listening to a leader who has succeeded in preaching Christ crucified in word and deed.
One such leader is the newly retired president of CUWAA, Rev. Dr. Patrick Ferry. In a recent interview with Our Congregations, Our Synod, Dr. Ferry described his leadership focus and philosophy which has helped make CUWAA the success it is and the choice of most LCMS students – both those preparing for “the ministry of the baptized” and calling as commissioned and ordained church workers.
CONNECTING FAITH AND LEARNING IS THE KEY
“Serving at Concordia for thirty years was a privilege beyond all deserving. The opportunity to work alongside such dedicated and consecrated colleagues committed to our mission and to being the church’s school was an incredible blessing”, Ferry said.
“Connecting faith and learning—in the classroom, on the athletic field, at the music rehearsal or drama production—was always a part of a student’s Concordia experience. Of course, campus ministry—daily chapel, Bible Study, devotional life—offered opportunities for students to grow in their faith every single day.”
FERRY’S FOCUS ON CHURCH VOCATION STUDENTS
Responding to a question as to why almost half of LCMS church vocation students choose CUWAA, Dr. Ferry explained,
“Students interested in preparing for church vocations enjoy a special formative experience. They learn from great faculty alongside many other aspiring church workers. They also become friends with students preparing for careers in business, health care and other professions—in other words, folks like those who would be members of the congregations they would one day serve.”
OUR CONCORDIAS ARE A BLESSING, NOT A PROBLEM TO SOLVE
Dr. Ferry’s focus has been on leadership, education, and the Great Commission work of our Concordias. When asked about how CUWAA’s ministry focus brought so many students to be baptized, Ferry concluded,
“We have been blessed to reach so many students with the Gospel of Jesus Christ who did not come to our campus with that in mind. I am very proud of all that the Lord allowed us to accomplish at Concordia. Our CUS institutions are a tremendous blessing to the LCMS.”
IT’S NOT ALL “CHANGE AND DECAY”
The bright example of Dr. Ferry’s leadership and CUWAA’s accomplishments should be considered by all as we begin the process of nominating for important leadership roles in the LCMS.
The past decade of Synod as a whole experienced significant losses in congregations (more than 220), the loss of more than 20% of our baptized and confirmed members, and are baptizing and confirming 1/3 fewer children and adults in 2021 than in 2010. The growth, health, and enthusiastic support — and measurable results — of the last decade at CUWAA should cause us to consider more leaders like Pat Ferry. At least, we should listen to his wise counsel.
It’s Our Congregations, Our Synod at stake.