Campus Ministry Receives a New Home

Source: Living Lutheran

When University of Nebraska–Lincoln campus minister, Adam White, started 10 years as director of the Lutheran Center, he had inherited an amazing ministry, but a dilapidated building.

Originally constructed in 1952, White said, “It was clear that, by the 1960s, there [had been] significant maintenance problems that had to be addressed through the cheapest means possible…It was a duct-tape approach—in some places, literally.”

As a result, pipes were in disrepair, ceilings were leaky, and termite damage caused structural integrity questions. Inviting a contractor in to inspect the building he received the somber news that the repairs would cost so much he should seriously consider the possibility of getting a new building.

Realizing something needed to be done and fast, White jumped into action.

Historically, the upper levels of the Lutheran Center were reserved for married graduate students who helped maintain the building and mentor the students. However, after several years of observation, White decided the shift to fix the center might require a modification in how they accommodated graduate students to optimally serve the needs of the church and provide more sound management of the building property.

“We didn’t really think that was the best way to do management anymore,” White said. “But we also knew that the people who’d lived in the building had a deep experience of the ministry and faith development.”

As the center’s board discerned the next steps, they entertained several possibilities before settling on renting living space to students as a new stream of revenue that could help fund the development of a new center.

Utilizing a list of prospective donors, in 2015, White began preparing for the new building project. Launching a $6 million capital campaign, the center and board went to work fundraising.

“My predecessors saw campus ministry funding would shift, so as early as the ‘60s they started keeping an alumni list and maintaining that database,” White said. “A gift I received when I walked in was those 9,000 names. The ministry here had a substantial impact on people for decades, and my predecessors had maintained those connections well, so we had a really strong base of alumni and supporters to begin with, which was huge.”

Campus ministry leaders applied for grants, coordinated fundraisers with churches, and received gifts from individuals both big and small.

Noting in particular the support the project received from small membership congregations, White said, “Numerous small congregations made generous gifts proportionate to their size.”

Right as the construction on the building began, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a massive increase in construction material cost. However, just as White recalls concern starting to creep in, the Nebraska Synod stepped in rallying congregations to support the work of the campus, allowing for the construction to continue.

During a key moment in the construction process, when material costs increased, ministry leaders worried they’d hit an impasse, but with a major gift from the Nebraska Synod—and a challenge from the synod to congregations to match it—the campus ministry met its goal.

“We hit $6 million,” White said. “It was a remarkable thing—completing the project with no debt.” The new Lutheran Center opened in December 2020 and was dedicated last August, at the beginning of the school year.

Completed in December of 2020 and dedicated at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, reflecting back on a semester spent in the new building, White said, “I’m just grateful.”

Source: Living Lutheran