University Lutheran Chapel Strives to Keep Students Engaged in Faith
Campus ministry is a rather unique mission opportunity. In most cases, this mission work takes place in a challenging context, where young people are away from home for the first time and are facing a variety of powerful challenges to their Christian faith and life. Studies have shown that as many as 90 percent of students who are members of Lutheran churches fall away from the church while at college, a fact that underscores the vital importance of this special ministry. At several of the universities within our district, campus ministry is conducted as an arm of mission outreach by local congregations. The one exception is the University Lutheran Chapel, located on the campus of the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder.
University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) exists both as a campus ministry and an autonomous congregation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It is committed to the historic, biblical faith as articulated by the Lutheran Confessions. Ideally located at the corner of Folsom and Colorado, just across the street from Folsom Field football stadium and the Engineering Building, the chapel is an easy destination from anywhere on campus.
What makes ULC unique is that it is made up primarily of students, most of whom are from Christian backgrounds, though not necessarily Lutheran. While ULC is Missouri Synod, it welcomes all students, regardless of religious background. In addition, some students attend services at ULC as part of their religious studies at CU.
Pastor Dan Burhop accepted the Lord’s call to serve ULC almost three years ago. Prior to coming to Boulder, he served as vicar in student ministry at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. He and his wife, Heather, are the parents of two young daughters.
During Pastor Burhop’s ministry, there has been steady growth in attendance at the chapel. In part, he attributes that growth to worship services being held on Sunday evenings, thereby more readily accommodating students’ schedules. This service time also affords an opportunity for students to share an evening meal and to grow in fellowship.
Pastor Burhop leads a graduate student theology study every Thursday. The ministry schedule at ULC is always evolving and changing to accommodate Bible study requests.
The doors of ULC are open during the week. Students who drop in find a welcoming environment. They come to study, talk with Pastor Burhop, prepare a meal, grab a nap, or just hang out and socialize with other students. The brick “fish-shaped” sanctuary, built in 1963, provides a beautiful worship setting along with some tremendous acoustics, particularly for the organ music provided by gifted campus musicians. While the facility is well located, it is in need of some repair and improvements at this time.
ULC’s ministry touches the lives of dozens of students throughout the academic year. Not only are these bright, gifted students fed spiritually during their college careers, but many are equipped to serve as leaders in their future Lutheran congregations.
One such student is Sarah Wilson from Grand Junction, Colo. Sarah is in her senior year at CU, a percussion performance major. She first visited the chapel as a freshman. While she and her family were thrilled to find an LCMS ministry on campus, it felt somewhat transient because the ministry at that time was being served by a vicar who would leave at the end of the year. In her words, it has been “awesome” to have Pastor Burhop now ministering to the students as a permanent pastor. Upon graduation this spring, Sarah plans to attend seminary in order to become a deaconess.
A ministry focused primarily on students does present some significant financial challenges. College students, of course, do not typically have the type of financial resources found in older, established congregations.
Established churches also do not see the constant turnover of members (every graduation) as experienced by a campus ministry. For this reason, University Lutheran Chapel depends on support from the Rocky Mountain District, on special gifts from individuals, and on the support of other LCMS churches to carry on this ministry. Special gifts, either given through the Rocky Mountain District or directly to ULC, always are appreciated!
The ULC Mission Society is a valued partner in ULC’s ministry. The Mission Society is a group of congregations and people who hold the mission of ULC close to their hearts. They help the chapel in many ways, especially through prayer. Other ways that ULC Mission Society members help are by:
cooking Sunday evening meals for the students;
including ULC in their congregation’s mission budget;
helping with special projects and repairs around the building; and
increasing awareness of ULC’s mission throughout their congregations.
If you are interested in knowing more about the Mission Society or how you can be a part of it, contact
Pastor Burhop at email@example.com, or Laura Raben at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pastor Burhop’s commitment to the Lord’s work on this campus is expressed in his words: “We wish to stay where we are (in this building) and to continue to feed students with the Gospel and propel them onto the campus with the message of Christ crucified.”