Do You Have a Church Dog?

Do You Have a Church Dog

It's back-to-school time! With many students heading back to campus, guest blogger Augusta Mennell, Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA, shares how Campus Ministry reaches out to all students, forming life-changing bonds.

 

Can you imagine the look on students’ faces when they see Scout, All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center’s church dog? Scout is a beautiful Golden Retriever, who is Rev. Larry K. Loree Jr.’s dear friend and companion. Scout has become, very unofficially, All Saints’ church dog. He is a magnet for students on campus and for everyone who comes into the church building. Scout, who loves to be petted, has given Pastor Loree many great opportunities to welcome everyone, especially students. All Saints’ goal, when classes resume this fall at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College, is to make the college students feel welcome. We plan to do this in many different ways.

To meet as many students as he can, Rev. Loree will continue a practice he began shortly after he became All Saints’ pastor in May. All during the summer break he has walked all over the campus with Scout. Students come right over to ask to pet Scout, who is extremely friendly. This gives Pastor Loree countless opportunities to introduce himself and to welcome students to All Saints for meals, movies, and worship.

Not only does Rev. Loree walk with his dog across the campus, he also makes it a daily practice to go on campus to what he refers to as his “second office.” He takes his work with him to the student union and sits in Starbucks. While there, he talks to students. One student worker, who is covered with tattoos, already knows Pastor’s order for cold tea before he gives it! Pastor has let students know they are welcome to All Saints for quiet study time, any help needed, and for friendship. Pastor uses this “office” on campus to meet students so they will know they are welcome at All Saints.

We do not all have a tail-wagging dog to help us welcome students, but we all do have many other ways. All Saints realizes that Labor Day is a great day to welcome students to use our campus church as a home-away-from home. We have discovered that Labor Day is a lonely day for many international students and some American students. Since students do not have classes on Labor Day, and many live too far from home to go home, they have little to do. This is a perfect time to welcome the students by driving them to the mall to shop and by inviting them to come back after shopping for a free, delicious, authentic homemade Korean meal. This meal is served outdoors under a tent canopy, where everyone can meet new friends and play games like beanbag toss. Before the students leave the Labor Day fun, we invite them to the next meal; to come for Bible study and/or worship and to ask for any help they would like. We use Labor Day to welcome all.

Our kind of unconditional welcome is so appreciated that students return even years later to express their thanks. A Muslim Pakistani student wrote from home saying he will never forget All Saints. He especially remembers the church service he attended. He wrote, “I miss the church service and still sing the song ’How Great Thou Art.’ It was a beautiful spiritual song.” He felt welcome here.

Why is being welcoming so important to All Saints campus ministry? According to the July-August issue of Lutherans Engage the World, “Only China and India have more people outside the Christian faith than we do.” Clearly, the USA is a mission field. Thousands of internationals who have never heard the Gospel come to our campuses, and so do thousands of American students, who also do not even know what Christmas and Easter are really about. The college campus is the most effective place in the world to share the Gospel! The Holy Spirit can take our warm Christian welcome and bring faith. Even a church dog like Scout can help, and having a church dog just makes it that much easier and more fun.

Augusta R. Mennell is the Campus Ministry Director at All Saints Lutheran Church and Student Center in Slippery Rock, PA. If you would like to highlight your work in the ministry, send a submission for consideration to Lynne, Communications Coordinator for the English District LCMS, lcobb@englishdistrict.org