A front-row seat to WELS Waukesha campus ministry

Please Lord! Just send two or three college students to our gathering tonight. 

That was my initial prayer in September 2016 for my first campus ministry event held on the campus of Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. I had a potential list of college students from the national office of WELS Campus Ministry as I started serving as a volunteer campus ministry pastor. I had contacted every student possible. But the basic question remained: Who would attend?

Turns out, my prayer was small. Suddenly one student walked in and then two more. Before the night was over, six students came for Bible study, tasty snacks, a mixer, and prayer. Little did I know that I was receiving a front-row seat to see how good God is and how he brings his people where and when he wills. I was excited to be able to work with busy college students who need contact with God’s Word during a challenging time in their lives. Many of them were living away from the safe protection of parents and fellow Christians for the first time in a brand-new arena where professors and students brazenly question faith, Bible truth, and Christian morality.

God blessed us with steady growth, thanks to the energetic leadership of the students. These students stepped up in planning and organization and also willingly brought their roommates, boy/girlfriends, and classmates (many of whom aren’t even WELS). That first year, six to eight students came regularly; by the second year 8 to 12 were coming to learn more about Christ and his saving love. This October brought the highest student total ever: 29 students. One student reminded the group of the importance of campus ministry: “I didn’t even know there were other students here who shared my faith in Jesus, and it’s so wonderful to find others to encourage me in my walk of faith.”

Not only do these students attend the monthly meetings, but many attend worship and other events at Trinity, Waukesha, my local congregation less than a mile away. This October, 17 college students served the community by sponsoring cars in Trinity’s neighborhood Trunk-or-Treat to connect with our neighbors in face-to-face mission work.

These Christian young people are willing to pray for others and for me, especially during my wife’s bout with colon cancer. They also share Christ openly on campus. Four students attending our campus ministry joined Trinity this past year. Three of them were confirmed as adults. These new members include Brett, who was brought to our congregation by college friends and wanted to be able to take Holy Communion; Morgan, who remarked how her faith grew through the private Bible information classes at the campus coffee house when she opened up her Bible and experienced the free forgiveness of Jesus for the first time; and Michael, who married one of our first campus ministry students and learned about the truth of Scripture.

At age 52, I consider myself the “world’s oldest college student,” and this isn’t only because I regularly am on campus for our campus ministry get-togethers. I actually recently took Spanish classes at Carroll University, and God opened the door for me to baptize my professor’s baby.

What’s in store for the future? Only God knows. But together, we’ll pray for God’s guidance and share his mission to reach out to more students with Christ’s love.

As WELS Campus Ministry celebrates its 100th anniversary this upcoming year, consider this: Does your church have a college campus nearby? If it does, talk with the national WELS Campus Ministry leaders on how to get started sharing Christ’s love with students. Remember: God does great things through small efforts.


Scott Oelhafen, campus pastor for the Waukesha campus ministry, serves at Trinity, Waukesha, Wisconsin.


Learn more about WELS Campus Ministry at wels.net/campus-ministry. Follow Waukesha’s campus ministry at facebook.com/waukeshacampusministry.


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Author: Scott Oelhafen
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019

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