There’s no app for that

Campus ministries rely on simpler technologies to give us the names of WELS students attending the colleges we serve.

Glenn L. Schwanke

It’s an exciting time of year. The sleepy little town of Houghton, Michigan, which boasts some 6,500 residents, is waking up from another summer slumber. The fall semester at Michigan Technological University is starting. That means more than seven thousand students are back in town for classes.

This time of year, one of the challenges for our campus ministry is the same one faced by some 375 Wisconsin Synod congregations with campus ministry opportunities. How do we identify the WELS students attending college here so that we can invite them to join us for worship, Bible studies, and fellowship activities? Contacting these young men and women at the start of the school year is critical! Otherwise students can be swallowed up by the hectic nature of their school schedule. Bad habits can get started, and time in God’s Word and worship may be pushed off to the side.

So what do we do? Like many campus ministries, we’ll participate in orientation events tailored for first-year students. But when those 1,500 first-years file by our table—more than a few somewhat dazed by information overload—how can we make sure that not a single WELS student passes by without realizing we’re here to serve them with God’s Word?

I have an idea! We need an app for that. We can model it on the “Merlin Bird Photo ID.” This software is currently under development by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in collaboration with Visipedia. Its purpose is to help casual birdwatchers tell the difference between a pileated woodpecker and a ruby-throated hummingbird. To use the software, you take a picture of the bird; load the picture onto your computer; draw a box around your little feathered friend; click on the bird’s beak, eyes and tail; then identify where and when you saw the bird. Upload this data to the website and, voila, within seconds you’ll get back a list of the best matches, including recordings of the sounds and songs the little birdie makes.

We need an app like that! Then when those first-year students pass by our table during orientation week, members of our ministry team can click a picture of each student. Other helpers can quickly transfer that data to notebook computers; put a box around the head of each student’s picture; click on the beak (nose), eyes, and mouth; and upload the data to the “WELS Campus Ministry Student ID App.” Ta da! In seconds we’ll know the student’s name and address.

Alas, there’s no app for that.

So our WELS campus ministries rely on simpler technologies to give us the names of WELS students attending the colleges we serve. Pastors, teachers, family members, and caring friends can forward the names of students to WELS Campus Ministry by surfing to and clicking on the “sign up with campus ministries” link. Or, they can fill in and return the yellow cards that our congregations receive each year in the packet of materials from WELS Campus Ministry.

Why bother? Because every day, young Christians on secular campuses are wading through a quagmire of temptations, many that these young people never faced when they still lived at home. Our Lord himself tells us what these young people need to stand strong in the faith: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9 ESV).

Please help us! Send in those names. You are our app for that.

Glenn Schwanke, pastor at Peace, Houghton, Michigan, serves as a campus pastor at Michigan Technological University.



Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.


Volume 101, Number 11
Issue: November 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2021
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us