Concordia’s new campus pastor brings spiritual leadership into the modern age
Chances are you’ll hear him before you see him, his engaging laugh rising above the din of the dining hall just beyond his office. With his welcoming manner, it’s not surprising that someone is always stopping in to say hello, have a friendly chat, or seek his counsel. And Reverend Wes “Bo” Baumeister, Concordia University-Portland’s new Director of Campus Ministries, wouldn’t have it any other way.
Following his heart
Bo Baumeister has been moved by his life’s calling – figuratively and literally. A Lutheran pastor who got his Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Rev. Baumeister took a position at Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska, in the early 2000s. It was in Seward that Baumeister learned how much he loved working with students and supervising campus ministry. But when called to serve a congregation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a part of the country that he and his wife Sonja love, he couldn’t say no – and returned to congregational ministry. Until Concordia University-Portland came knocking, that is. Because ministering to young people is where his heart lies, Baumeister jumped at the chance to return to campus life.
As campus pastor, Baumeister feels he serves as the spiritual resource for the Concordia community. He oversees a variety of events, including the Wednesday evening “Lighthouse” worship and daily chapel on campus each day at 10:30 am – a time he sees as “a powerful way to feed Christ-focused life.” He offers spiritual support and devotions, including a regular devotion he sends out three times each week called “A Word of Hope.” He also leads chapel and runs Bible study sessions at Portland’s Columbia River Campus (CRC). In addition, Baumeister spends considerable time talking with students about spiritual issues, being on call for anyone who needs counseling, and supporting student groups like Christian Life Ministry (CLM).
A modern minister
Responsible for the spiritual well-being of decidedly 21st century students, Baumeister realizes the importance of updating traditions in order to preserve them. “Traditionally, we have had daily chapel, which is not everybody’s thing,” he acknowledges. Because Baumeister would like everyone to keep the time of 10:30 to 10:50am sacred, he proposes offering alternate ways for students and staff to “feed their faith” during this Sacred Time. “Those twenty minutes can be used for scripture meditation,” he suggests. “Or someone can go to St. Michael’s (Lutheran Church) to pray.”
Baumeister would also like to give students the once-a-week opportunity to engage in “Table Talk,” where a different Concordia professor each week would field students’ theological and spiritual questions outside of the classroom. With a self-described “passion for moving forward,” Bo is excited to initiate these and other changes that he feels would strengthen students’ connection to faith on an everyday basis.
As Concordia’s Director of Campus Ministries, Baumeister is one of the school’s most visible spiritual leaders. As such, he feels that the two main components to spiritual leadership are authenticity and passion, both of which have modern-day relevance as well as meaning for the religious and non-religious alike. Baumeister believes in living honestly – whether he’s in a chapel, a bar, his yard, or his office.
“What you see is what you get, always,” he attests. He is steadfastly committed to the truth, which Baumeister maintains is a great characteristic for engagement, especially with the students.
Spend any time with him and it’s obvious that Baumeister is passionate. He is passionate about Christ, for one thing. “The fact that we are saved by grace through faith is truly anchoring and can help us endure anything in life. It gives us hope,” Baumeister says. “Christ has sustained people through so much.” Helping people see how relevant Jesus is to their lives is part of his mission here.
Beyond the day-to-day responsibilities, Baumeister is also spearheading the preparations for the Beautiful Feet Conference, which this year will be held at the Concordia campus here in Portland. He hopes to make the conference practical, so students will go home saying “I can do this right now, on campus, at home, with family, wherever. I can bring Christian ministry into my real (daily) life.” Though preliminary groundwork for the conference has been laid, there is still plenty to do. But that can wait until school starts this fall, when the students return.
Baumeister firmly believes in putting students in leadership roles, even if they fail. “It’s a real learning opportunity,” he points out, “where they can problem-solve and grow.” To that end, he will make sure next year’s students play an active part in organizing the conference. Part of being a campus leader, it would seem, is knowing when to hand others the reins.