NEXUS: One Theology Institute, Two Mentors’ Perspectives, and a Triune God

by Ethan Zimmerman and Luke Ratke

Executive Director’s Note: Many thanks to Ethan Zimmerman and Luke Ratke for telling us about their experiences at NEXUS this past summer.  Ethan and Luke are both NALC college students and are planning on attending the NALC seminary after graduation.  They have also made a video about NEXUS, which is posted on our website.  A link to that video can be found here.


NEXUS is a vocational discernment institute rooted in Lutheran theology hosted by Grandview University in Des Moines, Iowa, and it is a week full of blessings! High school students who are contemplating their vocation, what God’s call for their life is, come to NEXUS and experience fellowship with other young Christians who are going through similar journeys. Morning and evening worship, classes on the Old and New Testament taught by solid Lutheran professors, small group discussions led by college-age mentors, and lots of prayer are all part and parcel of what NEXUS is, learning where God’s call meets your life!

Hi, my name is Luke and here are some of my thoughts on NEXUS: NEXUS is a great organization, because God makes it one! I loved being able to be a college-age mentor and a leader for the high school participants at NEXUS. Furthermore, I also liked being able to learn about God at NEXUS with and through the high school students.

My favorite thing about NEXUS this year was getting to meet and talk to Christians I had never met before or only briefly. I was able to talk to pastors, professors, and other Christians about Christianity. For myself, who someday wants to do full-time ministry as my career, working at NEXUS let me have conversations with other college-age students and high school students who think their vocation is full-time ministry. I also was able to practice and learn skills that will someday help me when I am doing full time ministry because I was a college-age mentor at NEXUS. Such skills were helping lead a small group, writing/giving a devotion, talking about the Bible with other people, etc.

Hello all, my name is Ethan Zimmerman, and this is my perspective on NEXUS!

NEXUS is something truly special, something that I don’t think happens anywhere else. NEXUS is not just another church or bible camp; discipleship and vocational discernment happen, and bonds of Christian fellowship that will stand the test of time are forged. My time as a NEXUS mentor was truly a blessing, and as my fellow mentor Chris put it, good for my soul!


The topic of discipleship is something that has been on my mind for quite some time. I have wondered how I can disciple the people around me while I am at college, and being at NEXUS showed me how! Even though we were only with the participants for a week, we lived life with each other, we worshiped together, learned together, ate, laughed, and cried with each other. God showed me that this was how discipleship happened, in the nitty gritty little things of life, right in the trenches with people as they go through things and think about what God has in store for their life. Are they to be pastors? Missionaries? Youth leaders? Being there with these young participants while they pondered these questions and sought to answer what the Lord has called them to was truly a blessing and an eye opener as to what discipleship could look like.

I left NEXUS feeling encouraged, not just because I saw what discipleship and vocational discernment looked like in the lives of young folk, high school students, but because of the friendships that I left with. From the late nights discussing theology with the other mentors, to the goofy laughs shared with the participants, I left encouraged that there are other young Christians out there yearning to pursue God and answer the call He has given them in their lives, and that not every young person is all about decadent hedonism, but faith is still alive amongst my generation. I praise God for NEXUS, for the lives changed by it, for the doors opened because of it, and for the continued ministry it will have in the future!

We both think that every high school student that is a strong Christian should pray and think about coming to NEXUS next summer. Every high school student should think about going to NEXUS, not just high school students who think or know their vocation is full time ministry. We want to thank Lutheran CORE for financially helping The NEXUS Institute. And last but greatest of all, we want to thank God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for NEXUS! 

Where Will Our Future Pastors Come From?

Last May I had the privilege of attending the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of my graduation from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. It was a splendid event. I was deeply moved by how much my class had become a real spiritual leadership powerhouse in the Christian community. I felt honored and privileged to have been a part of it. From college I went to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. After graduating from Fuller, I served my internship under Luther Seminary in the congregation where I had been working as youth director during my final year at Fuller. After serving my internship, I was a graduate student at Luther for one year in order to fulfill ordination requirements of the former ALC (American Lutheran Church).

Raised in a Christian Home

While attending the celebration event at Wheaton I thought of how privileged I was to have grown up in the church and been raised in a Christian home (my father was a pastor), to have been a leader in our high school church youth group, to have gone to summer Bible camp, to have attended a Christian college and sung in a Christian college choir, and to have attended seminary. The program at Wheaton on Saturday evening included singing a number of favorite Christian hymns. One of them was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” The person who was leading the singing introduced that selection by saying, “I’ll bet that song means far, far more to us now than it did fifty years ago.”

Of Great Concern to Lutheran CORE

All during my growing up years I experienced God’s faithfulness and His guiding me to become a pastor. And yet I realize that many of the Lutheran ministries that used to engage young people with a high view of the authority of the Bible and the challenge to consider a career in Christian ministry no longer exist or no longer function in that way. Because of that reality the following are among Lutheran CORE’s greatest concerns –

How can we help raise up a whole new generation of Lutheran pastors who will be Biblical and confessional in their theology and who will be committed to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples for Jesus Christ?

What can we do to reach young people for Jesus? How can we present the Gospel of Jesus to them in a clear, compelling, and engaging way? How can we help them feel and be connected to the church?

Opportunity to Act

Lutheran CORE is very grateful for the opportunity to do something about these concerns through sponsoring a week of NEXUS for high schoolers at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Originally funded by a substantial Lilly Endowment Grant, NEXUS is designed to give high school students a chance to engage in the study of the Bible and Lutheran theology, be involved in service, and discern whether God has gifted them and is calling them to full-time Christian ministry and/or leadership in the church. In the past three years, over one hundred high schoolers have gone through NEXUS. Grand View has found that after a week of NEXUS, students grow significantly in their understanding of Scripture, Lutheran theology, faith practices, and the doctrine of vocation. In addition, many college-aged mentors who have participated in the program have gone on to seminary and/or full-time church work.

There is no charge for high schoolers to attend NEXUS, and Grand View wants to keep it that way. The original grant from Lilly Endowment will have been spent by the end of this coming summer, so Grand View has approached Lutheran CORE and other ministries about sponsoring a week of NEXUS.

The cost to host one week of NEXUS for twenty-four high school students, which includes college-aged mentors, teachers, activities, room and board, and materials, is $30,000. Lutheran CORE has committed half of the amount for one week – $15,000. The funds from Lutheran CORE will be matched by Lilly Endowment to cover a full week’s cost of $30,000.

Because the original grant from Lilly Endowment will cover the costs for the two weeks of NEXUS during the summer of 2020, the funds from Lutheran CORE will be used for a week during the summer of 2021. However, we do not want to wait until next year to be involved. I plan to attend at least a significant part of the week of NEXUS this year that will be sponsored by the NALC (North American Lutheran Church) – July 12-17 – to further observe the program and to get to know, listen to, learn from, and share with the young people who are there about such things as these –

What are they thinking about, running into, and dealing with in their lives?
What are the questions that they are asking and facing?
What hopes do they have for the church and for their own lives?
What is stirring them?

Sharing in that interaction and experiencing a week of NEXUS will help us know how best to put a “Lutheran CORE imprint” upon a week of NEXUS in 2021.

Funding Our NEXUS Commitment

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We are very grateful to all those who have already given – over and above their current giving to Lutheran CORE – to help fund the commitment that we have made to provide $15,000 for one week of high school NEXUS. To see how much has been contributed  for NEXUS 2021 so far, click here. We will continue to update you on our progress via social media and via CORE’s regular communications.

If you have not already given, we urge you to join with those who have. You may donate online, or you may use the response form that you will find here. Please remember to designate NEXUS on the memo line on your check. We are very grateful for the faithful generosity of our friends, which will enable us to help support this fine ministry, in addition to all of the other ways in which we seek to be a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans.