Capital University Pastor Drew Tucker received the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 2019 Hess-Pierson Award, recognizing exemplary dedication to Lutheran Student Movement-USA.
The award was presented at a special ceremony held during the national conference celebrating ministry among students, faculty and staff at colleges and universities nationwide on behalf of the ELCA. The award was established to honor Rhonda Hess and Roy Pierson, campus ministry student volunteers who died in an auto accident while traveling to a Lutheran Student Movement (LSM) retreat in 1985. Nominations come from student regional representatives of the LSM-USA National Council.
Established to honor Rhonda Hess and Roy Pierson, student campus ministry volunteers killed in an auto accident while traveling to a Lutheran Student Movement retreat in 1985, the award is bestowed annually based on nominations from campus ministry student regional representatives from all nine regions of the ELCA.
Recognizing Tucker as a creative and dynamic pastor, one student’s nomination letter said:
“ … (Drew) wasn’t unafraid to ask tough questions that made me stop and think … challenging us to think about God’s call for us, but still managing to keep the space humorous and fun. … (he created leadership development, ministry and worship experiences that) were incredibly formative and meaningful, yet hilarious and entertaining. I don’t go to Radford, or Capital, or Trinity, but that didn’t stop Drew from embodying such a high level of encouragement, support, and love for me … ”
Ask Tucker about his approach to working with emerging and early leaders, and the sentiments behind the students’ comments are obvious and compelling.
“I don’t remember who said this first, and it’s not my quote, but effectively it’s, ‘If it’s not fun I don’t want to do it.’ And I don’t mean fun in a kind of flippant experience that lacks meaning, but I mean the kind of fun that is deeply enjoyable and actually creates community,” Tucker explained.
“Part of my approach is, if there’s something we’re doing that I don’t want to do, I don’t know why students would want to do it either, unless they’re telling me specifically, ‘Pastor Drew, we love this and we want to keep doing it.’ Then I know the generation gap is a real thing, and they’re doing stuff they want to do, and I just don’t get it. But if I feel there’s something lacking – the meaning or the levity – part of what I try to do is insert that in ways that shock us out of the status quo.”
Oftentimes, Tucker looks to the holy mundane for inspiration and opportunity to zoom in on the reflection of God in daily moments of humanness – be they beautiful or banal. Such illumination strikes a chord with Millennials, like himself, as well as with Gen Z, the research shows. The generational terminology changes. Call it authenticity, call it holistic, call it showing the same personality in many settings. Whatever vocabulary resonates, it’s an homage to the calling Tucker has followed since his earliest days in campus ministry at Duke University: To be a man of truth.
“My sense of life is that there is something holy about normalcy if we let that be beautiful. What I mean by that as a Christian is, if Jesus became human, that doesn’t mean that holiness is absolutely separate from who we are. In fact, it’s embedded in who we are. So that’s why I don’t mind making poop jokes as a pastor. In the end, there’s something real and guttural about our experience. So being able to laugh with students about the mundane realities, as well as suffer with them and cry through the deep hurts, is essential,” Tucker said.
“If we can’t share the full spectrum of life, then we’re not really being the Church. We can’t just be the Church when we’re together for worship; if we are, then that’s not actually being the Church,” he said.
“My approach is being the same person that preaches on Wednesdays and Thursdays as I am when I meet with someone in my office for pastoral care, as I am when I’m out by the fountains hanging out with students as they’re trying to sign people up for their next event, as I am when I’m meeting them for lunch, as I am when I’m, hopefully, getting better about working out with them in the Mezz. It’s to be the same person; that they can expect both serious and introspective spirituality, as well as levity and – I hope – just enjoyable relationship.”
Because after all, if it’s not enjoyable, if it’s not fun, if it’s not real, why would anyone want to do it?