The Gustavus Office of Church Relations

The Church and College relationship has always been a central concern and key aspect of the Lutheran identity for Gustavus.

What would eventually become Gustavus Adolphus College was started in 1862 by Swedish and Lutheran immigrants of the Augustana Synod in the basement of First Lutheran Church in Red Wing, Minnesota as a response to the cries the church leaders heard from the community for more properly educated clergy and teachers.
No one connected to Gustavus during the time of the March 1998 tornado that struck the campus and greater Saint Peter area will ever forget the sight of the many carloads, and vanloads, and busloads of people coming up College Avenue to assist with the cleanup efforts. Many of these people were people from the congregations who were showing up out of a selfless spirit to help the college they cared about. These relationships had not just sprung up suddenly with the tragedy but were already present, alive and for generations had been authentically drawing out the best of both communities for the benefit of the other.


The College and Church relationship is a relationship rooted in the benevolent foundation of agape love and lived out through countless voluntary acts of kindness and service for the other.

In the 1980’s as the Lutheran church structures in America were changing, President John Kendall and the Gustavus leadership began discussing structures that would maintain the grassroots, highly relational connection with the congregations which Gustavus valued and was committed to as a partner institution. In 1989 Gustavus created its own association of congregations called the Gustavus Adolphus College Association of Congregations (GACAC) through which congregations could have a direct relationship with the college and the college with a specific congregation. What began in 1989 with 290 ELCA member congregations today has grown to more than 550 ELCA member congregations from 27 synods across the nation.
The Gustavus Office of Church Relations shepherds these important relationships with programming that annually engages many hundreds of youth and adults for Gustavus and the church. The Gustavus Faith Conference, Pastor-to-Pastor clergy wellness program, Exploring Religious Questions adult educational series, youth and adult retreats, and the Gustavus Three Crowns Ambassador program are flagship offerings of the Gustavus Office of Church Relations. Gustavus faculty and staff who participate in the community outreach programming receive modest stipends for their time and enjoy the opportunity to test out concepts and foster greater face-to-face learning experiences. In 2014, the college in partnership with the GACAC created the Gustavus Endowment for Church Relations as an expression of our Lutheran identity and ongoing commitment to growing the network of relationships.
Gustavus Adolphus College enjoys a rich network of relationships with the Lutheran church and wider network of institutions at the local, regional, national and international levels. These relationships of the Gustavus network bring numerous benefits for the college and provide a wide variety of meaningful opportunities for learning that greatly enhance the Gustavus experience for current students of all faiths, academic interests and backgrounds.