Traci Kohls, Concordia’s new Director of Christian Education (DCE) faculty, hails from Minnesota. Photo by Kim Sleeper.
By Paige Uzzell
This semester, Concordia University is welcoming a new Assistant Professor to campus, Traci Kohls, who teaches Director of Christian Education courses. Kohls has been teaching on campus for over five weeks and is still new to the Seward area. But it’s not a real start to Concordia life if a fun fact isn’t shared.
“I was one who hated running and now I have done two marathons, so I don’t know if that’s a fun fact, but now I just love it. For me this is my prayer, it’s my release, and I do it for a mission, so it just melts all of my worlds together. My prayer time, my communal, there’s a group of us that do it together, we do it for a mission, but it’s a huge challenge, and I am a big ‘go big or go home,’” Kohls said.
Kohls comes from a small rural town in Minnesota. She started out her life on a dairy farm that has been in her family for at least 120 years. She started off her college career at Moorhead State University in Minnesota.
“I went into ministry and as the director of Christian education, but I didn’t start there. I started with international business because I went with the intent of having someone to pay me to travel. It was my big deal, I mean I was a dairy farmer and I didn’t get to travel. I loved other cultures and I loved other people,” Kohls said.
During her time as a Moorhead Dragon, Kohls was able to partake in campus ministry. Kohls was able to travel to Germany to proclaim the gospel.
“I spent my freshman summer in Germany on a drama and musical tour proclaiming the gospel through drama music,” Kohls said. “And that’s where I heard God say for me to go into ministry. That was my first mission experience in telling others about Jesus.”
This experience was one that led Kohls into transferring to Concordia Saint Paul in Minnesota to become a director of Christian education.
“I didn’t know what it was because I grew up in a small Lutheran Church, so we didn’t have DCE’s and I went to a Lutheran school and a Lutheran high school, so all I knew were pastors and teachers. I didn’t want to be a teacher. I knew that wasn’t my call because I just wanted to talk about Jesus and teach, and I knew I couldn’t be a pastor in the LCMS. So, then someone else said I should really be a DCE which is in between, you can help out with Sunday school, and confirmation, and you can help with older kids because I loved all ages,” Kohls said.
Kohls graduated from the University of Concordia at Saint Paul Minnesota. From there she has worked in churches all over Minnesota. She has worked in suburban, urban and rural areas throughout Minnesota for over 20 years.
Christian Educational Leadership and Human and Social Sciences Department member Dr. Thaddeus Warren was the one who called Kohls about teaching at the University of Concordia Nebraska in June of 2018.
“It’s been a crazy wild ride since I got the call on June 4th from Thadd Warren saying, ‘Tracy I’ve been praying and your name keeps coming to mind,’” Kohls said.
It was different for Kohls to step out of the Church and to step into a college. Trusting in God can be difficult sometimes, but there is always a reason.
“I love parish ministry, I love the Church and so I never saw myself on the side of equipping those to be working in ministry, but God did,” Kohls said. “So, you go where God says. I’m not quite sure why He has called me here yet, but I love the students, and I have been doing this for 21 years, and so I know youth ministry enough to teach it somewhat and so forth, but there is always a bigger story when God calls you into something and He just wants you to trust.”
As a director of Christian education, Kohls knows that there are many different versions of faith. She is prepared to help students find their faith and to live their lives like how Jesus would want them.
“In every faith you want to know what your faith is and to know how I live this out as He taught us to. What does it mean to be a disciple, and so not to just know, not even just following him, but how do I go and be like him? Like in John 13, how do I wash the disciples’ feet like Jesus did? Like He said, ‘go and do likewise.’ So how we care for the least of these like He did, whatever faith we have, that’s what we’re going to do,” Kohls said.
Kohls uses her background to help future missionaries become witnesses. She wants her students, herself, and followers of Christ to remember we are called to be witnesses both around the world and in our own neighborhoods.
“He never asked His disciples ‘do you want to be my witnesses?’ He’s declaring over them, ‘you are going to be my witnesses;’ now the question is what kind of witness. In Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth. Those four transform my life as I am a witness in my own neighborhood. That’s the first place I am going to be a witness, in my house and in my neighborhood,” Kohls said.