“What do we want students to look like when they graduate?” was the question that we discussed. Leaders of a Lutheran school were wrestling with steps to strengthen the school focused on the growth of the students in all aspects of life (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual). It was an important conversation for me to always bear in mind: why Lutherans do the things that we do and why Lutheran schools are important for both our own children, but also for children from our communities. While there are excellent public schools and other private schools, what follows below are fundamentals that make Lutheran schools so important and different.
From early childhood centers through Lutheran high schools, our schools teach a Christian worldview. Our confession that God is the maker of heaven and earth shapes everything- from how we view the earth and all its resources to how we value every human life. Where so many schools are being influenced by external movements, our schools teach children that their identity is rooted in the fact that they are created in God’s image and ones for whom Jesus Christ died and rose again. We are also able to teach God’s design for marriage and how it is a reflection of His love for His Church. Lastly, we are able to teach children the beauty of God’s creation and the wonder that we have as we explore and discover the complexity of the heavens and the earth that were formed not by accident, but His great design. This Christian worldview shapes how our graduates view science and discovery, dating and relationships, and their own identity as children of God.
Integration of the Faith
What makes the curricula of Lutheran schools different is not simply the addition of a religion class into the daily schedule. Rather, the Christian faith is integrated into every part of the school day. From the lunchroom to the playground, from the music room to the gymnasium- our schools teach, model, and “practice” the faith. The difference is also seen in the history lesson where the teacher unpacks with students the response of Christians to the Third Reich or slavery. The literature teacher helps the students to identify Biblical themes in the writings of everyone from C.S. Lewis to Mark Twain. The arts will help students to use their gifts in thanks and praise to God. Our school hallways and classrooms are designed and decorated to make clear what is distinct about our schools. The focus on everything that we do in our schools is to point children, parents, and families to Christ. That focus is lived on through school clubs, concerts, sporting events and every interaction between faculty and families.
The Centrality of the Word
The students in our Lutheran schools gather for worship for multiple grades at least once a week in “chapel” service. But worship is part of every day in our Lutheran schools. Morning devotions, meal-time prayers and end-of-the-day prayers teach children a rhythm of life as children of God. We are shaped by the Word of God and approach all things prayerfully. Students learn the Scriptural invitation to call upon God in every time of trouble as they prayer for particular needs among the families. Through worship and the study of God’s Word and Luther’s Small Catechism, students learn of the blessings that God gives through Holy Baptism and Holy Communion and how these precious gifts of God are sources of strength for God’s children throughout their lives. Teachers also use the tragedies of life to opportunities to teach what God’s Word says about suffering, but also His faithful promises and the comforting message of the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus. The involvement of pastors in our Lutheran schools helps children to know that we do not shy away from hard questions but stand ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. Students also learn Bible verses, the Catechism, and hymns of the faith as the Word of God dwells richly in them. The Word of God is what sets our schools apart and that distinction is part of our every day and every class.
We live during a time where conflicts are lived out on social media and motivated by power rather than guided by the Word of God and seeking reconciliation. But one of the things that makes our schools different is that we are taught that God has reconciled us into Himself through Christ and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation. We have a way to deal with conflict and that is to take it to the cross. This means that there are times where imperfect teachers (yes, all of our teachers are imperfect) ask the students for forgiveness for raising their voices. It also means that imperfect students (yes, all of our students are imperfect) are taught how to address conflict according to the Scriptures. It also means that principals regularly teach imperfect parents (yes, all of our parents are imperfect) that when they have concerns with a teacher that they go to them first and seek reconciliation. While our schools have much on display for which we can rejoice, we know that sin is also on display too as students and teachers are growing together under the grace of God. That also means that we can teach children life lessons about how to approach conflict as Christians rather than the destructive approaches of the world.
While not every student would necessarily learn the phrase “the doctrine of vocation,” they all learn the meaning of doctrine of vocation. Every student learns what it is to be called as a child of God, as a member of a family, as student or worker, as a church member, and as a citizen. From the earliest ages, students learn of the opportunities they have to serve in all of these realms. This teaching of the calling as servant of God and one another shapes our understanding of family and the state. Students learn why voting is important and their calling as a citizen. They are taught the differences of God’s design of the roles of parents and children. No matter what direction in life the students are led, they have been taught that they are called by God into each of those unique roles of service. This gives purpose to the calling of husband or wife, accountant or actor, elected official or concerned citizen, and pastors or hearers. Most of all, each graduate has been taught that he or she is a child of God, created in God’s image and one for whom Christ Jesus died and they are now sent to serve God and the world that He created.
These are some of the foundational principles behind Lutheran schools. Having been connected to Lutheran schools in some way or another since first grade, I can assure you that our schools have helped shape young people who have entered a wide variety of fields of service with a Christian worldview, a zeal for God’s Word, and a desire to serve their neighbor, the church, and the world.
Neither Lutheran schools, nor Lutheran school teachers are perfect. There may have been times where some Lutheran schools have struggled in particular areas. But like each of us, God’s grace has covered over our weaknesses, our imperfections and our sins. This is what makes Lutheran schools different; we are focused on making an eternal difference in the lives of our students and their families by teaching them who they are as children of God. I hope and pray that you all will support our Lutheran schools with your prayers. May God continue to bless our schools so that Christ is at the center of everything!
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan