The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is a teaching church. For generations we have been known for our Christian education ministries, not the least of which are confirmation instruction, Sunday school, and youth and adult Bible studies. We not only worship; we teach and learn. Core to this teaching ethos is our system of schools and early childhood centers.
LCMS churches operate 804 elementary schools, 1173 early childhood centers, and 91 domestic and three international high schools. Here in the MN South District we have 48 elementary schools and 64 early childhood centers. It’s no secret that many of our schools are struggling these days. In many cases the pastor and teachers of churches with schools make significant sacrifices to keep their schools viable and vital. In the last ten years across the LCMS, we have closed 458 schools, and enrollment has dropped by 99,113 students (from 290,453 to 191,340).
Meanwhile many of our churches have become one-hour worship centers with few if any opportunities for Bible study on Sundays or through the week. Churches with small numbers of children and youth opt out of Sunday school and youth classes without realizing the strong potential of collaborative education ministries with neighboring congregations.
We must do more than report the decline of the signature ministry of teaching in the LCMS. Our national convention last summer gave a detailed list of eight assignments to a Blue Ribbon Committee on Lutheran Schools, asking them to recommend creative solutions for our schools. Here in the MN South District our 2015 district convention authorized a feasibility study for a special funding appeal to support our schools, early childhood centers, and Christian education across the district. That feasibility study recommended we move forward, and the Board of Directors concurred.
So now with joy and anticipation we announce the “To All Generations” campaign. The appeal takes its theme from Psalm 145:4, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” We hope to raise $1.5 to $3 million to strengthen our schools and early childhood centers. All of the funds will go back congregational ministries. We hope to plant new schools and early childhood centers, to award grants to congregations intentionally seeking new pathways in Christian education, and to strengthen our teachers and administrators. We will develop a marketing strategy to present the excellence of our schools and Christian education ministries to the public. We will support efforts in our legislature toward parental choice in education. Frankly, we want to reclaim our place in Christ’s church as a leader in Christian education.
Watch for the public launch of “To All Generations” in 2017. Individuals and congregations will be asked to contribute. I hope you’ll consider participating. At our district convention in June, 2018, we will celebrate what God will have done among us. For many years to come, this special appeal will provide grants strengthening the education ministries of churches, schools, and early childhood centers. Begin prayerfully thinking now already, “What more can my church do to teach the Christian faith?” And continue to pray for every teacher who stands before a class and says, “Please open your Bibles.”