Saturday, December 19, 2015

Thoughts on the subject of Lutheran schools. . .

I must begin by admitting that I have never served a parish that had a day school (other than preschool) and so I speak from the vantage point of never having had to deal with such things as student recruitment, tuition collection, finding faculty, paying the bills, etc...  That said, I am always disappointed when I hear of another Lutheran school closing.  I am sure that the struggles are great and that the decision to close was not made lightly -- yet I cannot help but wonder if they really have to close.

If there is anything I could say to those with schools that are struggling or those who feel that they have no decision left but to close a parish school, it is this.  Be Lutheran!  Instead trying to morph the school into a generic Christian school, be Lutheran and offer both a classical liberal arts style education that seems to be in short supply outside the realm of church run and private schools.  Be a school OF the Church -- teach the kids matins and sing it every morning and have a weekly Eucharist.  Don't skimp on the church part of the school.  Teach the faith and teach the children to think and live as the faithful.  Root the identity of the school in baptism and raise up the vocation of the baptized.  Sing the great Lutheran chorales and teach them music (not just to sing to a soundtrack).  Teach them the great Lutherans of their past -- from the theologians to the great musicians (don't banish Bach from the sound of the school).  Let us teach our kids how to read and to appreciate great literature.  Let us instruct them in science from the perspective of science that we know glorifies God and honors the intellect with which the Lord has endowed us.  Let us not fail to be clear in who we are and why we have a school.

If we will die, let us die as Lutherans doing Lutheran school as best we can -- solid academics, classical liberal arts focus, sung liturgy, great hymnody, and catechetical instruction.  Yup, if we will go down let us go down fighting like Lutherans against the cultural Christianity that dominates the world around us, against the shallow and trite music that passes as the sound of Christians at worship, and instill a reverence for the Lord and for His house.  Let us not water down our Lutheran identity in the vain hope that a creedless Christianity might be more appealing to the masses more than a creedal and confessional church and school.  And let us put our money where our mouth is.  If we think schools are worthy, then let us not apologize to ask for the funding to raise up tomorrow's churchmen and church women.  If we are not willing to step up to the plate with resources, then let us stop trying finance Lutheran schools on the backs of underpaid teachers and children selling us things we neither need nor desire.

I fear that one of the reasons our Lutheran schools are struggling the dying is that we have held up a less than compelling vision of Lutheran education and sold our souls to make ourselves more appealing to those who do not know us.  This the same reason many of our congregations and pastors have given up the Divine Service.  I may be wrong and very often am but I would rather try being intentionally Lutheran and failing than end up failing because we had no flavor or identity at all.  And if there is a place for a non-denominational Christian school, let it stand or fall on its own merits and not as a Lutheran school in disguise.

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