What is a Lutheran school?
‘As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater so is my word that goes from my mouth: It will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve for which I sent it.’ Isaiah 55:10-12
I have worked for Lutheran education for over 35 years: beginning in a small rural school in Qld, to more urban locations in SA, to service in both the LEA national office and currently in LEVNT. Over this time I have witnessed a distinct cultural change in the way Lutheran schools ‘go about their business’.
Many years ago, the families that sought the school (that weren’t members of the congregation), while perhaps not practising Christians, had some experience in the church. Family services where the whole family attended (with a class presenting) were held monthly and missionally we were seeking these families to take up membership in the local congregation.
Over time it was noticeable that there was less and less knowledge of the church and monthly family services were discontinued. However, families still wanted to access the school for its ‘good values’ and the positive and caring environment in which their children would be educated. We continued to teach the Gospel, ensuring worship and Christian Studies was an important part of the day (although it was more challenging to ‘connect’ with families of no religious background or completely different faith background eg. Sikh, Buddhist, etc.).
I think it is fair to say that as Lutheran schools we have certainly come to a point where we need to be able to articulate clearly what we believe and teach. My wife (Louise) and I were discussing a question her principal put to the staff in the last few days, ‘what do you say to families who declare they have no idea what church is but want to come to the school for everything else that it offers…’.
The verse from Isaiah quoted above reminds me that God’s Word is powerful and when spoken can change lives. The ‘our foundation’ beginning section of ‘Growing deep’, reminds us of who we are as schools of the church and our foundation in the Gospel. As the first statement of this section reminds us, ‘(we are)…..communities of worship and service, sharing and living the good news of Christ’.
The enormous challenge for us is how to share the Gospel (with the help of the Holy Spirit) with members of our communities in a way that connects with them and provides meaning. Yes – what do we say to families who want to be members of our communities but are vague about Christianity?
We want our schools to be places of grace, acceptance of all believing God has uniquely gifted every individual and open to the influence of the Holy Spirit; places where learning is valued and are full of hope, nurtured by the promises of God’s word, love and forgiveness. How are we showing this?
This is a conversation I encourage you to have in your school community. Coupled with this, is the tension or balance we have as educational places – but that’s for another day!
May God bless your conversations as you deliberate on being a school of the Lutheran Church of Australia and sharing the Gospel with all in your community. God’s word is powerful – use it!
Director: Leadership & School Improvement