Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Open Forum

A few posters have asked that Bailing Water address a different avenue of topics.

So I will open up the blog for topics of concerns and issues facing the WELS. I believe that a major transformation that is needed is open lines or forums for communication and discussion.

Communicating clearly, concisely, consistently, accurately

This link leads to Pres. Schroeder’s recent e-mail newsletter and is an attempt to begin filling the information void. Also, here are some news items from wels.net

  • After consulting with the Synodical Council and the Conference of Presidents, I've asked all areas of ministry and synodical agencies to give me an opportunity to review plans for filling existing or new positions, even if they are funded by the current budget. I'm thankful to the Board for Parish Services for their recent decision to delay calling for a vacant position in the area of parish consulting.
  • Communications Director Joel Hochmuth has been asked to prepare a comprehensive strategy to improve communications; this e-newsletter is the first step.
  • The Ad Hoc Commission established by the convention to provide long-range plans for the synod's financial health will be appointed in mid-September.
  • A sincere thank you to congregations and individuals that participated in recent efforts to send special offerings to support the synod's budget. Also, sincere thanks to congregations that have increased their Congregation Mission Offerings in response to appeals by their district presidents.
  • September's WELS Connection was sent to all congregations. I would encourage all to use what has proven to be our most effective communication tool.

Let me know what you think are the pressing issues that need to be addressed or discussed.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of President Schroeder, I have serious concerns about one of his recent comments. Here's a quote from the Saginaw News:

"The future of MLS is in no more question today than any of God's promises are in question," said Mark G. Schroeder

How in the world could he equate the existence of MLS with the promises of God? Has God promised that MLS will always exist? Maybe he came to Schroeder in a dream and gave him that promise, because it certainly isn't in the Bible.

What happens if MLS closes some day? Does that mean that all of God's promises to us are then in doubt?

I just don't understand this mentality that somehow the prep schools are divinely instituted and must be preserved at all costs.

Which would you rather trust: God's non-existent promise that MLS must always survive or God's actual promise that he will provide workers regardless of the number of prep schools a small midwestern synod currently operates?

JB said...

It's amazing how ready people are to criticize and to take words in the worst possible light. How can it be wrong to say that the future of MLS rests in the promises of a gracious God? Pres. Schroeder made no sweeping promises that can't be kept. He made no attempt to say that prep schools must be saved at any cost. If the quote in the paper was accurate, it sounds to me like he was saying that the future of MLS, as is the case with all things, rests in the promises of God to bless his people and carry out his gracious will. It also sounded, from what he said at the convention and from things he has written, that faithfulness to the Word and expansion of missions are also priorities for him. Why try to brand him as a single issue guy when he is not?

If we are asking our leaders to communicate with us, how does it help when we let it be known that people are waiting to analyze every syllable looking for something -- anything -- to criticize? If someone truly has serious concerns about what Schroeder is quoted to have said, has he voiced those concerns directly to the new president? Or is it easier just to stir things up without following Matthew 18?

Anonymous said...

"it sounds to me like he was saying that the future of MLS, as is the case with all things, rests in the promises of God to bless his people and carry out his gracious will."

But, jb, that's not what he said. He didn't say that the future of MLS RESTED in the promises of God. He said that the future of MLS was as CERTAIN as the promises of God.

Big difference.

And how do we know that MLS is in the will of God? Maybe it's God's will that MLS close. We don't know. To say that it's ok to get ourselves into crippling debt because we have to carry out God's will by keeping MLS open is complete foolishness and enthusiasm.

Fred said...

Anon, you are splitting hairs. There is no difference between a future which "rests" on God's promises and a future which is as "certain" as God's promises. Please, find something substantive to criticize if you must. Schroeder was saying that the future of MLS is in God's hands, and that's good enough for any of us, including MLS supporters, to know -- no matter what the details of that future might involve.

JB said...

Anonymous, I don't see Pres. Schroeder advocating going into "crippling debt" to do anything. I'm sure this new president will make mistakes. Why don't you wait for a real one to criticize instead of reading things into his words that are not there? Or is "putting the best construction on everything" no longer in fashion?

Anonymous said...

I've asked all areas of ministry and synodical agencies to give me an opportunity to review plans for filling existing or new positions, even if they are funded by the current budget.

This item jumped out at me. Maybe we actually have someone in office who will take a hard look at current and future administration positions. In the past when presenting cuts the administration budget was lumped in with other budgetary items so it was hard to actually see what cuts (if any) were taking place.

Rob said...

I'll be watching to see if Synod debt goes up or down. Debt may be the best barometer we have of Synod financial health.

I'll also be watching to see if Synod workers receive an inflation cost-of-living increase in 2008. WELS does not always pay workers "Synod code" salaries. Holding down salaries would be an easy way for the SC to hold down expenses.

Anonymous said...


You're absolutely right. There are too many congregations that balance their budgets every year by robbing their called workers, who suffer in silence.

Why should synod be any different?

John said...

I believe that the WELS needs to address the declining enrollment in lutheran elementary schools on up to higher ed. I think that the ELS has taken a proactive approach by looking for was to enhance and extended their lutheran elementary school system. I have heard that school parish services is charging a "tax" for each school. What is happening in return?

Anonymous said...

Parish services is a line on the budget that could be cut IMO.

Anonymous said...

John said...
"I believe that the WELS needs to address the declining enrollment in lutheran elementary schools on up to higher ed."

What about the addressing the declining attendance in churches? People seem to look first to the schools as the problem. When people stop attending church regularly, or transfer to other denominations,(which seems to be happening more and more)the schools will surely see a smaller enrollment.

Rob said...

Speaking of school enrollment, it's difficult to compare WELS schools to secular schools because they serve different purposes and their teachers are trained differently.

In my community, schools perceived as academically superior have waiting lists. In your area how do congregation members (and non-member prospects) perceive WELS schools? Do these WELS schools pursue academic excellence, or is mediocrity OK because we know that these schools teach the Word, and that's good enough? Do some congregation members enroll their children in public school rather than an LES?

WELS teachers are dedicated; however, they have varying levels of training and passion. For example, some WELS teachers now retiring received abbreviated training during the "emergency" of the 1960s, therefore they do not hold a 4-year degree. (Some corrected this deficiency through formal study or self-study while others did not.) Some WELS teachers see employment, divine calls, and ever-increasing pay as an entitlement. WELS teacher conferences that I have seen water down professional sessions in order to provide opportunities for fellowship. Some teachers skip afternoon sessions to play golf with classmates and relatives. Unlike secular conferences, WELS teacher conferences that I have seen allow more social time by not running professional sessions until 10 o'clock at night.

A few years ago WELS Parish Schools (a division of Parish Services) shifted student testing to the fall so that (supposedly) test results will come back as teachers and students are rushing to keep up with report cards, parent-teacher conferences, district conference, Thanksgiving interruption, Advent singing schedule, and rehearsals for the Christmas play. At that time teachers are expected to evaluate test results and make mid-year changes to curriculum not funded by the budget and out-of-cycle from textbook ordering. Unfortunately for Lutheran schools, fall testing removes end-of-school-year accountability that teachers had with spring testing.

In my state, secular teaching credentials require a full 5th year of study and months (not weeks) of student teaching. All secular principals have master's degrees and years of experience in education.

Teacher-training at MLC requires 8 semesters of Religion and some training in Music. To squeeze this into the curriculum, some methods courses are reduced in credit hours, and other methods courses are combined or eliminated (compared to secular curriculum). Therefore, while MLC grads may be well-versed in Doctrine, they may have less teacher-training than their secular peers. Some parents detect this perceived weakness in MLC grads and choose to enroll their children elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I must agree with some of these comments.

I attended a Lutheran elementary school, and even went away for 4 years to a prep school.

In grade school, several of my teachers had trouble themselves with completing some of the math problems in our 7th and 8th grade math books. In prep school, our biology teacher, who was the football coach (his REAL job), was barely able to teach the biology class, often mispronouncing terms and looking puzzled when asked genuine questions.

I also must admit I had some excellent teachers who were extremely intelligent.

However, I think the perceived academic standards at WELS schools (I never attended a WELS college, so I refrain from an opinion) is often overstated.

People make several mistakes when sending their children to WELS schools: Here are some common misperceptions:

#1. WELS schools will help poor students excel. WRONG....WELS schools are generally NOT setup to accomodate those with learning disabilities or some types of physical handicaps (there can be exceptions). Most of my elementary education was in "joint" classes, where 3rd and 4th grade were taught together in one room, 5th and 6th taught in another, and so on. This is NOT the ideal situation for any child with a learning disability.

#2. Children with behavior problems will be straightened out in a WELS school. WRONG...that is all an overburdened teacher needs to do is to have to discipline children with serious psychological problems. This is unfair to BOTH the teacher and fellow students. Some parents even send their kids off to prep schools in the hope they will straighten out...WHAT A MISTAKE. I once asked a person if they knew what a ratio was. I told them to compare the number of children they grew up with to the number of adults supervising them in their household. Back in my day, most kids had 2 parents, and maybe a total of 3 kids (including themselves). That is a ration of 2 to 3 (supervision). I then mention when I went to prep school, there was about 130 young men in the dorm being supervised by 2 tutors. QUITE A DIFFERENCE, HUH? The moral of the story: WELS elementary, and especially PREP SCHOOLS, should not be seen as the means by which truly troubled kids are turned around. Trust me, I have seen enough (especially in prep school) to convince me otherwise.

#3. In both elementary and prep school, extracurricular activities (ESPECIALLY sports) where much more focused on then records of academic achievement.

When I got to university (secular), I was suprised to meet the number of intelligent and well educated students coming from the public school system (this is well before the popularity of home schooling). I was somewhat week in mathematics and natural science, 2 areas that seem to be relatively ignored at both the elementary and prep school levels.

IMHO, standards could be increased at all WELS schools. It certainly would not hurt.

John said...

I don't think that standards are the only answer that must be addressed to help students receive quality instruction. The teacher in the classroom has the most profound influence on a student's success. I believe that you raise a valid point in that the effectiveness of the teacher training program needs to reevaluated especially in math and science. Most often the wels schools are underfunded and under-equipped with the necessary science resources. So then a shallow learning takes place. The teacher needs the expert training in teaching science (and math) and time to prepare engaging lessons.

But the called teacher is often over burdened with too many other duties so that the preparation of lessons falls down the list of priorities.

A huge advantage that the wels schools have is the small school size. In this way the teach can address individual needs.

There aren't any easy answers but the effectiveness of wels teachers and schools does need to be addressed.