Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lutheran Schools ?

As many Lutheran churches work to shed their Lutheran identity, it is interesting to see how quasi-WELS schools are following suit.

Lutheran schools are dying. What I'm wondering is if Lutheran synods are dead.


Anonymous said...

No, the WELS or Lutheran synods are not dead. Are many schools dead? Yes, and many churches and pastors and prinicpals do not know what to do or how to confront their challenges. They do not have leaders equpped to change and confront issues of leadership, programs,staffing,technology, facilities,etc.

Many are ill equipped to be prinicpals and often do not have the time to correct deficiencies when teaching four grades. The days of operating a school k-8 with two teachers are over(with the exception of a new start). The parents will not accept that as a viable alternative to public schools. The schools have in many cases not kept up with expectations with the exception for the spiritual needs of students. Many schools have no sustained level of funding and are lacking solid leadership from the church, pastors, and the principal.
Many churches have no evangelism plan and no plan to promote the school outside of the church.

MLC has not changed either in preparing and leading our synod to confront these challenges. Our schools are responding much too slowly,and we lack urgency.

This is just a beginning of a list.

Bruce Church said...

I just left a comment on Ichabod's very similar blog entry, and it seems to apply to this post, so I'll copy it here:

Bruce Church said:
Yes, I see that the Lutheran Sievert Foundation and Thrivent have given gobs of money in addition to the state voucher money--as though the voucher money wouldn't be enough to educate these kids alone! Each voucher is probably worth twice or three times the money that Lutheran parents normally pay in tuition to Lutheran schools.

This reminds me of how Thrivent's favorite and largest beneficiary is not the Lutheran church at all, but the secular Habitat for Humanity.
Several years ago they announced a $24 million dollar partnership with Habitat.

After Habitat, Thrivent's next favorite charity is, not the Lutheran Church, but the executives at Thrivent, a dozen of whom make million-dollar salaries, and another dozen make a half a million each.

Sievert Foundation gives a thousand dollars per Wisconsin resident seminary student, even if they attend seminary out of state. Even though the tuition and cost of a seminary education has skyrocketed, they STILL give only a thousand dollars per student. Instead of giving even more money to seminary students, they give it to some near-godless voucher school!

Doesn't it warm your heart that while our WELS schools on every level lack funding, that tons of Lutheran money, time, effort and talent is plowed into supporting voucher public schools. I doubt that the Bible is taught much there, since devotions or overt promotion of Lutheranism would seem to violate the voucher school regulations.

So what exactly is being taught at voucher schools? The state is the savior is what is being taught. Though the state and public school teachers unions failed and abused the public school students decade after decade, the state will come through in the end with an innovative approach in education. In other words, the state is the savior, so vote for whoever promises the most handouts!

HOPE receives $562,500 grant
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its foundation invest in a program to enhance teacher training and mentoring at HOPE.

Christian Science Monitor: Milwaukee's lessons on school vouchers
By Amanda Paulson
May 23, 2006

For Destiny Hatcher, private school has made all the difference. Once a failing student who often got in trouble, she's now getting good grades as an eighth-grader at the Hope Christian School and is determined to go to college.
Siebert invests $1 million in HOPE

The Siebert Lutheran Foundation gives students a million more reasons to stay focused on their studies.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans invests nearly $1.7 million in Milwaukee's Harambee community
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle commends commitment to build homes and bolster revitalization and confidence in neighborhood

February 26, 2009 12:37 PM

Anonymous said...

Doom!!! Gloom!!! The sky is falling!

That's about all John and Bruce have to offer.

Yeah, the picture isn't all rosy. Yeah, there are problems. But we aren't dead, and I promise, God is still God, in control.

Gregory L. Jackson said...

Everyone has to adjust to a new reality. I know a lot of people who would have glady acted on doom and gloom before they lost 50% of their lifetime savings in a short time. Two issues are the birth drought and the movement of younger people away from where the established congregations are. The economy is, properly speaking, gloom and doom.

Anonymous said...

Our local WELS elementary school is more of an outreach tool for its home congregation as opposed to being the means whereby the children of the home (and local) congregations are educated.

Approximately half the population of this very small school are non-WELS children who attend via a publicly funded voucher program.

WELS Lutherans, like most of middle class America, are no longer having large, or even smaller families. Often it is a "one child" choice that is made.

I also think there is more hesitation to send children away to prep school at 13 or 14 years old. The establishment of new WELS high schools in areas of large WELS population groups has also probably siphoned off many potential preppies who would have been dorm students.

Finally, home schooling is increasingly popular, even among WELS members who are close to WELS schools. I know a number of WELS congregants who, although living close to WELS LES and having the funds to do so, prefer to teach their children at home at least through the 8th grade, and often through high school.

JR said...

I've found the educational quality at the WELS schools I know to be below what I would prefer for my children. Homeschooling, while preferable, isn't feasible for me. I've chosen to send my children to a more rigorous Christian school. Most WELS folk are shocked that I would do such a thing. (The only acceptable option to a WELS school is homeschooling, of course.)

Anonymous said...

"I doubt that the Bible is taught much there, since devotions or overt promotion of Lutheranism would seem to violate the voucher school regulations."

This just goes to show how ignorant Bruce is about the facts. There are very, very few strings attached to voucher money in Milwaukee. The WELS schools in Milwaukee are free to teach whatever they want when it comes to religion. When parents enroll their children in the schools, they agree to have their children taught religion.

Too many people here like Bruce spout off condemnations when they have no idea what the truth really is. I agree that there are some issues with our WELS schools, but the solution is not pathetic moaning based on guesses and half-truths. Those things are worse than the problem. They also destroy any credibility that critics might have.

Bruce and others, do your homework. There's no excuse for ignorance and lies.

Anonymous said...

"I've chosen to send my children to a more rigorous Christian school. Most WELS folk are shocked that I would do such a thing."

Why shouldn't they be shocked? It would be better to send your children to a public school than to another Christian school where they will be bombarded with false doctrine on a daily basis. (Yes, I know there's false doctrine in public schools too, but at least it's obviously anti-Christian.)

Shame on you for putting academic rigor over the spiritual health of your children! Why not work to improve the educational quality at your WELS school rather than complaining about it and putting your kids in spiritual danger?

Gregory L. Jackson said...

Anonymous - February 27, 2009 9:38 AM: How will they learn their Stetzer, Stanley, Sweet, Groeschel, and Werning if they don't get their Church Growth catechsim from WELS schools?

Anonymous said...


"Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be also"

Although sending your kids to a WELS school is by no means commanded. It pains me that you would so easily send them to a "more challenging" school.

1) School is what you make it. You can learn as much as you want or not learn as much as you want. If your children weren't feeling challenged there are avenues to pursue that are not sending your kids to a other religions' school.

2) Have you considered the fact that with your tuition dollars you are supporting the ministry of heretics? Whereas there are situation we cannot control (e.g. Catholic Hospitals) There are certainly situations we can. Feel confident that your tuition dollars are being used to support false doctrine both here and abroad.

3) My parents fought for my education. My mom struggled through work and school and my father worked two or three jobs. When life circumstances forced me for two years into a public school (we could not afford tuition) It pained them and they immediately started saving money. It is indeed shocking to some of us WELS members seeing the sacrifice some make compared to the choices others make.

Finally, both statistically and anecdotally The WELS school system is one of the most "successful" schools in the nation (considering graduation rate/test scores/collegiate enrollment) The VP of teachers at MLC serves as a member on national teaching association and accreditation boards. If there was a problem at YOUR local school, something could have been done. There are resources available--you chose as a parent not to use them.

Once again, I don't believe you made a "wrong" decision and certainly not a sinful one. I personally would not have made it. Do not act as if you've done yourself or your children a favor however by putting them in a "more rigorous" school. My years at public school/university were wildly easy academically yet they were the "most rigorous" dealing with unbelief.

How much more the assaults of Satan on the impressionable minds of students when their teachers teach them "Chrstian Doctrine"

Chaos said...

Many WELS schools have major issues, either with leadership or staff. And since literally removing someone is a virtual impossiblity, the situations continue ad infinitum and the schools continue to degenerate. Then, the schools become populated with students who are underachievers, since it doesn't take long for the parents of the good students to figure out that the school is not where they want their child to attend. Which in turn causes the school to decline even further. Often, attempts to improve the situation are met with denial, Matthew 18 abuse (You need to meet with the teacher...over and over and over), or an accusation of improper parenting, because those options are so much simpler than actually confronting the problem.

So, until congregations and pastors and principals and school boards that are working with schools that have issues wake up, WELS schools will be in jeopardy. Many will close. And quite honestly, if they don't get fixed, they should.

Anonymous said...

"Many WELS schools have major issues, either with leadership or staff. And since literally removing someone is a virtual impossiblity, the situations continue ad infinitum and the schools continue to degenerate."

Yeah, because this isn't true at all in public schools or other private schools! What you've observed is a challenge for all elementary and secondary schools. I'm absolutely shocked that WELS schools would face the same challenges as other schools! WELS schools should always be absolutely perfect! And if they're not absolutely perfect I'd better complain about it at the top of my lungs instead of doing anything to help!

Chaos said...

And what if you have tried to help for years and years and nothing has improved? Do I keep sending my kids to those schools anyway? Even though it isn't healthy for them and they are being treated less than lovingly and they are surrounded by students who are taking up so much of the teacher's time that my kids are frustrated to tears? Just because it's WELS? Don't think so. There comes a point where my kids' best interest trumps the blind support of the WELS. I should've pulled them out long before this.

Anonymous said...

You're right Chaos. If your kids are unhappy the obvious answer is to subject them to false doctrine for 8 hours a day, every day. That will make them much, much happier.

Anonymous said...

Bad experiences in WELS educational institutions (bullying, shunning, harrassment, etc) can have severe detrimentatl effects on young minds and souls.

While the "doctrine" may be correct, the "experience" can drive one away from the church, sometimes permanently....

Anonymous said...

I pulled my kid out of a Lutheran school because heterodox theology and practice was seeping into it.


Anonymous said...

I am a WELS pastor. I pulled my child from a WELS school and sent her to a public school. The biases, the bickering, the "dumbing down" of the curriculum (not a surprise, even the teacher could not tell when the answer book was obviously wrong), the cliquishness, the unprofessional setting (no clear protocol for anything at all), the arrogance, and the aloofness of teachers toward some students and families while being obviously close to others made the whole experience unbearable. In transferring to a public school, we found out child to be ahead in reading, English, and literature, but significantly behind in math and science. Our child's attitude and grades improved a hundred percent. To this day, our child has nothing good to say about WELS schools. Our child was a valedictorian in her class and faithful in attending church now in college, even though no one else in the dorm leaves campus on Sunday morning. Incidently, in spite of all this, our child still regrets not being able to take the more thorough Confirmation Class and other religious classes which the WELS school had to offer.

Anonymous said...

I used to think that called workers who pulled their kids out of WELS schools were doing the unthinkable. However, now that I, a WELS secondary teacher, find myself thoroughly dissatisfied with my local WELS grade schools, I have to admire those pastors and teachers who have pulled their kids out of those situations. I now realize that your love for your own children won out over your blind allegiance to WELS institutions. I may very well be in my last few weeks of being a called worker because I am planning on putting my children's needs over the WELS needs to keep up appearances. I'm sure that if I am asked to resign it will be one of those "for the good of the ministry." Exactly how is forcing my children to be exposed to inept administration, unloving teachers, bitter people, and nowhere-near-excellent academics good for the ministry? I wish that people in the WELS in general could stop jumping to so many conclusions, stop denying major problems that are real, and actually confront people who are causing far more damage to the ministry than I would by doing what I feel is best for my children.


HAVOC said...

Kudos to any WELS called worker who makes a decision for the best of his family over that of the public image of a failing institution or to satisfy unnamed cynics. How was your decision received by your congregation and those in the surrounding area? Do you feel you made the right decision? Would you have made the same decision if your Call was in jeopardy?

Anonymous said...

No one in my congregation said a negative word, although several gave words of encouragement. I never heard anything from anyone in the surrounding area. Without a doubt, I made the right decision. Our child went on to be a well adjusted, church attending college student.

I believe that the spiritual well-being of family takes precedence over one's call. On the other hand, one needs to make such a decision in consultation with one's Board of Elders and others in the congregation, as needed. One also needs to be able to present the facts which have led to such a decision in a clear, concise, and irrefutable way (irrefutable in the sense that those who disagree can argue only from the side of theory [the value of Christ-centered education], but not from the side of reality).

One needs to remember that taking your child out of a bad experience in the Lutheran Elementary School does not fit any of the reasons which justify the revoking of a call in our circles. However, the attitude a called worker displays in removing a child from one of our schools may indicate a problem which needs to be addressed and could jeopardized one's call. Such a decision has to be made in Christian love -- Christian love for your child's wellbeing and Christian love to the school staff in first trying to find solutions and address problems and finally, with heartfelt sadness, making the decision to remove your child from the Lutheran Elementary School and placing that child in a public (or other) school.

Anonymous said...

I am horrified as a WELS teacher to hear that my WELS colleagues are pulling their children out of WELS schools. The struggles these families faced in these schools are troubling and I understand and sympathize with your frustrations. The thing that troubles me, however, is that the parents are the primary educator of their children and the school assists accordingly. It sounds like the LES partnership you experienced is very frustrating and would demand a great deal of home effort on the part of the parents. Supplementing what you feel is lacking would demand a great deal of time and attention on your part. I am surprised that you are not willing to make that sacrifice. The sacrifice is worth it when you consider the following. Schools need to teach what must be learned. In many areas, it can be argued what should be taught with one exception. There is nothing more important than learning about the Word of God. At our LES's, children learn how to live like children of God in a world of sin. These schools are taught and run by sinful human beings so there will be errors. Attention needs to be brought to the errors and all need to act with Christian love. How can you choose to send your child to a school that does not teach the most important thing a person can learn not only for life on earth, but for eternity? You need to fight for your children and what is best for them and that is going to a school that has its focus on Christ. Sadly enough, it might be a struggle that is never solved in their grade school career. I trust that God has his reasons for allowing the situations you described. God will give you the strength and wisdom to help these schools, but possibly not in the manner and time frame you would choose. That does not mean you should give up on a Christ-centered education. My Christ-centered education is something I treasure and I am privileged, as a called worker, to train future Christians and share my faith with them. I pray that you reconsider your choices. Your comments made me think of the young FVL grad that was killed by a drunk driver shortly after her graduation. Considering her short time here on earth, I believe that her parents are comforted that their daughter was educated by a school system that prepared her for life in eternity. Math and science squabbles seem pretty insignificant when you consider the big picture.