Many congregations have been busy finding workers to teach the Savior’s lambs.
“We have 45 children who need teachers when school starts.”
St. John Lutheran Church and School, Watertown, Wis., faced a challenge for the 2022–23 school year. Two teachers were leaving for other callings, an additional teacher was needed because a class was too large for one teacher, and the congregation needed an early childhood ministry director.
The challenge kicked off a flurry of activity already in October 2021 when the church could begin calling teachers. The call process is not quick—it can take months. St. John’s principal, pastors, school board, and congregation started by requesting a list of potential teachers through the district president and the Commission on Lutheran Schools. Then they called, called, and called. Each call went out with prayers, asking that the Lord would guide the teacher’s decision.
Several of the calls St. John extended were returned, so the congregation had to go through the process a number of times. The closer it got to the start of the next school year, the more critical it became.
In Spring 2022, St. John still needed teachers. St. John’s leadership decided to ask for a graduate assignment from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. The district president warned them that there were not enough graduates for all the congregations asking for a graduate teacher. He advised the congregation to begin thinking of alternatives. When Assignment Day came, no teacher was available for St. John. Members were disappointed but not surprised.
The congregation continued to work closely with the district president to find solutions. In reviewing potential solutions, the congregation discovered that its earlier calls for an early childhood ministry director had been returned partly because the position required the candidate to do too much administrative work. That kept the director out of the classroom and away from the children. Restructuring the position and hiring someone to do the administrative work was a step forward. But that was not the only challenge. The school still faced additional needs. St. John decided to expand its search and consider WELS members who were teachers but not trained at MLC. With the help of the district president and the Commission on Lutheran Schools, the congregation found one candidate.
The solution came with its own challenges. Both pastors and the principal commented, “We were concerned about doctrinal integrity.” Part of the training at MLC includes making sure every teacher has a thorough understanding of the truths of God’s Word. That’s why congregations ordinarily turn to MLC graduates for their classrooms. The background and history of the candidate have to be part of the process. Although this candidate was a member of a WELS church, she did not have the same doctrinal background as MLC graduates.
The congregation decided to extend her a provisional call. The provision was that she needed to pursue WELS ministry certification by taking courses offered by MLC. She could have six years to complete her certification. She accepted the call and will help St. John Lutheran School meet its goal of feeding the Savior’s lambs.
Though it still needs an early childhood ministry director, by summer the school had found enough staff to teach the children for the next school year. That happened by the Lord’s blessing and through a flurry of activity by pastors, principal, and congregation.
The principal commented, “My favorite comment is ‘Be still.’ We had challenges, and we knew the Lord would guide us. We were confident and still in that assurance, while we were very active in getting the people we needed.”
Special thanks to Pastor Tim Mueller, Pastor Nicholas Quinnett, Principal Christopher Mueller, and Congregation President Loren Lange for taking the time to share their story.
Read more about how WELS schools are filling vacancies in the news article “Addressing WELS’ teacher shortage.”
Author: John Braun
Volume 109, Number 09
Issue: September 2022