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The mission of WELS schools

Christian parents holding their newborn baby are overwhelmed with emotions. They are thankful for the miracle of life that God has created. They are also filled with a sobering realization. They know that God has entrusted them with the huge, life-changing responsibilities of feeding, clothing, and protecting their child. They are ready to assume these responsibilities, trusting that God will provide them with the ability and the means to carry them out.

But Christian parents are also mindful of another even greater responsibility. God has entrusted them to bring their child to know and believe in the same Savior they confess. Within hours or days of that child’s birth, they will be the ones to initiate a second, even more important birth through the water and words of Holy Baptism. They will teach the child to pray, worship, hear the words of the Savior, and follow him as his disciple.

Undeniably those spiritual responsibilities rest first with the parents. But from the founding of our synod, congregations have recognized that they can help with those responsibilities. Many, if not most, of the congregations in the early years of our synod worked and sacrificed to establish Lutheran schools, where the foundation of faith laid first in the home could be built upon. Congregations saw these schools not just as a means to preserve their German culture and language in their new setting or as an alternative to secular education but also as an essential part of the congregation’s ministry and work.

For many decades, Lutheran schools have proven their value. Generations of young people have been trained to know the Scriptures and the catechism. Equipped with that instruction, they became faithful congregational members, spiritually mature congregational leaders, and committed Christian parents.

In recent years, the mission of many of our WELS schools has expanded. While still committed to educating the children of the congregation, many of our schools have seen a drastic increase in the number of non-WELS students. Because of this, total enrollment in WELS elementary schools, high schools, and early childhood ministries is at record high levels. That brings with it both challenges and opportunities.

The challenge comes with maintaining the essentially Lutheran character of our schools even with the growing number of non-WELS students. Instruction in God’s Word—the teaching of law and gospel and the message of Christ—needs to remain the focus and foundation of everything our schools do. An additional challenge is staffing those schools with well-trained Lutheran teachers. Our schools have been growing, but the number of available Lutheran teachers has not kept pace.

But there are also great opportunities. Our schools are on the front lines of mission work. For a variety of reasons, unchurched people as well as people who belong to other Christian churches are enrolling their children in our schools in increasing numbers. They have come to us and said, “Please teach our children!” What greater opportunity do we have to share the message of Christ with young people? Along with the opportunity to teach the children comes the opportunity for congregations to develop relationships with unchurched parents, share the gospel with them, and invite them to consider joining our congregations.

We pray that God will give us the strength and commitment to overcome the challenges and seize the mission opportunities that God has placed before us.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 111, Number 04
Issue: April 2024

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