WELS enjoys a blessing that no other Lutheran church body enjoys: our ministerial education training system, which has existed in one form or another almost since the very beginning of the synod itself. In a seamless system on three levels, WELS’ ministerial education schools train and equip young people to serve as pastors, teachers, and staff ministers in the congregations of our synod. The system includes two high schools: Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; one college: Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; and one seminary: Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.
So what is unique and important about this system of schools?
First, the schools* are owned by the synod and are overseen by governing boards that are elected by the synod convention. That provides a clear accountability in terms of finance and doctrinal faithfulness. Other church bodies have seen their colleges and seminaries stray far from the truth of God’s Word because of a lack of accountability.
Since the schools are part of a system, each school’s curriculum is closely connected to the curricula at the other schools. The curriculum at the prep schools is designed to prepare students for what they will study at MLC. The teacher track at MLC prepares students to serve in the teaching ministry upon graduation. The pastor-track curriculum at MLC lays the appropriate foundation for students entering the seminary. Together, the course of study provides the instruction and skills that the synod has determined to be important and necessary for service in the public ministry.
The synod also provides significant financial support for the ministerial schools. While students and parents pay a large share of the cost of education, that cost is much lower than it otherwise would be without synodical support. By helping to fund the cost of ministerial education, all members of the synod participate in helping to reduce the cost for those preparing for ministry.
When students graduate from the teacher training program at MLC and the pastor training program at WLS, they do something amazing. They simply say, “Here am I; send me!” In what other situation would young people place themselves into the hands of a committee and say, “I am willing to go wherever the Lord sends me”? That would be unheard of, but our future workers do just that.
May is when new pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and vicars are assigned. As a former president of one of the schools in our ministerial education system, I always looked forward to these assignments. It was a time when students whom I taught reached the final goal for which they were preparing. The assignment of candidates remains the highlight of my year.
And so it should be for every WELS member. These teachers, pastors, and staff ministers are probably the best and most thoroughly trained ministers of the gospel. They are the answer to our regular prayers for workers. Let’s all say a heartfelt prayer of thanks for those schools, those who teach at those schools, and the called workers who are trained there.
*WELS also has area Lutheran high schools that are owned and operated by federations of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregations. Some of their graduates go on to our higher-level ministerial education schools too.
Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 109, Number 05
Issue: May 2022