In Forward in Christ, we report the news but aren’t always able to follow up. “Where are they now?” is our way of giving you the rest of the story.
In 2014, we reported that Divine Savior Academy, Doral, Fla., was embarking on another building project—an 88,000-square-foot high school, that would double the size of its campus. It’s five-year-goal was to have 1,000 students from PreK-3 to 12th grade getting a quality education and learning about their Savior.
So where are they now?
Divine Savior Academy–Doral has 950 students and still is growing. Divine Savior Church reaches out to the school families and community in Doral as well as serves more than 400 members with Spanish and English ministries.
But perhaps the biggest change is that its church/school model has now spread, with four additional Divine Savior campuses in Florida and Texas.
“As a group, we had always focused on outreach—not only in our community but kingdom wide,” says Carlos Leyrer, president of Divine Savior Ministries.
Leyrer says that for years Divine Savior–Doral had been using a percentage of its budget to give grants to congregations across the country. Several of these congregations asked for more help with long-range planning and program development. “That led to a consulting arrangement,” says Leyrer, noting that they were happy to share best practices and advice.
But when another South Florida congregation approached Divine Savior–Doral for help on potentially starting a school, Divine Savior offered more than just advice. It merged with the group and with another congregation in South Florida, and they all worked together to start a new church and school in Delray Beach.
Soon after, two additional sites were added in Texas—one is an existing school in Sienna Plantation and another is a new mission church looking to start a school in Liberty Hill.
“We did not look for new campuses. That was never the goal,” says Leyrer. “But these are just God things.”
As a multi-site ministry, Divine Savior is both collaborative and independent. This network of churches shares a logo, brand, website, school system, and philosophy of ministry, yet each congregation and school remain autonomous as they conduct the day-to-day work. Offerings stay at each campus and each congregation has its own budget and council, yet all contribute to a global fund that supports marketing, communication, and other joint efforts across all the sites. The pastors meet regularly to plan sermons series, Bible studies, and worship plans, yet each congregation has its own events and ministry plans that work within their unique communities.
To coordinate and support the growth of these ministries, a new organization, Divine Savior Ministries, was formed, which provides financial, long-range planning, communication, education, and administration systems and expertise for all the sites. Leyrer shares that where you can really see this efficiency is in the accreditations that Divine Savior Academy in Doral holds as well as in the specialized school systems like a tuition payment app that the academy spent years to develop. Any site that shares its name can share in those benefits. “We’re not innovators,” says Leyrer. “We’re just doing what everyone in the world does, which is don’t do something twice when you can do it once.”
Divine Savior Ministries has big goals for its future. It is hoping to break ground on Divine Savior Church and Academy–Santa Rita Ranch this summer, opening this new Liberty Hill school in the fall of 2020. It is working to increase enrollment at the new academy that just opened this past fall in Delray Beach. Finally, it is looking to open a school on the Doral campus for children with special needs.
John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior–West Palm Beach, Fla., says this ministry model could not exist without the support of the synod as a whole. More than 70 MLC-trained teachers work at Divine Savior Schools, and several of the congregations are home mission churches.
WELS CEF provided grants and loans for both the Santa Rita Ranch and the Delray campuses. “We are thankful for the support of the synod and our joining together in the same exact work that our brothers and sisters around the world are doing,” says Boggs. “Yes, it looks different, but God is blessings all of us as we move forward to his glory.”
Learn more about Divine Savior Ministries at divinesaviorministries.org.
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019