Each year, Lutheran Schools celebrate their unique role in our churches during Lutheran Schools Week (in 2017 it was during the weeks of January 22-26 and March 6-10). Over the many years in Lutheran Education, I have often been asked, “Why should I send my child to a Lutheran school?” I have tried to arrive upon some talking points that are easily remembered and until recently kept refining my answer. Then I thought back to over fifty years ago when I first saw the old movie The Wizard of Oz!
The movie followed four main characters on a journey to find something of significance. The Scarecrow was searching for a brain, the Lion was in pursuit of courage, the Tin Man was looking for a heart, and Dorothy was in a quest for home. They encounter flying monkeys, wicked witches, and the like; and in the end, they are rewarded for their treacherous and scary journey with exactly what they wanted and needed.
Romans 5:3-5 reminds us that God uses tribulations to ultimately produce hope that does not disappoint us. Many parents find the four characteristics searched for in The Wizard of Oz in their local Lutheran school. In a world filled with disease, uncertainty, and despair, Lutheran schools reinforce the scriptural truths of peace found in Christ. Lutheran teachers seek to develop thinking skills (brain) that allow children to became model Michigan citizens. They equip students with smooth stones (1 Samuel 17:40), like the Old Testament shepherd David, to face the Goliaths of 2017 (courage). They place students in situations where they develop empathy for others (heart) through opportunities like chapel offerings, service projects, and the recent “Hearts for Jesus” offering. But their biggest goal is to share with students and their family about “Home.” They seek to remind them of the reality of the hymn with text by Thomas Taylor, Heaven is our Home.
I have seen this happen at St. Luke, Clinton Township where Principal Keith Vieregge told me about their first adult Baptism as a result of an intentional school outreach into their neighboring community. This family learned about a new home. I’ve seen it when a family enrolled their autistic child in one of our Saginaw area schools and the public school resource staff remarked that “it is hard for autistic students to make friends in public schools, but not here!” Another family learned about home and “What a friend they have in Jesus!”
Every day, the unchurched, about 20% of students in our schools and 30% of our early childhood students, hear about the God who loves them, created them, and calls them “His Children” (1 John 3:1). Michigan District Lutheran schools share Jesus every day with infants to high school seniors. Teachers remind families they are there to develop student’s brains and heart while increasing their confidence and courage that Christ Jesus prepares a home for them.