A June “Warrior Thought”

This Warrior thought represents the final installment of seven monthly articles intended to celebrate within our Warrior Family the blessings we have in Christian middle and secondary education. As a reminder, in each of these publications, I will reference statements from the LCMS Office of National Mission-School Ministry explaining “Why Lutheran Schools.” I will then share excerpts from a document titled “Why Lutheran High?” created by a sister school written to debunk some of the most common hurdles preventing a family from choosing a Christian education for their child.

The following statement comes from the LCMS Office of National Mission - School Ministry – “Why Lutheran Schools:”

To Enhance the Public Relations of the Congregation: As the school reaches many segments of the community, the parents who come to the school begin to inquire about the sponsoring congregation. Members frequently ask each other, “Does this congregation have a school?” But non-member school parents frequently ask the school, "Does this school have a church?" The congregation becomes better known in the community because of the school parents, and the school's marketing efforts.

Early in my ministry at Lincoln Lutheran, I decided one of the most important fruits of ministry in a Lutheran school is “more people in heaven.” If we are doing anything right, we are sharing the love and grace of Christ with as many people as we possibly can. That is the goal of the Great Commission – Tell People about Jesus! 

Lincoln Lutheran is a valuable resource to the community of Lincoln. We are so blessed to have an alternative to public schools that teaches students in a very unique manner. The better we can serve students and their families, the more respect and positive reputation gets built into the broad community of Lincoln. As people talk about Lincoln Lutheran and the good things going on, they often connect back to the relationship we have with the churches in the Association. Many of our school families, specifically those who were un-churched or under-churched (inactive), end up joining and participating in one of our Association churches. What a blessing to be in such an important partnership together as we seek to share the love of Christ with as many souls as possible! 

Our friends at Wolf River Lutheran High School respond to a question they often hear from families in the excerpt from their publication below:

“Aren’t public schools better choices for the athletically talented?”

This objection to Christian education is born out of a fear that athletes at a smaller Christian school won’t receive the quality of coaching and skill refinement that a larger public school can provide and/or that their talent could go unnoticed or underdeveloped. Neither of these fears is justified.

If an athlete has Division I talent, it doesn’t matter where he or she goes to high school. The scouting and recruitment programs at colleges today must search all high schools to find talent. The competition is fierce for the best players – no matter where they go to school. To think that a talented player would go “unnoticed” is to believe that major colleges and universities aren’t exhausting every avenue to find talent. A recent example is Sam Dekker, graduate of Sheboygan Lutheran High School, who stars for the Wisconsin Badgers, and is projected to be drafted high into the NBA someday. However, rare is the true “blue-chip” prospect. Therefore, athletes MUST market themselves with the help of their high school and high school coaches. The web is full of college recruitment services that help players and parents market their son or daughter. Personal attention is where Christian high schools excel.

Smaller Christian high schools are often better connected to Division II, Division III, and NAIA colleges. Since those types of schools must recruit outside of the large public high schools to find talent and stay competitive, they look to smaller schools to fill their teams’ rosters. Hundreds of Lutheran high school athletes each year are offered generous scholarships and opportunities to continue their athletic careers in college as a result.

Most Christian schools have quality athletic programs. They establish top-notch facilities as funds allow. They have talented coaches who are coaching at a smaller high school, not because they don’t have the ability to coach elsewhere, but because they are dedicated to serving Christ. WRLHS is headed down that path as our student body grows.

Parents are often self-deceptive about the athletic abilities of their child. That statement may seem harsh, but according to NCAA statistics, on average less than 5% of all high school athletes fill a freshmen roster position at ANY level of NCAA athletics. This means that an athlete must be better than 95 out of every 100 seniors in the country to make an NCAA roster. Those athletes receiving scholarship money is even less. At WRLHS, we try hard to keep athletics in the proper perspective and urge our athletes, and their families, to do the same. 

As an educator with more than 20 years of coaching experience, I feel as though I have some credibility to comment on this particular topic. I was a college athlete and I have coached a number of Lincoln Lutheran students who’ve gone on to experience amazing college careers. Lincoln Lutheran has had a large number of athletes go on to compete at all levels of college athletics. Quite a few have competed at the NCAA Division 1 level. 

I believe a great school needs to have strong activity programs to offer their families. It makes for a well-rounded opportunity and experience. If you look at the banners in our gym at Lincoln Lutheran, we have been blessed with some amazing success in the first 18 years of our high school athletic history. God is truly good!

College athletics is about 3 factors: 1) God-given athletic ability; 2) the will and commitment of an athlete to work and improve to a point where they are good enough to play in college; and 3) opportunity. No one can change the first factor. The second factor plays a huge role in separating good high school athletes from great ones. The final factor is what some parents use as their reason for moving to a bigger school. 

The fact of the matter is all high school athletes who are trying to “get ahead” compete in their sport outside of their school teams through club and select opportunities. Athletes can do this regardless of what school they attend. This weakens the argument that an athlete has to play Class A ball to have a chance at college athletics. It simply is not true. I won’t go into my opinion about the ridiculous amount of money spent by some families through the club experience, as it compares to the size of scholarship their athlete eventually may get to participate in college. Families would be far better served to pursue high GPA’s and ACT scores because there is generally a lot more money available for great students than college athletes.

The Lincoln Lutheran experience is so much more than any one thing. It is about Christ first. It is about expecting excellence out of our students in the classroom. It is about quality activities opportunities. It is about the smaller school and our community among parents and staff. It’s about relationship. Lincoln Lutheran is a package deal. Families who commit to a well-rounded Christian education for their child understand it is a package deal. 

When challenges come along or a family has a bad experience in one area of the educational experience, it is important to remember all the many blessings and benefits that we take for granted every day. In my mind, it trumps the frustration that pops up from time to time. Sara and I have had times as parents when we’ve been frustrated with a particular situation in our daughter’s education, but because we believe in the “whole” and how great a benefit it provides our girls, we jump over the hurdle and stay committed to our kids – to their education and faith formation. Things don’t always go perfectly, but we wouldn’t change our experience for anything! We love and appreciate our Lutheran School Family!

God’s blessing as you continue to enjoy summer break!

Because of Him, Scott Ernstmeyer, EdS