May "Warrior Thought" (May 2015)

A May “Warrior Thought”

As a reminder, in each of these publications, I will reference statements from the LCMSOffice 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 Seek Out the Lost:  Lutheran schools, which enroll children from all parts of the community, provide new and varied opportunities for evangelism by the congregation and its staff.  These opportunities are not available in any other way.  That's why Lutheran schools are considered the most effective agencies in congregational evangelism and why pastors of growing congregations with schools in nearly every case, identify the school as the congregation's most effective outreach agency.  Eighty-five percent of the fastest growing congregations in the Synod operate schools.

Last spring we spent some time utilizing an outside consultant to assist our ministry in the review and further clarification of our vision.  During one of the sessions collecting constituent feedback, our table was discussing improving enrollment and how to create additional diversity in our student body.  One of the participants made a great point that has continued to resonate with me.  “If you work to be a school of excellence, you will attract all types of students because they want to be part of something great.  Once you have them in the door, then you get to do ministry with them.”  

What a great argument for the continued pursuit of excellence.  It is what drives our Warrior Team to never stop improving.  Our primary focus in ministry is to share Christ with our students.  Such a focus on Jesus will always define us.  Being excellent allows us to share Christ with more students.  Helping our students maximize their God-given abilities in a setting where there faith is nurtured makes for a wonderful educational experience.

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

“Bigger is Better, Right?”

The nation is full of large and impressive looking high schools, both public and private. A quick tour through some of the area high schools will reveal beautiful gyms, weight rooms, auditoriums, cafeterias, and labs.  It seems only natural that parents would take one look around at the facilities, programs, classes, and activities that a larger public school has to offer and think, “That’s what we want for our son or daughter.”

For smaller parochial schools, like Wolf River Lutheran High School, it is nearly impossible to compete with the endless stream of resources (tax dollars) that a public high school can pour into its programs and facilities.  So in the face of that kind of competition, why would anyone choose a smaller, Christian school? Ask yourself this, “What’s more important…an impressive laundry list of facility features and activities or a spiritually nurturing atmosphere?”

The truth of the matter is that, in time, it is possible to have both!  Many Lutheran high schools have started with nothing more than a handful of students and a borrowed building.  With God’s help, Wolf River Lutheran High School will increase in enrollment and add programs and facilities that rival the best public schools.  Countless Lutheran high schools have experienced similar growing pains only to grow and become regionally and nationally recognized for academic excellence, win state championships in sports, offer valuable services to their communities, and produce well prepared students year in and year out, all while maintaining a focus on Jesus Christ.  In fact, the only real obstacle to achieving many of these goals is having a larger student body.  To that end, we take steps every day to make WRLHS more attractive to area families. We need your support too!

Even at our current size, WRLHS provides advantages that a larger public high school simply cannot:

Students are less likely to get lost in the shuffle

Our teachers and administrators know all of the students in the building.  That kind of intimacy can be a key to the academic and spiritual development of a student.  WRLHS is dedicated to making connections with all students. Relationships, not facilities, are what make a school excellent.

Class sizes are smaller

Instead of class sizes of 30 or more that can be found at larger schools, most Christian schools have class sizes that are in the 15-20 range on average with many advanced courses having even smaller class sizes.

Opportunities to participate in extracurricular are greater at WRLHS

Simple math dictates that a student’s odds of “making a team” or “getting a part” are better if they are competing against fewer people.  Beyond that, smaller teams and greater opportunity to actively participate in other extracurricular activities means that a higher percentage of students are actively involved.  Put simply, at WRLHS, it is easier to get involved and have a quality experience outside of the classroom.

We are a family

At a smaller school, students, parents, and teachers feel as if they are part of community in which they can take pride and have input.  People know each other and relationships become the foundation for excellence.  A caring, Christian environment that values each student as a special child of God is a wonderful thing.  When that environment is small enough that kids do not get lost in the shuffle, it’s even better.

We have serious plans to grow - including construction of a new school

We recognize that our current building isn’t quite what we need it be so we are in the readiness phase of a capital fundraising campaign to raise funds to build a new school on the south side of Shawano.  The school will be built at the intersection of WI-22 and WI-29 on 25+ acres of land already owned by the school.  This proposed structure will not only better meet the needs of our current student body, but provide plenty of potential regarding future growth and needs.

Each year Lincoln Lutheran has students who chose not to re-enroll.  There is a wide variety of reasons for a move to a different school.  I believe that one contributing factor to a majority of the decisions to enroll elsewhere is tied to the “allure” of the larger school.  Reasons stated from families ranges from “course options” to “clubs and activities” to finding a different niche of friends.  

I regularly share with people that Lincoln Lutheran is a Class C school in a Class A pool.  We often feel pressure to offer more, to do more, to be more.  In the end, we are called to make sure we are doing an excellent job with what we have.  We should only grow programs and opportunities in a strategic manner that can be sustained.  In many ways, being a smaller school is what sets us apart in this community.  There are more than enough co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities available at Lincoln Lutheran to keep a student crazy-busy.  The blessing is they can try everything and be a part of as much, or as little as they want.  

I am not a believer that bigger is better.  We recognize increased enrollment allows us to consider additional variety in offerings.  Growing too big would take away the intimacy that is so important to our school community.  Our staff knows their students - very well.  Knowing students so well allows for stronger ministry.  After all, ministry is why we are here!

As we transition into summer, I pray God continues to surround Lincoln Lutheran with a hedge of protection and care.  I pray that our families continue to reaffirm their commitment to Christian education and the role it plays in the development of their children.  I pray for an abundant harvest of students to serve starting in just a few short weeks!  I pray for rest, rejuvenation and a rekindling of the passion that brings our staff to 1100 N. 56thStreet every day!

God bless the beginning of summer break!

Because of Him,

Scott Ernstmeyer, EdS