Back to School: 25 Ways Toward an Interwoven Ministry

by Diane Strzelecki

As part of a presentation last March to the National Lutheran Administrators Conference, Rev. Ron Weidler, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Batavia, Ill., listed a series of steps that enhance the ministry efforts of a congregation. Weidler and Immanuel principal Glenn Steinbrenner, along with leaders from the two additional schools that were granted exemplary status by the National Lutheran School Accreditation Commission–Trinity Lutheran School, Elkhart, Ind., and Good Shepherd Lutheran School, Collinsville, Ill.–will also make presentations to a meeting of the National Lutheran School Accreditation Conference July 31–Aug. 1 in St. Louis.

Here is Pastor Weidler’s list:

  1. Keep the BIG picture of ministry constantly in mind; i.e., how many lives can we (that’s ALL of us in the church and school) touch with the love of Christ?
  2. Remember, it is one ministry you represent. For example, Immanuel Lutheran Church and School (NOT Immanuel Lutheran Church that happens to have a school). Prioritize the school as a ministry of the church. There is no other ministry that reaches people more than 1,100 hours per year; and they pay tuition for it!
  3. Regularly promote the school ministry to members and prospective members and publicly advocate (e.g., in sermons, in worship announcements, in the newsletter, in voters meetings, etc.) the school ministry at every opportunity.
  4. Publicly advocate (e.g. in local ministerial meetings, in private conversations, in press releases, etc.) the school ministry every chance you get to those outside the church.
  5. School activities should be open to church members, just as church activities should be open to non-member school families.
  6. The staff must have and show mutual respect for each other’s ministry. Be a big cheerleader for other staff members. (As the saying goes, “It’s amazing how much a person can accomplish in life, if he doesn’t care who gets the credit!”)
  7. Teach confirmation to a group comprised of students who attend the church’s day school and those who attend local public schools at an evening or weekend class. This bridging builds relationships, which helps to build strong middle school and high school youth groups.
  8. Value the staff as colleagues, showing care and concern. Listen to their opinions.
  9. Be available to every staff member for consultation and encouragement.
  10. Pray for the ministry of the school and of each of the staff members privately and corporately. Include school matters, issues, and events in weekend worship prayers.
  11. Attend daily staff devotions whenever possible.
  12. Greet students and parents as they arrive, as often as possible, and learn to call as many of them by name.
  13. Attend weekly chapel services, even if you are not the one leading the service on a given day.
  14. Pastors should be visible throughout the school day, not just at chapel services.
  15. Talk up and then attend school functions (open houses, PTL events, athletic contests, picnics, plays, dinner-dance-auctions, etc.)
  16. Be enthusiastic when leading chapel services; especially those for seasonal or other special events.
  17. Always commend and/or celebrate school events (installations, dedications, anniversaries, accreditations, etc.) in weekend worship services.
  18. Invest whatever effort it takes to get the biggest bang for the many, many bucks it takes to operate a first-rate school.
  19. Lead as the shepherd of the congregation using the shepherd’s staff to guide, not drive, the sheep within the fold.
  20. All staff must be examples of servant leadership.
  21. When new members are welcomed into the congregation, make school information a part of the presentation of the total ministry of the church.
  22. The pastor and principal should have clear lines of authority and communication. Pastors must defer to the leadership of the principal when it comes to ministry in the school. The principal is the trained educator called to this position.
  23. Since the school is a large ministry of the church, it must support the other ministries of the congregation.
  24. Ministry directors need to communicate and share ideas with one another. Working together on joint projects breaks down divisions and builds bridges between congregational agencies.

It is very important for school staff to be visible in and supportive of the activities in the church, even if they are not members.

Suggested Activities

  1. Encourage Sunday School and day school children to cooperate in the same mission project; e.g., collecting layette items for a crisis pregnancy center at Christmas to honor the birth of Jesus.
  2. Regular day school choir participation in weekend worship services.
  3. Hold graduation services during regular weekend worship to ensure congregation participation in this important annual event.
  4. Encourage the parent-teacher organization to show staff (both school and church) appreciation on a monthly basis. At Immanuel, one grade school class sponsors a staff luncheon each month of the school year and parent volunteers monitor student lunch periods. Preschool classes participate by taking turns stocking the staff snack cabinet.
  5. Encourage church members to share their hobbies with students through assemblies or by teaching short elective courses for older students.
  6. Celebrate seniors with special school events; e.g., a Thanksgiving feast that includes a chapel service and perhaps musical or dance performances by students.
  7. Invite seniors to attend school assemblies and dress rehearsals for school productions (offer rides, if necessary, to help them attend these daytime activities).
  8. Plan a thank-you luncheon that includes a tour of the school, historical photos of seniors’ volunteer efforts over the years, and interviews by middle school students.
  9. Give a senior citizen discount on school spirit wear, sporting-event admissions, and concessions.

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