1935 Synod Convention Essay
(continued from 1934)
The Parochial School — The Christian Day-School
The care of children is incumbent upon their elders, the care of each child, each entire child, his body and soul. They are to render him every support, and to show him the way to go in life, by example and precept. If they choose present-worldliness for themselves and their charges, they will, naturally, tolerate — and thereby sanction — that their child travel the paths of the world. In that case, they will be satisfied and, even, thankful that the world receives their children as her own, takes them in tow, exercises her powerful influence upon them, and holds forth her glittering attractions and promises to them. And the world welcomes them, — gladly, always.
If, however, heavenly-mindedness is the principle and emblem of parents and guardians of children, so that they first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33), if they set their affection on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:2), then they will faithfully, and with fear and trembling for their own and their children’s welfare (Phil. 2:12), seek and employ means and methods in the rearing of their children’s lives that lead to and fix that same habitude. Religion in its complete range must, then, run through all the fibers of life; it cannot merely be pinned on here and there. If Christianity be slighted or overlooked in the course and plan of education and training, the education, of course, must and will deteriorate in the same measure.
To prevent a wrong, disastrous conception of godliness from taking hold of and afflicting the hearts of our loved ones, we must see to it that true godliness actually gets to be an ever-present and ever-functioning, virile part of our children’s very constitution, soul and heart, intellect, will and emotion. Soul and heart must be filled with dynamic, energizing love, trust, power, and courage. Much is to be done, and we must begin early, very early.
True, the Lord can save, guide, build, and preserve without our efforts, and He does. That is not at all in doubt. But we have in mind that course and route on which the Lord has commanded that we should lead our children. There can be no ifs or buts: God has told us unmistakably to bring up our children, “to nurture them through” (Ephes. 6:4: cp. Ephes. 5:29, “nurture through”!), in His way of training them up. That is our solemn and anxious concern. From out of the anxiety associated with that sacred knowledge there arises a loud plea for help on the part of serious-minded, consecrated Christian parents. There, too, roots the eagerness of the Church to supply a greatly needed, trustworthy support for the homes of her families, and to erect a safe and valid educational system for her own children and youth.
The educational system of the Church, which we now intend to study and review very briefly, may have a number of departments, but should be a strict unity. It may include, in its full scope: the Christian Day-school, the Sunday School, a Saturday School, Summer School, vacation Bible School, special Bible classes on Sundays or week-days, the catechumen class of one or two years, and possibly, still other arrangements. Each of these departments will be made to serve a well-defined purpose. The Christian Day-school, however, has within the church of true Lutheranism always been considered the heart and center of the entire system, the various parts of which system must self-evidently be closely interrelated, and must consistently operate harmoniously, working continually hand in hand with one another toward one God-pleasing aim and goal. This one aim is the aim of all concerned, all of our Christian parents, all of our church members, all of our congregations, and the entire Synod as well, the association of congregations. There can be no disagreement or controversy regarding the aim anywhere in Christianity.
At this time we shall direct our special attention to the institution which can meet the various requirements of Christian education, to the most satisfactory institution which up to this time has been given us, the institution through which a Lutheran congregation earnestly and chiefly strives to utilize God-given opportunities for the proper education and training of her own children and all other children which can be brought in, for the indoctrination and bringing up of her subsequent generation and membership, and for her own upbuilding, expansion, and perpetuation in the field which she now occupies and cherishes. That institution is the Christian Day-school, the regular parochial school.
In the full-time parish school the entire atmosphere and surroundings, as well as the activities and mutual relations of the inmates, can best be made to conform to, at least to approximate, those of the Christian home. Its educational features and procedures hold forth expectations and promises of far greater and better results than can be hoped for from any other single arrangement or any combination of part-time educational agencies. True, all of them teach the Word of God; all are workshops of the Holy Spirit; but only the full-time and completely organized school offers, at the same time, to the young Christian, who must be given a serviceable schooling, a place of refuge from, and an equipment against, the severe dangers which are simply inseparable from non-religious and unreligious schools, schools of worldly training. Our parochial schools are institutions for most careful, complete instruction, and they provide a proving-ground for the faith and the religious knowledge of their pupils, inasmuch as they are kept under the continued care and supervision of teachers and educators carefully trained by our own Church; and this careful observation and direction can be given conscientious attention for quite a number of hours each day and for 180 days, or more, each year, for the full elementary course of eight or nine years.
We stated in the beginning that Christian education is the service of an educator. We could well have used Biblical terminology: a service of God’s “holy, royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5 and 9), instituted by the Lord in creating His chosen ones “kings and priests unto God and the Father of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:6). Their immediate service is in the family.
It would also designate correctly those special Christian educators to whom the Lord delegates, by their divine call through a congregation of God, all the public exercises of the functions of the universal priesthood for their fulfillment (Col. 4 :17) within that local congregation of God, by the “ministry of the Word” (Acts 6 :4), “the ministry of the saints” (1 Cor. 16:15). We call them pastors (shepherds) or ministers (servants). Their service is available in the Church of God.
The expression “Christian education” is used, also on the part of the Church, to indicate that specific service which aims particularly at the children and youth, and which is restricted to such as already are Christians — so, excluding the work of converting to Christianity, mission work — and limited to the teaching and training of children — so, excluding the administration of the sacraments and all the other functions of the complete, unrestricted, and unlimited service of the Church’s general ministry.
All the affairs of Christian education are strictly the business of the Christian home and the Christian Church, and cannot be relinquished by them. The responsibility can never be disclaimed or abandoned by parents or pastors, nor can the regulated and organized labors or exercises of Christian education be delegated to anyone who is not an avowed, sincere Christian.
The pastor will always be looked up to as the leader in all congregational matters, as her representative in all the activities of the church, and his reliable, spirited, undaunted, and unswerving efforts, particularly in behalf of every profitable move in the direction of the educational enrichment of his charge, and preeminently for the improvement of facilities for the Christian education of the children of his church, are as indispensable as they are unfailingly productive in the Lord.
The pastor, very often, will be the first teacher of his parochial school. Many of our pastors have served, and still serve, as school teachers in their congregations. In most cases this must be considered an exigency, the need of a Christian day-school being acknowledged as urgent, the congregation, however, being too small or too poor to call a special, trained teacher for her children. Most parochial schools within the Synodical Conference were established in this way that the pastor for the time being took charge of the work. He is to take heed unto himself “and to the whole flock” (Acts 20:28), and it has always been considered his plain duty to serve as teacher until a special teacher relieves him of the work, though not of the responsibility that the work be done, and that it be done right. Untold blessings have come to our Lutheran congregations and synods by the service of pastors as teachers of our day-schools and by their indefatigable testimony and labor for the advancement of Christian education everywhere, especially for the chief institution of Christian education, the full-time parish school. May God reward them and increase their numbers!
Helpers for the service may certainly be called in. Parents may engage private tutors, of course; and the Church has not only the liberty but, under given conditions, the duty of Christian love and wisdom to call assistants, also such assistants whose work is restricted, limited, and specialized. Such special, assisting servants of God, called by the Church according to her needs and commissioned in accordance with those needs, are important helpers in the ministry of God, provided, of course, that they possess the prerequisites, the qualities, and the qualifications demanded by the Lord in His Word. They are not hirelings, men-servants, or some sort of inferior laborers, as the world would have it, but recognized servants of the same Lord, according to His Word, 1 Cor. 12:5: “There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord,” a statement conjoined to the preceding sentence (1 Cor. 12:4), “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.”
This auxiliary of the ministry is safe, inasmuch as it is sanctioned by the Holy Spirit (Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3:8–13), and it is in the same category with all other auxiliaries in the Church (deacons, elders, lay readers). However, it differs from them in the commission and assignment, as the special teacher of the Lutheran school is definitely called to “labor in the Word and doctrine” and, therefore, his service being inherent in the public ministry and complementary, not supplementary, to it, he is registered with those who are to “be counted worthy of double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). The called teacher of the parochial school is to be classed with synodical officials, professors at our synodical colleges, and others “set by God” for service in His Church. We must recognize his position as laboring under and with God in a service which the Lord has graciously created among us through His Gospel. Although this auxiliary office as such is not a divine institution, that is to say: It is not one which as such — as an auxiliary office — could not be separated from a congregation without destroying an essential part of said congregation, we must, nevertheless, ever maintain firmly the commanding fact, which is the salient trait of this service, that the functions of that auxiliary office are inherent in the public ministry of the Word. These functions of teaching the Word, teaching to observe whatsoever the Lord has committed unto us, to all nations, also the children, are very clearly and very forcibly enjoined by the Lord of the Church. They must operate, always, not only in order to nourish “the lambs” for the time present, but for their healthy growth toward mature membership in the “fold” of the Good Shepherd. So, wherever and whenever this auxiliary office of a special teacher within the Church is abrogated, the functions of the office must again be assumed in their entirety by the incumbent of the complete public ministry within the congregation.
In order that there should be no doubt as to who entrusts men with the work within the church, the Word of God, 1 Cor. 12:28, enumerates the workers, be they called apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governments, or diversity of tongues (Luther, in his translation, personifies these gifts, e.g., “helpers” for those supplying the gift of “help”), and this Scripture passage assures us plainly and unmistakably that “God hath set them,” each and all of them, in the Church. In other words, theirs is a divine call if and when it is issued by the Church. It is valid and certain, since the body which extends the call has been endowed with the right to call. Other groups have not that right.
The call issued by the Church extends over those functions and includes such duties as have been stipulated in the call (no more and no less), and according to our present commendable practice it is presented in written form, called the Vocation-Diploma, or the diploma of vocation. The functions and duties laid down in a teacher’s call may vary, according to the conditions and needs of the respective congregation, and it is well to remember that these duties and functions are not fixed or changed by the whims of individuals or groups, but that they are arrived at and established by the needs of a congregation, in the fear of God, and in the name of the Lord of the Church.
Our Lord Jesus, on the day before He was delivered for our offenses, warned against a wrong conception of the administration and government within His Church: “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among us: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25–28). On a previous occasion (Matt. 18:1; Mark 9:33–34), when the disciples had disputed among themselves about what seems to have been a burning question even among the chosen twelve, their Lord — our Lord — pointing to a little child, informed them that “in the Kingdom of God there is no such distinction as we find in civic and worldly affairs” (Ylvisaker, The Gospels, p. 421).
It may seem, for a moment, as though we had digressed into a somewhat distant phase of our topic. However, there should be a full and clear understanding everywhere among us with regard to the person charged with the great service of being an instructor and educator in a Lutheran parochial school, of being a laborer together with God in the tillage and building (1 Cor. 3:9) which He desires to support and advance in our parish school (we would to-day, perhaps, call it the congregational school, the school of the congregation, or local church). We must place the teacher’s office right. It dare not be considered either a side-issue or one foreign to the Church’s ministry. A Lutheran theologian and author calls the parochial school teacher a helper close to the pastor, at his very side. We recall the statement of Dr. Luther that, if he could and must forsake the office of a pastor, he would rejoice to be a teacher in a Christian school.
In my Synod, the regular teachers are permanently called teachers and are considered, under their divine call (divine, in the Lutheran sense of the word), assistants to the pastor, not, however, assistant pastors. Their office, though not the same office as that of a pastor, neither in origin nor in scope, is included in the office of the holy ministry, inasmuch as they “labor in the Word and doctrine” (1 Tim. 5:17). “The office of the regularly called Lutheran day-school teacher is, next to that of a pastor of a congregation, the most important. He is called by the Christian congregation in the same way as the pastor is called, and all that is said in Holy Scriptures about the bishop (1 Tim. 3) applies to the regular teacher of the Lutheran day-school in his limited scope of the work of the ministry. A teacher of a Lutheran school is called ‘for life’ by the congregation, and he will not accept a call of another congregation except after due counsel with the congregation which he serves at the time of receiving the new call. Since he knows that God, through His congregation, has called him into the divine office, a Lutheran teacher will not quit the office unless he is assured that God wants him to do so.” (Concordia Teachers’ Library, Vol. VIII, p. 12–13.)
That has always been the position of the Missouri Synod, and, as was restated in the “Lutheraner”, the official organ of the Synod a few years ago (Jan. 30, 1931), “as called servants of Christ they are to be regarded and honored.” Upon this respect for the dignity and sanctity of their call and office, two special admonitions were premised: 1. Not simply to discharge the teacher in case the enrollment of the school has been somewhat reduced or the congregation involved in a heavy debt, perhaps on account of an unjustifiably ambitious building program, as one discharges a tailor after he has mended a coat, but to proceed in an orderly, Christian manner in the instance of unfavorable conditions in the church. 2. Not to withhold the regular monthly salary of the teacher for the two months of the annual vacation. It was stated in the article referred to that the admonition became necessary on account of evil tendencies revealed by some congregations.
The synodical District in which I serve has the following items listed in its recognized Constitution for Lutheran Schools, framed by the District Board of Christian Education: “Such teachers only shall be permitted to teach in an Evangelical Lutheran parish school as (a) Have been regularly called by the congregation. (They ought to be publicly installed into the office.) (b) Accept and confess the Articles of Confession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and lead a Christian life. (c) Hold a certificate of fitness and ability to teach the subjects of a regular Lutheran parish school. (d) A teacher leaves the service of a congregation by way of a peaceful release. (e) In case of malfeasance in office or of a scandalous life, the teacher may be summarily dismissed.”
We cannot unreservedly subscribe to the wellknown dictum, “The teacher is the school,” but we do recognize the vast importance of having in our schools as the caretaker of the tender and precious souls of our children for many hours daily, and for many days every year, “a man after God’s own heart.” We want him to be a real father to his pupils. Holy Writ ascribes the name “father” also to him who teaches the Word of the Father on High. Elisha calls Elijah “my father” (2 Kings 2:12), and Solomon, teaching the Word, admonishes, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father” (Prov. 4:1). The title “father” for a teacher of God’s Word (including very well the teachers in our Lutheran schools) is not derived merely from his commission by human parents — he being their representative to their children for a time — but it is due him chiefly by virtue of his divine call by the congregation as a “laborer in the Word and doctrine,” the heavenly Father’s representative among his pupils, God’s beloved children. It is a spiritual fatherhood which the teacher is privileged to maintain, and he must not forsake or evade that spiritual fatherhood on occasions when human parents demand an educational practice contrary to that of the Word of the heavenly Father. The Christian teacher never will dare to propose that he be called a father (Matt. 23:9), but he will prayerfully endeavor to be a genuine father to his pupils. The fatherly relation is well certified in Holy Scriptures: It has as its perpetual source, genuine mercy (Psalm 103:13), delight (Prov. 3:12), love and sympathy (1 Thess. 2:7–8), and this God-desired relation will be manifested in the Christian teacher’s entire bearing, conduct and attitude with respect to his pupils, — in school, out of school, among the children and in the presence of parents, fellow-teachers, the pastor — everyone, all the time.
For the acquiring and maintaining of a proper and reputable teaching personnel of our Lutheran schools, much depends on the noticeable, friendly, and appreciative attitude toward the call and office as well as the person of the teacher, on the part of congregations and Synod, pastors and membership. This applies with equal force to the love and esteem which the members of high school and college faculties of our Synods merit and should receive. Let everyone know how much our schools, lower and higher, mean to us. Genuine, brotherly consideration and encouragement, by word and deed, are greatly needed. The best guarantee of real participation of all in the joint service of Christianity rests in honest, mutual love. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Manifestations of such love toward the workers in God’s cause will render valuable profits of increased enjoyment and resultant grateful and happy efforts in their calling and profession.
Having given some slight attention to the office and calling of the teacher of a standard Lutheran school, it will be well to present a brief review of the life as we find it in the school which the Lutheran teacher will organize and conduct for, and in the name of, the congregation which has extended the sacred call to him. The school and its improvement and enrichment, its inner and outer growth, will and must be his chief concern, though he, usually being a man talented and apt in a number of directions, will also prove himself to be an intelligent, energetic, and willing helper in various other activities of the church, in the Sunday school, young people’s societies, or in committees of the church; he often is the organist, choir director, secretary at voters’ meetings, — an all-around and busy man.
There should be no difficulty anywhere among Lutherans to determine the status of the parochial, or Christian day-school. It has been recorded ever so often in synodical records, reports, documents, periodicals, and books, and proclaimed from church pulpits and in college classrooms for several generations. “The synods of the Synodical Conference are very emphatic in their declaration that state schools and Sunday-schools or any other schools supplying merely occasional lessons in Religion on weekdays, are insufficient for the proper education of Christian children. The establishment of parochial schools is urged in all congregations, and the regular day-school is proclaimed to be the nucleus of all educational efforts of a Lutheran congregation. It is welcomed as an institution assisting powerfully in the blessed work of properly rearing children. It is a precious gift of God, not the result of a divine command, but a creation of the Holy Spirit, called into existence by the free course of the Gospel.” And when that became necessary, the Church fought prayerfully and strenuously for the retention and control of her school system as for a precious heritage and possession.
Out in the world the arguments for having our own schools are those of personal freedom, liberty of conscience, parental rights, separation of Church and State, and the like. Within the Church they are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). God’s solemn command, “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephes. 6:4), imposes a sacred duty upon parents. (Cf. also Deut. 6:6–7; Psalm 78:1–8; Mark 10:13–16; 2 Tim. 3:14–15.) This is a responsibility of parents which conditions and developments in civic or church life can neither stay nor reduce. In like manner our Savior charges every Christian congregation to preach the Gospel also to the children, when He commissions His disciples, saying, “Teach all nations, … and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18–20), and “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). These words are directed, not at parents but at the “Eleven” which there represented the Christian congregations of the New Testament. The congregation, then, is charged to preach and teach the Gospel, not to adults only, but to children as well. That is the will of the Founder of the Church.
To this day we know of no better means to comply with and carry out this solemn will and command of God with regard to our children than is available through the Christian day-school. Experience, furthermore, teaches that wherever we find thoroughly indoctrinated congregations and healthy, virile Lutheranism, we also find a flourishing system of parish schools. The Synodical Conference furnishes a conspicuous object lesson and a most convincing argument to that effect. On the other hand, whenever Christian parish schools are being neglected or, even, permitted to vanish, we observe the rapid decline and ultimate ruin of Lutheranism, which paves the way for a morbid church life. This is borne out as true by the sad experience of various church bodies in our own country.
The significance of our Lutheran parochial schools is embedded in, encompassed by, and intertwined with sacred principles, based on the Word of God and impressive Christian experience and wisdom.
A Lutheran school is to serve definite purposes and aims which distinguish it from every other school; they are essential, initial requisites for its very existence. In order to arrive at a complete profitable appraisal, we shall again establish a few general facts concerning the schools of to-day.
Any school worthy of the name insists on careful planning of all its procedures. It is in charge of men and women especially trained for their work and profession. A school which operates merely as an institution of instruction and learning — for supplying and acquiring factual knowledge only — does not exist. Such a school is unthinkable in our day and age. The course of study, the plan according to which the detailed daily and hourly work progresses, has for its highest and chief aim the creation and stabilization of ideas and ideals. Textbooks impart knowledge, but the thoughts which they generate, and the guidance of mind and judgment which they supply systematically, are for the purpose of giving the pupil that bent and direction which the author of the book set out to realize. And the teacher —any teacher, every teacher — will diligently seek to invest the pupil with those very traits of thought, will, and desire which control his or her (the teacher’s) very life, including religion, the teacher’s religion.
It is of greatest importance, therefore, to be fully informed with regard to the school — teachers, books, courses, aims — to be informed prior to sending a child there. His life in school will mean much to the child’s wellbeing. Building, equipment, outward surroundings, and general physical makeup do not determine its actual quality. They are worthwhile, external matters for the comfort of teachers and pupils, perhaps better facilities for easier and speedier study and work, and every father and mother, naturally, will have them in mind; but far higher, permanent values should be observed first in choosing a school for our dear ones.
May we again, merely for a few moments, consider the Christian child, now arrived at school age. By holy baptism he has been renewed, received into God’s family, consecrated to Him and His service. Parents and sponsors declared before God that, according to His direction, the baptized child later would be instructed diligently and faithfully in the Word of God. To make the effect of his baptism permanent he would be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Beginning with the first noticeable awakening of his mind, the Christian father and mother told the beloved one of the Savior and Child-Lover. They taught him to pray, morning and evening, at meals and otherwise. And how often did his parents “carry him to God in prayer.” How much care and protection and guidance did they apply willingly and cheerfully in “training him up in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). How ardently concerned were they with every incident of the unfolding life! How many divine gifts and blessings upon their little son or daughter were gratefully recorded by the parents!
And now other caretakers, additional guides and counselors, are to be given charge over that precious soul. Conditions and the requisites of life demand that the child be sent to school. For a number of hours each day he will now be removed from parents and home. He will enter into new surroundings, for new adjustments, among new companions, — and many of them. A special course of education, a studiously designed plan of teaching, learning, and training, will be carried into effect. This young child will be taken in hand by someone who claims to know his needs and the aims of his life. An educator in a fully organized institution for special, systematized training will now work energetically, competently to prepare and equip and direct for the journey through life and toward the place aimed at, the destination. — What about all that? How about that journey? How about chart and compass? What with reference to the destination? …
The doors of the Lutheran school are swung wide open; why not send God’s little one to the Lutheran school? That school has much to offer:
First of all, — there will be most careful teaching of the one thing needful. The Word of God will be taught in all its richness, truth, and purity. It will be taught diligently, daily, simply, and clearly, in accordance with, and applicable to, the need and age of the pupil. The course in Christianity, in the Christian religion, is a judiciously graded course, practical in every detail. The one great, fundamental, triumphant truth ever will pervade all: The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer, has brought about the salvation of sinful mankind, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting Life” (John 3.16). And this transcendent truth, by the grace of God, will continue ever to enlighten and sanctify the child of God, and keep him in the one true faith.
This child, like Timothy, “shall know the holy Scriptures, which are able to make him wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3,15). The course of religious instruction in the Lutheran school has been constructed, organized, and graded by Lutheran educators, men of knowledge and experience in Christian education, who have dedicated their lives to God’s cause and the welfare of God’s beloved children. The complete course includes the foremost Bible stories of the Old and New Testaments and their application to Christian faith and life; the chief doctrines of Christianity, as laid down in Luther’s Small Catechism; in higher grades, a careful study of the Bible; a short course in Lutheran Church History and the History of the Lutheran Church in America; daily devotional worship, — morning, noon, and at the close of the school-day; prayer, hymn-singing, reading of Holy Scripture; memorizing of Luther’s Small Catechism, a number of Bible passages to illustrate and fortify the Christian doctrine, and a number of church hymns for strength and comfort in life, — all of this after thoughtful discussion, explanation, and application — gradually, suitably, joyfully, properly.
This material, of course, is spread over the years of attendance at school, divided into many, many lessons, and arranged appropriately for the immediate and future needs of the child. All along real efforts are applied, not alone that the pupils know sin and grace, acquire a thorough knowledge of the teachings of the Lutheran Church, to supply a Christian training of the children by Christian influence and habituation and environment, so that they may learn to regard sin as something terrible, to rejoice in the grace of God, and to practice true godliness; but also that a lasting interest and love for their Church be instilled and fostered in the rising generations, to prepare them for their duties as future members and officers of the church; and the school, furthermore, is made to serve as a recruiting station for synodical colleges and seminaries which prepare future ministers and parochial school teachers.
This appears to be a very heavy program, but it is by no means an impossible one, nor is it a program on paper only. The Lutheran parochial school has proved itself, and has been declared over and over again, to be the only really satisfactory institution for the indoctrination of children in the Word of God and for reliable training according to the Word of God. This testimony is readily given, not only by members of the Lutheran Church, but by well-informed men of other denominations as well.
The Lutheran school identifies the teaching of matters in this world with those of eternal worth, that is to say that nothing is considered disconnected from a responsibility toward God. For this reason it is recognized, more universally than ever before, as being the ideal school.
That the teaching of so-called secular branches is of the same high standard as that in any good American school, goes without saying. Lutheran schools are established, maintained, and supported by honorable American citizens, who are earnestly concerned with the best interests of their children, as well as of their homeland and community, and who desire that these very schools shall be valuable assets to the Country. Their schools stand well certified in the matter of standardized courses, competent teachers, and efficient instruction; where they are best known, there greatest credit is given them as to their high quality.
But, in addition to all that, our parochial schools possess surpassing values and qualities of teaching and training, such as are conveyed by the Lord to His own through the ministration of His Church. His divine light is diffused over all efforts in our Christian schools. His eternal truths clarify the understanding of daily problems, and give everything in life a correct shape, and position, and relation. In whatever branch of instruction it might be, the pupil is made aware of the application of Christian principles to everyday life. He is reminded of his continual “Walking before God” (Gen. 17,1). He is directed to see things correctly, “proving all things” (1 Thess. 5,21). He is trained in an understanding and appreciation of the relation into which the Lord God has placed him toward his fellowmen. He is made keen as to his Christian responsibilities when dealing with his neighbor, also in material matters. There are cultivated and developed those spiritual talents which God has given, in such a manner that the children may acquire the habit of Christian reasoning in thought and speech, in connection with such subjects as reading, the complete study of language, writing, or arithmetic, — all without forgetting the glory of God.
Correct instruction is given — instruction in harmony with the Biblical point of view — as to the fact of the creation of the world by a wise and almighty God, that He called and calls into being all human life, animal life, plant life, and the entire natural realm. There is pertinent, well-timed emphasis on divine guidance and management of affairs in the life and destinies of peoples and nations, — opportunities being ready to hand all along in such studies as Bible History, General and United States History, and of other branches of the regular course of study. There is consistent and persistent training for good, law-abiding citizenship, for conscience’ sake (Rom. 13,5), for the welfare of the land (Jer. 29,7). The pupil is taught to see the wonders of God’s creation, the power and wisdom of the Ruler of men and nations. A patriotism is kindled and fostered which has its source in the very love of God. He is also made aware of the manifold duties and privileges of Christian stewardship, and is given many opportunities to exercise it.
You will permit a few more illustrative details: With us, the teaching of Geography will supply the information as directed by the regular State course of study, teaching of the earth as the home of man; of oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers; of mountains, hills, and valleys; of cities, states, and nations; of seasons, occupations, and industries; of sun, moon, and stars, tides, and seasons, and whatever may go into the teaching of that subject. But while our pupils are shown all this, they are also made mindful observers of the world as God’s creation and as the laboratory of their Almighty God, Lord, and Father; they are directed to Him the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all whose glory is exalted by His works. — In the teaching of the History of the Country and of the world, the requirements of the State or local course are conscientiously kept in mind and complied with; but we make the course complete by emphasizing the great historic and eternal truth, that in the course of human events God has not left Himself without testimony; that He rules individuals and nations, both the lowly and the great. — The lessons in Civics and Civil Government raise high the overpowering truth that the Lord ordains the powers that be; that we must obey our government, seek the peace and welfare of the city, State, and nation of which we are citizens, and, if need be, sacrifice even our very lives for them, not merely for the sake of observing law and order, and escaping punishment, but for the sake of conscience, for God’s sake. Thus we prepare genuinely patriotic citizens, and the flag of our Country will have a significance for them far loftier than that of being merely an emblem of human power and greatness. — The Social Sciences cannot stand safely without the essentials of Christian faith and charity; the honest desire to be of service to one’s fellow-man beyond the thought of self; the value of a life in the sight of God; loving one’s neighbor as oneself, no desire of vainglory, no provoking and envying one another, but showing forth the fruit of the Spirit in forbearing and forgiving. — Arithmetic means figures and number problems, quantities and operations, truly; but this science, common in daily life and immensely practical, in the Christian school will serve also to bring out plainly and tangibly the ideas of Christian honesty, justice, equity, faithfulness, and trustworthiness, as well as their punctilious application when in every-day life we are dealing with our neighbor in material affairs. — The lesson in Reading will serve to furnish all those reading abilities which receive so much attention in good schools, and properly so; but it will have that outstanding purpose to bring about the ability to read attentively the Word of God; it will be used to make our readers of books, periodicals, and newspapers watchful and discerning, proving all things they read, and holding fast only that which is good; and it will present many opportunities for diverse studies and investigations of conduct and behavior. — In short, there is a continuous, wise endeavor to impress upon the child those glorious traits which Christian parents love best and which are truly valuable.
Therein again the Lutheran Church, the Lutheran home, and the Lutheran school have a vital contact. Such schooling has a genuine, exalted purpose. Omitting it, there will result a life of vague searching, restless doubting, and of an unsteady grasp in life-matters of greatest importance. Serious-minded parents do not fail to consider all this. They know that the disposal of their obligations is not a simple matter of little moment. They do not dare to treat them lightly. The Lord has issued plain directions concerning the bringing up of children; that they know. They will also look for those safe ways and means which He has provided to carry out His instructions. The Lutheran full-time parochial school, by His grace, is singularly well qualified to assist effectively and to a marked degree, also by its specific capacity and ability of giving a Christian setting and purpose to all school subjects.
Nor is that all which the Lutheran school offers. There is another absorbing conviction abiding in true Christians, a conviction which more than anything else determines the why and wherefore of the parochial school. That conviction elevates the Christian day-school to a position of single prominence and surpassing merit even among the various educational agencies established by the Church: By means of the regular parochial school definite Christian training of the child by Christian influence, and habituation in a Christian environment, is carried on uninterruptedly. With Christian teaching and learning, in order to make it incontestable, must be associated the practice and exercise in godly living. The Bible is used not merely as a textbook for religious instruction, but in its completeness: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good work” (2 Tim. 3,16–17). The education supplied in the Lutheran school includes that spiritual training which is possible in a school resting entirely and securely on the foundation of the Bible, with all its activities, like those of every true Christian life, circumfused and intertwined with the truths of the Word of God. It aims not at an outward moral training, procurable elsewhere, but teaches and trains carefully in the morality laid down in the Word of God, — in veritable godliness, which “is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4,8).
So much with reference to the importance of right teaching as carried on in our school. However, we must recall here that God-desired regard for the child, which is inseparable from his correct education. Matthew 18 supplies the foundation for child study and pedagogics, and Mark 10 (Jesus blessing children) the controlling aim and purpose of the school. Under such standards every effort will be applied to serve the pupil aright. Striving to serve as a laborer together with God, it is inconceivable that a Christian teacher would despise or offend any one of God’s little ones, place obstacles or stumbling blocks on his path to the blessing Savior, or that he would embitter or provoke to anger, and thereby obstruct the way to the heart of his pupil.
The conviction, based immovably on the Word of God, that everything pleasing unto God must proceed from faith in Christ Jesus (John 15,5; Hebrews 11,6), will govern in the school all the time. The fostering and strengthening of faith in Christ, the One Power, will not be forgotten or abandoned at any time in the course of the busy, and sometimes tense, life of the school with its instruction, nurture, admonition, discipline, and all the diverse efforts at child training. Only faith in the Savior can produce love for Him, for His Kingdom, and His habitation. From faith issues the love for God’s redeemed creatures, our fellow-men. Faith alone will supply true appreciation of Christian principles, values, and privileges. Faith will want to please God in every way, and to be of service to the home, the church, and the community. Faith will establish a God-pleasing attitude toward parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, strangers, enemies. The daily, regular pursuits and general conduct, through faith in Jesus will receive the glory of sanctification. There will be, as an inevitable fruit of faith, the sincere devotion of a life in Christ, to the honor and praise of Christ, by the power of Christ.
True, this is not obtainable through human effort. But in the education of the Christian school the Holy Spirit is the actual worker, through His all-powerful, all-embracing, all-bountiful Word (2 Tim. 3,15–17). And on the part of the Christian child there is willing response in the Christian school and everywhere. He shows forth that fruit of the Word and faith: the fear of the Lord. It will be manifested in a respectful, loving, grateful obedience toward God and His Word, and it will be so witnessed as “the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111,10). The Word of God does not merely enter the mind, but the very heart and soul, and it will accomplish, also in behavior values, that which pleases the Lord, and it will prosper in the thing whereunto the Lord sent it (Isaiah 55,11).
Many and various efforts will have to be applied to endue the children of the Lutheran school with heavenly gifts. Diverse and sundry assistance must be given that there be a proficient life, that sinful desires and notions be overcome, and that faith and its virtues arise and increase. The Lutheran school uses the God-given means therefor, — teaching the Word, being “instant in season, out of season,” reproving, rebuking, exhorting “with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4,2). Many directions will have to be given. There will be limitless opportunity for correction and warning, for reprimand and discipline, in the school as there is in the home. In the Christian home and school, however, all that can never be done arbitrarily, according to human will or whim. Christian parents and teachers are conscious of their sacred responsibility to the everpresent God. Likewise, the teacher in the Christian school knows, as Christian parents know, the promises of the Father’s aid. Their actions are controlled and guided and (God grant it!) sanctioned by the Lord’s will and Word. This association with God and His Word, the reverence for, the obedience of, and the love and trust in Him, in the home by parents and children, and in the school on the part of teacher and pupil, make possible, by the grace of Jesus, a building and enrichment of a Christian character, unattainable in any other way.
Finally, the very atmosphere and environment in the Christian school exert an influence too often disregarded or underestimated. There are the daily worship programs of regular devotional exercises and those on special occasions; then, the association with children of like persuasions, sympathies, and endowments, — a most valuable contact, with its opportunities for genuine friendships; then, too, the relation in mutual love and esteem of Christian pupils and their Christian teacher, who is for them, representative of their Christian parents, with the power of his example for a Christian life. All this linked with everything else offered in the Lutheran full-time parochial school, presented here only for a cursory view, cannot but work most powerfully, under the gracious help of God, for the equjpment which our children need to meet bravely and confidently, as well as successfully, the many and diverse experiences and duties of life.
We have heard or read that the one reason for establishing parochial schools, schools which teach all the branches required in American elementary schools, thus substituting them for the public schools as far as our own children are concerned, is: to offer the attraction of a complete course in order to induce parents to send their children, who could then, in addition to the general secular course, be instructed in the Word of God. It seems that still weightier and loftier reasons prevail. We have given attention to some of them in the course of this brief discussion.
Viewing the Lutheran parochial school system as it really is, in its entire. design and construction and meaning and significance, with its functions and blessings clearly recognized, we cannot but be impelled to say of it: “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein” (Psalm 111,2). Half-hearted approval, akin to mere tolerance, will avail very little or nothing. To be among the friends and well-wishers of the Christian day-school will be proper, but by no means enough. To realize improvements in this vital affair of the Lutheran Church, and each congregation within our Church, there will have to be energy and action. To do things right in God’s Kingdom we must heed the call of the Apostle: “My beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15,58). Then we shall pray for, resolutely speak for, and sturdily work for, the establishment of more such schools; and where we have them there must be an active interest in them, members of the church must be ever zealous in their efforts to foster and improve that blessed institution for service to their God, their Church, the children of their community, and their Country. We shall then recognize ever better that it is a glorious service in Christian education, irreproachable as to the means employed and irresistible in its imperishable results.
May our Lutheran Church continue to prove her gratitude to God that He has made all grace abound toward us (cp. 2 Cor. 9,8), also in His gift of our precious Christian schools!
Two pertinent, practical questions, it seems, will be answered one way or another by everyone pondering our topic: 1) Do we need the parochial school? 2) Do we want a parochial school?
To some of us these questions may appear to be almost seditious or, at least very odd or quite superfluous. How could we answer them otherwise than with a cheerful, “Yes, indeed, we need them and we want them!” Negative answers could easily be construed as a blocking of the teaching of the Gospel in its fullness, obstructing its free course not for a season only or with reference to a few souls, but for generations to come.
Nevertheless, the questions remain pertinent and practical, inasmuch as the answers, not merely in words but by action and deeds, offer a promise of creative results. Constructive, God-pleasing results are intended by the representatives of your Synod here assembled, by the congregations which delegated them, and, therefore, by your entire Synod. I shall but refer to the fact of God’s presence in these meetings and to the actuality of His observing what is being thought, said, and done here, as well as to the effect of deliberations and resolutions on the part of those working together with Him everywhere.
If and when we recognize that we need, and declare that we want, Christian day-schools, there will be but one further transaction, — the establishment of parochial schools and more parochial schools, until we have them wherever it is possible to have them. And now is the time to go to work and to seek ways and means in every congregation to supply the needed institution for Christian education and training which we honestly, fervently, concernedly, and prayerfully desire. Where and when that degree of interest in any good thing has been reached that its possession is considered a necessity, so that there exists an ardent, eager wish for that very thing, then men go earnestly, staunchly, and perseveringly after it. The Lord refers to this active, live interest and yearning in His parables of The Hidden Treasure and The Pearl of Great Price.
We need and we want our own schools. Then let us ponder, plan, even invent, ways and means to gain possession of our own school. Let us counsel with the members of our families, our relatives and friends. Let us seek expert advice, and let us not forego a single opportunity that holds forth a hope of having our yearning satisfied. When the delegates to this convention return to their fellow-Christians at home, then, — as I must see it — there will immediately begin a vigorous, but safe and sane, discreet activity which will not be halted except by the knowledge that God bids our efforts to cease or by the opening of a parish school, and then, when we have the school, it will begin anew for the enlargement and enrichment of that school.
Those of us who return to congregations already having their own complete school system, will not and cannot stand by complacently and self-satisfied, but will ever look toward its expansion and improvement, with new convictions, new strength, and new zeal.
I should not like to disappoint those brethren who await suggestions as to how to get a-going, even though such suggestions can be, will be, and have been, given by your own officials and boards. Since the wish has been expressed by this convention, I feel that I should offer proper suggestions.
May I relate two or three experiences in school-building which have come to my notice?
No. 1: Well remembering the trite statement — which will always remain excellent advice — “To have a school, start one!”, one of our pastors observed well and with pleasure the direction given by the congregation which had issued the call to him, “He is to teach school.” Soon after his arrival at his new location, he discovered that the call had, indeed, been written true to form, but that the school-interest in his new charge was not at all reassuring. In due time, however, he announced from his pulpit that on such a day the school would be opened at 9:00 o’clock A.M. He admonished the parents to send their children of school-age promptly, and requested them to announce, after the service or on the stated morning, the enrollment of their children in their Christian day-school. After the service the Board of Elders voiced objections to the undertaking and demanded that a voters’ meeting be held as soon as possible. At that meeting the pastor insisted that he would stand by his call and all its requirements, unless the congregation would void or curtail it. The school was established.
No. 2: The pastor’s procedure in announcing the opening of a school was like that of No. 1. After the service, good and true members of his flock assured him that his plan would be a complete failure. When the pastor proudly told them that nine (9) children had already been promised and registered, they frankly told him that such a small enrollment would not warrant the opening of the school. He, however, assured them quietly and definitely that he would begin with fewer than nine pupils, if need be. The actual enrollment on the first day of school was twenty-three (23).
No. 3: A pastor came into a community in which the Lutheran school had been opposed with the result that the congregation ordered it discontinued. This happened some months previous to the new pastor’s arrival. Neither would there be a way, as was soon manifest, to get the school re-opened in the regular way: Elders, Trustees, and the overwhelming majority of voters were plainly opposed to the parochial school. In the course of that year the pastor, of course, called at the various homes of his charge, and he always took time for a discussion and admonition of the Christian education of the children which he met in the homes visited. In the course of the summer months of the following year, the pastor again visited homes, but such only as included children being made ready to go to school, children to be enrolled in the first grade, of the age of six, or thereabouts. The pastor secured six little children for enrollment in the first grade of the school which he was determined to open in September. And he did teach the first grade only, with six pupils, for the entire year. At the end of the school-year he promoted them to the second grade and found six others for a new first grade. Now there were twelve in the Lutheran school. In the course of the third year of the existence of that school something unforeseen happened. The church had distributed among its members a printed financial report. A Christian mother among the members, without the knowledge of her husband (he had formerly been a Roman Catholic), sent a letter to the treasurer of the church, thanking him for the fine report, but complaining that for some time there had been no school expense recorded, adding that the congregation seemed to be in danger of becoming indifferent toward the Word of God and the gifts of His grace, closing the letter with a reminder of the Lord’s Word: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” The letter was brought to the attention of the congregation and had an effect (I must omit further details!), resulting in the immediate organization of a full eight-grade school and the calling of a regular teacher. This school now has two teachers and eighty-six (86) pupils; and the congregation sincerely loves Christian education and the Christian day-school.
Other courses of wholehearted action, also quite a number worthy of special remarks from your own parishes, could readily be adduced to indicate eventual procedures in organizing schools. The short-cut method will not always be practicable, nor should we always expect an immediate materialization of plans, be they ever so good, much less should Christian day-schools arise through legalistic measures. The Lord will be with us when we proceed with confidence in His good and gracious will and the power of His Word.
Suggestions constituting a process which could be considered a rather comprehensive, normal, advisory, or educational, plan, were spread before a meeting of workers in the Kingdom a few years ago. These suggestions were well received, and they were also published a while ago in “Lutheran Sentinel,” your official synodical organ. I resubmit them at this time with a few brief additions.
The plan to be effected may be the following:
1. Earnest prayer that God may speed the establishment of the school by the congregation; that He may supply enlightenment, wisdom, strength, and courage to those responsible for bringing the school into being. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5,16). That prayer is a plea that the almighty hand of the gracious God take charge. that He send His Holy Spirit into the homes and hearts of church members, that He guide their minds and their will. “He is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28,29). We cannot and will not carry on without Him.
2. A careful study and review of material which will fortify the conviction, re-enforce the lines of argument, and animate for courageous and cheerful action-the Bible, Luther, a wealth of excellent material published within the Synodical Conference, official periodicals and convention reports of Synod, books and tracts on Christian education and the parochial school, etc. Personal contact with consecrated brethren will prove highly valuable. A worker for God’s cause will want to be well prepared, “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Tim. 2,15). We must protect ourselves against the popular conception that this is something so small and easy that almost anybody can take care of it and about which we already know everything. I know that St. Paul’s direction to Timothy, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4,13), applies with particular force to Christian education.
3. Sermons to the congregation, on Christian education, training, and schooling. The listening and heeding parents, conscientious in the matter of Christian training in the home, will furnish powerful assistance in praying and working for a Christian school. Information, instruction, Christian education in the pulpit, admonition, exhortation on the part of the called minister of Christ, God’s appointed servant also in this affair of His Kingdom, must be dependable and impressive. May the Lord enlighten him with the needed gifts! His prayer for the desired fruit of the Word proclaimed will be heard. Asaph’s prayer may serve as a pattern: “Arise, O God, plead Thine Own cause” (Ps. 74,22). The Word of God must not only be the power in Christian education, but also for the establishment of Christian education and of institutions for Christian education.
4. Educational efforts in the separate homes of the congregation, to win over as many parents as possible. Supply them with tracts. In the beginning this will be chiefly, perhaps wholly, the pastor’s work; but as the program develops, he will not remain the only worker, he will have many helpers: Church Board, Board of Christian Education, special committees, and individual assistants. However, the pastor will continue as guide and leader, the mainspring in the movement.
5. Carefully prepared lectures in the various societies of the church. These lectures may amount to a comprehensive course on the advancement of Christian education; they will, therefore, require intensive preparation to make them interesting and effective. And we have made up our minds to “work and pray.”
6. Discussion with the constituted Boards of the Church and at voters’ meetings. This point could well, under given conditions, be advanced to a position earlier in the program, especially if immediate assistance in the canvass is wanted by the pastor.
7. Additional efforts at meetings, jointly with representatives of the Synod (Visitors, members of the synodical Board of Christian Education, of the President or Vice-President). Possibly, this special, synodical help will not be required. If it is desired, it surely will be available. I may here emphasize that the ardent interest and enduring effort of the President in behalf of this work of blessed enrichment of the Synod should not only be well known but also felt throughout the Synod.
8. All activities will be carried on persistently, in the spirit of service and missionary ardor, and with enduring and unswerving faith in the power of God’s glorious Gospel, but never in a legalistic manner. There can be no weakening in effort and no abatement of activity. Rather, start out in such a manner that an extension of procedures and an intensification of effort will be observable!
AGAIN: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: And establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.” (Psalm 90, 17.)