1957 Synod Convention Essay
In recent months, some interesting statements and articles have appeared which are concerned with the subject of the Christian Day School. Some church officials and/or federations of congregations have reaffirmed their contention that the Christian Day School is a waste of time, effort, and finance. We have heard renewed attacks in such terms as unpatriotic, contributive to creedal prejudice and discrimination, and inferior. But when the source of these statements is considered we are neither surprised nor discouraged. These modern statements are merely the echo of that which our sainted fathers heard from those same denominations years and years ago.
However, when we read statements advocating the establishment of the Christian Day School in denominations heretofore lethargic, at best, to such efforts, it does surprise us and we must gain a bit of encouragement. While some speak in tones that would make the CDS appear as a result of new vision, a sort of trail blazing endeavor, we must be grateful in the remembrance that such individuals are only beginning to embrace what we have advocated all along. Yes, this hour of our 1957 Synod Convention set aside for discussion of Christian Elementary Education will not bring the religious world a new statement of policy on our behalf. We will not be called upon to decide by vote whether or no we endorse the CDS endeavor, for that was settled decades ago. And now, this age-old policy cannot be interpreted to suggest that we are plodding along on the basis of antiquated resolutions which need to be revised, for a few minutes of time examining Synod Reports from our beginning until the present will reveal annual attention to this challenging issue.
What an interesting volume could be prepared by one who would assemble all essays and resolutions read and adopted by our honorable Synod delegates. We would hear the constant refrain: “Thank God for the Day Schools maintained by congregations in our Synod”; “We commend the ——— congregation for opening a new day school”; and “we urge all congregations which do not maintain a day school to study the possibility of establishing such a school.”
Well, then, why should we take time during a convention saturated with important kingdom work to deliberate an issue in which We are in full agreement when we have no intention to repeal or revise our policy. It is for this reason, dear friends. Years ago a man may have advocated having shoes on his horses and yet due to circumstances was not able to obtain shoes for all his horses though he might have done better. Today, his son having inherited the stables may have first learned the value of horse shoes from his father and like his father would advocate their use, but even under modern methods of application and sturdier financial status, continues with a proportionate total of horses unshod. Or better, in the realm of the spiritual, a man may advocate liberal support of the Lord’s Work, yet never get around to bringing an honest return to the Lord. It may be that his father taught him the truth so that today he maintains that Scriptural conviction but he has yet to sit down and study his blessings and arrive at a fair figure as a return to the Lord and then perform some definite action. We might use the subject of church attendance and many, many others to illustrate our contention that it is one thing to advocate and quite another thing to perform.
So — we want to take this time for reflection upon our joint activity in the direction of the Christian Day School. We believe the logical division of this study is:
1. What is our current status in Christian Elementary Education?
2. What can we do to improve our present activity and extend its influence?
The area of kingdom work before us is both extensive and vital. It is extensive because it directly and immediately affects 34% or one-third of our synodical membership and because it is a direct and immediate responsibility of the remaining 66% or two-thirds of our membership. That makes 100% or total representation of the Synod in Christian Elementary Education. And it is vital because it is concerned with the application of the precious means of grace, is born out of the obligation placed upon us by the Lord of the Church, and directly and immediately affects those who will become the Church leaders, church workers, and as such, delegates to these important Synod conventions in years ahead.
It should inspire us to note that the last Synod Report announced the operation of fourteen (14) day schools in our midst. That is the most we have ever had. And we should be thrilled to realize that we have established more new schools in the last ten years than we did in the preceding two decades. We should be thankful that more children are enrolled in our Christian Day Schools now than ever before. We should be grateful in the knowledge that more teachers are serving in our congregations than at any other time. We should be stimulated to greater zeal as we see the Christian Day School fund depleted rather than being in possession of a balance apparently unwanted. We should rejoice in knowing that we more than doubled our contributions to this fund in the last 10 years and quintupled our contributions of 20 years ago. Of a truth, we must be comforted and strengthened by the visible assurance of God’s bountiful blessing upon the Christian Day School endeavor.
But lest we assume an air of justifiable pride in our accomplishments that is premature, we should ask whether our progress is sufficient to warrant the full approval of Him for whom we labor and from whom we have received authority to initiate such efforts.
Seeking to arrive at a conclusion on this point we have resorted to a practice which, though wide-spread in employment, is considered by many to be odious and unreliable, namely, the usage of comparisons and statistics. Aware of the weaknesses such methods possess, due to variable conditions and circumstances, we are, none the less, convinced that we shall discover some facts which cannot be disputed nor gainsaid. (We are grateful to the Rev. Armin Schroeder of the Missouri Synod and the Rev. Hugo H. Hoenecke of the Wisconsin Synod for supplying certain data as statisticians of their respective synods.) We ask, how do we compare with these above named synods who, as we, declared long ago a whetted interest in Christian Elementary Schools?
You will notice that the graphs are numbered in Roman numerals. Looking at Roman numeral I you will see that in percentage of pre-communicant membership all synods are about equal: Our Synod 34.14%; the Wisconsin Synod — 32.74% and the Missouri Synod — 35.65%. (Graphs are shown on colored insert.)
Graphs marked with the Roman numeral II represent two-thirds of the pre-confirmation membership in each synod which should be a fairly accurate method of arriving at the number of potential day school age enrollees. At least each synod is compared with the others on an equal basis. Here we see that our synod membership is made up of 22.76% day school age children; the Wisconsin Synod 21.82%; and the Missouri Synod 23.77%. There is little difference.
Next observe graphs at Roman numeral III. 21.5% of our synod congregations operate a 9-ay school; 23% Wisconsin Synod congregations and 23.35% Missouri Synod congregations do likewise. Again all synods rank about equal.
BUT NOW — look at graphs at Roman numeral IV. Whereas the Wisconsin Synod has 37.7% of day school age children enrolled in a day school and the Missouri Synod has 32.6% enrolled, we of the Norwegian Synod have only 10% of our day school age children attending a Christian Day School. Friends, only one child in ten attends a day school operated by a synod congregation. We believe this demands some consideration by each congregation and by the synod as a whole.
Naturally graphs numbered V will reveal the same margin of difference. Here we see that the average enrollment in Wisconsin Synod day schools is 102.48 and an almost identical 102.57 in the Missouri Synod while we have only 29.86 children enrolled as an average in our schools.
While this tells the story in comparative statistics we have included another set of graphs which we believe is interesting too. The Wisconsin Synod has an average of 32.5 pupils per teacher, the Missouri Synod 29.7, while our teachers have an average of 18.9 pupils before them each day.
Now, then, why do we have only 10% of our day school age children enrolled in a day school? Either 1) we are operating schools where the children are few and consequently do not have a school where the bulk of our school age children are located, or, 2) we are not making use of our day schools where they are in operation.
To arrive at a conclusion on this point we revert to statistics once more. Our schools are located in congregations which have 1218 unconfirmed members with 812 children of day school age. Synod congregations without a day school have 3160 unconfirmed members with 2106 of day school age. These reveal the astonishing fact that only 27.83% of our children the blessings of a Christian day school available and 72.17% of our children are being denied this privilege. Only about three in ten synod children are able to attend a day school and seven of ten lack the opportunity. This merely substantiates what our Board of Elementary Education has called to our attention almost annually throughout the past. We must endeavor to establish more schools where Jesus is behind the school door as the children enter each morning.
But more, further study reveals that our congregations possessing the day school blessing do not appreciate it fully. Only 35.96% of our children who have a day school available are attending it. About one of every three children are attending an available school. Now notice — if we had a school enrollment comparable to the above named synods, that is a 35% attendance (cf. graph IV) we would have 1021 enrollees or 100% of all available children where a day school is located plus 209 additional.
While we may be agreed generally that comparisons are odious and statistics unreliable, we believe that there must be a corresponding agreement in this that our usage above reveals some startling information and should stir up some deep thought on our part. It is to be feared that we have lost a bit of the enthusiasm, zeal, and devotion exemplified by our founding fathers who established many of our present day schools under much more difficult conditions and much greater demands of self-sacrifice than that which is demanded of us today.
So, we may sum up our current status in Christian Elementary Education with this conclusion: Under God’s continued blessing we have advanced this cause to new proportions within our Synod and yet a review of our overall activity reveals a failure to measure up to the dimension which should represent the ideal and should be the goal of every one of us. Of course, in reality we have considered only a part of our status. We should have given expression to details which we of necessity omit at this time. But we dare not omit a reference to a most important current condition. The whole truth of God’s verbally inspired Word is taught today as completely as ever in the past. The latest publications and most modem teaching aids are employed in order to reach, not only the mind but the heart of the child. And every presentation is made with the prayer that the work of the Holy Spirit may never be hindered but ever advanced through the undertaking. Indeed, our schools are planting and watering in high. We rely upon God’s promise to grant the increase.
Our next consideration is: What can we do to improve our present activity and extend its influence?
Of course, we would like to be able to claim 100% use of all available schools and we should seek to reach that magnitude. Since this is not actual, we must study the reason for it In some instances an excuse for non-attendance may be presented which is closely related to the opposition of the non-Christian. Under such conditions we can do no better than meet the excuse in a most evangelical manner and seek under God’s direction to remove all misconceptions and prejudice. This demands patience and deep love, for it is easy to cause irreparable damage through legalistic bombardments. While we are convinced that the Christian Day School is the most efficient answer to the command “Feed My lambs”, let us not give the impression that Christ’s lambs may be found only within a Christian Day School. And let us lean heavily upon our privilege of prayer, continually begging for a measure of His wisdom and ability that we may remove the objection in His way, the only right one.
Some excuses for non-enrollment at first hearing may appear to border on the ridiculous. Perhaps we are reminded that the day school building is tremendously inferior to the available public school unit. Now, we realize that such considerations are secondary and with our principal purpose for existence that of teaching God’s Word in all its truth and purity, all other factors must remain secondary. Nevertheless, the secondary position is still a position and in giving wholehearted attention to the primary should we neglect the secondary? Possibly this objection of inferior school facilities should be given some thought. Let us discuss this objection with the objector most objectively and study in our congregational meetings what we can do to make our schools the best equipped schools our earthly means will permit. If our day school program is worth doing at all, it is worth our best. Perhaps, — yes, perhaps, — we have been guilty of neglecting our Savior’s classrooms and the playgrounds for His children. The least we can and should do is study this condition regularly and seek through a plan of annual improvement to perform our best. Is it possible that having established a day school we are failing to make improvements and advancements? We may have to begin operation under physical handicaps, without the full facilities of a well equipped school, but, can it be possible that in some instances we are willing to leave them that way?
We believe that some excuses advanced for non-attendance will be valid. It is conceivable that a condition such as distance may not permit day school enrollment. However, valid excuses must be classifled such only as we seek to view them through the eyes of the Lord. Is it possible that we have been too ready to place excuses in this category?
Furthermore, the non-use of our day schools may be attributed to a common failure on the part of the entire congregation to put enough emphasis upon it. Possibly the attitude is prevalent which considers the day school endeavor completed once the school is established. It is good in every undertaking to remember that contentment with present attainment is the beginning of decline. Since everything and everyone can be improved, let our congregations who possess a day school list the areas where improvement is necessary. If there is any doubt about forming such a list, a few moments with the teacher will take care of this problem immediately.
Much more should be covered on this point of improvement. The position and responsibility of the teacher and our Normal Department is but one area where very much could be said. But again, we must move on.
Now, how is it possible for us to extend the influence of our day schools into areas which do not have such a school at the present time? You know, we are faced with the indisputable fact that 72% of our day school age children do not have a day school available.
We all must agree that the establishment and maintenance of a Christian Day School represents a substantial financial investment. And thus we are forced to concede that it may not be possible for every congregation in our Synod to establish and operate a school. And we recognize the reality that some of our congregations have so few children of Day School age that other means may be employed for instruction in “the one thing needful” which under concerted effort may give the children a goodly amount of Bible knowledge. At the same time, the opportunity is afforded these members to assist in the establishment of schools in congregations with many children through the channels of the Christian Day School Fund. Consequently it may be neither feasible nor possible for some congregations to operate or establish a Day School. But wait, can it be possible that we have been hiding under this supposed refuge when we should not? Regular, let us say, annual, study of this matter in our individual congregations will reveal the honest facts. And then, regularly apprised of the condition we will be ready to act when conditions change. Unless we keep constant watch we may not notice a golden opportunity to establish a day school until much valuable time is lost.
The importance and value of this steady attention to the day school endeavor is illustrated forcefully by the activity in one of our congregations at the present time. We have been informed, during this convention, that a congregation is establishing the ground-work for a Christian Day School with only five prospects at present but the foresight revealed a promising enrollment in the coming years. (By the way, this congregation has done a lot of things that could be observed and imitated by others of us.) The suggestion is this: Let us study the future and always be ready to meet the challenge when conditions warrant the establishment of a day school.
In order to do this, we believe a day school fund should be in existence in every congregation. Its constant appearance in the annual report will be a steady reminder of the school. It would be good to increase this fund somewhat annually. And then rather than have the money invested in a bank, not able to perform the service for which it was placed into the Lord’s treasury, why not invest it in some new day school establishment? There is always a great amount of equipment needed and we may be sure a sister church would appreciate having those funds available when needed.
Another suggestion is this: We realize that our Women’s Guilds or Ladies’ Aid Societies are always brought to mind when some additional money is considered, but — would it not be a wonderful project for such a group to adopt a practice of donating some special bit of equipment for each new day school organized. We are thinking of such items as a set of encyclopedia, a library dictionary, the price of a desk or two or three, or just a definite cash donation for use as determined by the congregation establishing the school.
But after considering everything possible in order to arrive at a reason for our small day school enrollment and actually few day schools in existence, we have come to the conclusion that we as a synod are not, friends, we are not as day school conscious as we would like to think we are. So that while we set out to make a mere study of our activity during the past year without the fear of finding facts that would prove a lukewarm interest in the effort, we have come to the conclusion that what we as a synod need more than anything else is more of the kind of material we received recently in which an outline is presented for study in our congregations of all areas of Christian Education. Let us take the time, all of us, to study Christian Education as it is to be applied in all age groups the Christian kindergarten, Christian elementary school, Christian high school, Christian college, and of course, Christian seminary. We have them all but we must start at the beginning and that is with a study of the Christian Elementary School. When we learn to appreciate and use the Christian Day School as it should be appreciated and used, we will have no serious enrollment problems in our Christian institutions of higher learning for that will be the logical step. With real, and we mean a real concerted use of the day school, we will have future staunch laymen, able pastors and teachers, a consecrated Synod membership made up of individuals who from childhood have known the Holy Scriptures which made them wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.