What’s Happening to Lutheran Schools?

Just over a week ago, I found out that the Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Day School I attended for the first 10 years of my educational life had closed. While the school had been having problems for the last few years, I never really believed it would come to this. Somehow, I figured the school, supported by the parents, would overcome the obstacles, and make it work. Afterall, this is a school that had over 300 students in the not terribly distant past; a school that offered many extra curricular activities including music and various sports; a school that had a very challenging curriculum, particularly in the area of science, that more than prepared me for high school, and in some respects, even college.

So, I was surprised to find that the school closed, and closed rather abruptly. But I don’t think I should have been, because this seems to be a trend among Lutheran schools (and maybe other private religious schools, too, I don’t know). I know that the school my mother-in-law used to teach at basically exists on a year-to-year basis. And I’ve heard countless stories of Lutheran schools, of varying sizes, that are closing down, downsizing, or in danger of being disbanded. It makes me wonder if the LC-MS school system that we know today will be around in another 20 years. Maybe quality Lutheran education is no longer a priority to parents.

This trend makes me sad. The 10 years I spent at my school, from pre-K up to eighth grade graduation, shaped me, made me who I am today. I knew from my middle elementary years that I would go to a Lutheran college (after I “did my time” at the public high school), and was even pretty sure which Lutheran College I would go to. I also developed my passion for education at that institution, and while I may not be teaching in a traditional classroom, I *am* a teacher, and I regularly use things I remember from my own Lutheran school days in our homeschool.

I have the highest respect for our Lutheran Day Schools throughout the Synod. It is something that truly sets us apart from most other Christian denominations. If we had a high quality Lutheran school in our area that was within a decent driving distance, and we could afford tuition for four, I probably wouldn’t be homeschooling right now. I am sad to think that this tradition of Lutheran education is dwindling, and may eventually become the exception, and not the norm in Lutheran circles.

6 thoughts on “What’s Happening to Lutheran Schools?

  1. David Rubke says:

    You’re right, it really is a tragedy to see a Lutheran school close. A school should not be looked upon as a burden to a congregation but as a terrific mission opportunity. Considering what has become of so many of our public schools, I don’t understand why parents would want to send their children there. Wouldn’t you think that they’d want their children in a place where the Christian faith can be nurtured in their children? Sunday School and confirmation classes are great, but they just aren’t enough.

  2. Amanda,

    God bless you. I believe the issue has less to do with parents valuing Lutheran education and more to do with the harsh reality that Lutherans, as a demographic group, are falling victim to a low replacement rate. In other words, they haven’t been having enough children.

    Robert at biothike.com

  3. Dwight says:
  4. There is also the issue that many Lutheran schools just aren’t very Lutheran any more. We pulled our kids out of one 14 years ago to homeschool partially because the school was mostly concerned with building it’s academic image to draw in the local Baptists’ money. They watered down Lutheran teaching to avoid giving offense to their less than 50% Lutheran student body. The local Lutheran high school is known for only being sort of Lutheran. It is not unusual for there to be tension between those who want Lutheran Lutheran schools and those who want their Lutheran schools to be private generic Christian schools, leading to lack of support and eventually closed schools.

  5. Thanks for giving me some more things to think about! I had never considered low replacement rate as part of this problem, but given that our four children seem to be an anomaly in most circles, I’m sure that’s a factor.

    I also agree about Lutheran schools not being very Lutheran. Our most local school certainly isn’t, and I wouldn’t send my children there, even if cost wasn’t a factor. It’s sad to see yet another way that we’re trying to follow the world, instead of being who Christ has called us to be.

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