Reshaping Lutheran education: A systems perspective

Jeremy R Pekari, Fordham University


The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has a rich and deep history of schooling. During the past 160+ years the LCMS has developed a school system, which ranges from Pre-K through Seminary education that is the largest Protestant school system in the world. The classroom has always been a central part of the philosophy and practice of education in the LCMS. Unfortunately, this blessing has also become a curse as the philosophy and practice of education in the LCMS is almost entirely limited to the school setting. While the institutions surrounding the Lutheran school once supported the school's ministry consistently; today the family, neighborhood, and workplace no longer maintain those same values in an increasingly post-Christian country. The LCMS has failed to adjust to the changing world in terms of its philosophy and practice of education. A school system that could be a wonderful piece in the educational plan of the synod has been left to bear the burden of providing all of the education for the LCMS. In order for the LCMS to educate fully we must move beyond the dominance of a school-instructional model of education to a broad and deep philosophy and practice beyond the classroom. Family Systems Theory provides the framework that expands education beyond schooling to include a variety of educational forms. Systems theory teaches that systemic problems need systemic solutions. A system that over focuses on one piece of the system will remain unhealthy until it can view itself from a broader perspective. The LCMS, which over focuses on the school in its educational plan, will need to look to other parts of the system to support the school if it hopes to educate in a powerful way. The Church has been educating by various forms from the days of the early church in the book of Acts. Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service are five distinct educational forms that speak their own languages and support specific values. When all five are working together the Church is more capable of shaping God's people in His image. Schooling, or Instruction, is one critical piece that the LCMS does well. However, in order for the school to do its best it needs the support of the other educational forms as well. The LCMS can move beyond the walls of the school by learning to be shaped by a variety of educational forms. Pushing the boundaries of education beyond the classroom will also create an educating church that connects with the broader world. Lutheran education reaches its fullest potential when it is engaged with the world in the process of education. There the Gospel reaches beyond the walls of the local church and touches lives in significant ways.

Subject Area

Religious education|Education philosophy

Recommended Citation

Pekari, Jeremy R, "Reshaping Lutheran education: A systems perspective" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3459161.