Our principal at St. Philip, Mrs. Donna Tennis, asked us to write up some reflections on the recent Lutheran Education Association convocation in Cincinnati. I thought I might as well “kill two birds with one stone” and post them here…
1. Sectionals. I went to sectionals on the state of confirmation instruction, on one Chicago school’s community outreach night, on differentiated instruction practices, and on growing connections through international school partnerships. In each of these I gained some insight.
a. Outreach Night. I thought that the St. Paul—Canfield (Chicago) community outreach night for early elementary students was just fantastic, a great means to engage the community and enhance student learning and citizenship.
b. Confirmation Instruction. Dr. Bergmann from Concordia University—Nebraska presented the results of a significant study showing that there is overwhelming support for confirmation instruction, that it is widely regarded as significant in the lives of Christians. I was stunned to learn, however, just how “misinformed” many confirmands are in the basic teachings of the faith. This objective research has already impacted my approach with confirmation and has me pondering my approach for next year.
c. Differentiated Instruction. I appreciated the multitude of different ideas that this section provided, along with a summary sheet, for how to creatively engage kids in the classroom and reach those of various learning styles, interests, and aptitudes.
d. International School Partnerships. Last year we sent one of our teachers to Guatemala for the month of July. She encountered a vibrant youth outreach program by a sister congregation. This congregation has little comparatively in terms of material resources, but they do great things. I am anxious to visit them and to learn from them, perhaps even this year. This sectional rekindled my hunger to serve and help others serve beyond our borders.
2. Creation Museum. Since the convocation was in Cincinnati, we gave attending staff the opportunity to spend Saturday morning at the nearby Creation Museum. Four of us went and though our time was brief the visit strengthened our faith and understanding. We were exposed to ideas and materials that may help us and our students better understand the Word of God and faithfully enjoy scientific discovery. I had been to the museum before, so it was a joy for me to see the look on other faces as they heard God’s Word and made scientific discoveries that question evolutionary orthodoxy.
3. Fellowship. One of the great blessings of attending conferences like this is the renewal of old friendship and the making of new ones. At LEA I rejoiced to meet some old friends from my hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan and thank them for the eternal difference that their faithful teaching made in my life. Mine was really a secular family so I didn’t attend St. Lorenz Lutheran School as a child (In fact, in fourth grade my father’s threat to me was, “If you don’t straighten up those grades I’m sending you to Lutheran school!”), but those Lutheran teachers taught the faith to their kids and one of those kids ended up being my high school girlfriend who—with her family—naturally invited me to come to church with them. That simple invitation from a girl who grew up in the faith has made a truly eternal difference in my life. It was a great honor to encourage the St. Lorenz staff by telling them just a summary of how their work makes a difference, often in ways that they cannot imagine.
4. Trip. Finally, like with a family vacation, it’s often not the destination but the journey that is really valuable. On the way back from Cincinnati the four of us had a passionate vision and logistical discussion about how to better serve our students by more creative utilization of faculty gifts and our facilities and other material resources. This opportunity to have several hours together in close proximity after a couple days of being exposed to new ideas and people was a crucible for excellent discussion. I loved it.
Overall, I am really glad that we went to LEA. On almost every level for me, as the pastor, it was a valuable trip.