• Religion Standards in our LCMS Schools and Why They Matter

  • Religion Standards in our LCMS Schools
    and Why They Matter

    I serve in one of our many Lutheran schools. If one remembers, years ago there was a movement to have educational standards that would reach across all fifty states and be accepted as common, still allowing each state and/or non-public or charter school to choose the curriculum that would fit their respective culture, needs, creativity, and resourcefulness. In educational circles, some saw those as difficult days in our nation. And the movement, although not totally successful, did bring to light how commonality and collaborative goals can provide great benefits to those who desire to embrace this concept. There was a sense of excitement felt by some, but also uncertainty by others. Only some states adopted such common standards. That same feeling may exist in our Lutheran system. But perhaps it is time to think differently today. So, is the time right to have national religion standards for all our Lutheran schools?

    Is the time right to have national religion standards for all our Lutheran schools? Is it possible to present standards that…

    • fit our ethos,
    • meet our need for rigor and proper outcomes, and
    • are, most notably, distinctively Lutheran?

    Standards set clear and measurable goals, inform instruction, and help measure achievement. Standards tell educators about what the outcomes of a course of study should be. Standards should be considered an essential component of our classrooms and schools.

    Concordia Means Harmony

    Think about the incredible opportunity this standards project provides and how it might bless our educators to share Jesus Christ even more effectively. The other key question might be, “Are we ready as Lutheran school professionals to roll up our sleeves and to create excitement and have passion to work together toward more common goals?” If this answer is “yes,” then great things can happen. Think about the incredible opportunity this standards project provides and how it might bless our educators to share Jesus Christ even more effectively—with a map of sorts that is also resource rich and that can be shared in all our schools.

    Such a collaborative effort is being shaped and massaged by key influencers throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It is happening in our midst. A team has been working on Lutheran School Religion Standards for several years now, with this last year and the current one bringing a culmination to this monumental effort. For it is truly the goal to reach those we serve with the saving message of Jesus Christ. Paul shares with us in Colossians 3:23–24 (ESV),

    “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

    The Power of Outcomes

    As this team works towards an outcome to share Jesus with even more children through our teachers and schools, we ask god’s blessing on this endeavor. The roll-out will begin this fall. Why religion standards first? It is the natural place to begin. Also consider that many of our teaching teams include non-synodically trained staff, so this will be a great teaching tool, coming alongside one another in a Christian bond of love and care, as we are equipped together.

    The lead team for the Lutheran School Religion Standards Project is Kevin Brockberg, Lisa Clark, Julie Dietrich, Alicia Levitt, Mark Muehl, Anna Johnson, Ken Ohlemeyer, and Thomas Wrege. Representatives from LCMS School Ministry, Concordia Publishing House, and Lutheran Education Association support this project. Each is playing a key role. There have been many others brought into this discussion and work, but for now, hear from some key influencers about their passion for Lutheran education through this standards project.

    Thomas Wrege is educator and principal, with 35 years in Lutheran schools. B.S. from Concordia University, Nebraska and M.S. from Butler University; Tom is currently working on a doctorate from Concordia University Wisconsin.

    Why This Team?

    I am one of the education executives leading schools in the 35 districts of the LCMS. In the Indiana District, I am blessed to team with Mark, Alicia, and Julie on projects that move schools in the Lutheran Schools Partnership (Fort Wayne) and in Lutheran schools throughout the rest of Indiana and northern Kentucky. One successful initiative in Indiana is completing a social studies curriculum emanating from Indiana Department of Education standards. Alicia and Julie gathered teachers from across the district who wrote these standards into our district’s curriculum management platform called Atlas, embellished the DOE structure with relevant links, engaging lessons, involved projects, and robust assessments—and equally important, integrated Scripture, faith, and doctrine into the teaching of the social studies. This initiative crafted the state standards into easily accessible units and lessons distinctively forged for Lutheran schools in Indiana.

    A connection with Concordia Publishing House and a discussion about timeframes led me to realize God was opening doors for us to work together. This success led the team to consider religion next for Indiana, while at the same time Tom was contemplating the same for his school, and beyond. A connection with Concordia Publishing House and a discussion about timeframes led me to realize God was opening doors for us to work together; we were coordinating efforts and collaborating to build not just a better curriculum, but a better way to build the curriculum, much as we had done for the social studies. The result: this religion standards initiative is outfitted for 21st-century learning in Lutheran schools.

    Why You?

    You are in the driver’s seat as you and your students chase learning in life’s race. This planning team knows how to select the best technical components, assemble the parts into a vehicle primed for instruction, tune all cylinders to fire in sync, and deliver standards to the starting line of learning. Once published, you are the one leading the pursuit, as students jockey for theological position, track cultural terrain, and throttle curves that surely await.

    Truth fuels your quest as together you…

    • encounter various expectations students hold about God: “Blessed is the one who is not offended [does not stumble] by [because of] Me.” Matthew 11:6
    • engage your students in the teachings of Jesus Christ: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you will have peace…take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
    • overcome error by the power of the Holy Spirit: “Know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6

    Your drive to the finish line, charted with religion standards, will take you to that eventual victory lap!

    Kevin Brockberg is education executive, Indiana District. B.A. and M.A., Concordia University Chicago; Ph.D. from Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.

    Body of Christ

    Right while our own [CPH] team was thinking about religion standards, there was a call for standards from within Lutheran education. Thank you for reading about this journey! As Tom and Kevin have described, God’s timing has been evident throughout this effort. Kevin mentioned conversations with Concordia Publishing House. As one representative of that team, something that was evident to me throughout this process is the beauty of the Body of Christ as we work together. In our various vocations, we all have something to contribute to this effort. Tom and Kevin largely got things started within their own vocations, teams, and locations. Meanwhile, several of us at Concordia Publishing House helped those ideas materialize in a way that can be used by administrators, teachers, and students. Meanwhile, CPH is working on the next generation of school religion curriculum. What a blessing! Right while our own team was thinking about religion standards, there was a call for standards from within Lutheran education. While this effort has organic origins, it makes perfect sense that we should listen to the educators out in the field when it comes to religion standards. We were also able to reach out to teachers who had been recommended for the task at hand to draft standards for each level.

    One thing was very clear to me at the very beginning: these religion standards belong to everyone. They originated, were nurtured, and will be used by teachers and administrators in our LCMS schools. My colleagues and I were happy to offer our tools as a service to help make this resource accessible to all.

    In my own role as senior editor of curriculum resources, it is my goal to serve Lutheran education in as many ways as possible. It has been a great joy for me to see such a collaborative spirit in this process of designing religion standards. As we are also working on the next rollout of Day School Religion curriculum, it is a blessing to be learning so much from so many great minds around our Lutheran schools.

    • How would a unified religion curriculum benefit you?
    • What and who might make implementing such standards difficult? Why?
    • How might a unified curriculum benefit students and their families?

    I would also like to take this moment to give thanks for another key member in the Body of Christ that plays an integral role in this process. The School Ministry Office of the LCMS has been tremendous in support, encouragement, and mentoring this group along the way. They, with reviews and feedback from many others, have helped to shape this project to be a resource that could lead the way to greater collaboration and alignment of all Lutheran schools as we share the Good News of our Savior with the next generations. It is my hope and prayer that the Lutheran Schools Religion Standards help us all join in harmony, focused on a holistic approach to nurturing faith for each individual.

    Lisa Clark is senior editor, curriculum resources, Concordia Publishing House. B.S., Concordia University Nebraska; M. A., University of Missouri-St. Louis, and pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of Bristol, UK.

    Tom, Kevin, and Lisa, serve the Lord with gladness in Texas, Indiana, and Missouri, respectively. They each love what they do within synodical circles and have a desire to further the kingdom of God by providing rich resources that encourage educators to further their mission to share Jesus Christ throughout the world.

    Photo © iStock/FatCamera, pondsaksit, FatCamera. Red shirts: Kathryn Brewer.

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