Blunt Opposition to a Key Blue Ribbon Proposal Comes from a Surprising Source, by Pr. Rossow

Twenty nine LCMS Children’s Ministry consultants from twenty nine different districts around the country have signed a petition to the synod asking that Blue Ribbon Proposal #18, the keystone proposal, be rejected by the Synod in convention this summer. You can read the petition and see the names attached to it at the end of this post.

Proposal #18 is certainly the most far reaching of the proposals. It eliminates all of the ministry boards of Synod and more significantly it replaces them with two overarching boards that report to the synod president and not to boards elected by the members of synod. Many who have studied this matter are convinced that this places far too much authority in the hands of the synod president and removes the oversight that synod members are able to currently exercise through election of board members. The Children’s Ministry consultants have added another reason to reject this keystone proposal. They have figured out that Proposal #18 means the end of much of the work the synod is currently doing under the existing structure. The alternative proposed by the Task Force is to add  expense to the districts by increasing their staff, which of course defeats one of the main goals  of the Task Force which is  to find cost savings. (I argued this same point a few months ago.)

President Kieschnick appointed the Blue Ribbon Task Force and one would think that his appointments would sufficiently represent the Synod so that such a broad based group as the LCMS Children’s Ministry consultants would support and not condemn the key proposal. We may not all agree on what synod boards and professional staff we ought to have but these Children’s Ministry consultants have rightly figured out that with one fell swoop and without the right kind of input from the various corners of synod called for by such  sweeping changes, President Kieschnick’s Task Force is totally remaking the way we have organized ourselves and not in a useful way.

The members of synod are slowly but in a convincing advancing wave figuring out that the proposals are not good for the Synod. The Task Force has been telling us until they are blue in the face that they have solicited endless piles of input on these proposals. This petition from the LCMS Children’s Ministry consultants proves what we have been saying all along. The input has been contrived, controlled and even in the case of the million dollar consultants that “we” hired, the input is being ignored.

Here is the petition and the signers.

Support to Continue Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry at the National Level for Congregations and Districts, May 10, 2010

A section of Recommendation #18 of The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance proposes that the Departments of Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry be taken from the National Synodical Center and transferred as the responsibility of the individual Districts.

We, as early childhood consultants, feel strongly that this recommendation is detrimental to the next generation, the future of our church. Research shows that; the early years are the most significant opportunity for character development, which also includes faith development. In today’s society, young children often spend many of their waking hours in the care of non-family members. Parents, both churched and unchurched, often look to the teachers and caregivers for support and guidance of their children in all areas of development, including faith and character development.     The 2009-2010 LCMS school statistics show that 17% of the students in our Lutheran schools have no church home. The percentage of unchurched children in many of our early childhood centers is much higher than the average for all schools, making these centers a major mission field

Pastors, educational administrators, teachers, congregational volunteers, children’s and family ministers, and district early childhood consultants need and want to have knowledgeable advocates who do the necessary research and discern the information that is most in alignment with the overall mission of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. To place this responsibility at the District level puts an undue burden on many offices that are already short of staff, overburdened, and who may lack training and/or experience in the specific areas of ministry to children and families

Some of our districts do not have Education Executives, either paid or unpaid, which would leave some congregations without appropriate leadership and/or guidance in the area of Children’s and Family Ministry. Some congregations, which have Children’s or Family Ministry positions, are not connected with an Early Childhood Program or an Elementary School. Without the expertise that is currently provided by the National Synodical Office, the professional and volunteer leaders would lack the support, encouragement, training and resources needed for strong ministries for families with children. The significant number of children and their families in our 6,123 congregations and 2,300 early childhood programs would be negatively impacted by the loss of this national leadership in Children’s and Family Ministry.

Churches, early childhood centers, and schools of the LCMS cherish the distinct mission that characterizes all they do as they serve God and His people. Having a central voice for Children’s and Family Ministry leading us has been helpful and supportive in building consistency and passion across the many varied districts.   Having that central voice continue is essential for the support, quality and future growth of Synod’s fastest growing ministry.

 Therefore, we ask delegates to vote against dissolving the Departments of Children’s and Family Ministry on the National level and transferring these responsibilities to the Districts as proposed in restructuring recommendations.

We also ask that delegates vote to continue District and Congregational Services Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry at the National level in resolutions that come from Overtures 2-21 and 2-22 in the Convention Workbook (p. 161 and 162).

 LCMS District Early Childhood Consultants:

Janis King, California/Nevada/Hawaii

Linda Gerlach, Eastern

Kathy Knudtson, Florida-Georgia        

Sue Boepner, Indiana

Judy Grotelueschen, Indiana

Peggy Seeber, Iowa East

Debra Fink, Iowa West

Kelley Fehn, Michigan

Judy Williams, Michigan

Angela Shirley, Mid-South

Brenda Lovhaug, Minnesota South

Jan Stockman, Minnesota South

Drew Gerdes, Missouri

Cheryl Haun, Missouri

Patricia Stricken, Montana

Eunice McCarty, Nebraska

Lois boring, New Jersey  

Julie Klopke, Northern Illinois

Marilyn Lindeman, Northern Illinois

Martha Weniger, Northwest

Karen Wrye, Northwest

Bonnie Stottlemyer, Ohio  

Lynne Rose, Pacific Southwest

Gwen Marshall, Rocky Mountain

Jessi Moeller, South Dakota

Linda Kennell, South Wisconsin

Dottie Kringel, Southeastern

Kathy Schamber, Southern

Marian Hamre, Texas

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Blunt Opposition to a Key Blue Ribbon Proposal Comes from a Surprising Source, by Pr. Rossow — 18 Comments

  1. Centralizing of “power” always enables faster action and always results in the loss of input, deliberation and inflated egos. Even the pagans among the founders of the US Constitution understood that. This CEO approach doesn’t even work well in secular corporate settings but it seems those who would adopt this model and apply to the LCMS have failed to see how it has failed at its source. Unless we no longer believe in original sin there is no reason not to use the more clumsy checks and balances approach.

    We now live in a country where politicos stomp all over the Constitution BECAUSE it limits them and we can all see the results of thier centralization; don’t for one second believe that will not also happen in the church. Power corrupts…….

  2. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    Thank you very much for this excellent report on the grass roots response to Blue Ribbon Recommendation #18. I hope that you can post other responses to other Recommendations, as you become aware of them.

    I am concerned, with the petitioners, that the Recommendation #18 will eliminate the all-important staffing for education at the national offices.

    I am afraid that, in recent years, our synodical leadership has paid less and less attention to our parochial schools, our pre-schools, and their teachers and staff. (full disclosure here: I am a 1979 graduate of Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, with a major in Elementary Education; and my wife has a Bachelor’s degree in Pre-School Education).

    This is happening just at the time that Protestant Christians in many communities around the country have given up on the public schools (which are often politicized) and have started their own Protestant elementary schools–everywhere! I was glad to see when our synod got on the Pre-school “bandwagon” twenty years ago, but we seemed to have missed the present “parochial school” boat. Everywhere you look around synod, our schools are faltering in finances, attendance, and general support from congregations. The recent recession has hit our schools especially harshly.

    Having worked in the national offices from 2002 to 2008, I can tell you that elementary and pre-school education has not been a big priority in the past decade. Emphasis was always about “missions” or “mission,” however you wanted to define that, even while funding and full-time missionaries decreased. This is not to diminish, in any way, the excellent work done by our small department at the national offices, currently led by Bill Cochrane and Judy Christian. Nor is it to diminish the vital work of district executives of education, where those exist. I suppose that elementary and pre-school education is not glamorous, but it is absolutely vital for the continuation of the Lutheran church in America, which depends on a well-educated laity.

    Finally, I find it strange that the Blue Ribbon Task Force would advocate making commissioned ministers eligible to serve as delegates (Recommendation #5), when Recommendation #18 would eliminate some of the most important positions supporting our teachers and educational staff.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. @mames #1

    Right on Mames! Our LCMS forefathers understand the effectivness of a constitution that’s cumbersome with lots of checks and balances. Our U.S. constitution is set up to protect our freedom, our LCMS constitution, to protect our doctrine. Both are designed to protect us from ourselves.

  4. Having attended LCMS elementary school (K – 6) and with increasing appreciation for the gifts received during those formative years I cannot help but think that if even 10% of the children in our schools and pre-schools were unchurched, we would be making much more out of this unique asset to the mission of the church. If we really had a heart for making disciples, taht is.

  5. What I find intriguing is that the people who signed this petition are not just from the more “conservative” districts. Being a Californian, I know that both CNH and Pacific Southwest have generally been more supportive of President Kieschnick and his policies. So it’s interesting to me that the dissatisfaction with this proposal is not just among the so-called “confessional” minority.

  6. @Martin R. Noland #2

    Pastor Noland,

    You correctly point out the importance of Lutheran schools for the Church of the Augsburg Confession. How do we convince our LCMS congregations to continue to support them?

  7. Ellen,

    I agree. That is what is so interesting about this. This is not a small angry group of hyper-confessional folks. This is mainstream LCMS from every corner of the country.


  8. @mames #1
    don’t for one second believe that will not also happen in the church. Power corrupts…….

    has happened already…

  9. If synod were really interested in “home missions” it would put resources into supporting day schools. In many places, their enrollment is more than half non Lutheran/unchurched. What better place to start!?

  10. As far as Lutheran education, I agree, but we’re not in the 50’s anymore. I have noticed in one of our local parishes that the percentage of home-schooled kids is high. I think this stems in large part from the fact that property taxes to support the failing public schools are getting ridiculous. Indiana has bragged that they are capping property taxes at 1% assessed value to help us out. As I predicted, now they’re just jacking up the assessments (please, buy my house for what my assessor says it’s worth in this lousy housing market). I also heard on the news the other day that the average student investment in D.C. public schools is $20K/yr/student. Wow!

    To be realistic, who can afford the insane property taxes (so the school that can’t afford to hire teachers can have a $50K marquee out front to tell you time and temp when driving by in your similarly-equipped car) and then fork out the tuition for each child? Some of it is indeed due to our idolatrous materialism, but some of it is just plain due to the dollar not going very far these days. This is why vouchers will never fly, for the fed and state gov’ts know that the public schools would go out of business. This is not to slam all public schools and their teachers, because many are great; but what about good-old-American competition? We sure have sadly bought into this heretical concept in our churches where souls are at stake, but we won’t allow it in educating our children.

    So I don’t get yelled at for going off-topic, IN District shot down the whole BRTF mess. Given how this stuff is going over, it would appear that “you-know-who” has their work cut out for themselves in convincing the delegates to pass it. And we would be very foolish to think they can’t get it done. Please see that your delegates are getting “The Lutheran Clarion.”

  11. I took my children out of an LCMS School because I couldn’t in good conscience expose them to the false doctrine being taught in its affiliated Lutheran congregation.

  12. Okay, so is this a “consolidation of power” as some folks claim, or the opposite — a decentralization, as it appears to me, taking something from the national headquarters and moving it to where it is more appropriate and effective — done at the regional or local level?

    Also, this petition specifically mentions the Departments of Children’s Ministry and Family Ministry, which are in fact separate from the School Ministry function, which would be retained in some form at the national level under the BRTFSSG proposals.

  13. I see this much in the same way I see the Federal Department of Education: a central bureaucracy that has never taught a child anything.

    An office of bureaucrats in St. Louis is not the key to sound Christian education or thriving Lutheran schools. This is decentralization 101. Shut down the bureaucracy let the schools get back to doing what they’re supposed to do.

  14. @mames #1

    That is an interesting premise. Perhaps you can say more on why it doesn’t work, even in secular, corporate settings? If we’re going to support or decry any proposals to use this model in the church, then we should examine it, as you say, “at its source.”

  15. @Rev. Joseph Eggleston #13
    Rev Eggleston,
    Yes it is decentralization 101 you are correct, unfortunately not all the districts are
    Prepared, nor are they capable to institute such a overtaking.

    How sad that synod cries MISSION! MISSION! But walks away from the table when the largest domestic mission field has been placed there.


  16. Can anyone tell me what the “Children’s Ministry” (which I never heard of before) does? Especially as it is separate (see Gary Douglas) from “School Ministry”?

  17. Carl Vehse:
    I hope you are kidding. I am afraid you are not! 🙁

    But thanks for the education!

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