Work shortages have been making the news. Lutheran Schools are aware of those shortages, too. Back in August, some of our schools had to scamper to fully staff their school.
This issue of shortages, especially teachers and pastors, has been a topic for a few years in the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod. In fact, at the last synodical convention, a resolution was passed for synod to address a plan of action.
In 2018 Concordia Plans Services surveyed and gathered information about the shortage. The report shared these data points and conclusions-
Teachers are not leaving at any higher rate than in recent years, there are just fewer of them entering the system. (Update- this has not changed in 2021)
There is no one-size-fits all employment experience of teachers in the LCMS, so schools need to consider varied paths to the ministry.
Teachers want to feel supported and respected as professional educators and desire the opportunity to grow professionally.
Many schools are struggling with enrollment and looking at community alignment on mission and vision. This may be key to helping with that challenge.
Board leadership can be a critical factor in addressing many challenges schools face.
LCMS school administrators may need assistance with some key facets of running a school.
So what does this mean?
#1 — Employment experience is key for teachers
A strong message from teachers is that their day-to-day experience and how they are treated as professionals is critical to their long-term future in the LCMS. They want to feel supported and respected and it is especially important at the local school level. This speaks to the importance of positive leadership. Teachers also strongly desire the opportunity to get better at what they do and see a path for growth and advancement in their future.
#2 — Schools are challenged to meet enrollment needs and struggle with community awareness
One of the primary challenges for LCMS school administrators that repeatedly surfaced in research was the school’s ability to meet its enrollment needs. Enrollment challenges can impact the entire school community, and this study showed that the impact is certainly felt by teachers. During focus groups many teachers indicated that they feel they are “recruiting” students to keep their own positions for the coming year or to even keep the school open.
#3 — Increasing school board effectiveness could make an impact on school success
Leadership that is provided by the school board or governing body in addressing an improved working environment for teachers is as important as the administrator of the school. Administrators gave their school boards fairly high ratings in the amount of support they provide the administrator, although there is definitely room for growth. School boards that are more active in marketing their school could have a significant impact on their school community by helping to build awareness and ultimately in meeting enrollment needs.
The synod, congregation, school community and each individual has a role in the issue of how ministry is staffed. In the next series of posts, thoughts will be shared on these three points. Start thinking about what your reactions are to each of the points and let’s see what bubbles to the top.
Be sure to pray about this issue as ultimately, the Lord of the Church is the Lord of the Church and He provides all we need. Jesus says, “...pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”(Matthew 9:38) Let’s pray we do not put obstacles in the way of His Will- His Will for ourselves or for future servants of the Church- but seek to encourage and promote.