It’s the playoffs. Game 7. The series is tied. It’s the bottom of the 9th. Man on first. Two out. The two strike pitch is shot into the gap in left center. The runner from first, rounds second and comes barreling into third with the crowd and the bench calling, “Send him! Send him!” And send him is what the third base coach does...for the winning run. The roar of the crowd is deafening. The celebration of the players at home is a happy sight.
Send him. Send him.
Soon principals will be working with their boards on calls and contracts for next school year. We will find again that the pool of teachers is small. However, the task remains to assure that teaching the faith will be accomplished with a staff of committed and dedicated teachers. We prayerfully go about the process of gaining a list of candidates and matching the talents of those on our list with the needs of the school.
Two things to consider regarding staffing. First, it’s good to consider what makes a strong teacher. Being a team player has grown to be understood as integral to putting together a staff. Pat Lencioni (The Table Group) codified an effective team player with the following descriptors- Humble, Hungry, Smart. Lencioni says that humble team players don’t look for credit; they look for the good of the team. Hungry team players are driven to get things done and to work for the good of the team. Smart team members are constantly learning, asking questions, listening to those in the network and behave as a team member. It would be quite a teaching staff if it was filled with Lencioni’s team player! Imagine a group of teachers that exhibit each of these characteristics.
Secondly, those in Lutheran school leadership need to consider the response to the smaller pool of teachers. It might be helpful to realize that the Church has dealt with this issue before. LCMS President Wyneken made this appraisal in 1857 about teaching - and it could ring in our ears as being true today- “He who realizes under what difficult conditions this thankless office, humanly speaking, is performed in our country, must praise the Lord all the more that there still are men who in love to the Lord choose and faithfully carry out this office...May God ...give us those people who with joy, love and faithfulness take on the holy office of a teacher with its exacting duties.” (Schools of the LCMS- Stellhorn. 1963)
Thankless? Teaching as a vocation is as tough as it has ever been. Our culture has a lack of respect for authority- any authority- and on top of it, teachers generally experience low compensation. Couple this with too many teachers and church workers having a lack of enthusiasm for promoting teaching and administration and we too could echo the message of Rev Wyneken.
That being said, thanks and accolades can be a rich support for those in ministry- and maybe thanks and encouragement could help the problem. For those leading boards, it would be wise to consider a review not just of salary and benefits but also anniversary recognitions, professional days and support for continuing education.
In the picture described in the first paragraph, “Send him!’ was done with enthusiasm and the result was met with great joy. It might be time for each of us to step aside and get our biases out of the way and let the Lord of the Church do His work so we can celebrate a resurgence of willing workers.