By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“Love your people. Preach the Gospel.”
That’s the advice the Rev. Kevin Jud, senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hamilton, Ohio, would give a new pastor.
And Jud, 50 — who’s been named by National Lutheran School Accreditation as the first recipient of its 2016 “Lutheran School Shepherd” award — wholeheartedly believes that those two things are just as important for a congregation’s school as for the congregation itself.
Loving your school’s students “is not a program or a short-term emphasis,” Jud notes, but is “walking alongside your students in their joy and their grief. Love is spending time with students and not losing your temper when they test your limits. Love is forgiving. Love is hard.”
The new “School Shepherd” award — which will be given annually — honors “a faithful pastor who provides outstanding encouragement, support and service to his school,” according to Terry Schmidt, director of LCMS School Ministry.
Pastors, he says, “play a significant role in the work of the Lutheran school,” and “when the pastor loves his school, there is a greater possibility of success for the school.”
Eleven LCMS pastors were nominated for this year’s inaugural award, and all are considered “champions” for their schools, Schmidt says, because they “go beyond in supporting and caring for the school, its workers and the whole school community.”
Jud, for example, knows the names of most of Immanuel’s 134 K-8 students — including all of them from third through eighth grade — plus a few of the 40 preschoolers.
“I do believe it is important to know a child’s name,” he says. “If you don’t even know their name, it shows that you don’t really care too much about them.”
He greets the students and their parents as they arrive each morning, helps with getting the students safely to cars during afternoon pickup, eats lunch with them, talks with them during the day, teaches religion, conducts chapel services, helps lead student retreats (some 70 over the past 15 years) and accompanies upper-grade students on trips to Washington, D.C., and Germany every two and four years, respectively.
Jud regularly jokes with the students, gently teases them and lets them know “I love them and care about them.” Many of the students, he says, “do not have a regular church home and so we encourage them to come to the waters of Holy Baptism” — about 30 students have been baptized at Immanuel in the past two years; 50 to 60 total over the past 15 years that Jud has served the congregation.
The school also provides full scholarships to a few students from low-income families.
Jud — who has been called “a shining example of ‘ministry of presence’ ” — says he doesn’t “sit still very well for very long” so he often walks around the school, making a point to talk with students who seem to be “having a rough day” to “see what is going on.
“I remember hearing that it is very important that children know there is an adult who loves them other than their parents, and I try to be that adult for as many children as possible,” he says. “I am the one they can trust to be able to open up to and cry, if needed, and know that they are safe and I love them. So many students carry around great burdens in their lives while trying to keep up a strong front; they need to know that there is a safe place for them to be able to talk about their struggles and fears, and my study is often that place.”
Jud admits that operating a church and school together “is a tremendous challenge in time and money and other resources” and often “tests the commitment of the congregation.”
But, on the flip side, he adds, “what an amazing ministry to be able to work with children for thousands of hours to teach them about God’s Law and God’s Gospel, to baptize them and proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”
The National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) visiting team nominated pastors for the “School Shepherd” award during their site visits to schools last spring, and a committee chose Jud as this year’s honoree.
A graduate of Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., Jud completed his M.Div. degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and was ordained in 2001.
A native of Northern Virginia, he and his wife, Jeanette, have four children: Caleb, Heather, Nicholas and Rebecca.
Posted Oct. 7, 2016