Currently our dining room table displays a collection of gifts my wife, Andrea, received from her preschool students for Teacher Appreciation Week (officially celebrated from May 8-12). The handmade cards, treats, and other treasures were received with much appreciation. I understand the homemade chocolate chip cookies were delicious.
As part of this appreciation for teachers, Facebook has provided the opportunity to remember and post the names of elementary school teachers. For me this includes a group of dedicated teachers at Immanuel Lutheran School in Higginsville, MO.
Grade 1 & 2 Arlene Walkenhorst
Grade 3 & 4 Vivian Limback
Grade 5 & 6 David Werdin
Grade 7 Alfred Bohlmann
Grade 8 Melvin Bernhardt
A long list of high school teachers could also be added to these names who I still remember with thankfulness and appreciation. One who particularly stands out is Joan Alumbaugh-Dyer, whose life was celebrated last week by her family and friends following her death on April 30. I experienced firsthand her love for teaching and dedication to her students. I cherish the care, encouragement and high expectations she had for me and her English, speech and drama students.
I would be remiss if I failed to include on my list Dr. Lyle Kurth and his dedication to those of us who were under his leadership as Director of Christian Education students at Concordia University Chicago.
His influence and example of what it means to serve the church continues to impact my ministry today. Even in retirement, Dr. Kurth continues to serve in his current setting as he shared during a recent interview on KFUO.
It is great to reminisce and remember past teachers, but it’s also appropriate to celebrate those current graduates who will begin their vocations as full-time church workers. My family celebrates our daughter, Tessa, who graduated from Concordia University Chicago this past weekend. She joins 30 CUC church worker candidates and will begin her ministry this fall as an early childhood teacher at Zion Lutheran School in Dallas, TX.
With this celebration also comes the reality there are LCMS congregations and schools who have identified a need for a church worker, but will not receive a candidate. Last month our seminaries placed 100 candidates with pastor requests from 185 congregations. Likewise, in Lutheran schools, placement directors from Concordia universities and colleges reported in January there would approximately 120 graduates available for the 200+ requests.
As my fellow teacher/DCE, Rhonda Mohr, writes in the May issue of the Iowa West District News, “it is important for us to identify young people who have a heart for ministry and encourage them to consider full-time church work as a vocation.” Rhonda provides these actions for addressing this trend:
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to move in the hearts of people to serve in these important roles.
- Plant the idea early in young children.
- Expose junior high students to the Concordia universities/colleges and seminaries with a group trip.
- Invite a Concordia student or seminarian to share their story with your youth group. Use Skype, Google Hangouts or some other form of technology if distance is an issue.
- Identify a young person you feel would make an excellent church worker and ask them if they have considered full-time church work as a vocation. Build them up by sharing with them the gifts they have that are evident to you.
Think also about young people you know who have the gifts and talents to consider a church work vocation. You will find a brief description for pastor, teacher, Director of Christian Education, Deaconess or other workers at https://www.lcms.org/careers-in-church-work.
Each of us has an Arlene, David, Joan or Lyle who impacted our lives as they shared their gifts and talents as teachers. Join me in giving thanks for them.
Pray for the Tessa, Caleb, Trevor, and Grace you can identify and encourage.
Lord Jesus, You have given gifts and talents to each of us, to be used in service to You, through our love and service to others. As young people consider their future and the career they should pursue, lead them to seek Your plan and purpose for their lives. Lead them to consider service to You and Your people by a vocation of full time church work. Guide them as they consider colleges and universities and their major and minor courses of study. Keep them close to You in love with You and Your Word. Help them to use their gifts and abilities in ways that will help others come to love You also. In Your name we pray. Amen. (from Youth Worker Prayer Book, Second Edition)