RRR heading

other STF links

iWhy: (Feature)

Joy to the World: Kids Helping Kids (GLEnet)

Developing a Faith-Training Curriculum (MIDnet)

Beyond the Classroom (SECnet)

teacher and studentsYou Are a Missionary!

It is possible, indeed necessary, to be a missionary right where God has placed me.When I was a boy attending Lutheran school in Minnesota, I sometimes dreamed of becoming a missionary and journeying to far off lands proclaiming the Gospel. Instead, I eventually became a parish pastor and have now served in that capacity for more than 30 years.

The Lutheran school I attended was typical of most at that time; virtually all students were also members of the sponsoring congregation. A lot has changed over these last decades! Most of the students in our Lutheran schools today are from a variety of backgrounds, and, typically, only a small minority are members of our congregations. My goal in writing this article is for you to see the element of blessing in this change and to act on that blessing.

As I first prepared for and then began my ministry as a pastor, I quickly realized that being a missionary for Jesus did not require a passport and travel to far flung lands. While there is a definite need for those called to spread the Gospel in different countries and cultures, it was possible, indeed necessary, to be a missionary right where God had placed me.

Each of the congregations I have served as pastor has had a Lutheran preschool or elementary school or both. In every case, a significant portion of the student population consisted of those who did not have a relationship with Jesus. These educational institutions provide a fantastic mission opportunity! Here are some ideas on how to reach out effectively with the Gospel.

Tell yourself: “I am a missionary.”

You will recognize that for many of your families, the love language of Jesus is foreign to them.“Attitude is everything,” the saying goes. There is much truth in this. Having the attitude that you are a missionary makes it more likely that you will think and act like a missionary. You will look at your students and their families with a missionary’s heart. You will recognize that for many of your families, the love language of Jesus is foreign to them. You will work diligently to translate Jesus’ love into ways that are meaningful and understandable to them. Consider it a joy and opportunity, not a burden, to be a missionary to your students and their parents.

Learn which students and families are unchurched.

pastor with childDevelop a simple but effective way to identify unchurched students and families. It may be as simple as an item in your registration materials asking for church affiliation and baptismal date. This information is essential to facilitate specific ministry to these families.

Immediately begin a personal prayer ministry for these unchurched students and their families. Add them to your personal daily prayers. Pray that God the Holy Spirit would open their hearts to being receptive to Jesus. Pray that God would give you and your congregation insight into how best to reach out. Keep praying!

Establishing personal relationships is extremely important.Devise a strategy for getting acquainted with these students and their families. Of course, you desire to become acquainted with all of the students and families that are a part of your school, but there is nothing wrong with paying particular attention to those who are unchurched. Figure out an effective way to get to know them. Maybe you will pick one of these families per week and reach out to them personally. Enlist staff members, such as the principal, pastor, or DCE to greet students and families as they arrive for school on one or more mornings per week. Establishing personal relationships is extremely important.

Invite others to be a part of your strategy. Give the names of unchurched families (first names only) to your school or church prayer team so that they can join you in prayer. Invite others to be a part of your efforts to establish personal relationships with these families. Encourage others to see these actions as a part of their calling to go and make disciples.

Set up a few service opportunities where families can work together to serve.Create opportunities for your unchurched school families to interact with churched families. Set up a small coffee bar where parents can linger after morning drop off. Offer periodic learning opportunities on topics of interest to parents. Set up a few service opportunities where families can work together to serve. Opportunities such as these help to build relationships between churched and unchurched families.

Include unchurched families in worship. Specifically invite families to attend your weekly chapel service. Set up a few times during the school year when different segments of your school population sing during Sunday morning worship. Make sure there are refreshments afterward to encourage families to stick around for a bit. Don’t alter what you usually do in worship to be more appealing. This will backfire if they return and worship is very different from the special time you created.

Spring into Action

Volunteer to lead chapel services and invite other staff members to do so also. Leading chapel services gives you the opportunity to be up in front of people sharing Jesus. As you do, you will be building relationships that can easily lead to further opportunities to share the Gospel.

Bringing the grace and mercy of Jesus into people’s lives in a time of need is one of the best ways to bring Jesus to them.If a crisis befalls them, jump into action. Create a communication channel so that, when a ministry need arises, you and your church can spring into action. Be sure to include the pastor if possible. Bringing the grace and mercy of Jesus into people’s lives in a time of need is one of the best ways to bring Jesus to them.

Provide an opportunity for feedback for families participating in your school ministry. Create a comprehensive end-of-year survey for your participating families. Evaluate whether what you say you value—typically in a mission statement—is what families perceive. Pay special note to relational descriptive words like loving, caring, accepting. Are students and their families, whether churched or unchurched, experiencing the love and grace of Jesus through your educational ministry? If so, praise God! If not, what changes can you make so that the Gospel shines through more clearly?

eacher wtih childBe patient and continue to work your plan.

One big mistake is thinking that being a missionary is easy or will usually lead to quick impact. My experience is that this needs to be a long-term strategy. Pray for perseverance. Pray that God will use your intentional efforts to be a blessing in His way and His time, not yours.

God is always doing His work, and He graciously invites us to be a part of it. May He bless your mission efforts in the name of Jesus! Remember: You are a missionary!

Mark Schulz has been a parish pastor for 32 years in Nebraska, Illinois, and Kansas. He and his wife Nancy have two adult daughters.

Photos © iStock/monkeybusinessimages, vadimguzhva, Chris Schmidt