Why so few schools?
Ask a Pastor
“How come there are hardly any ELCA congregations with elementary or high schools?” – Corrie W., Los Angeles
Rosanne: This is a good question and I don’t have a precise answer for it. However, I don’t believe that it is because the ELCA or its predecessor bodies – the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America – doesn’t or didn’t think that early education wasn’t important; their focus was mainly on “higher education,” such as colleges, universities and seminaries. Another area of focus for the some of the predecessor churches was the establishment of hospitals and training institutions, particularly for training nurses. Such names as Lutheran Deaconess Hospital and Advocate Lutheran General Hospital come to mind as institutions that have roots in the Lutheran tradition of care for the neighbor in need and are a part of the ELCA’s heritage from its predecessor churches.
Gayle Denny, executive director for ELCA Schools and Learning Centers: While 1,491 of our ELCA congregations sponsor some type of weekday children’s education program, it is true that the majority – 1,315 or 88 percent – are early childhood education programs. There are 164 that include kindergarten and anywhere up to 8th grade, and there are 12 high schools with ELCA affiliation. Why? Probably the main reason lies in the doctrine of the predecessor church bodies that merged to form the ELCA, several of which did not believe that we are called to provide private education for children, but rather to support and promote a high quality public education system in this country. On a more recent note, of course, there are many reasons why the ELCA, along with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Roman Catholics and many other denominations, has seen a decline in the number of its schools in recent years. Competing charter schools, economic constraints of parents, and aging church school facilities are just a few.
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