Educating for Faith and Community

A Lutheran Success Story

Few realize that the largest Protestant school system in the United States is operated by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.  With 1,018 elementary schools and 102 high schools sharing a combined enrollment of 149,201 students, it is an impressive educational endeavor.  Beyond the United States, Lutheran schools in Canada, South America, Africa, Australia, and even such remote countries as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan have been influenced to one degree or another by Missouri Synod theology and pedagogy.

The early history of this school system is not just an interesting chapter in educational history but a good case study on how Christian schools can prepare children to be participating members of American society while retaining a strong commitment to their faith and community.

In 1839 a group of approximately 750 Lutherans from Saxony arrived in St. Louis.  Fleeing the theological liberalism of 19th-century Germany, their goal was to establish an orthodox Lutheran colony in North America.  One of the remarkable features of this group was their commitment to education.  These immigrants believed that in order to rear their children according to the dictates of their faith, it was essential to have schools that were independent of state control.  Thus, less than one year after arriving on these shores, they established a classical Lutheran academy, or gymnasium, that was true to their theological traditions. ...

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