Leadership Thoughts From...
Rev. Daniel May
It's always a quick jump from Thanksgiving to Advent! We are here in Advent, a season of preparation and repentance! People prepare in a variety of ways and most congregations have a midweek service during this season. You will find some sort of Advent Wreath in our churches and our homes. The time of repentance and preparation is an important time at church and at home! The Advent music is beautiful and meaningful. We love to sing hymns like: "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?" "Lift Up Your Heads Ye Mighty Gates" "The Advent of our King" "Savior of the Nations, Come" "Once He Came in Blessing" And the dinner table is a great worship place for the family as together they share the promises of God via the Advent Calendar. Advent is not only a memorable time for children but also a formative time and a great time for family teaching!
Outreach & Evangelism
Rev. Geoff Robinson
I would like to share with you my thoughts concerning the Eighth commandment. The commandment is this: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” I believe that this sin of giving false testimony in some form is most prevalent among Christians. It is so easy to spread innuendo and conjecture as fact. Much damage is done this way. Let me put it bluntly; much which is written on Facebook and via blogs is simply sinful. Secondhand hearsay is never a good thing to repeat or speculate about. It simply furthers gossip and gossip by its nature is never a good thing. In the Large Catechism, Dr. Martin Luther had this to say about how one should obey the Eighth commandment: “False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. Therefore, what is not manifest upon sufficient evidence no one shall make public or declare for truth; and, in short, whatever is secret should be allowed to remain secret, or, at any rate, should be secretly reproved, as we shall hear. Therefore, if you encounter an idle tongue which betrays and slanders some one, contradict such a one promptly to his face, that he may blush; thus many a one will hold his tongue who else would bring some poor man into bad repute, from which he would not easily extricate himself. For honor and a good name are easily taken away, but not easily restored.” And again Luther counsels: “And it is especially an excellent and noble virtue for one always to explain advantageously and put the best construction upon all he may hear of his neighbor (if it be not notoriously evil), or at any rate to condone it over and against the poisonous tongues that are busy wherever they can pry out and discover something to blame in a neighbor, and that explain and pervert it in the worst way; as is done now especially with the precious Word of God and its preachers.” So what is our motivation for protecting a neighbor’s reputation by putting the best construction on everything? It is the knowledge that in Christ we have an advocate before the Heavenly Father who covers over our sins with His robes of righteousness. Jesus has enabled us to have a good reputation before the Father in Heaven by having taken our sins upon Himself, paying for them with His life and death and enabling us to receive in exchange His righteousness. We receive all of these wonderful things with the hand of faith. Even that hand of faith is a blessing from God in that the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel enables us to believe. As converted Christians we are enabled to love others as we have been loved by God. The Holy Spirit who dwells within Christians enables Christians to love others by putting the best construction on what we hear and know about our neighbor and to say no to innuendo and gossip. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia Triglotta—English: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, electronic ed. (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1996), 657-59. Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia Triglotta—English: The Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, electronic ed. (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1996), 663.
Mr. Ron Bleke
Below is a memo concerning the new FSLA Overtime rules that will be effective 12/1/16 from Thompson Coburn LLP providing official guidance from the LCMS on this topic. This memo has been shared with the COP. You can download and read the official memo here. Specific questions on this topic should be directed to the office of Val Rhoden-Kimbrough, Executive Director, Synod HR at 314-996-1360.
Dr. Jon Mielke
What a privilege it is for me to be able to visit our Lutheran schools and observe teachers in their classrooms. I am always appreciative of the preparation that precedes the lesson as well as the depth of content being taught. Whether visiting early learning centers, elementary or high school classrooms, teachers are intentional to vary their instructional approaches and provide a medley of instructional strategies that promote creative thinking and innovation. Fostering a classroom that encourages creativity and innovation serves students well. Furthermore, students who can study a topic in a bit more depth and breadth, draw conclusions, make predictions, or possibly draw associations among content areas are more likely to be more engaged, interested and motivated. Research suggests (Drapeau, 2014) that activity and thinking of this quality utilizes and strengthens the cognitive capacity of the executive function of the brain – processing, attention, memory capacity and sequencing. As Christian teachers who readily strive to enhance their teaching skills and abilities through professional book reads, article summations, courses, conferences, or workshops, such activities are not necessarily on our daily schedules because of the normal demands of teaching. But different approaches, activities, and strategies like those mentioned below are integral for student success in their respective classrooms today and may instill in students a love for learning. What follows are just some ideas and resources as you continue to engage and move students toward a deeper understanding of content: Promote Inquiry When you generate questions that encourage your students to make predictions, identify patterns, and evoke some emotion, questions of such involve the different lobes of the brain that generate ideas and form judgments. Such questioning jumpstarts your students’ creative thinking and reinforces their learning because how you are teaching is likely to move information from short-term into long-term memory. Drapeau (2014) and Brookhart (2014) provide examples of different kinds of questions for different content areas. Encourage Convergent & Divergent Thinking Are you in a pattern of accepting one answer to a particular question or problem? Well, I know I did as a principal/teacher. Just to get a correct answer from a student was rewarding and gratifying. In hindsight, I would have prepared for more opportunity to teach and practice divergent thinking among students. Teaching divergent thinking encourages students to generate multiple solutions to a problem or provide their reasoning why one solution may be better than another. Balance your lessons so you educe both types of thinking for your students. Employ Creative Strategies How often do you get time to reconstruct state standards for particular content? Time, or the lack of it, probably does not afford you much time to engage in such a process. But when you do identify and reconstruct state standards, “Are you substituting creative verbs or adding qualifying words. Doing so engenders more opportunity for creative thinking and innovation. Sparking Student Creativity Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving (Drapeau, 2014) offers good guidance and a variety of strategies for different content areas. Revising the standard so as to incorporate verbs and qualifying adjectives is a practical way to scaffold students to a deeper level of understanding of content. Develop Independent Learners As teachers, we seek to be life-long learners. We encourage our students to develop a love for learning too. We will not always be present to answer a student’s question or partner with them to solve a problem. But, we can incorporate different ways that encourage independence for learning. Below are just a two suggestions: Gradual Release of Responsibility (Fisher and Frey, 2012) fosters independent thinking and learning. The process promotes four components: Focused and Guided Instruction; Collaborative and Independent Learning. The four-step approach suggests shared responsibility among teacher and his/her students – “I do it.”, “We do it.”, “You do it together”, and “You do it alone.” Creative Defining Process (Drapeau, 2014) is a three-step process leading students toward self-reflection and self-assessment. Establish a Design Rationale Storylines or design rationales piqued my interest and hopefully it will for you as well. A rationale for a particular lesson design, or defined by (Ermeling & Ermeling, 2016) as the ‘overall sequence or progression of elements’, will couple together activity and engagement. Storylines or lesson design rationales propel forward a fundamental question for teachers, “How will this sequence of learning activities support the learning goal and advance students toward deeper understanding?” When having the opportunity to plan my lessons as a classroom teacher or as a principal/teacher, I often included section headers like an essential question, textbook pages covered, additional resources, and possibly an assessment component; however, little additional narrative was included in the plan book. Storylines add more depth and breadth than a simple lesson plan outline would. As Ermeling and Ermeling (2016) posit, lesson preparation becomes an explicit process because the storyline, or carefully written design rationales, in one’s preparation encourage one to reflect on those integral aspects of teaching. Seymour and Seymour (2006) report similar successes regarding student and teacher narratives in their longitudinal study regarding the teaching of mathematics. The authors (Ermeling and Ermeling) provide additional questions to explore when constructing a lesson design rationale and further encourage teachers to start simple by strategically selecting a key unit when penning out a lesson design rationale, or possibly trying only one a quarter. Their article appears in the 2016 October edition of Educational Leadership and is entitled, “Every Lesson Needs a Storyline Planning for coherent instruction not only engages students but also leads them toward mastery”, is an insightful article and helpful resource for teachers. Genevieve Ermeling served with me on the AdvancED/NLSA accreditation team at Faith Lutheran Middle and High School and now serves as assistant head of school for teaching and learning at Concordia International School, Shanghai. Her husband, Brad, is an independent education consultant and member of the research team from the University of California-Los Angeles and Stanford. Some concluding thoughts… As principals and teachers partner together and strive daily to enhance teaching and learning, the above ideas and listed resources below may be helpful and encourage further interest and discussion. Look for and affirm instruction and lesson preparation of this magnitude when observed in your respective school buildings. Thinking about one’s lesson and instruction to this degree can and will impact student learning and is effective professional development for your teachers and you. I take this opportunity to commend and affirm Christian principals and teachers for their daily diligence in providing such quality instruction for their students. And thank you for that long-lasting impact you have on your students and for your continued Christian professionalism that you continually project to parents and students! Dr. Jon Mielke Resources Drapeau, Patti (2014). Sparking Student Creativity Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Brookhart, Susan, M. (2014). How to Design Questions and Tasks. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Ermeling, Bradley A. & Graff-Ermeling, Genevieve. (2016). Every Lesson Needs a Storyline. Educational Leadership, 74(2), 23-26.
Rev. Phillip Krupski
Each year we plan on giving gifts at Christmas. We get asked for the work place gift. We shop for the perfect gift for our loved ones. We spend a lot of time and money in December on gifts that are out of proportion to the rest of the year. We do all of this in celebration of the greatest gift ever given in our Heavenly Father sending His only begotten Son that in the flesh He would save us from our sins on the cross and in the resurrection. Yet despite all the gift giving, have you ever really thought about the fact that you cannot really give a gift? Ultimately, all things belong to our Father and are His to give. So in essence, we don’t really “give” gifts. We “transfer” them. As we engage in this transfer of blessings this year, consider gifts that also support ministry. If you are older than 70, you may have Required Minimum Distribution on a retirement account that you can use to support the Lord’s work, at the District or in your congregation. Using charitable rollover from your qualified retirement plans, you avoid paying taxes and maximize the greatest amount of gift transference. So for example, if you have $5,000 of RMD this year, and you take that distribution, you may very well owe $1,250 of income tax on it. But if you use that RMD for your support of ministry, you avoid the tax and instead of your gift being $3,750, you could give $5,000. Plus, you still receive your charitable deduction for the transference of the gift! Maybe you have appreciated stock and are afraid to cash it in because of capital gains tax. Maybe you have a piece of appreciated property that is costing you more in taxes than any value you receive from it. Again, these become great opportunities for “transferring the blessings”. If you need help, send me an email or give me call. God bless your Christmas as you celebrate Him as the true giver of every perfect gift! Learn more about LCMS Foundation Gift Planning by calling (317) 840-3202 or emailing Philip at email@example.com.
Mr. Steve Strauch
Attention Pastors! Are you paying more than 3.125% on an unsecured educational loan? The Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) has developed an educational loan repayment program to help LCMS ordained ministers successfully reduce their existing school debt. With loans directly to the pastor or to his congregation, LCEF can help meet this sometimes burdensome obligation. Two loan programs are available: Direct Pastoral Education Loan Repayment Program: This loan program is provided directly to the active LCMS pastor, normally in the first five years after seminary graduation. Loans up to $50,000. Terms are up to 10 Years. Congregation Pastoral Education Loan Repayment Program: This loan program is provided to the congregation who acts as the eligible borrower to provide support for an active ordained LCMS pastor, normally in the first 10 years after seminary graduation. Loans up to the amount of indebtedness, not to exceed $100,000. Funds may be drawn on for a maximum of two years, with interest billed monthly during the period. Both loan programs have the following features: Interest rates are based on LCEF’s Cost of Funds, plus 1%, adjusted annually. The interest rate is NOT based on credit score. Ability to consolidate outstanding unsecured loans for education purposes incurred during seminary tenure, such as: privately held student loans, loans from family, credit cards, etc. Loan funds are disbursed to creditors. LCEF has friendly, knowledgeable loan officers and service staff. Internet and automated telephone access to loan information. For more information about these loan programs, please contact Steve Strauch, LCEF District VP, at 765-464-4579 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also go online to www.lcef.org. Applications Secured Loan Application Rostered Church Workers RCW Direct Housing RCW Consolidation RCW Home Equity