NLSA School Shepherd 2019 Award Recipient
The Lutheran School Shepherd Award was established by National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) to honor a faithful pastor who provides outstanding encouragement, support and service to his school. Pastors who are considered for this prestigious award understand and articulate a clear philosophy of Lutheran education and provide spiritual encouragement, guidance and support for the school entrusted to their care. He is a champion for the school.
We are pleased to announce that Pastor Joseph Cunningham who serves at St. Peter Lutheran Church and School in North Judson, Indiana is selected as the 2019 National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) School Shepherd.
Pastor Cunningham was nominated by the NLSA Validation Team at the time of St. Peter Lutheran School’s NLSA site visit in Spring, 2019. After his nomination was endorsed by LCMS Indiana District officials, a committee of well-respected pastors reviewed each application and prayerfully selected Pastor Cunningham from 8 deserving individuals nominated for the award.
When asked, “Why do you love your school?” Pastor Cunningham replied, “This is our mission! I love St. Peter School because God is using it as a vibrant witness of the Gospel and His love for this community. I love St. Peter School because she is served by a dedicated and tireless principal, Rhonda Reimers, whose gifts shape our non-Lutheran faculty and staff, supports our shared vision and embraces the challenges that exist in a rural context. Her loving care for the children and families that make up St. Peter inspires me to love this place even more. I love St. Peter because we have a dedicated staff of teachers and support staff and delightful children to serve.”
Pastor Cunningham openly shares his love for the community he serves by investing time and effort in several needed initiatives. “Our community struggles with high levels of drug and opioid abuse, and pregnancies among teens. Developing a meaningful infrastructure of services and educational opportunities designed to combat poor physical and mental health issues is critical to the overall survival of this rural community. St. Peter is a vital connection to all these initiatives as it provides a spiritual connection to these community challenges.”
A community parent observes, “Pastor’s messages are life application lessons that make it so easy to apply to our lives.” The parent further expressed, “Pastor Cunningham has been a living example to the students, parents, and faculty at St. Peter Lutheran. The professionalism and love that pours out of the teachers and principal at St. Peter is obviously a reflection of the leadership they have received from Pastor Cunningham.”
LCMS Indiana District Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kevin Brockberg affirms Pastor Cunningham’s nomination, “If you are seeking to discern the heart of a shepherd, Joseph Cunningham’s nurture of students in their journey reaches farther than Lutheran elementary and secondary schools. Since the time of his tenure at St. Peter, Pastor Cunningham has pastored students attending Valparaiso University. His campus ministry casts his nets far and wide, beyond the expanse of K-12 education. Nearest to his heart at Valpo are those he has mentored and now serve as teachers and pastors serving the church at large.”
A graduate of Concordia Teachers College, Seward, Neb. and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., Pastor Cunningham has faithfully served at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and Sheboygan Lutheran High School, Sheboygan, Wis. (1977-1979), St. John Lutheran Church, Sherburn, Minn. (1979-1980), Salem Lutheran Church and School, Jacksonville, Ill. (1984-1987), Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Davenport, Iowa (1987-1992), Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer and Evansville Lutheran School, Evansville, Ind. (1992-1999), Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind. (1999-2012) and at St. Peter Lutheran Church and School (2012 to present). Pastor Cunningham’s leadership exemplifies the traits of a faithful school shepherd and NLSA is pleased to recognize his service and contributions to Lutheran education with the 2019 School Shepherd Award.