by Lisa McIntosh
Many Lutheran schools in Australia have their genesis in a local Lutheran congregation. But having both school and church on the one ‘campus’ is a newer phenomenon.
At Queensland’s Murrumba Downs, just north of Brisbane, Living Faith Lutheran Primary School and Living Faith Lutheran Church do more than just share a site – they share one heart for mission.
Living Faith Primary was established after congregations at Sandgate and Petrie amalgamated in 2000 with the aim of starting a school. When the school built a new administration building a few years back, it collaborated with Living Faith congregation, so that visitors enter through one front door to access both receptions.
The working relationship between primary school Principal Jane Mueller and church Pastor David Schuppan, who each started at Living Faith in 2014, exemplifies this shared vision.
The pair meets each Monday over coffee. ‘There’s a lot of mentoring, from David to me. And that’s probably step one for us in the relationship between the church and the school’, Jane says. ‘It works both ways’, Pastor David says, ‘I learn a lot about educational processes.’
Pastor David takes weekly Bible studies with school staff, leads some school chapel gatherings and three times a year leads staff in theological or spiritual training. Each class from the R-6 school takes part in church services at Living Faith, but while a number of school families have joined the congregation, church membership numbers are not a motivating factor for the relationship. ‘It’s more about kingdom-building’, Jane says.
Both leaders have seen changes in the demographics they serve at Living Faith. In recent years, the congregation has planted Beyond Church, to reach out to unchurched people. Most youth now attend Beyond and Pastor David is keen to draw people of that age range to Living Faith, which is one goal of an LCA Mission Stimulus Grant they were recently awarded.
In her time at Living Faith, Jane says the school community has become more multi-faith. ‘We now have families from all backgrounds, we have Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, various Christian denominations and some people who identify with no faith’, she says. ‘When Lutheran schools were established they were for Lutheran people and now they’re an outreach, so I say, “Bring it on”.’
To that end, Jane says having the majority of the school board being – like her – members of Living Faith congregation, is critical. ‘When it comes to setting strategy … we can talk about things like compassion, we can talk about Christian love and forgiveness and that filters down into the school’, she says.
‘The fundamental benefit [of working together] is that when we serve, we grow’, Pastor David says. ‘Your own soul expands when you share Christ with others, share love with others, so it’s a healthy thing.’