By Jeni Miller
LCMS pastors are known for going above and beyond the call of duty, and the Rev. Peter Schmidt, pastor of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church and School in Waukesha, Wis., is no exception.
Schmidt says he’s a pastor “who just happens to teach a few classes in the morning and who, through the flow of the day, has the opportunity to interact with a lot of people under his care who, for the most part, happen to be under 14 years of age.”
As this year’s recipient of the second annual School Shepherd Award — presented by National Lutheran School Accreditation (NLSA) — Schmidt can’t imagine shepherding his people any other way.
“Pastor is always encouraging us to turn our eyes, and the eyes of our children, to Jesus,” noted Jennifer Wolff, principal at Beautiful Savior. “Pastor Schmidt doesn’t just do it from the pulpit, or from chapels that he leads. Pastor encourages in the hallways, through our meetings, while teaching two classes a day in classrooms, through greeting parents at the door in the morning and getting the kids in the cars in the afternoon.
“Our families all know Pastor! He isn’t just the Sunday guy,” Wolff added. “Pastor is the spiritual leader of our school, and parents and families see it day in and day out.”
Schmidt believes it’s “very important for the kids and parents to know that pastors are not only approachable, but are concerned about them as individuals. There are times when kids have been sent to the pastor’s office, not for punishment, but simply to talk through things.”
Schmidt was chosen from among nine nominations for the 2017 School Shepherd Award, which aims to honor “a faithful pastor who provides outstanding encouragement, support and service to his school,” according to Terry Schmidt, director of LCMS Schools and Accreditation.
“All of the candidates who are nominated are exceptionally involved in their schools,” notes Schmidt, who is not related to award recipient Rev. Peter Schmidt. “Pastor Schmidt is a faithful spiritual leader for his school who has invested his time and energy in his school in meaningful ways and understands and accepts responsibility for the fact that his school has become his congregation’s gateway to its community.”
Balancing it all
“The most important reason to get involved in the life of a school,” according to Pastor Schmidt, “is because a Lutheran school is a workshop of the Holy Spirit, and who wouldn’t want to be involved with His work?”
While this kind of involvement may come naturally to Schmidt, other pastors may wonder how it’s possible to balance responsibilities at a church and school.
Schmidt explains that having a “passion for Lutheran education, seeing it as an opportunity for God the Holy Spirit to do His work of developing faith and equipping people to be wise in the ways of the Lord” is necessary to keep up with the demands of engaging in the life of a Lutheran school.
Of course, that isn’t to say there aren’t challenges along the way.
Schmidt has experienced both the joy of starting the school — and adding a grade each year through eighth grade — as well as the challenges, such as “when the economy took a dive that led us to reduce staff and eliminate a few grades.” This year, the school is once again offering kindergarten through eighth grade.
Schmidt served as acting principal for more than four years when the school started, since the church had a senior pastor at that time to care for congregational needs. Now that Schmidt is sole pastor, he notes that it has taken some understanding and prioritization on everyone’s part in order for him to serve both church and school faithfully.
“For the past eight years, the congregation has understood that there are certain things that will not get done as they used to be, and everyone tries to help where he or she can,” he says. “Our school staff also understands that when I may need to be called away for an emergency or a funeral, that’s a priority. That also means that there are times when I simply need to say, ‘I need time at home to do things with my family and to recharge my battery.’ ”
Joy in learning the Word of God
For Schmidt, “the joy of a Lutheran school is being able to talk about and teach about all the different aspects of life from the context of ‘This is God’s world.’ ”
He encourages other school pastors to pray for the school’s ministry, ask the Lord to provide guidance in learning what the pastor’s role should be at the school, and praise and encourage the principal, staff and students.
Above all, he says, “Give thanks for the opportunity to share the saving Gospel each day and to help kids become biblically literate in an increasingly secularized society.”
Schmidt says he loves his school “because of the joy of daily seeing the Holy Spirit work in a setting where Jesus is unashamedly welcomed and worshiped, and His love is modeled by teachers, staff, volunteers and students.
“For me, any education without quality instruction in the Word of God is an incomplete education.”
Schmidt and his wife, Ellen, have been at Beautiful Savior since October 1995. Their three children — Marissa, Kristen and Isaac — all attended Beautiful Savior Lutheran School.
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted September 20, 2017