Everything begins and ends with God. Keep that in mind as I proceed.
For the last few years, the Lord keeps poking me with the idea-concept-dream of starting a school in Greenville. A Christian school. A Word-based, Christ-focused school.
What a lovely idea. Until you have to plan it. Until you have to build it. Until you have to pay for it. For those reasons, I keep storing this concept in a dark, dusty corner of the spacious warehouse inside my cranium. Plenty of room.
But God keeps bringing it back out to the loading dock, waiting for someone to pick it up. I think I know who He has assigned to this particular order, and it ain’t Amazon.
So the dream that won’t go away has been shared with my family, with our staff, with our board, and now, in very broad general terms, with you. Please note that no decisions have been made. No plans drawn up. No contracts signed. It’s all still sitting on the dock. There are at least two crucial votes that have to be taken before anything happens, and I’ll come back to those.
A few key factors that support this possibility:
1. SPACE. When we built the current education wing in 2002, we included six classrooms that were all designed to accommodate an eventual day school, should the opportunity and resources collide. We even rented out that space to a Lutheran school for a couple years shortly after that build. Combine the classroom space with a large kitchen and gym, and clearly we have the physical structure to at least get started.
2. HISTORY. We already ventured into early childhood education 25 years ago with what is now the Hillside 3K and 4K program. Hillside is currently a separate entity from SHLC, but it’s very existence shows our desire to meet the educational and spiritual needs of children and families.
3. COMMUNITY. The education market in the Greenville metropolitan area is ripe and expanding. As the town keeps growing, the Hortonville Area School District keeps running out of room for all the children moving in. We’re facing the same situation in our Sunday School and Confirmation ministries. While Immanuel and St. Mary’s have Christian schools already, theirs is not for everyone, and they too cannot fill all the need, present and future. Combine that with the urgent need for daycare in Greenville, and our early childhood ministry could start reaching a lot of souls, young and old, on Day One.
4. VISION. Our vision for ministry is built on geographic saturation and spiritual formation. God has perfectly positioned us to be the home church for our hometown. We have been community and outreach oriented ever since March 15, 1970 – our founding as a church. Our mission is geared to reach everyone with the love of Jesus, and especially those who don’t know much about Him or need a place to get together with Him. This is right in our wheelhouse.
5. FAITH IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE. We have a significant number of public school educators in our Church Family. They know firsthand the challenges of maintaining their faithfulness to Jesus and His Word in an environment that is becoming increasingly hostile to God’s will for His children. Many families, some Christian and some not, are looking for alternatives to the Public School Machine in our country (note: I’m referring to the System, not necessarily the teachers in the classrooms). That dynamic is not going away any time soon.
I have in mind some fundamental structural components to establishing a Christian early childhood and educational ministry here. For one, while we would get it started, I do not see this as “Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School.” I envision a business and educational model that is built on networking with area congregations and schools, along with homeschool associations, that would take some of the pressure off any one congregation that tries to go it alone.
I also believe, in time, that this dream could encompass preschool thru 12th grade, which obviously means land acquisition at a second site. But I believe the first step would be establishing that early childhood and wraparound care ministry that our community so desperately needs.
Those kinds of details will come soon. I need to start with you, reading this, thinking about it, praying about it, kicking the tires on the Big Picture before we start painting the corners.
That’s where the two votes come in. One vote belongs to you, to the Family of God in this place. This cannot be just another Kline thing. I’ve got a whole dumpster full of those. This needs to be us, or not at all.
We’ll have some more discussions and prayers among the staff and among the leaders, and also with the whole Family.
The ultimate Vote comes from Christ Himself. Is this from God, or isn’t it? You tell me.
Pastor Steve Kline was installed as Senior Pastor at SHLC on May 25, 2014, after serving 12 years as Senior Pastor at Zion in Wayside, WI. He was ordained in 1992 and previously served congregations in Pulaski and Hales Corners.