Students share the love of Jesus at St. John during Lutheran Schools Week
BY JOY MARQUARDT
“Making Disciples for Life” is the theme of Lutheran Schools Week March 5-11, 2023, at St. John Lutheran School in Merrill, as students prepare to share the gospel of Jesus with their community, church, and school.
“Lutheran Schools Week is a celebration of what we do here as a church and school,” said St. John Principal Daren Catlin. “The kids are the future of our community and the future of our world. We want to make them disciples for life.”
Based on Matthew 28:18-20, students have been focusing on the theme of discipleship throughout the year and have planned special learning opportunities, service projects, worship, and other fun activities for the week.
“It’s kind of a broad theme,” Catlin said. “We’ve talked to the kids about the different disciples and how we can be disciples in our daily lives. All of the teachers use it in the classroom whenever they get a chance and weave it into their curriculum.”
A student-led worship service begins the week on Sunday, March 5, at 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at the church. A mid-week Lenten Service takes place at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, with the congregation.
As a highlight of the week, students are asked to bring a relative or friend to school to share breakfast and to dress like a hero they most admire.
“So each day we tried to pick a dress-up theme that will match our discipleship theme,” said third grade teacher Leah Gipple. “One day they can bring in something or wear something that shows how they are a unique child of God. It could represent a hobby or special talent they have. On Family Day, they will be asked to dress like someone they most admire.”
In appreciation for their church and school, students will serve a luncheon to members of the St. John School Board, Church Council, Ladies Aid, and other volunteers who serve the church and school, as a thank you for all of their hard work and dedication. Students will wear special St. John apparel to celebrate their school spirit and pride in their school.
Other activities for the week will include a Cinema Day, with several classrooms being turned into a movie theater, complete with popcorn, games such as Bingo and Minute to Win It, and special treats.
The week concludes Friday, March 10, with a presentation of the Sky Dome Planetarium, sponsored by Mobile Ed Productions based in Redford, Mich. The 35’x14’ mobile unit offers a full planetarium show for the school. Groups of students will attend the planetarium show and a day of bowling at Les & Jim’s Lincoln Lanes on a rotating basis. Students are asked to wear white or neon for glow-in-the-dark bowling. A dance in the school gym wraps up the week’s activities.
“The students all have their favorite activity, and they all look forward to the dress-up days, but I think they just like being together and being able to laugh together and support each other as a group,” Gipple said.
Gipple notes that there are more than 1,800 Lutheran schools nationwide that are celebrating Lutheran Schools Week.
“It’s a time to give thanks for the impact our schools have on our society,” she said. “I just enjoy having the time to interact with my students outside of my classroom and being able to laugh together and build up relationships with them.”
Gipple begins each school day with religion class and incorporates her faith and love of God into all aspects of the school day.
“Everything comes back to God,” she said. “We are trying to instill that into our students. We want them to be disciples and to remember, when we see things in the world, we have to stand up for what we believe in.”
As a parent of three children attending St. John and a graduate of the school, Darcy Dalsky serves as a member of the St. John School Board and is a member of the Mother’s Club.
“The faith-based education is so important,” she said. “It gives the kids a solid foundation for the rest of their lives.”
As a former student, Dalsky remembers her time at St. John and the celebration of Lutheran Schools Week.
“I think when I was a student, the activities were more just for the school,” she said. “There are more opportunities now for the students. The curriculum has evolved over the years, and the staff has done a good job of keeping things relevant and making sure the students are engaged.”
Service to others is an important aspect of the school, and as a parent, Dalsky appreciates that those values are being practiced by the students.
“I think the service is more of an in-reach right now,” Dalsky said. “The students will serve a lunch for the church and school, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea, just to have the students serve the meal and see them be so excited about it. My kids know how important it is for me to volunteer and how giving of my time is an important part of my life.”
Dalsky has served on the Mother’s Club for several years and assists with events such as the Cookie Walk, Holiday Mall, and Spring Carnival. The Mother’s Club raises funds for field trips, teacher supplies, and improvements to the school and playground.
“I like being able to help the teachers and the school,” Dalsky said. “My efforts are able to raise money, and it’s a good feeling. In the broader picture, knowing that your kids are able to benefit is very rewarding.”
The Mother’s Cub recently purchased T-shirts for all of the students to wear during Lutheran Schools Week and are sponsoring the after-school dance to wrap up the week.
“This is the second year we are doing the dance,” Dalsky said. “It was a big hit last year, and it will be a nice opportunity to wrap up the week.”
The annual Spring Carnival, which is open to the public, will be held Friday, May 5, 2023, in the school gym. The event includes games and prizes for the kids, raffle baskets, and a concession stand.
“The Spring Carnival is getting so big,” Dalsky said. “Last year we did very well; we were just coming out of COVID. We are hoping for a good attendance again this year.”
Dalsky especially likes the family atmosphere of the school, which is fostered through programs such as Chapel Families, which divides students into groups of mixed ages. Students sit with their Chapel Families once a month during chapel and do various service projects and other events together.
“The family environment of the school is important to me,” Dalsky said. “One of the things I really like is that they have Chapel Families and they see kids in other grades and it helps foster that family environment.”
St. John is now accepting enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year for pre-school through grade eight and is part of the Wisconsin Parental School Choice Program. For more information about the school or to schedule a tour, phone 715.536.7264.