Kade and Kylee Kosier have attended Christ Lutheran School, Phoenix, for a year and a half. According to their mother, Jenny Kosier, “a huge reason we chose this school was because of how close community service is to my heart. I want to raise children who are respectful and grateful and who find it important to take care of others.”
She couldn’t have picked a better place.
When Kade Kosier was in 5th grade, he visited the elderly quite frequently as part of Christ’s Service Learning and Outreach. Megan Ehlers, a former third-grade teacher, runs the programs as Christ’s LCMS commissioned service outreach coordinator. Her main goal is to integrate service projects into the daily school curriculum.
“You can easily connect service to your curriculum. When I would teach science, for example,” Ehlers said, “if we were learning about the parts of the human eye–it’s so hard to remember the cornea, retina, etc–so we would bring in an optometrist to explain the parts of the eye and how they work.”
But that’s not all. Ehlers would also invite a person who was blind into the class to share how they navigate life and how people treated them. The students would also read about Louis Braille and his invention of braille to help those who are blind.
This approach of bringing in guest speakers, taking field trips, integrating the curriculum and bringing in props helps to impress the factual and benevolent aspects of the lesson onto the children who attend Christ Lutheran School. Each grade level at the school has a different service learning focus: homelessness, elderly, veterans, physical and intellectual disabilities.
“Really,” Ehlers said, “the goal of this program is to take real-life experiences and make an emotional connection to their curriculum so that both are enriched.”
This approach has made quite the impact.
Passionately learn about people around us
Recently, Jenny Kosier sent Ehlers an email. She wrote, “what you are teaching them is not only working, it is extraordinary.” She shared the following story to demonstrate.
Not long ago, Kade’s great-grandmother passed away at 93 years old. She had lived with Jenny Kosier’s in-laws for the last six years of her life. In that time the Kosier children spent a great deal of time with her. It wasn’t until last year, however, that Kade was actually comfortable around his great-grandmother. In fact, he grew quite close to her and was also kinder and more understanding.
As her health was declining, the family moved her to a 24-hour care home. It was in that home on a Monday evening that she passed away–but not before Kade fed her rainbow sherbet that afternoon after school.
“I luckily took a picture of him being so kind,” Jenny Kosier said, “not knowing that would be her last living photo with him.” (featured photo)
Passionately serve people around us
For a fifth grader, whose service focus is caring for the elderly, visiting a nursing home every month can be nerve-wracking. That’s why Ehlers is always armed with songs to sing, a list of conversation topics and crafts when they arrive. By the end of the year, the students are fully comfortable and easily go up to residents and initiate conversations. In fact, the fifth-graders organized and hosted a senior bingo event on their campus–one where they made and sent personal invitations. Sixty people arrived.
Last year, the sixth graders, whose service focus is on caring for veterans, focused on growing in leadership skills. One service opportunity Ehlers helped the students arrange, for example, was a Veteran’s Day Breakfast, which about fifty veterans attended. “It’s things like that,” Ehlers said, “where we get to build those relationships with people, we get to know the veterans and the people running the nursing home.”
Ehlers sees these interactions as a way to “build a web of connection” throughout their community.
Training the church body
Christ launched the Service Learning and Outreach Program in 2015. Funding was then built into the budget in 2016. The program expanded in 2018 through a Kaleidoscope Fund grant.
The grant will allow the school to invite guest speakers, host big presentations and conduct service projects related to those speakers. The goal is consistent and a regular opportunity in which they can connect each other and the community.
“This helps us actually build relationships with our neighbors so that we can share the love of Christ with them,” Ehlers wrote in Christ’s Kaleidoscope Fund grant application. “… We can disciple and train our own church body to go out and serve.” It will also allow them to teach other schools to start their own service outreach and learning programs.
In fact, the National Lutheran Schools Accreditation Commission recently asked Christ to share the program at various LCMS schools. “They love our model and approach and want us to train them and share what has worked for us,” Ehlers wrote.
An effective way to accomplish their mission
For years, the school wrestled with figuring out the most effective way to accomplish their mission: “nurture, equip and expand the body of Christ so that the community and world are served in the name of Christ.” They wanted to get away from one-time events. While fun and impactful, these events didn’t produce long-term results or discipleship opportunities.
The Service Learning and Outreach Program is accomplishing this, evident by the touching relationship Kade Kosier developed with his great-grandmother, an encounter punctuated with one of the most touching scenes.
Congratulations Christ Lutheran School, Phoenix, on running a program that strives to serve their community in the name of Christ–exactly the kind of ministry the Kaleidoscope Fund was created to support.