January 18, 2023

National Lutheran Schools Week (NLSW) is January 22–28, 2023, under the theme “Making Disciples for Life.”

by Michelle Bauman, Director of Y4Life

Have you ever felt like an outsider? Like there’s something that separates you from the general populace? Like you don’t quite fit in?

I’m guessing you have. It’s not uncommon for Christian teachers to be out of step with mainstream society. In fact, it’s sort of inherent in the calling, isn’t it? As children of the light and leaders in the Lutheran classroom, we’re designed to be beacons in the darkness, bright reminders of God’s truth and life to our students and their families.

But if we’re completely honest, shining that light isn’t always easy, especially when we’re faced with uncomfortable and potentially divisive topics. Try, for example, explaining to a room full of adults how detrimental co-habitation can be to marriage and family. Awkward? Yes—perhaps more so than a public coughing fit during a COVID-19 scare. Or how about broaching the topic of abortion at your next family gathering or scheduled parents’ night? Most of us would rather risk passing gas in a crowded elevator.

As Director of Y4Life with Lutherans For Life, I know about those awkward moments. I’ve had to explain what I do for a living to a pro-choice feminist on an airplane—and then endure her avoidance and condemnation for the rest of the flight. I’ve seen how quickly Uber drivers change the subject when they find out I give Gospel-motivated, For Life presentations to youth. And I’ve heard a principal pause, contemplate my offer to speak in his school, and then politely decline because the topic would be too controversial.

I understand. It’s tempting to avoid tough conversations, especially as we interact with children in the elementary, middle, and high school years. It’s easier to leave it up to the pastor or the parents or … anybody else. Surely, someone else is better equipped?

But Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 1:6-9 that easy evasion isn’t the answer. Instead, he encourages us to “… fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you … for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV).

Motivated by the Spirit Himself to love our neighbor, especially the young neighbors God has placed in our classrooms, Lutheran teachers are perfectly positioned to affirm that every life is indispensable. And our younger neighbors, who live in a culture enamored with death, desperately need our Gospel-motivated voices. If we’re not teaching our students about the sanctity of life, the world will. And that message won’t be a life-affirming one.

So why is it important to start boldly initiating conversations about LIFE in your classroom? Let me count the ways:

1. Society doesn’t value LIFE, but God does.

Whether at the beginning of life or at its end, woke advocates promote laws that end life rather than uphold and affirm it. At the time of this article’s publication, abortion is legal in 38 states (7), ten states have expanded abortion rights since the ruling of the Dobbs case (7), and eight states have no limits on abortion whatsoever (5). At the other end of the spectrum, ten states plus the District of Columbia have legalized physician-assisted suicide (3). This practice of allowing a medical doctor to provide a prescription that, if taken, will end an individual’s life is gaining momentum due to organizations like Death with Dignity and Compassion and Choices.

When life is measured by its quality, productivity, or desirability, it ceases to have inherent value, and “shout your abortion” videos, politicians, and high-profile entertainers on social media affirm this dangerous misconception. It’s a mistake to believe that children haven’t been exposed to the idea that life is dispensable; it has permeated our healthcare, entertainment, and even children’s literature.

Society speaks loudly, but God’s Word speaks louder. Psalm 139 reminds us that God formed each person by hand, that He planned each human into existence. The psalmist proclaims, “…in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (139:16). God’s creative work in our lives gives our lives inherent value.

2. Abortion has affected your classroom and school.

Whether we want to admit it or not, abortion does affect Christians. In fact, most studies indicate that Christians account for just as many abortions as non-Christians. There are probably lots of reasons for this, most of them likely related to the shame and guilt of unplanned pregnancy, a topic worth addressing in your church and school.

The facts also show that approximately one in four women will have an abortion by age 45, which makes it likely that you’re serving at least one child whose mother has had an abortion (1). And just because a family has children, that doesn’t mean they aren’t considering an abortion. Though women in their twenties account for over half of all abortions, 59% of those seeking abortion already have at least one child (2).

In 2017, 18% of all pregnancies ended in abortion. That means that approximately one in five children who were supposed to be born never were born (2). Your classroom of 20 should be a classroom of 25. Compound that across the grade levels in your school, and you have many hurting women and families to serve.

Does the fact that some of your families may have experienced abortion mean you shouldn’t address it? No, it means the opposite. There is much guilt and pain associated with abortion, and we know that only God has the power to heal those wounds. Just as we uphold life and encourage women to receive the support offered at churches, schools, and pregnancy care centers, sharing the message that abortion is forgivable may be exactly what a mother struggling with this sin may need to hear.

3. Your students are facing life issues.

Life issues take many shapes and forms. Human trafficking, abuse, food insecurity, and homelessness are all life issues, but so too are divorce, co-habitation, loss, depression, addiction, pornography, illness, and neglect. Any time a life is at risk or in need of support, a potential life issue exists.

The Fifth Commandment reminds us that we are to protect and uphold not only our own lives, but also the lives of our neighbors. Luther writes, “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor but help and support him in every physical need.” We Christians are called to intervene when a life is being harmed, and we’re called to take action when a life needs to be helped and supported.

Lutheran schools provide not only the perfect place for that intervention and upholding when life issues arise, but they are also the perfect place to teach children sympathy, care, and Christian kindness as they learn to uphold others through their vocations as friend and classmate.

4. How we view life is intimately related to how we view ourselves and how we interact with others.

We’ve all heard the axiom, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Those who have spent years in the classroom can probably attest that this is true. Children often take on the mannerisms, values, and actions their families have modeled for them, and though there are differences between children, family members often display commonalities.

Whether positive or negative, it also doesn’t take long to recognize that how we’ve been treated is often reflected in how we treat others. A young person’s perspective on the importance and value of his own life is intimately and profoundly shaped by his parents and family, especially before that child enters school full-time. However, teachers play a huge role in affirming a child; in fact, their influence not only affects a child’s mental and emotional well-being but can also shape a child’s future (6). Imagine how influential a life-affirming teacher can be not only in a child’s life, but also in the interactions he or she has with others!

5. Lutheran teachers offer hope and forgiveness.

One of the most life-affirming gifts we can give each of the children we teach is knowledge of his or her Savior. Christ’s love and sacrifice affirm that every life is important and valuable. The unborn, the elderly, the differently-abled, the suffering, the hungry, and the poor all find their value in Him. Christ, who is the embodiment of love, has an answer to every life issue, and His gifts of life and forgiveness provide hope. Lutheran educators go above and beyond the secular classroom when we share Christ and His life-affirming love with students.

Lutheran schools are perfectly made for uplifting and affirming life, and Lutherans For Life and Y4Life would like to help! In addition to free, downloadable curricula, we provide one free set of babies for every Lutheran school through our Owen’s Mission project. We’re also happy to travel to your school for a Gospel-motivated presentation!

Finally, during this Lutheran Schools Week celebration, LFL and Y4Life want to thank you. Thank you for upholding LIFE in your classroom. Thank you for being the face, voice, and hands of Christ for your students, and most of all, thank you for sharing the life-saving message of life and salvation through Christ with your students.

For more ideas on how you can speak for LIFE or if there are other ways I can serve you and your students, please contact me at michelle@y4life.org. I look forward to helping ease the awkward and to partnering with you in upholding the lives of your students!

  1. https://www.guttmacher.org/united-states/abortion?gclid=Cj0KCQiA6NOPBhCPARIsAHAy2zBnMdR0aBk8TgjZ5Yh4TYYvAjHCahyuvnV2oEvILmxhObMRQ-19rU4aAkPUEALw_wcB
  2. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states
  3. https://compassionandchoices.org/resource/states-or-territories-where-medical-aid-in-dying-is-authorized/
  4. https://deathwithdignity.org/resources/state-report-navigator/
  5. https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/what-states-allow-late-term-abortion
  6. https://www.edutopia.org/article/understanding-teachers-long-term-impact
  7. https://reproductiverights.org/maps/abortion-laws-by-state/

Michelle served 21 years as a Lutheran educator before joining the Lutherans For Life team in June 2019. Currently serving as Director of Y4Life, Michelle helps high school and college students learn about life issues and how to address them from a Gospel-motivated perspective. She also supports the building and maintaining of Y4Life Teams on high school and college campuses across the nation. When not presenting, writing, or creating social media posts for Y4Life, Michelle loves gardening, taking long walks, traveling, cooking, and spending quality time with her husband, sons, and daughter-in-love. You can reach her at michelle@y4life.org.