How About a Few More Rules for Teachers?

Teacher 1Last week I wrote about Rules for Women Teachers in 1915, which many of you forwarded to friends and family. By the way, that’s perfectly OK to do. In addition, if they want to be on the list of regular Perspectives recipients, encourage them to sign up simply by clicking “Subscribe” at the top of the article or just let me know their email address and I’ll add them to the list.

Before leaving the topic of rules for teachers from the past, it seemed appropriate to mention one more set. Here we go, with permission again from Zion Lutheran Church in Wayside, Wis.

Rules for Teachers—1872

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps and clean chimneys.
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden to society.
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will have given reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and  honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Folks, I’m not making up this stuff! This is real! A few of these rules particularly caught my eye and I suspect you noticed them also. Unseemly conduct is not an everyday household term. And I suppose any male teacher who was romantically interested in a young lady would be motivated, properly or improperly, to be in church on a regular basis, “regular” being a term not defined in the rules, but probably meaning every week, without fail. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!

But the two rules most poignantly on my mind right now are #7 and #9. Both have to do with teachers’ compensation, current and future. This is a topic of importance still today.

Since I’m out of the ecclesiastical supervision and church/school personnel business, I don’t hear nearly as much about this matter these days as in the past. However, I suspect the issue of compensation for church workers, perhaps particularly educators and other commissioned ministers of the Gospel, is still a matter of concern.

Worries about resources during declining years have lessened significantly as a result of Concordia Plan Services, which includes the LCMS retirement plan. Social Security, for those who have participated, also helps significantly.

But I believe the fact remains that educators and other commissioned workers are far too often compensated below the intrinsic value of the ministry to which they commit their time, heart and soul. As a result, many church workers face retirement without sufficient financial resources for comfortable living, with luxuries simply remaining out of the question.

“The laborer deserves his wages” or words quite similar are mentioned many times in Holy Scripture. If you’d like to take a look, here’s a partial list of references: 1 Tim. 5:18; 1 Cor. 9:9; Deut. 25:4; Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7; Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15; 1 Cor. 9:4, 7-14.

With that motivation, my encouragement is for church leaders at every level to inquire into the compensation of all those who serve in congregational ministry, including educational, musical, custodial and pastoral staff. Compensation levels should be more than just adequate. Pay scales provided by regional judicatories are almost always designed to be minimum recommendations.

If adjustments need to be made, have the courage to urge that the right thing be done as quickly as possible. That may very well include an honest look at your own level of personal financial stewardship and an encouragement for fellow congregational members to do the same.

Remember that we have been blessed to be a blessing and to honor God in all we do, with all we are and with all we have! We are called to do so in a 21st century context, which we all know is radically different from the way things were and the way things were viewed in 1872!


It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Church Either

Grandmother 1

Credit: Alexandre Abrao

Several years ago when speaking to a group of pastors about the challenges we in the Christian church are facing in the 21st century, I commented rather spontaneously “this is not your grandfather’s church.” By that I simply meant that many things have changed, both in the world and in the church, since my grandfathers were alive. One was born in 1881 and the other in 1893.

To that I might also add “it’s not your grandmother’s church, either.” One example should suffice.

Earlier this month I preached for the 150th anniversary of Zion Lutheran Church in Wayside, Wis., a beautiful farming community near Green Bay. Before the first service started, Pastor Steve Kline gave me a brief tour of the facilities.

He began with “the museum,” which appeared to have been a cry room at one time. Terry and I enjoyed viewing and reading some of the priceless memorabilia, including the “Rules for Women Teachers – 1915.” Here we go:


  1. You will not marry during the terms of your contract.
  2. You are not to keep company with men.
  3. You must be home between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. unless attending a school function.
  4. You may not loiter downtown in ice-cream stores.
  5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the Chairman of the Board.
  6. You may not ride a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
  7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
  8. You may not dress in bright colors.
  9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
  10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
  11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
  12. To keep the schoolroom neat and clean you must:
    1. Sweep the floor at least once daily.
    2. Scrub the floor at least once a week with hot soapy water.
    3. Clean the blackboard at least once a day.
    4. Start the fire at 7:00 a.m. so the room will be warm at 8:00 a.m.

My, how things have changed! While still a very conservative congregation, Zion, like other 21st century Christian congregations, has implemented many changes in the past 150 years. Today they even have women voters, officers and public worship service Scripture readers/lectors. And I imagine it’s OK for women teachers at Zion to do most of the things forbidden above.

The people of Zion take seriously what Holy Scripture has to say, being guided by passages like: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28)

And from Peter: “This (what happened at Pentecost 2,000 years ago) is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’” (Acts 2:16-18)

My grandmothers were born in 1887 and 1897. If they were still alive today, I believe they would agree with what Zion has decided the Bible allows women to do in church. By the way, our church body in convention the past 45 years has said a lot about that topic.

My grandmothers would surely want us to remain faithful to Holy Scripture. They, along with us, would continue to struggle with the meaning of other passages about women. And in the process, they would understand that the church of today had better be concerned about figuring out how it is called to be the church of our daughters and granddaughters.

Jerry Kieschnick with Blog Background
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism – Eph. 4:5

A Very Special Tribute

Flower 1This edition of Perspectives concludes the fourth year of these weekly articles. Frankly, sometimes it’s a challenge to decide what topic to address and to do so with a reasonable degree of quality prior to the all too quickly arriving deadline of 5:00 a.m. each Thursday.

From time to time I think perhaps I should give this endeavor a temporary or permanent rest. Occasionally a few readers will complain and criticize. (By the way, if you don’t like what I write, feel free to delete or unsubscribe.) But then a bunch of readers will reply to an article they particularly appreciate and I get flooded with requests to keep on writing.

Since that’s happened often in recent weeks, I’ve decided to proceed with the fifth year of weekly articles. I have a fun one in mind for next week, so stay tuned. Invite your friends to subscribe or send them to Also feel free to suggest topics about which you’d like to hear my perspective. While I can’t promise to get to all of them, I’d appreciate your suggestions.

Much more significant than the end of Volume IV of these articles, today marks the 48th anniversary of the day I asked for Terry’s hand and heart in marriage. I remember that moment like it was yesterday, which is why it’s so hard to imagine it was almost a half century ago! When I tell people we’ve been married over 47 years, Terry quickly adds, “We married when I was just a child!” Actually, she is a few years younger than I, and always will be! Funny how that works!

It’s impossible to express how sincerely I thank God for Terry and how deeply indebted I am to this very special lady. She has been incredibly loving, forgiving, supportive and encouraging to me and the rest of our family. She has also tolerated, sometimes patiently and sometimes not, the interruptions, headaches and heartaches that have accompanied the variety of callings in which we have been involved together during the 43 years of our ministry in the LCMS.

There have been many such challenges, especially during our nine years in St. Louis. In lots of ways those were very meaningful and fulfilling years. In other ways they were quite difficult. I could say much more about the tough times, but I’ll save that for another time and place.

Even in times of trial and tribulation, Terry’s love for Christ, firmly established early in her life and lovingly nurtured during childhood, especially by her maternal grandmother, Blanche Gruesen, is as strong as it ever was. That love motivates her to encourage and pray regularly and fervently for family and friends. Her encouragement is frequently expressed in the form of hand written notes and cards, which she often writes early in the morning or late at night, endearing her to many.

So, my dear Terry, this is a very special tribute to you! You are loved and respected by many, especially all of us who are blessed to be part of your family! May our gracious Lord continue to hold you in the palm of his hand!

With all my love,
Jerry Kieschnick with Blog Background

Some Things Haven’t Changed

Sale of Indulgences

The sale of indulgences, as depicted in a woodcut by Jörg Breu the Elder, c. 1530
Credit: Wikipedia

News that caught my attention last week was in Time magazine (August 5, 2013) in the section titled The Culture. It read: “Tech-savvy Catholics will spend less time in purgatory—or so says Pope Francis. The Pontiff has decreed that people who follow the events of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro via the Vatican’s Twitter feed can get indulgences, which Catholics believe reduce time spent atoning for sins in the afterlife.”

Bummer! And just when it seemed the largest Christian Church in the world was beginning to move in the right direction. Pope Francis has done things in the early days of his papacy that provide hope to many, both in and beyond the church he leads. But, alas! One very important matter is still in need of papal rectification—the doctrine of justification by grace through faith.

In our Lutheran understanding, that doctrine on which the church stands or falls is described with the words sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura. We believe the Bible teaches that a sinner is justified—forgiven and declared right with God by God’s grace alone, through God’s gift of faith alone, communicated in God’s Word alone.

That’s the central teaching of the Christian faith, expressed by Holy Spirit-inspired St. Paul:  
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works (and not a product purchased by tech-savvy Twittering—my words, not Paul’s), so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

The primary focus of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was this doctrine. He wrote directly against indulgences, especially in Thesis # 27: “They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.”

Why was this necessary? Because Johann Tetzel, a Reformation era penance peddler, chanted in his sales pitch: “As soon as the coin in the coffer clings, the soul from purgatory springs!”

With due respect and love for the 1.2 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church and their papal leader, it appears the primary issue that catalyzed the Reformation is still an issue. Apparently some things, including that thing, haven’t changed in 500 years!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!

A Clergy Dominated Church?

Clergy 1Monday’s Austin American Statesman provided coverage of Pope Francis’ speech to some three million attendees at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. He is reported to have addressed a gathering of the region’s bishops, telling them to “look out for their flocks and put an end to the ‘clerical’ culture that places priests on pedestals – often with what Francis called the ‘sinful complicity’ of lay Catholics who hold the clergy in such high esteem.”

That’s very interesting and, frankly, not surprising. It sounds a lot like the direction the LCMS seems to be heading these days with respect to clergy/lay relationships. Clergy dominance was particularly evident at last week’s Synod convention, even more so than in the past. In worship services, on the podium and at microphones, black shirts and white collars were abundant.

That in itself is not at all problematic. I often wore clerical attire for official church business, and still do, especially when robed for preaching and leadership in other worship roles.

But the trend toward a clergy dominated culture in the church is also currently manifested in the exclusion of laity from consideration for positions of significant leadership in our church body. That includes, for example, university presidents, significant missionary supervisors, and other leadership positions at the national level.

Furthermore, there’s a discernible aloofness and even pharisaical demeanor exhibited by some pastors, obvious during worship services and in pastoral ministry functions as well. Intentionally or unintentionally, this telegraphs a “holier than thou” attitude in both work and worship.

While this could simply be an unintended byproduct of deep and sincere piety, I don’t believe it enhances the pastoral office or represents its true nature. Pastors are called to serve, not to be served. Pastors are called to lead evangelically and collaboratively, not to dominate or domineer.

So the clergy culture referenced by Pope Francis is not the sole possession of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ. We have some of that stuff in our own Lutheran midst.

What’s the bottom line? Some seem intent on moving us toward a clergy dominated church. I believe that’s not helpful and tends to dishonor the priesthood of all believers.

All of us, lay and clergy alike, do well to remember that not all who build up the body of Christ are ordained clergy: “He (Christ) gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:11-12)

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!