The year 1865 marked the start of our synod’s ministerial education on the Watertown campus of what is now Luther Preparatory School (LPS). At that time the seminary program had 8 students enrolled; the college with its prep department had 66 students.
The synod’s official newspaper stated, “For food, a room, heat, etc. a sum of $100 is to be paid for the year. With respect to young people who are not able to pay this sum a discount will be granted according to individual circumstances, so that even the poorest can receive an education for the preaching and teaching ministry.”
There you have it: financial aid awarded the very first year of the school’s existence. There are no records indicating how many of the 74 students received aid. We know that the school continued to receive gifts of food and other handiwork from people in the Watertown area, often at the request of the students themselves. A church historian relates, “The keep of the students through the year probably would not have been possible without that.”
LPS students today do not go asking for food in the surrounding area as the students did 155 years ago. But they and their families still rely on the same financial assistance from their WELS church family.
Perhaps you have noticed the ever-increasing list of vacancies in the weekly WELS Call Report. There are 120 vacancies across WELS in the preaching ministry and even more in the teaching ministry, the highest those numbers have been in two decades. Yes, the harvest continues to grow; the workers remain few.
That any 14-year-old boy or girl would consider the vocation of full-time gospel ministry—especially when the church is so maligned—is a miracle of grace. We have 400 of those “miracles” at LPS. These students give testimony to faithful Christian parenting and Christ-centered shepherding from our pulpits and classrooms. The Holy Spirit daily works on these young hearts through the life-giving gospel.
The cost for tuition, room, and board in 2021 is $12,000, and that does not include travel. The cost would be even higher without the synod subsidizing about $5,000 per student. More than two-thirds of our students receive some amount of aid from congregations, relatives, friends, and God’s people across our synod—people like you! Perhaps as many as half of our families would not be able to enroll their sons and daughters and offer them for ministry without some manner of financial assistance. Some parents have as many as three children enrolled at LPS at once. In several instances the costs associated with LPS would total more than half of their gross income.
We thank you for your offerings at church that help lower the cost of ministerial education by subsidizing students’ tuition. We are also humbly ask for any above and beyond gift you might be able to offer for our students as they prepare to bring the life-giving gospel to a dying world.
In our crucified and living Savior,
President, Luther Preparatory School