Lives Prepared for Service: Part: 2

Luther Preparatory School, the high school on the Watertown campus, is a normal high school with a special purpose—preparing young people for the public ministry.

Matthew A. Crass

If you are a member of WELS, you own Luther Preparatory School (LPS), along with our other three ministerial education schools—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich. Approximately 35 percent of Luther Prep’s financial support comes directly from WELS Congregation Mission Offerings. WELS is the only church body that operates such a blessed ministerial education system. Yes, LPS is yours. Whenever you pray for the spread of the gospel, you are not only praying for its reach into your community, throughout our country, and to all foreign lands. You are also praying for LPS.

Why does our church body make such an investment in LPS? The answer to that question remains the same today as it was 150 years ago. At the dedication of this school in September of 1865 Johannes Bading, the second president of the Wisconsin Synod, spoke on behalf of the synod and the board and “praised God for the assured training of preachers of the gospel.” Luther Prep’s seal located at the entry of the chapel trumpets its purpose. God’s Word with Christ crucified at the center of it is the foundation of LPS.

The prep department on the synod’s Watertown campus began in 1865. In 1995 former prep school Martin Luther Preparatory School, Prairie du Chien, Wis., amalgamated with Watertown’s Northwestern Preparatory School to form Luther Preparatory School. For the past 20 years more than 55 percent of LPS graduates have continued their preparation for ministry at Martin Luther College. Over that same period of time more than one-third of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s student body has comprised former LPS students.

Students from at least 47 states and more than two dozen foreign countries have enrolled at this synod school. LPS has been blessed to witness its enrollment increase from 333 in 2008 to 450 in 2015.


LPS is a “normal” high school in that it provides a college prep curriculum for all students and it offers a full array of cocurricular activities—sports, music, drama, forensics, and various clubs.

Yet it differs. Some differences are small. Ninety percent of LPS students live in one of the three dormitories. Some of the students will say, “It’s like having a sleepover with your friends every night.” For the past 150 years the students on this high school campus have enjoyed a two-hour study hall Sunday through Thursday nights. They eat three meals each day with their friends in the cafeteria. All the students take Latin in order to prepare them for future language study, especially as pastors for the Bible’s original languages of Greek and Hebrew. LPS never cancels school for snow days.

Other differences are monumental. Every teacher and dorm staff supervisor has graduated from MLC or WLS. Every class is taught in the light of God’s Word. Religion classes, covering the vast majority of the Old and New Testament along with Christian doctrine, meet daily. LPS recognizes the need and desire for future musicians in our Lutheran congregations and classrooms, so more than 95 percent of the students take piano lessons. The organ program produces the most organ students for MLC and perhaps more organists than any other high school in America.

The Word of God is central in all LPS does. The entire faculty and student body worship together every morning throughout the week. The students gather together in chapel every weekday evening before bedtime to hear the Word again. The 200-plus students who remain on campus for the weekends walk in groups to one of four WELS churches in town.


LPS does not ask 14-year-old boys and girls to sign up for the preaching or teaching ministry when they enroll. How could it? They are not adults yet. Statistics prove that the majority of 18 year olds—adults!—who enter college change their minds about what vocation they want to enter when they graduate. LPS simply asks its students to understand that they will be prepared for public gospel ministry and to be open to the encouragement toward ministry during their four years at LPS.

In today’s world it is especially abnormal for a young boy to desire the noble calling of pastoral ministry. Yet, this year 25 LPS graduates will be entering MLC for pastoral studies. This is a testimony to God’s grace, and it is by the same grace that LPS fulfills its synod-given purpose.

Everything that happens at LPS is done with an eye toward ministry. LPS offers age-appropriate ministry experiences to its students. All of the seniors take part in the Taste of Ministry program, in which prospective pastor students spend two days with an area WELS pastor and prospective teacher students spend two days in a classroom with an area elementary school teacher. Supported by the Antioch Foundation, Project Timothy is designed to provide mission, ministry, and cross-cultural experiences to LPS students. Approximately 50 students assist with outreach and education programs of mission congregations in St. Lucia, Antigua, California, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, and Canada.

Each year the entire junior class visits Martin Luther College. By the time LPS students graduate, each one will have met at least four times with an MLC recruiter. At the annual Ministry Day an array of missionaries, professors, teachers, pastors, and MLC and WLS students present topical ministry workshops to the entire student body. Sophomores also take an annual trip to the seminary, and seniors in the LPS pastor track visit the seminary in fall for worship, class visitation, and a tour.

Parents encourage their children for ministry. Pastors, teachers, and laypeople across the synod encourage their congregation’s “sons and daughters” for ministry. The LPS faculty is completely committed to the purpose of LPS, as evidenced by their teaching and preaching. Students regularly encourage one another toward ministry. Even more, the Holy Spirit transcends everything Luther Prep does to encourage and prepare high school students for full-time gospel ministry. It is his gentle working through the gospel that continues to open young peoples’ hearts.

The LPS 40-acre park-like campus is safe, well maintained, and beautiful. But it is not as though God has carved out a little slice of real estate in Watertown, Wisconsin, that is immune from the onslaughts of the devil, the world, and the flesh. Where there is sin, grace abounds all the more. A holy, crucified, and risen Savior has won the victory over the enemies. This is what LPS students believe and confess. Someday, Lord willing, many of them will stand in classrooms and pulpits proclaiming that victory.

Matthew Crass, president of Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wisconsin, and a member at St. Luke, Watertown, Wisconsin.

This is the second article in a three-part series discussing 150 years of ministerial education on the synod’s Watertown campus.

A sesquicentennial celebration of praise to God will be held at the Luther Prep gymnasium at 3 p.m. CST, Nov. 15. The synod’s four ministerial education school choirs will participate. The event will be livestreamed. Learn more at


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Author: Matthew A. Crass
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

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