The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Creative Christian education

It all happens in the Upper Room

is the unusual name of an unusual church. Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Kountze is not only the mother church of Omaha and of the Nebraska Synod, it’s among the oldest Lutheran congregations west of the Missouri River.

Originally named Emmanuel, the historic downtown church changed its name to honor charter members Augustus and Clementine Kountze who were prosperous Omaha pioneers and generous steward-donors. Unlike many urban churches that have declined in recent decades, Kountze is a growing congregation that annually welcomes 100 new members, including families with young children. One key to its vitality is a creative approach to Christian education for all ages.

A few years ago, teachers felt their traditional Sunday school was languishing. Christian education director Jan Schneider explained that about the time kids hit third grade, many protested on Sunday morning, “Mom and Dad, I don’t want to go!”

After a radical overhaul of its church school approach, “we no longer hear that,” Schneider said. Kountze
adopted an innovative curriculum: Over a period of several weeks each age group learns a Bible story by proceeding through several venues in a second-story education wing called the Upper Room. Through video, music and storytelling with computers, games, puppets and study of scientific dimensions of biblical chronicles, youngsters gain multidimensional insights.

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