The Short Version
Lutheran Pioneers, the organization, does NOT dictate that you MUST do things in any certain fashion at your local congregation (Train).
Your Train operates under the control of your congregational leaders and direction of your Pastor(s).
Lutheran Pioneers provides materials and services to the local Trains and Districts and also plans and hosts National level events for those who wish to participate.
That being said, the overall organization has been around for more than 70 years, and the members of the LP Leadership team have more than 250 years of experience combined. That experience can go a long way in making your Train successful. It is that experience that has formulated the ‘suggested’ methods of running your train and utilizing the website and learning materials, yet you are free to use them as you wish.
Who should be a part of your Train?
All Trains must have a primary contact. We call this person the Trainmaster. The Trainmaster is an adult male or female, who will oversee the operation of the Train, and serve as the contact to the overall organization. The Trainmaster may also serve as a leader.
It is advisable that each Train have more than one leader, but even that depends on the size and makeup of your train. It is best to at least have a backup, and to have as many leaders as you find necessary to run your Train. Best practices are that you can never have too many leaders.
But which kids should be part of my Train?
Lutheran Pioneers is not designed for children who are not yet in kindergarten and has wonderful opportunities for children throughout their high school years. The self-paced Learning Management System (more on that later) is designed primarily for those in 3rd grade or older but you may wish for younger ones to use it with leader or parental assistance.
Trains that are just starting up or restarting a train that has been inactive for a while are free to make their train available to whichever age group they wish. This is a decision that is best made by considering both the number of and desires of the leaders themselves. Those who wish to start with younger boys k-2 should contact the national office for some useful materials that are not available on the website.
Lutheran Pioneers is an organization for boys. Ideally, a congregation will have both a boy pioneer train and a Lutheran Girl Pioneer caravan. (see www.lgp.org). However, there are instances where there a so few leaders and/or so few children that you may choose to run these programs together at least for a while or for some things. This is perfectly fine, with the understanding that girls cannot participate at Boys District or National events, and vice versa.
The Overall Concept
Lutheran Pioneers has been around since 1951. There have been more than a few societal changes since then but perhaps the most significant to Pioneers were the shrinking of family size, and cold hard economics. Families are smaller. Congregations are smaller. Economics and other factors mean that both parents work, and many work a lot. People’s free time is at a premium. The adults simply have less time to volunteer. Pioneers was around more than 40 years before the internet came into our homes, yet most parents today grew up connected in one way or another.
Taking these factors, and others, into account; Lutheran Pioneers continues its efforts to provide a program that will serve its purpose in the mid 21st century. In creating our vision, and subsequently our materials, we remain focused on reducing the necessary time commitment of our leaders, and encouraging parental involvement, while still providing a product that is of interest to our young ones and is primarily not something they get elsewhere. We do this while remaining true to the Word of God and respecting the heritage of Lutheran Pioneers. Most importantly, we always share the Word of God, and the message of the Gospel. (This should be a part of every meeting or event at all levels!)
Back in the 1950’s most American families were a member of some church. Through the 1970’s Lutheran Pioneer trains were large and vibrant with many boys and multiple leaders. Trains were focused on the in-house needs of the families within their congregation. A recent WELS connection shared that as much as 80% of an American community were completely unchurched. This is an incredible opportunity to use Pioneer Trains as an outreach tool. Although only WELS/ELS congregations may host a Train, and only WELS/ELS members may serve as leaders, any boy can be a member of a Train. There are many examples of entire families being baptized, confirmed, and joining our fellowship after the Holy Spirit has come into their hearts following an affiliation with Lutheran Pioneers.
How to run a Meeting and how often
Here again, there is no one correct way to run a meeting or how often to meet. A meeting with multiple leaders and 40 boys will obviously look a lot different than a meeting of a train with one leader and 4 boys. Similarly, the frequency of your meetings will be dictated by the availability of your leader(s) and boys.