Digitally Recognizing Military Service in Our Churches and Schools

Tom Kuster (New Ulm, Minnesota USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Dr. Tom Kuster, after pastoral positions in Madison, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan, spent his career teaching Communication courses in college, for 20 years at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota, and 20 more at Bethany Lutheran Seminary and College, Mankato, Minnesota, where he helped develop a strong Communication major, helped design Bethany's first media production studio, and in 2009 founded the Christ in Media Institute. He and wife Judy have nine children.

I was surprised to learn that some of the good friends I was worshipping with at church every Sunday had, years ago, served in the military. It was a pleasant surprise; I wish I had known that about them long ago. But they don't tend to talk about it.

Other good friends at church have relatives – even sons and daughters – who are serving on active military duty right now. I’d like to know about them too, so that I can join their prayers for the safety of their loved ones.

In the “great wars” – WWI and WWII – congregations published lists of members who were serving, along with news updates about them, especially if they had suffered harm. Without such a declared war, it becomes too easy for the rest of us to take for granted the military service of those who risk and sacrifice to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

That’s why the Evangelical Lutheran Synod is establishing the DMR (Digital Military Recognition) service for its churches and schools.

DMR offers the following:

  • Forms by which synod members can furnish information about their family members who are or have been in military service.

  • A slide format by which this information can be displayed on flat screens in church narthexes and school hallways.

  • A general database into which these slides and related information can be stored.

  • A means by which the database can be searched and selected slides can be downloaded for display on suitable occasions.

    The system was employed on a small scale by two Mankato, Minnesota, congregations, Peace Lutheran Church and Mount Olive Lutheran Church. Peace showed slides of active duty and living veterans on the Sunday closest to Veterans’ Day 2018, and both congregations showed slides of deceased and ancestor veterans on the Sunday closest to Memorial Day 2019. The ELS has installed a “home” screen for the system at the Ottesen Museum at synod headquarters in Mankato.

    Sample active duty slide

    Sample deceased veteran slide

    Invitations have been issued to all synod congregations to submit information to recognize their service members. Slides can be easily produced using the free Adobe Photoshop Elements software and then stored in a private searchable database on Flickr. Once the system is fully functional, churches and schools can request sets of slides, such as “all active duty service members from Iowa” or “ELS members who have served in the U. S. Navy,” for display on suitable occasions. Display on flatscreens is made easy by inserting slides into a PowerPoint or Keynote show, and exported as a video to a flash drive, which is then inserted into the flatscreen port.

    Since some costs are involved in processing slides and maintaining the database, at some point donations might be requested from those submitting information and others.

    The result is a highly personal, highly individual recognition and appreciation of service “to God and country” by our fellow Christians.

    For more information, or for templates for creating slides and forms for gathering service member information, contact Tom Kuster.


    Translate this page into your language
    Return to original language with "show original" button at top left.

  • Discussion

    -
    Halle Blais (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-10-22 10:07:11pm
    I think that this is such a good idea. It brings so much comfort and hope to not only the families and friends but also to those who are serving. Its always nice to know that prayers are being sent your way or your family and friends way especially when they are in such dangerous and turbulent situations.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-23 4:27:47am
    Requesting prayers for service members in the slide show is a good idea, Halle. I think a school like Bethany could designate a day once in a while to show the slides of service members related to Bethany students, and ask students to pick out one or two of them for remembering specially in their prayers. (They could also write notes of encouragement to service members in the slide show.) I suspect many of the students at Bethany have brothers, sisters, moms or dads, or other relatives serving our country in the military.
    -
    Anna Rue (MLC ) 2019-10-23 6:45:01pm
    Dr. Tom Kuster


    This is a great idea and I’m glad someone is making a move to get churches and schools involved with people in the military. I have a close friend in the military and it was always heartwarming to see how much his congregation did to support him and others in the service as well.

    What would you suggest as the best way to keep service members close to home and their congregation and keep them as involved as possible to what’s all happening at home?

    Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-24 9:47:48pm
    This has always been a task that pastors have taken very seriously, Anna. The project described above suggests that service members will more likely feel close to their home congregations if they know that their home congregations (and not just the pastor) are keeping them in their consciousness and prayers.
    -
    Anna Rue 2019-11-04 7:09:00pm
    Thank you for replying. This is definitely something that should be talked about more in congregations.
    -
    Alexis Waack (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-23 11:13:56pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    I was intrigued by you article. It was very interesting. I’ve never heard of this digital program before. I definitely feel that this should be much more prevalent in our churches today. This could be a big help to other members to recognize and become familiar with what is going on in other members lives. It gives them a look into someone else’s lives. I really like the portion about knowing their status of being injured and where they are stationed. One question I have is how well known is this program? Is it being used in churches? I belong to a very large church body and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like this and there are definitely a few people in my congregation involved in some sort of military.

    Thank you for your contribution to this conference!
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-24 4:54:23am
    This is a new program invented by the Christ in Media Institute a year ago. It has been tried out as a (successful) pilot program in two Evangelical Lutheran Synod churches last year, and one of them is currently collecting information on service members to use again this upcoming Veterans' Day. The ELS has adopted this as a synod-wide project, to be centered at the Ottesen Museum in Mankato, Minnesota, inviting more congregations to contribute information to a single large searchable data-base.
    -
    Alexis Waack (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:22:35pm
    That is very interesting! I hope to see this in more congregations more often. I feel that this is a very beneficial program that could be used widely throughout many WELS churches. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question!
    -
    William Rauh (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:30:00pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    I liked your proposal for a military recognition service in our church and schools. As you mentioned, it is easy to forget the military personel when there is no major war currently being fought. We need to support our troops and having a powerpoint database will provide us with more opportunities to help our troops.

    I have one question about this article. So far, it appears that the military recognition service is just a powerpoint slide. At some point is there a plan to expand the program and allow for churches to get in contact with and support the active duty soldiers?

    Thank you for supporting our soldiers through the military recognition service.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-24 9:50:11pm
    Your suggestion, William, is a good next step. Once the system described is in place, there are several ways a congregation can build on it, to create and maintain contacts between congregation members and service members. Right now we are focusing on this first step.
    -
    William Rauh (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:21:22pm
    Thank you Dr. Kuster for responding to my question. God has blessed us with many ways to reach out to members in our congregation through advancements in technology.
    -
    Jeremy Fluegge (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-24 5:43:10pm
    Dr. Kuster,
    I appreciated your article bringing my attention to the Digital Military Recognition program that has been implemented in the ELS. My younger brother is a member of the Army National Guard and is considering active duty military as a career so I am pleased to hear that churches are doing what they can to support and appreciate military service members in their congregations and church bodies. I also was pleased to see that the DMR program includes deceased, retired, and active military personnel. Most importantly, a service like this will allow believers to include soldiers in their prayers, which is invaluable for those serving our country.
    After reading your article, I had a few questions. Are you aware of programs similar to this one in other synods and churches? If not, how might one go about raising awareness for this cause of military recognition? I have no doubt that positive Christian encouragement and prayers for our military brothers and sisters in Christ would be rewarding and edifying for all involved.
    Thank you for your contribution to the conference.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-24 9:54:08pm
    I am sure churches everywhere have and show a concern for their members serving in the military, but I'm not aware of any other church body doing it this way. The digital opportunity is relatively new, and the method described above is an attempt to use the available technology for this important task.
    -
    Jeremy Fluegge (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-07 6:20:07pm
    Dr. Kuster,
    Thank you for your consideration of my comments. This is the first such program that I had heard of so I think it's true that other church bodies have not yet adopted this idea. As you remarked, since it is new it may take awhile to implement this technology, but I am encouraged to see a program like this setting a good example. God-willing I will be able to advocate the recognition of military service members through technology in my future congregations as well. Thank you again for your contributions and attention to my ideas and questions.
    -
    MacKenzie Lynch (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 5:22:57am
    Dr. Kuster,

    I appreciated your article a great deal and how much concern you show for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are serving our country. I had not heard of this program until reading your article and it brings me great joy to see this gain awareness.

    Towards the end of the article it was mentioned that the system is not yet fully functional, is there a date in which it is set to be active? What all needs to happen before data is able to be requested?

    Thank you for supporting our troops and for creating more ways for us at home to help these brave men and women as well.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-26 3:53:44am
    MacKenzie, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) is making a significant effort to recognize the military service of its members. On November 11, Veterans' Day this year, we will be dedicating a new monument, designed by artist Jason Jaspersen, on the Bethany campus, starting with a chapel service at 10 a.m. and a ceremony at the monument site at 11. The DIGITAL recognition described above is being held back a bit so that the November 11 event can enjoy the focus. But after that we will begin to promote the DMR aspect of the synod's recognition plans more extensively synod-wide.
    -
    MacKenzie Lynch (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:21:33pm
    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my question. I look forward to looking for the DMR promotion within the churches throughout the synod. Once again thank you for remembering our troops and making sure they are recognized.
    -
    Zach Thiel (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 4:34:34pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    I admire that you have made this possible for congregations to use because many people serve in the military or have family serving in the military that most people do not know about. I love the idea of using a slide to not only inform people about them, but give people the opportunity to pray for those serving our country.

    When you digitally recognize people serving in the military, is it common for you, or someone else, to contact them to let them know that their church is praying for them? In what ways are people reaching out to encourage them through this recognition?

    Thank you for your help and prayer for those serving!
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-26 3:55:43am
    What you are suggesting, Zach, are excellent methods for building on the opportunities provided by the slide show. This is so new, we haven't had a chance to try those things yet.
    -
    Zach Thiel (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:13:38pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    Thank you for your response! I like this new idea and I am interested to see how this grows in the future and how congregations can use this to help people in service.
    -
    Evan Korthals (Martin Luther College) 2019-10-25 5:32:59pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    I really enjoyed reading about the changes that are being made to allow us to recognize, appreciate, and thank those who have served our nation in the armed forces. The formation of the DMR by the ELS was particularly intriguing to me, since it has the potential to be such a powerful tool in recognizing members of the armed forces, past and present, who are members of each individual church.

    One question I have for you after reading through your article is this: Do you foresee this project becoming a large undertaking? If it catches on, it has the potential to become a large asset to manage. Would this require bringing on more people to assist with the project?

    I would like to thank you for contributing an amazing article to this conference. Thanks for your work!
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-10-26 3:59:28am
    Yes, those are important concerns. Right now the group of people working on the DMR project are talking about what kinds of personnel and funding it will take to perpetuate it. Potentially, the database of service members synod-wide could become quite large, and since most of them would be currently serving, the information will need to be updated as people are promoted, or their assignments change, or they leave service. All this is being worked out.
    -
    Evan Korthals (Martin Luther College) 2019-11-04 7:06:45pm
    Dr. Kuster,
    Thank you for your response to my question! I think it is great that you are already thinking this will expand to the synod as a whole. This would be such a useful tool for our congregations. Again, thank you for responding!
    -
    Al D. & Jessica N. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-10-30 9:40:18pm
    Tom, firstly, thank you for what you are doing. Remembering our armed forces members, something very valuable and honorable.
    We have a question though, and that is do you think it would be more beneficial to have this service done more than just twice a year, on Veterans Day and Memorial Day? Making it more available and readily accessible to those outside of the service could help honor the fallen heros and help others to remember their loved ones.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-02 3:32:01pm
    You are right, Al and Jessica, that these noble people deserve our recognition and gratitude all year around. There is the question of balance, however. If it is done too often, then the recognition, too, becomes just routine and easy to overlook. It might be that twice a year keeps it special and is about right.
    -
    Sashia Swenson (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 7:24:10pm
    This is another great example of how advancements in technology can have a positive influence. Now thinking about it, I don't know if I can name members from my church who were/are in the military. Those in the military don't seem to be recognized in the church but through the use of these slides this can change.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-04 4:07:03am
    Yes, that's the idea. Come to Peace to worship next Sunday and see the display that will be on the screens then.
    -
    Alissa and Brooke (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-03 7:45:39pm
    Thank-you for this article on the DMR service. I will admit, I have never heard of it. I also will admit that I could probably only name a handful of people in my own congregation who have/are serving in the military. I know I could never do what these brave men/women do every day to protect the freedoms we hold so dear. I think it is extremely easy to forget our veterans when the USA is not involved in a major war. I remember my church doing some sort of slideshow for Veterans' Day 2018, and I hope something is put together for this year. Thank-you for bringing light to something many may not know about, and I hope to see such a service being utilized in more churches in my area.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-04 4:08:40am
    Yes, we hope the idea spreads. There are probably many ways to recognize service members. This is one that takes advantage of some easy-to-use technology.
    -
    Maddie Hart (Bethany Lutheran College ) 2019-11-04 10:58:44pm
    Tom Kuster,

    I think this is a really cool idea. I think it is a great way to acknowledge those serving and help those at home feel supported by their church community. It is unfortunate that this could end up costing the church down the road financial to upkeep it. However, I do think it would be worth it! As someone who has close family and friends actively in the military as well as veterans I think this is really cool and very heartwarming to know. I would really like to bring it to my church in southern MN as well. There is a significant portion of our congregation that has military relatives or is themself a veteran. I think this would be a really cool way to help thank them and their loved ones as well as make us closer as a congregation. I also wonder if you couldn't even take this Digital project a step farther, if you haven't already. In the past I have worked with volunteer groups to help organize care packages and letters to send overseas to active military. I think it would be really cool to be able to do "Prayer Hands" (or a form of thank you/prayer cards that are interactive). Unfortunately, this would probably also come with a cost for postal services. This is even something that maybe the kids could do for a project to help them get involved. I think that it would be a nice way to not only tell the active duty service members, but also make action to show them as well as they may not see the active efforts. Overall, I think this is and was a great idea. I look forward to looking out for these messages again this year!!

    Maddie Hart
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-05 1:04:59am
    Maddie, these are excellent ideas. It is not hard to come up with ways that individuals and congregations and schools can build supportive projects on top of the DMR. As for the cost, I don't think it would be so much as to be prohibitive, and I believe lots of people would be willing to chip in so that our service members can receive the recognition they so much deserve.
    -
    Maddie Hart (Bethany Lutheran College) 2019-11-05 8:36:11pm
    Thank you! Thats very true, I'm sure many individuals would be willing to help out. I appreciate your quick response and opinions.

    Maddie Hart
    -
    Al D. & Jessica N. (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-05 8:08:49am
    Tom, that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps people should (and most probably do) keep the days, places, and items that were special to fallen loved ones special to their families, etc., today. Thanks for the comment, and the work being done.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-09 10:43:35pm
    When family members are in the service, they are always on our minds.
    -
    Haley (WLC) 2019-11-08 8:11:42pm
    This is a really amazing thing overall. My dad was in the Marines and he said that a lot of men and women become stronger in their faith when they're gone for long periods of time. It's nice that these men and women are being recognized and remembered for their service in such a wholesome way.
    -
    Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-09 10:44:34pm
    This is one way to do that, it's not hard to do, and I hope the idea spreads to more churches and schools.
    -
    Isaiah Butler and Madi Wirkes (Wisconsin Lutheran College ) 2019-11-10 9:43:36pm
    I too am surprised by how many people in my congregation have served in the armed forces. I wish I could have known who had served so I could have shook their hand when they were still around. With that being said I do think more could have been done by my home congregation to help those who have been wounded in combat. I love the idea that DMR puts forth and I believe that more congregations should look into using DMR.

    The cost for upkeep might be an obstacle to overcome and I think with the donations of members and those in the community, the upkeep of DMR can be beaten.
    -
    Tom Kuster (The Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-12 5:16:35am Moderator Presenter
    The cost won't be excessive. The challenge will be to sustain it into the indefinite future.
    -
    Zachary McNamer and Ian Starkey (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2019-11-11 7:28:02pm
    Dr. Kuster,

    I want to start by thanking you for coming up with this concept as we all should recognize the men and women who have put their lives at risk to serve each individual in this country. People who have served should have a network of support within their local church and should be recognized (if willing to disclose) for their service. With today being veteran's day, it would be fitting to pray for those that we all know in the military and to those who have been in the military.

    Thank you
    -
    Tom Kuster (The Christ in Media Institute) 2019-11-12 5:18:11am Moderator Presenter
    There are many ways to recognize military service. Prayer is the most important.
    Log in