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Your child is entering into a Christ-centered environment.  From the beginning of the day to the end, Christ fills our day. We are daily reminded that we are children of God filled with character, whether it's in how we interact with each other and deal with situations that arise and daily prayers or through our K-7th Christian Character Formation Project. All students participate in daily religion lessons, weekly chapel, Bible memory work in K-7th, and integration of our faith into all aspects of our learning.

At 1st Lutheran, we recognize the importance of family in the educational success of your child and we are here to support you in that endeavor.  As a school family, we are here for each other, here to be with each other, and here to enjoy each other.  It is not just something we say, it is part of our core identity - we are a family, we are family-focused.

We value each member of our family and strive to be student-driven. Our small class sizes ensure we can cater instruction to the needs and interests of our classes.  We can celebrate each student for the special individual that they are. From our play-based philosophy in Early Childhood to the inclusion of Spanish and the Fine Arts with art, band, choir, and drama in our K-8th program, we celebrate each child as God's special gift and seek to help develop the whole child. We value developing student independence and responsibility, preparing them for the next steps in their education and life.

Through chapel offerings, service opportunities, and community partnerships, we seek to have a positive impact on our community and world.  We hope to instill an understanding of what Christian love and service means.  Many times our service goes on without much fanfare to the outside community because we truly are committed to living a life of service as adoration to God and love for our neighbor, not personal gain.  Regardless, every year we have a profound impact through our service.

Since 1853, we have held to sharing the Gospel from our Lutheran understanding, but we are not only for Lutherans. In fact, only 13% of our current student body is Lutheran.  We promise that your child will receive Christ-centered teaching rooted in Scripture. Lutheran doctrine is based on Scripture interpreting Scripture; you have the reassurance that the teachings we provide will be unchanging, not based on personal interpretations or society.  We will root your child in Scripture.

Welcome to our Christ-centered, family-focused, student-driven school that leaves a lasting impact on our community and world. We hope you join the 1st Family!

Many Blessings,

Samuel Fishburn



Year began at 1st Lutheran: 2018

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Mission of 1st Lutheran Church & School

Recognizing the call of our Lord Jesus Christ to "go and disciple all nations", First Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Fort Smith, Arkansas, will equip the members of the congregation and students of the day school to be disciples of Christ while reaching out to bring others to be followers of the Lord Jesus - that all may have abundant life now, as well as life eternal, through God-glorifying worship, the grace-delivering Word and Sacraments, Gospel-centered education, and Christ-like acts of caring.

Vision of 1st Lutheran Church & School

1st Lutheran School provides a Christ-centered, family-focused,  student-driven education impacting the community and world.



The objectives of 1st Lutheran School are to provide an environment where:

1) Children learn God's Word and Will and are nurtured in the Christian faith.

2) Children experience God's love, express their love for God through worship of Him, service to others, accept themselves and each other as forgiven and forgiving sinners, and live daily in His forgiveness.

3) Children learn and develop their individual skills and talents as good stewards of God's gifts and use them in striving for excellence.

4) The whole child grows and matures as a unique child of God - spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically, socially, and aesthetically. Children are led to help others, not only in the home and the school, but also in the community and the world.

5) Parents are assisted in their God-given responsibilities as their children's primary teachers.



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In the year 1843, a small party of German Lutherans (six families) immigrated from Saxony and settled in what is now called Long Prairie, about twelve miles south of Fort Smith.  During the next seven years other families arrived from Saxony and settled in Long Prairie also.  To be sure they were not without services, as early as 1848, it is reported that Lutheran sermons were read on Sundays in the house of Mr. Gottlieb Ellig.  However, the need of a church building and of a Christian day school became more apparent as the children in these families began to grow up.  Accordingly, on Christmas Day, 1852, a meeting was called at which the organization of a congregation was decided upon, and a reader elected for regular Sunday services.  A log house which was to serve a both church and school was planned.  Sometime during that winter of 1853, this log meeting house was built and a teacher, Mr. Carl Reichert, secured from among the membership.  Services were held in this building every Sunday, and people of the Lutheran faith who had settled in Fort Smith would drive out to attend these services.


Thus they continued until the winter of 1861; and though they were without a resident pastor, the work of the congregation progressed nicely.  But now a time of great sorrow and tribulation lay ahead of them.  The Civil War broke out, and the settlement at Long Prairie did not escape the ravages of this struggle - especially the “guerilla” type warfare endangered the lives of the Lutheran settlers.  They were compelled to flee to Fort Smith where the confederacy maintained an army post and where they found protection.  


During 1861 to 1868, very little is known of the Lutherans and their church in Fort Smith.  No records of any meetings or services were kept during those years.  From people who were then children, the following facts have been recorded: One, that services were held in the homes of some of the members from time to time; the other, that in 1864, a school was reopened in a house located at 15 North First Street.  From a newspaper clipping the fact is gathered that at the time, this was the only school of any kind within the confines of Fort Smith.


Although the war had disrupted the work of the church seriously, yet these Lutherans had not lost their faith nor the hope of re-establishing their church.  As early as 1866, an attempt was made at reorganization, but it failed at that time.  Finally in 1868, on the 7th day of June, the present congregation, “The First Evangelical Lutheran Church” was organized.  First Lutheran is the oldest Lutheran church in the state of Arkansas.  


It was decided to Call a resident pastor.  Mr. V. Dell, employed by the “Fort Smith New era,” intending to visit St. Louis, was asked to make inquiries concerning a minister of the Missouri Synod.  Mr. Dell was acquainted with the Rev. Buenger who at once set out to use all his influence in securing a pastor for this promising field.  The Rev. Martin L. Wyneken, a graduate of Concordia Seminary of St. Louis, was persuaded to accept the call, and on the 16th of October, 1868 entered upon his work as pastor.  On November 9, it was decided to buy the six lots on North Twelfth Street for $600.00. On November 30, the congregation decided to build a church.  On March 12, 1869, the cornerstone was laid; and on August 22, the new church was dedicated.  In 1874, a two-room schoolhouse was built on 12th street.


On January 30, 1876, the congregation officially became a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  From that day on, the First Lutheran Church of Fort Smith has always taken an active part and interest in the work of Synod.  


As early as 1896, the matter of erecting a modern church edifice in place of the old one was taken into consideration. Although the old building was still large enough, the idea prevailed in the congregation that a church so blessed by God should certainly use its means to erect a monument of love and thankfulness to the Lord.  On May 12, 1901, the plans for the new church were accepted.  The plans called for a stone structure not to exceed $20,000.00 in cost.  On October 12, 1902, the cornerstone was laid with elaborate ceremonies.  The new  church was dedicated on May 15, 1904.  


In 1914, a new school building was erected and dedicated replacing the old frame school which had served the congregation for 40 years 1874-1914.  In 1947, a school addition to cost $60,000.00 to include two classrooms, new offices, first aid room, rest rooms and full basement under the entire structure.  On the 28th of September of 1947, the school addition was dedicated in special services.  This space would serve the school until 1975 and continue to be used by the church for many additional years for Sunday school and ministry needs.


In 1976, the school was relocated into the brand new school building built on the current Massard Road site.  The school sits on 13 acres and added the early childhood classroom addition in 1991.


The Family Ministries Building was added to the downtown church campus in 2009.





John Merrill



Samuel Fishburn



Michelle Gerlach

Director of Early Childhood & Family Life



Natalie Haraway

Church Secretary


Sonja Guillory

School Secretary


Kristin Basham

Director of Community Involvement


Jeanna Lee




Tessa Borden

PreK 2s


Myriah Hickman

PreK 3s


Danny Jackson

PreK 4s


Debbie Nix


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Kelly Dressler

1st Grade


Kim Ballard

2nd Grade

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Terann Anderson

3rd Grade


Lucas Gerlach

4th Grade


Heather Paulus

Middle School


Dawn Von Tersch



Casey Cowan



Jamie Brown




JD Davis

Maintenance Supervisor

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Cafeteria Manager


Jeanna Lee

PE Coach


Yolanda Edwards

Teacher Assistant


Holly Dague

Teacher Assistant

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Evan Mino

Church Organist


Judy Foley

Milly Uruza

Megan Sonnenmoser

Yesenia Ocampo

Rita Clayton

Chloe Garcia

April Gathright

Jacquelynn Railey

Miriam Rogers

Marissa Gerlach



The vision of 1st Lutheran School is to offer an unmatched Christ-centered, family-focused, student-driven education impacting our community and world. This vision begins with our teachers and staff.


1st Lutheran is characterized by being:

  • Steadfast in your Christian faith and seeking to help others live out their life as a child of God

  • Unwavering in the belief that every student can achieve academic excellence

  • Growth-minded, hungry, and constantly seeking feedback

  • Optimistic, supportive, and motivating to teammates, students, and families

  • Detail-oriented in planning and execution

  • Data-driven and analytical in order to reflect and take speedy action based on results

  • Proactive communicator who reaches out to students, families, and teammates


1st Lutheran School does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex or race in administering its educational policies, programs, activities and employment practices. However, we will not compromise our religious principles and our beliefs in our hiring practices.

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