Key things to know about L.E.S.T. Northwest

Our History

The first Lutheran Elementary Schools Tournament (L.E.S.T.) was held in 1962 with four Portland area schools (St. Paul-Sherwood, Trinity-Oregon City, Trinity-Portland, and Martin Luther-Portland). This first gathering involved a boys basketball tournament, and a few years later a volleyball competition was added for the girls. As word of the tournament spread, schools from outside of the Portland area (Idaho, Montana, California, Southern Oregon, Nevada, and Washington) began traveling by car, train, plane, or bus to participate in the L.E.S.T. In the early years, Concordia University Portland’s Luther Hall was transformed from a classroom building to a dormitory for visiting teams. Over the years additional activities and competitions were added, eventually including over 20 individual and/or team events. Concordia University was proud to host close to 1000 participants from as many as 21 Lutheran elementary schools from around the Pacific Northwest and northern California, and in the most recent years even schools from British Columbia (Canada) and Nebraska attended.

With the closure of Concordia University in 2020 and then the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 saw L.E.S.T. occur as a virtual event in collaboration with Concordia University Irvine, involving many of the usual schools. In 2022 schools came together to ensure the rebirth of an in-person event, now known as L.E.S.T. Northwest, hosted in Tacoma, WA. We are thrilled to see such legacy from the small little gathering of 1962. God is good!

Our Philosophy

L.E.S.T. Northwest is a collaborative effort of elementary schools of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod with the support of the Education Services Department of the Northwest District-LCMS. L.E.S.T. Northwest is based on the value of Christian education that emphasizes the love and praise of God, thankful use of personal talents, and service to others. The primary goal of L.E.S.T. Northwest is to provide an organized structure to promote fun, skill development, fair play, and fellowship among Lutheran elementary school youth through academic, athletic, and recreational activities. 

The tournament offers a variety of individual and team events that facilitate participants’ emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual growth. Participation and maximal involvement for each school is encouraged. It is the position of L.E.S.T. Northwest that participation in competition can facilitate optimal growth and development. By focusing on doing one’s best, instead of overemphasizing winning, it is hoped that competition will promote a positive feeling of self-worth, as well as lifelong participation in academic and recreational activities.

General Guidelines

Details on all the various events of L.E.S.T. Northwest are included throughout this website. They are also available as a PDF download, here:

L.E.S.T. Northwest Manual

A majority of the services and facilities provided for the tournament are donated.  There are, however, rental fees, special contest adjudicator’s honorariums, and miscellaneous expenses associated with the tournament. To help defray some of these expenditures a ‘Participation Fee’ is assessed to each school participating in L.E.S.T. Northwest which is based on the number of students participating from each school.

Schools may be permitted to enter two separate teams in the basketball tournament. Entry of a second team is dependent upon the number of schools entering and availability in the schedule. A second team will not be permitted to enter if it eliminates the participation of a team from another school.

To be eligible to enter a second basketball team a school must: 

  1. Pay an additional $50 per extra team. 
  2. Enter teams that play separate schedules throughout the year. 
  3. Submit team rosters with two distinct lists of players (switching or floating players back and forth between the two teams does not meet the intention of the third criteria). 

If any of the above criterion are not met, schools may still be permitted to participate in exhibition games (not advancing in brackets) to fill out tournament brackets. 

A determining factor in bracket placement for schools entering multiple teams is based on enrollment in the 5th – 8th grades of the entering school. A breakdown of the criteria for divisions is further described in the basketball section this website. 

Guidelines for participation in academic and athletic events, as well as criteria for contest evaluation, are also detailed in the appropriate sections of this website. Schools may make application for participation in the L.E.S.T. Northwest by completing the Registration Form. The following dates are set to expedite the registration process: 

  • December 16, 2022 – Application deadline. 
  • Mid-January – Tentative schedules & basketball brackets will be emailed to school contacts, and posted here on the L.E.S.T. Northwest website.
  • Early February – Final schedules & brackets will be emailed & posted on the L.E.S.T. Northwest website.
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