2023 WELS statistical summary

Rev. Jonathan Hein, WELS Congregational Services coordinator, serves as the guest writer for President Schroeder’s Together column this week.

Each year, WELS collects data from all congregations and schools. WELS Congregational Services compiles this data into a comprehensive statistical report and publishes a statistical summary and analysis.

The 2023 statistical summary shares some good news for which we give thanks to God. Last year, even though WELS total membership declined by about 5,300 (-1.6 percent), the number of WELS members participating in in-person weekly worship increased by almost 8,000 (+6.7 percent). Adult Bible study and Sunday school also saw large increases in participation. 2023 also saw WELS congregations blessed with almost 5,800 adult spiritual gains, the highest total in over a decade.

The statistical analysis for 2023 also digs into the shortage of called workers. In 2023, WELS congregations reported having 264,500 communicant members, a decline of almost 17 percent from the statistical high year of 1990. Yet, WELS has 46 percent more teachers today than in 1990 (about 970 total) and almost the exact same number of active pastors today as in 1990. So, the reality is WELS has more called workers active today than at any point in WELS history. So how can there be a high vacancy rate? The Lord has simply increased the gospel opportunities before us: to grow our local ministries (particularly school expansion), to start new congregations around the country, and to plant new outreach locations around the world.

The statistical analysis discusses the importance of strengthening our efforts to recruit people for gospel ministry as well as creating new pipelines by which one can enter ministry. It also reviews the growing challenge of those efforts in light of the fact that the need for called workers is growing at approximately 2 percent annually at the same time WELS membership is declining at approximately 1.3 percent annually.

You can find the WELS 2023 Statistical Summary and Analysis at welscongregationalservices.net/stats.

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