At its April 17 meeting, the Board for Home Missions authorized the establishment of six new home missions throughout the United States totaling $563,000 in funding. The new mission openings being funded are located in Blair, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fenton, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Liberty Hill, Tex.; and Tyler, Texas.
“As a church body, it is a huge blessing when Home Missions through district mission boards can partner with active congregations looking to have a hand in starting the next mission,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. Many of these new Home Mission starts have a core group of WELS members from our established churches in their area. “Some of these Home Mission starts already have 50 committed members willing to offer their time, talents, and offerings to help support the new congregation. In most of these locations initial outreach has already started by active core groups supported by the existing congregations near these six communities.”
One of the new places is in Blair, Neb., a city 20 miles north of Omaha. Rev. Stephen Helwig, pastor at Gethsemane, Omaha, was excited to learn that this mission had received funding to help start a new church in Blair.
For years Gethsemane has asked its vicars to serve a core group of 15-20 members in the Blair community. “It’s been a great thing to see the vicars come in with their enthusiasm to canvass a new area and lead Bible classes for our core group,” says Helwig. “It’s about sharing our Savior with a new community outside the Gethsemane church neighborhood.”
It is a huge opportunity for an established congregation like Gethsemane to assist in the start of a mission, but it will also require the prayers and support of the synod. “It isn’t everyday a Home Mission congregation gets started, so it is very important for the community to understand that we are establishing a church that is in it for the long haul and wants to become part of their community,” adds Helwig.
A vital partner to Home Missions, the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), recently adopted an unrestricted net assets policy that provides annual special grants to Home Missions over and above CEF’s matching grant programs. “The new CEF policy is allowing us to open two new Home Mission starts in Fiscal Year 2016,” says Free.
“We continue to be blessed by people investing with CEF and by remembering us with bequests and gifts,” says Mr. Ron Hillmann, CEF president. “Our first responsibility is to ensure the security of our investors’ money, which we do. Once that is secure, then the extra dollars are used to do mission work.”
Home Missions has been provided increased synod support, which was made possible by Congregation Mission Offerings and the WELS Church Extension Fund grant. That, coupled with direct gifts to Home Missions from WELS members, provided enough funding for the six new mission starts. “One of the neat things is the cooperation of each district mission board in determining the feasibility of these six sites. We had many excellent proposals presented and if we had the extra funds, we had at least three more missions we would have been willing to authorize,” says Free.
Learn more about the work of Home Missions at www.wels.net/missions.