Annual Report


We know that we have the privilege of serving as witnesses of what God has done for sinners and of sharing that message with others as his ambassadors. Standing on his Word, holding on to his promises, and responding to his command, we go with the message that he has entrusted to us.

That is our mission as individual Christians. To share that message with more people than we could reach on our own and to see to it that future messengers of the gospel are trained to be faithful pastors and teachers, we have gathered together as a synod. Pooling our efforts and our resources, together we seek to take the saving gospel to places that we will never visit and to share the good news with people we will never meet. Together we support and operate ministerial education schools, where future called workers are trained thoroughly in the truths of God’s Word and given the knowledge and skills they will need to shepherd God’s people for generations to come.

This annual report will provide you with a summary of what God has permitted us to do together as his witnesses and messengers. Thank you for being a part of the amazing mission that God has given to us, and thank you for your continued efforts to take the gospel into all the world.

Serving with you in Christ,


Rev. Mark Schroeder, WELS President


As a Christian church body, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s calling is to nurture the faith of our members and to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

WELS is the third largest Lutheran church body in the United States with 1,275 churches, 363,997 baptized members, and 289,863 communicant members

Known as the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, the synod’s headquarters in Waukesha, Wis., welcomed more than 1,000 guests in 2017. Many of these guests learned more about the work of the synod in its visitor center, which includes a visual timeline of WELS’ history as well as informational kiosks on areas of ministry. Materials from the archives are also on display. Guests are shown a video highlighting WELS’ ministry and receive a tour of the synod’s headquarters. To schedule your visit to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, e-mail or call 414-256-3888.




baptized members


communicant members

WELS has 12 districts to allow for more area-specific ministry, personal contacts, and member involvement.

WELS Congregational Services provides resources, training, and personal assistance to congregations, schools, and their leaders so that they may carry out gospel ministry in the most faithful way on the local level.

WELS congregations—either individually or as federations—operate one of the largest parochial school systems in the United States. This system includes 298 Lutheran elementary schools, 384 early childhood ministries, and 25 area Lutheran high schools.

WELS maintains four schools for the education of our pastors, teachers, and staff ministers—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn.; Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, Mich.

WELS supports work in mission fields in the United States and in countries around the world.

WELS is a member of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, an organization of 32 confessional church bodies throughout the world.

Five separately incorporated entities work closely with WELS to provide resources necessary to carry out WELS’ ministry.


Lutheran elementary schools


early childhood ministries


area Lutheran high schools


WELS Ministerial Education works to provide workers for the more than 1,200 churches and 700 schools in the synod. WELS provides this education through a system of four schools: two high-school-level preparatory schools, a college, and a seminary.


Using God’s gifts

I gave chapel for the first time in fall 2016. It was nerve-wracking,…

Taste of Ministry

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., and Luther…

The "Holy Ordinary"

Every year for more than 150 years, men have gathered in the…

Equipped to do God’s will

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., embarked on a new…

Vicar year experiences

Russell Scoggins (pictured) was born and raised in Austin, Texas.…


Missions conducts gospel outreach in the United States, Canada, and 50 foreign countries through seed sowing and evangelism efforts, congregation and church planting, training ethnic and national workers for ministry, and providing religious materials in foreign languages.


WELS Home Missions is called to proclaim God’s Word to those in the United States and English-speaking North America. It also supports campus ministry, cross-cultural ministries, and a variety of other mission activities in North America. In 2017, the Board for Home Missions authorized four new mission starts and three ministry enhancements.


Westminster, Colo.


Hendersonville, N.C.


Chattanooga, Tenn.


Huntersville, N.C.


Milwaukee, Wis.


Waukegan, Ill.


Little Rock, Ark.

Westminster, Colo.Shepherd of the Valley has started a second campus in a growing western suburb of Denver after a year’s work of evangelism and outreach. A second pastor is currently being called to lead this new congregation.
Hendersonville, N.C.Living Savior in Asheville, N.C., started this
daughter congregation. Worship services have begun with more than 100 in attendance.
Chattanooga, Tenn.This mission officially has a name—Living Hope Lutheran Church. A new graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary was assigned to start this church in May 2017 and has been blessed with strong success in initial outreach efforts. Read a Missions blog about Living Hope Lutheran Church.
Huntersville, N.C.A seminary graduate was assigned to this new mission in May 2017. Grace in Charlotte, N.C., is the mother congregation helping Huntersville get started, with 20 core members providing support.
Milwaukee, Wis.Blessed with a growing church and school, Mt. Lebanon is currently calling a second pastor to allow the campus pastor more time to spend with prospective families.
Waukegan, Ill.A second bilingual pastor was recently called to Immanuel to enhance its Hispanic ministry, providing additional outreach and programs for the community.
Little Rock, Ark.New, active lay members have allowed King of Kings to restart with a full-time pastor at the helm. The surrounding community is growing and Lord-willing, so too, will the ministry.

Building relationships

The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a second site ministry begun…

Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz.

On Nov. 25, Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz., celebrated its 20th…

Encouraging discipleship

Peace, Aiken, S.C., won one of two ministry grants awarded by…


World Missions is reaching out with the saving message of the gospel in 50 countries, including Vietnam. That number continues to grow due to exploratory evangelism in new mission fields and an increased online media presence. World Missions plants churches, trains national pastors, and mentors fellow Lutheran Christians through programs such as the Pastoral Studies Institute and with assistance from sister church bodies around the world.

World Missions:

  • is celebrating 125 years of mission work in 2018, as WELS sent its first missionaries to the Apache tribes back in 1893;
  • is in fellowship with 105,465 Lutherans around the world;
  • has 44 missionaries in the field conducting outreach and training national pastors;
  • supports 13 teachers and more than 60 laypeople as they reach out to children and adults with the gospel;
  • is exploring outreach opportunities in 14 prospective new mission fields;
  • reaches more than 840,000 people in Latin America with the gospel through the Academia Cristo Facebook page; and
  • continues to partner with Multi-Language Publications (MLP), which has printed more than 2.9 million items in more than 52 languages.

For more information, visit To hear firsthand stories from our mission fields, invite a missionary to speak at your mission festival. Visit to learn more.

Sharing God's message with Spanish speakers

Jackson (pictured), a new Lutheran living in Venezuela, can’t…


“We thank you for the WELS training for the past three years.…


Missionaries and the Administrative Committee for Africa have…

Outreach to Native Americans

Our Savior, Bylas, Ariz., used a community garden to reach out…


WELS supports several areas of ministry that strive to “go and make disciples.” These WELS ministries not only reach out to the world, they also support WELS congregations and members. From missions, to humanitarian aid, to special needs and evangelism, each group faithfully serves to reflect Christ’s Love as Our Calling.


Congregational Services

WELS Congregational Services, which encompasses the work of the…

Chaplain Certification Program

Mike Indest (pictured: third from left), a member of Crown of…

Offering spiritual growth opportunities

The WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship strives to help members…

Providing programs and resources for congregations

The Commission on Congregational Counseling operates a variety…

Excellence in worship on display

The WELS Commission on Worship hosted the 2017 National Conference…

Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach

WELS maintains one of the largest private school systems in the…

Disasters open door to show Christ's love

WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided more than $700,000 in…

Excel in the grace of giving

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving serves on behalf of the Conference…

Communication Services and Technology

Communication Services uses social media as one tool to update…


These organizations work closely with the synod to support ministry, missions, congregations, and workers. They offer health and retirement benefits for called workers, investment opportunities that support missions, legacy giving options, and literature and resources rooted in Lutheran doctrine.

WELS Benefit Plans Office

The WELS Benefit Plans Office (BPO) serves WELS and Evangelical…

WELS Investment Funds, Inc.

WELS Investment Funds  is a self-supporting subsidiary of…

Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) exists to deliver Christ-centered,…

WELS Foundation

WELS Foundation exists to help God’s people support gospel…

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc., (WELS CEF) provides financing…


At the synod convention in August 2017, WELS President Mark Schroeder (pictured: left) and WELS Chief Financial Officer Todd Poppe (pictured: right) marked the retirement of the synod’s debt by shredding a copy of the debt statement.

Begun in 2015, the “One in Christ” campaign to eliminate the synod’s debt was generously supported by WELS members and resulted in the payoff occurring one-and-a-half years ahead of schedule. The money that was being used for debt payments can now be used to support WELS ministry.

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) are the main source of support for WELS ministry. While CMO has slightly increased, it is not keeping up with inflation and has remained flat for about 10 years.

As Poppe explains, “The current ministry financial plan keeps WELS on solid financial ground, but projected near-flat Congregation Mission Offerings when costs are increasing 3.5 percent may challenge WELS’ ability to maintain ministries beyond the 2017–19 biennium.”

To maintain existing ministry with these rising costs and flat revenue, the Synodical Council authorized a greater use of reserves in this biennium’s ministry financial plan.

The Financial Stabilization Fund continues to be sound. The fund holds all non-CMO sources of operating support, which includes gifts from individuals and non-CMO gifts from congregations, bequests, investment income, grant money, and endowment fund distributions. Gifts are spent in the year after they are received, making it possible to address new opportunities and to avoid sudden reductions in ministry. Unexpected gifts to WELS have put the Financial Stabilization Fund in a more favorable situation than when the 2017–19 ministry financial plan was first developed.

“We are thankful for the support of WELS members,” says Schroeder, “and we ask God’s continued blessing on our efforts to most efficiently and effectively utilize available resources.”