Annual Report

MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is not just a Christian denomination. It is not just a worthy charitable organization that we support with our gifts and that does a lot of good things. More than anything, the Wisconsin Synod is people—people like you who walk together in a common faith in Christ and in a common mission that God himself has given us to carry out.

The people of our synod have much in common, but they are also very diverse. There are people who serve as pastors, missionaries, professors, and administrators. There are people who serve faithfully as lay leaders in their congregations. There are people of many different races and cultures. There are people who work with their hands and others who work at a desk. Yet, despite that wonderful diversity, there is also a beautiful unity in faith and mission, a unity given by God and worked through his saving gospel.

This annual report will summarize what we, as a Christian family, have been permitted by God to do together in the last year. Some of that work involves missions, both home and abroad. Some of our family’s work involves training pastors and teachers and staff ministers to serve God’s people now and for generations to come. And some of our work involves helping congregations to carry out faithfully the work that we’ve been given.

I know that you will enjoy reading about our synod family’s experiences this past year. Because what you read will not really be about us or what we have done; it is a story of what God himself has done and is doing through us.

Serving with you in Christ,

Schroeder

Rev. Mark Schroeder, WELS President

WELS IN BRIEF

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 1,281 churches359,426 baptized members, and 286,213 communicant members

Known as the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, the synod’s headquarters in Waukesha, Wis., welcomed 43 scheduled tour groups in 2018. 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 cmmtours@wels.net or call 414-256-3888.

For more information about the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, including a directory of local congregations, visit wels.net.

1,281

churches

359,426

baptized members

286,213

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 294 Lutheran elementary schools, 387 early childhood ministries, and 26 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.

294

Lutheran elementary schools

387

early childhood ministries

26

area Lutheran high schools

CALLED TO PREPARE

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.

MINISTERIAL EDUCATION

Martin Luther College

The mission of Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., is to train…

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

In May 2018, 27 men graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary…

Preparatory Schools

Featured photo: In November 2018, senior boys visited Wisconsin…

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

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.

HOME MISSIONS

WELS Home Missions is called to proclaim God’s Word to those in the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking West Indies. It also supports campus ministries, cross-cultural ministries, and a variety of other outreach activities in North America. In 2018, the Board for Home Missions authorized support for 10 new mission starts as well as support to enhance mission-minded ministry in 7 established congregations.

The ministries receiving financial support for a new mission include:

NEW MISSION STARTSABOUT
Reno, Nev.Two area congregations are partnering to start this congregation in the Northern Valleys area of greater Reno.
Phoenix, Ariz.Crosswalk, Phoenix, is opening a second site to reach out into downtown Phoenix.
Joplin, Mo.A strong core of WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod members from the two nearest churches are helping support this mission.
Brandon, S.D.Near Sioux Falls, this new congregation includes core members from two WELS churches and an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation.
Milwaukee, Wis.Grace in downtown Milwaukee, one of WELS’ original congregations, is establishing a new location in the area known as the Third Ward.
Bluffton, S.C.Developed through the efforts of Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga., this new mission in Bluffton is likely to be part of a multi-site ministry effort with Risen Savior.
Mansfield, OhioA Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation that was closing contacted WELS to see if our synod might be interested in opening a mission in this area. The new mission bought the land and building of the former LCMS church. Some of the church’s members have joined the new WELS mission and are working with WELS members in the area to launch this new WELS congregation.
Richland Center, Wis.This is part of a multi-site effort being supported by St. John, Hillpoint, and Trinity, Lime Ridge, both in Wisconsin.

Two new multi-site starts are being subsidized by their original congregations. Home Missions will provide assistance through its district mission boards, mission counselors, and synodical support staff but not provide direct funding. These include:

NEW MULTI-SITE STARTSABOUT
Hobart, Wis.Mount Olive, Suamico, Wis., is starting a second site in Hobart.
Horicon, Wis.Members of St. John’s, Juneau, Wis., see an opportunity to reach out in nearby Horicon, where 90 members of St. John’s live.

Home Missions is also financially supporting mission-minded enhancements to these existing congregations:

  • Crown of Life, Corona, Calif.;
  • Faith, Anchorage, Alaska;
  • Grace, Seattle, Wash.;
  • Ascension, Harrisburg, Penn.;
  • Shepherd of the Hills, Knoxville, Tenn.;
  • Trinity, Waukesha, Wis.; and
  • Epiphany and First, Racine, Wis.

Home Missions currently supports 87 subsidized and 35 unsubsidized missions.

Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.

Rev. Lucas Bitter had the joy of performing Intown Lutheran’s…

Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel, Madison, Wis.

WELS assists more than 550 campus ministries across the United…

Redeemer, Edna/Victoria, Texas

Redeemer, Edna, Texas, began worshiping at its second site in…

WORLD MISSIONS

WELS World Missions conducts gospel outreach in 40 foreign countries and is exploring outreach opportunities in 14 prospective new mission fields. World Missions brings the light of God’s Word through evangelism efforts, church planting, training national workers for ministry, and providing religious materials in foreign languages. Forty-one world missionaries partner with more than 400 national pastors to conduct outreach and train more than 250 seminary students for service in Christ’s kingdom.

World Missions supports mission work:

  • on the Apache reservations in Arizona, where WELS recently celebrated 125 years of mission work in 2018;
  • in Africa, where missionaries and national church partners are exploring mission work in nine additional African countries;
  • in the Asia-Pacific Rim, where the training of national pastors is opening the door to opportunities for outreach in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam;
  • in Latin America, where the Academia Cristo Facebook page and training resources reach more than one million people with the gospel;
  • in East Asia, where more than 500 people gather each week to hear the gospel and where Asia Lutheran Seminary is training more than 30 nationals for ministry;
  • in Europe, where national churches are partnering with WELS missionaries and the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) to train the next generation of church leaders;
  • in South Asia, where security is always a concern, but the gospel message is still shared through hundreds of churches and
  • through Multi-Language Publications, which has produced print items, audio and video resources, and online training resources in more than 52 languages.

For more information, visit wels.net/missions. To hear firsthand stories from our mission fields, invite a missionary to speak at your mission festival. Visit wels.net/speaker-request to learn more.

Apache mission

More than 1,200 people attended the Apache 125th anniversary…

Vietnam

The Vietnamese government has invited WELS to build a theological…

Malawi, Africa

Pastor Wisick Jeffrey (pictured with his wife) of Malawi is a…

CALLED TO SERVE

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 & SUPPORT SERVICES

WELS Congregational Services exists to serve congregations and schools and their leaders by providing resources, training, and personal assistance so that they might carry out gospel ministry in the most faithful way on the local level. To help share the resources it’s developed, Congregational Services launched a website, welscongregationalservices.net, in 2018. Designed to serve as a clearinghouse for its materials, the site includes training videos, leaders’ guides, how-to manuals, and more on a wide variety of topics. Here is a quick glimpse of some of the resources that are currently available.

Leadership modules—Documents here include a congregational planning overview on producing a mission statement, clarifying core values, statistical forecasting, crisis management, and accounting in the church.

Worship modules—Topics covered in this section include the liturgical framework, explaining worship customs and traditions, worship folders, planning Lutheran worship, and the role of the choir.

Evangelism module—Learn how to equip members for evangelism in this resource that includes video segments as well as written summaries.

Schools modules—Lutheran Schools has shared resources here that help schools learn more about starting an early childhood ministry or Lutheran elementary school, using a school or early childhood ministry for outreach, school accreditation, and quality assurance.

Compassion ministry modules—Modules include a Bible study to encourage caring congregations as well as resources on topics such as standing up for children encountering abuse or neglect; helping Christians reject, resist, and recover from addiction and pornography; serving as a military contact pastor; inclusion; and geriatric care facility outreach.

Discipleship modules—A series of videos with discussion guides and a playbook provide many great insights into ministering to Millennials. Two other discipleship modules address delinquency and Lutheran small groups.

Discipleship

Small group ministry resonates with Millennials “I started…

Evangelism

WELS Commission on Evangelism released To the Ends of the Earth,…

Special Ministries

God's Word—in Braille “Her hands are her eyes,” says Timothy…

Worship

WELS Hymnal Project Committees have been at work on the…

Lutheran Schools

The Commission on Lutheran Schools began presenting its Ministerial…

Christian Aid and Relief

WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided $850,000 in humanitarian…

Ministry of Christian Giving

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

Communication Services and Technology

WELS Communication Services coordinates the various WELS communications…

CALLED TO SUPPORT

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.

FINANCIAL SERVICES, SUBSIDIARIES, & AFFILIATE

In 2018, the Synodical Council funded the four top projects on the unfunded priorities listing approved by 2017 synod convention delegates.

“This is the first time in more than 15 years that the use of reserves for unfunded priorities was prudent,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder. “Because of God’s blessings on WELS’ financial position, $150,000 was provided to Martin Luther College for student assistance; $100,000 was provided to both Home and World Missions for ministry expansion; and $50,000 was given to the Publication Coordinating Commission to help fund theological works.”

WELS continues to be blessed with a solid financial position that allows us to maintain existing ministries and branch out into new initiatives, explains Todd Poppe, WELS’ chief financial officer. However, while our financial position is solid, it is not without its challenges. Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO), which fund nearly three-quarters of WELS’ operating budget, have remained flat for more than 10 years while costs have been growing at least three percent annually. The result of flat CMO is the utilization of reserves and our ministries relying more heavily on designated gifts to support ongoing ministry programs, services, student assistance, capital projects, and missions. In the past, these designated gifts allowed for ministry growth and capital renovations or replacements.

The key to WELS’ ability to maintain ministries are strong reserves, including the Financial Stabilization Fund. This fund holds all non-CMO general operating support, which includes member gifts and bequests, foundation grants, and other support. Holdings in the Financial Stabilization Fund are spent in the year or years after they are received. Several large one-time gifts helped the reserves of the fund grow to a level that allowed the Synodical Council to fund the four unfunded priorities mentioned above.

WELS Benefit Plans Office

WELS Benefit Plans serves WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod…

WELS Investment Funds, Inc.

WELS Investment Funds  is a self-supporting subsidiary of WELS.…

Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) provides Christ-centered,…

WELS Foundation

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

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.

WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF) provides financing through…
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