Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

On May 24, 2019, 26 men graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis. WLS prepares men to begin pastoral ministry by providing them with spiritual, theological, and professional training. Students attend classes for two years, serve as full-time vicars during their third year, and then attend classes and write a thesis in their fourth year. Throughout their time at the seminary, students receive opportunities to serve in a variety of ministries and to experience other cultures to help prepare them for their future calls.

The seminary also provides pastors with opportunities for continued growth in all their callings through its institute, Grow in Grace. Grow in Grace offers continuing education courses, a mentoring initiative for new graduates, a clearinghouse of resources for pastors, and an annual retreat for pastors who are celebrating milestones in their ministries.

The Pastoral Studies Institute, a partnership between WLS and WELS Joint Missions, guides and assists non-traditional students through their pre-seminary and seminary training so they can become pastors. This includes second-career students as well as cross-cultural students.

For more information, visit wls.wels.net.


New seminary president

Prof. Earle Treptow (pictured) was installed as the new president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary on Aug. 26, 2019. “President Treptow brings a wealth of solid Lutheran parish experience to the work,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education. “His ability to see both small details and the big picture is remarkable, and his keen insight allows him to preach and teach the gospel in ways that should positively influence both students and colleagues.”

Prof. Paul Wendland, the seminary’s former president, transitioned back into a full-time teaching role on the seminary’s faculty. “Teaching is my first love,” says Wendland, “It’s what energizes me.”

When asked about his responsibilities as seminary president, Treptow notes, “I think of the president as having the responsibility of keeping the main thing the main thing. The seminary’s main thing is having pastors train men to be pastors. Clearly there are academic requirements in the program—men who will serve as pastors need to know the Scriptures and how to apply the Word to people in preaching, teaching, and counseling. But there is more to being a pastor than mastering a set of facts and skills; it’s about knowing himself as a beggar in desperate need of God’s grace, who revels in the Lord’s goodness and wants to bring others to the one who takes away all shame and fear and guilt.”


Second-generation Hmong student

Samuel Lor is in his first year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. His father, Rev. Bounkeo Lor, graduated from the seminary’s Pastoral Studies Institute and currently serves as coordinator of Hmong Asia Ministry. Bounkeo believes that Sam will be able to reach the second generation of Hmong Americans, many of whom are not attending worship. Sam says, “I want to share my appreciation for faith alone, Scripture alone, and grace alone. As a people, we are rebuilding our traditions. A Christian identity and our WELS heritage will help that rebuilding.”


Spanish Immersion Trip

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary offers educational opportunities outside the classroom during its Winterim semester. In January 2019 this group visited Colombia for the annual SPICE trip—Spanish Immersion Cultural Experience. The trip has a dual purpose—improve Spanish language skills and provide students real-life experience with another culture.


Archaeology tour

Prof. Thomas Kock of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary organized an archaeology tour of Israel that took place June 1-12, 2019. Twenty people—including four seminary students—participated in the tour, which included an archaeological dig a few miles north of Jericho. “Ultimately, there’s just nothing like being there to help a person to ‘get’ certain things,” says Kock. “Students gain a far better understanding of the geography and culture of the land of Israel, which can help them to gain a more clear, full understanding of some of the events recorded in the Bible. Additionally, they get the opportunity to discover in a real way both the blessings that archaeology can bring to the Bible student and its limitations.”


Did you know?

On March 18, 2019, Evan Arrowsmith became the first-ever inductee into the WLS-MLC chapter of Eta Beta Rho, an honor society that recognizes excellence in Hebrew and is operated by the National Association of Professors of Hebrew. Prof. Kenneth Cherney presented Arrowsmith, a junior, with the award in chapel.

Martin Luther College

Martin Luther College’s mission is to train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions and the Book of Concord. In fall 2019, 731 undergraduates were participating in this training.

To meet the current ministry needs of WELS, Martin Luther College:

prepares men for pastoral training at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary;

prepares men and women for service as teachers and staff
ministers in the synod’s churches, schools, and other institutions;

prepares men and women for other church ministries, both full-and part-time, responding to the needs of WELS;

prepares international students for ministry in partnership with WELS mission fields; and

provides programs of continuing education that meet the
ministerial needs of WELS.

For more information, visit mlc-wels.edu.


“Equipping Christian Witnesses”

With support from the WELS Conference of Presidents, Martin Luther College launched a two-year capital campaign to celebrate the 2020 silver anniversary of the college. The campaign’s title, “Equipping Christian Witnesses,” reflects not only the mission of MLC—to train a corps of Christian witnesses to meet WELS ministry needs—but also the three pillars of the campaign (pictured left). For more information, visit mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.


Daylight mission trip

This team from Martin Luther College traveled to St. Paul, Beverly Hills, Fla., through the college’s Daylight mission trip program. The team helped the congregation move classrooms, paint hallways, and run a soccer camp for children ages 4 to 14. Nathan Lemke (pictured far left) notes, “Part of the camp was a time for devotion where we got to tell 90 children each day about Jesus and how he is our goalie from the devil. Over half of the campers were not part of the congregation, and many of them did not know about the gift that we have through Christ! It is a great blessing to go throughout the U.S. and help churches through the Daylight program.”


Serving those with special needs

In December 2019, Martin Luther College students hosted a Christmas event for Jesus Cares, a ministry that reaches out to individuals with special needs.

Student Elizabeth Schoeneck (pictured) admits that working with individuals with special needs can be intimidating at first. But after volunteering for the first time, she’s never turned back. “Jesus Cares provides a safe place to learn, practice, and grow skills for working with the special needs community,” Elizabeth says.

“Nothing beats the joy found in the students’ faces as they listen to the story of Christ,” adds fellow student Chris Robbert (pictured, right).

Martin Luther College now offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs for those who want to focus their education on teaching those with special needs.

A portion reprinted from MLC’s KnightWatch Weekly


Did you know?

One hundred seventy-six people graduated from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., on May 18. One hundred one were in the teacher track, and two were in the staff ministry track. Forty-five completed the preseminary program, and two received seminary certification. Twenty-six received master’s degrees.

Preparatory Schools

Featured photo: A group of five students from Michigan Lutheran Seminary traveled to Camp Shiloh in Pittsburg, Texas, to serve as camp leaders. Forty students participated in Project Titus mission projects in 2019. Pictured: Elizabeth Waldo, who is now attending Martin Luther College.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., and Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., prepare high school students for future service as pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. For the 2019–20 school year, Michigan Lutheran Seminary has 196 students and Luther Preparatory School has 402 students.

Both schools offer “Taste of Ministry” opportunities for students, which include shadowing called workers to learn more about their work. Students also are given firsthand gospel ministry experiences on campus and during mission trips.

For more information, visit mlsem.org or lps.wels.net.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary Fast Facts 2019

  • 70 MLS alumni at Martin Luther College
  • 20 MLS alumni at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Luther Preparatory School Fast Facts 2019

  • 215 LPS alumni at Martin Luther College
  • 43 LPS alumni at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

 

Students from Luther Preparatory School volunteered for a Bible camp at Trinity, St. Lucia, West Indies, as part of the school’s Project Timothy program. Fifty-six students participated in a Project Timothy mission trip in 2019. Pictured: Annika Schroeder, who is now attending Martin Luther College.

Hope, Texas

WELS Home Missions authorized funding for one new mission in 2019—Hope, Houston, Texas. A dedicated group of core members from other WELS churches around Houston are starting this mission in an urban neighborhood that is seeing a resurgence in popularity as people are looking to be closer to the city center. Rev. Andrew Nemmers, a 2019 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, was assigned to serve as Hope’s home missionary. Pictured are some members of Hope’s core group as well as a group from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary who helped the new mission in January 2019.


Did you know?

WELS Home Missions supports 18 cross-cultural missions. Either the mission is serving a certain people group such as Hispanics, Vietnamese, or Hmong, or there is a multi-ethnic membership. Ten of those 18 are Hispanic ministries, reaching out with the gospel to the largest ministry people group in the United States.

Shepherd of the Valley, Candelas, Colo.

Shepherd of the Valley, Candelas, Colo., held its official launch service on Oct. 6, 2019. Rev. Jeremy Belter, home missionary for Shepherd of the Valley, reports: “Every seat was filled. We counted 140 people in attendance and nearly 70 first-time guests! I was also privileged to baptize three little children that day from the same family. That family is currently taking class for membership. We have contact info from 10 families for follow up and lots of positive conversations. Several people commented, ‘We’re looking for a church with a more traditional structure and solid sermon from the Bible. We want a church that is true to the Bible.’ . . . To say that God is good is an understatement. He did more than we asked or imagined as he always does. The launch team is excited to continue working as missionaries, inviting and welcoming people to hear the message of Christ crucified!”

Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada

Qiang Wang (pictured standing reading) is a recent graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute. “My happiest thing,” says Wang, “is to share the gospel with others.” The Conference of Presidents has called him to be a missionary to the Chinese population of Coquitlam, a growing suburb of Vancouver. City planners believe 30,000 more Chinese people will move to Coquitlam in the next decade, and the city is already underserved for Chinese churches. Wang’s outreach in Coquitlam is a mission partnership between WELS Joint Missions; WELS Canada; and Saviour of the Nations, Vancouver.

Mission Journeys

WELS Mission Journeys offers WELS members the opportunity to engage in Christian service to WELS mission fields at home and abroad through church- or school-based volunteer trips. Pre-trip training led by a congregational team leader equips volunteers to have significant impact during their trip. While volunteering, the learning and sharing of outreach ideas allows teams to explore how they can use their God-given abilities to lead an outreach event upon their return home. Pictured is a teen group from St. Martin, Watertown, S.D., that volunteered to canvass and help lead a summer Bible camp for Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn. Interested in going on a WELS mission journey?
Visit wels.net/missionjourneys to learn more.

Christ, Denver, Colo.

His body language spoke loud and clear. Arms crossed. Slouched down. A toothpick pursed between his lips as he stared at the floor. Avoiding any sort of conversation. Refusing a bulletin. He didn’t want to be there, but his girlfriend had convinced him to join her in church that morning.

Then he came back the next week, this time looking up a couple of times during the sermon. The next week, he followed along in the bulletin. The week after that, he left the toothpick in the car. A few months later, he asked about classes where he could learn more about the Bible and ask some questions that have been on his mind.

Fast forward to mid-November 2019. His brother is on life support, making it hard to finish up his classes for church membership. He asks his other two brothers if it would be okay for him to invite the pastor to stop in at the hospital for a visit and prayer. It takes a week of convincing, but they finally give in. Their body language was speaking loud and clear. They didn’t really see the need or want this Spanish-speaking white guy in their brother’s hospital room. It seemed like they were paying more attention to their phones than to this stranger in the room. The conversation was short, and God’s Word was shared.

On the way home, I got a message: “Thanks. They’d like you to come again soon.”

“For the word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12).

Written by Rev. Paul Biedenbender, home missionary at Christ, Denver

Campus Ministry

The WELS campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point had a great turnout for its first Bible study of the 2019–20 school year. WELS Campus Ministry, a ministry of WELS Home Missions, provides resources, support, and encouragement to WELS congregations that serve college students in the United States and Canada. These congregations are vital in connecting college students with fellow Christians, strengthening their faith with the gospel message, and encouraging them to share that faith with other college students. To learn more, visit wels.net/campus-ministry.

Training disciples around the world

Academia Cristo provides online and in-person training in doctrine, sharing Bible stories, leading worship, and discipling others. Activating people to share the Word with others is an emphasis from early on. For example, a Colombian man disciples men in other parts of Colombia and Venezuela. They, in turn, lead churches and train others to lead groups in other places. Some are churches with buildings, others are groups meeting in houses. WELS’ Latin America missions team mentors those identified, trains them to be faithful to Scripture, and trusts the leaders to then disciple others. In 2019, two missionaries on the Latin America missions team began working in Paraguay with students who are excited to share the gospel with their countrymen (pictured is one such student and his family).

The world’s best preacher

WELS’ friendly counselor to South Asia shares this story: “As Hakim preaches a sermon to people sitting on the ground outside a house church, a cow stares at him intently. His friends tease this humble, faithful servant who is deeply loved and say, ‘You are the world’s best preacher. Even the cows listen to you.’ He is like a father-figure to many in the church. Hakim is also a filmmaker and has made many video vignettes of Bible stories such as the lost son in Luke 15. He is also a student in the first Pakistan Bible institute. He visits three to five house churches every week to teach what he learns in the Bible institute.”

New missionaries commissioned

On July 13, 2019, three new world missionaries were commissioned at the first Taste of Missions event sponsored by WELS Missions. Pictured from left are Rev. Daniel Witte, missionary to Africa; Rev. Abram Degner, missionary to Paraguay; and Rev. Bounkeo Lor, who serves as coordinator of Hmong Asia Ministry and is training the leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam. More than 400 WELS members gathered at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., for Taste of Missions, which gave WELS members an opportunity to hear firsthand from WELS home and world missionaries, sample food from around the world, visit mission displays, and participate in a worship service during which these new world missionaries were commissioned. WELS Missions is planning the next Taste of Missions for July 11, 2020, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Visit wels.net/tasteofmissions2020 for details.

Vietnam

In 2018, God’s grace opened the door to an unprecedented mission opportunity for our synod. The communist Vietnamese government invited WELS to build a theological education facility in the capital city of Hanoi to train leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church. In December 2018, WELS World Missions embarked on a synodwide campaign with the goal of receiving $2 million to pay for the land, building construction, and first two years of operating expenses. WELS members quickly responded with their prayers and financial gifts. In December 2019, that goal was met. Our Lord blessed this opportunity and moved his people to contribute or commit offerings totaling more than $2 million, which will allow WELS to provide seminary-level education for 350 pastors and catechism training for an additional 2,500 leaders. Countless others may be blessed by this training in the future.

“This is just the beginning,” notes Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of the Board for World Missions. “There are more than 120,000 members of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam and 2 million Hmong people throughout Southeast Asia. Imagine what the Holy Spirit can accomplish through the 2,800-plus pastors and leaders who will be equipped to share the truth of God’s grace with their Hmong brothers and sisters.”

Continue to follow along on this journey at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.


Discovering True Peace

“I want to say thank you to WELS because you have given me peace,” says Pastor Chaplai, a Hmong pastor in Vietnam. “I did not have peace until I learned the gospel in these classes. All of us here are learning so many things. We take the things we learn here and teach them to our people. The printed materials, translated into our language, are very useful to us. All of us are baptized now, including our babies. We have peace and joy from the true teaching of God’s Word.”

Discipleship

Responding to God’s grace

In 2019, WELS Commission on Discipleship unveiled a new congregational stewardship program called 10 for 10. After three weeks of preaching and teaching on the topic of giving, congregation members are asked to contemplate if they are able to give one-tenth of their income to the Lord for ten straight weeks—hence the name 10 for 10. This is based on the Old Testament practice of tithing.

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Discipleship, explains that the goal of 10 for 10 is much greater than amassing gifts. “10 for 10 is not a church fundraising program,” he says. “It is a gospel-centered stewardship emphasis that asks people to consider how to respond to all of the many graces that God has shown to them.”

10 for 10 opens the conversation on the often difficult topic of money in a Christ-like manner.

“Jesus talked often about money because he knew the vicelike grip it can have on our hearts as it seeks to replace him as our greatest treasure,” Dobberstein says. “When it came to money, Jesus was blunt. He was bold. 10 for 10 strives to mirror Jesus’ biblical boldness.”

WELS congregations began to implement this stewardship program in the fall of 2019. Worship materials, midweek devotions, Sunday sermons, PowerPoint slides, videos, letters, and more can be downloaded for free at welscongregationalservices.net/10-for-10


Women’s Ministry

More than 300 WELS women from 17 different states gathered at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., for the Women’s Ministry Conference from July 18-20, 2019. The event’s theme—“Living Stones: Positioned to Thrive”—explored God’s design and purpose for Christian women. A dozen breakout sessions and four keynote presentations discussed additional topics such as teamwork, evangelism, family, and more. Pictured: Marilyn Miller.

Evangelism

WELS Commission on Evangelism built off of the success of the 2018 synodwide outreach campaign and designed a new campaign for 2019. Known as C19, the initiative included resources to encourage and equip congregations to invite the unchurched to worship for Christmas 2019. One highlight of the campaign was the social media video that WELS congregations and members could share to highlight worship service dates and times. New in 2019 were resources to offer a Christmas service for those with special needs.

Worship

The New Christian Worship

The new WELS hymnal is scheduled to be released by Advent 2021. Between 15 to 17 books and 3 digital products will accompany the hymnal, according to Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the WELS Hymnal Project.

To begin introducing this hymnal to WELS members, the WELS Hymnal Project is releasing a preview booklet at the January 2020 WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. Each congregation also will receive multiple copies of the booklet. A formal Hymnal Introduction Program will start at the same time, offering introductions to the products that are coming out, ideas for introducing the hymnal to members, as well as tips for funding. New hymnal materials also will be highlighted and featured at the WELS national worship conference in 2021.

“Check out christianworship.com to get an excellent taste of our forthcoming hymnal and its supportive resources,” encourages Rev. Bryan Gerlach, the director of WELS Commission on Worship. “It’s been a great joy to work with many talented and committed volunteers who are preparing the complete ‘hymnal suite.’ As our 1993 hymnal and 2008 hymnal supplement brought us many new hymns that became dearly loved, we can expect the same from our new hymnal. But, of course, the best of the old favorites will also be included. I’m especially excited about Christian Worship: Service Builder—a powerful software tool that will save pastors and church offices a ton of time and produce professional quality in design of worship folders.”

For more information, visit christianworship.com.

Lutheran Schools

School Leaders

The 21st-Century Lutheran Principal Initiative helps to address the growing need for school leaders and involves cohorts of experienced teachers going through three years of training with the Commission on Lutheran Schools and Martin Luther College. The first cohort is scheduled to complete its training in 2020. The second and third cohorts have begun their training, and a fourth cohort is being recruited.

The Early Childhood Emerging Leader cohort is a similar program designed for current early childhood teachers willing to train to serve as early childhood directors. This year-long cohort includes professional development, a project in their current ministry applying leadership skills, support from an experienced early childhood director as their mentor, and monthly teleconferences covering practical topics related to the role of early childhood director. Six individuals completed the 2018–19 cohort in June.

Pictured above: Members of the first cohort of the 21st-Century Lutheran Principal Initiative meet for training with their mentors and instructors at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry.


Early Childhood Education

On Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, Katie Kubat and her four children were baptized by Rev. John Melke (left) at Good Shepherd, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Katie has enrolled three children in Good Shepherd’s 3K ministry. Katie is currently attending Bible information class with Melke. Also pictured is Rev. Paul Tullberg.


WELS EdTechLead Summit

The WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit (EdTechLead) brought more than 400 teachers, pastors, and other synod leaders together at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., from June 25-27, 2019, to explore ministry tools, techniques, and best practices. The conference was a joint effort of the WELS Commission on Lutheran Schools and WELS Technology.

Special Ministries

Prison Ministry

Wanda Markland (pictured, far left), warden of the South Dakota Women’s Prison, introduced WELS Prison Ministry materials to the inmates. Some are available to read in the library, and many can be taken for free—if the women get there fast enough. Amanda, an inmate working in the library, says that sometimes they have to fill the free rack two times or more a day with booklets from WELS Prison Ministry.

When asked what the books mean to her, inmate Katherine responded: “Everything.” The books have enabled her to understand the Bible. Others replied that the books help them to know that they are loved, they are not alone, and they are growing in their spiritual life. One inmate was even led to request baptism.

These women, who rejoice in the good news that they are forgiven, took up a collection from their meager funds and sent a donation to WELS Prison Ministry so that more people could benefit from hearing God’s good news through these materials.

Did you know?

WELS Prison Ministry administers an extensive ministry-by-mail program and provides training opportunities for laypeople and pastors who would like to begin a local jail or prison ministry. Hundreds of volunteers manage this ministry-by-mail program that has reached more than 70,000 inmates.


Military Services

WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod pastors serving military families met in May 2019 for the Military Contact Pastors Retreat at Risen Savior, Chula Vista, Calif., near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Under the theme “Serving those who serve our country,” the presentations provided insights into the unique challenges of the military lifestyle during and after deployment and how to reach military members and their families with the gospel. WELS Military Services, a part of WELS Special Ministries, supports servicemen and women with devotions and other spiritual care. Refer a military member at wels.net/refer.

Christian Aid and Relief

WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved $466,212 for humanitarian aid work in fiscal year 2019–20.

Rev. Robert Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, says, “Humanitarian aid projects help our missions put Christ’s love into action by meeting community needs. As missionaries develop relationships with the people they serve, they also find opportunities to tell people about Jesus. In some world mission fields, hostile to Christianity, humanitarian aid is essential to keep the doors open to share the gospel.”

All projects originate in the mission fields as the missionaries discover opportunities to help. Then the projects are brought to the Christian Aid and Relief administrative committee as well as to the WELS Missions administrators for approval. Pictured is a project at Hope, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, that welcomes new immigrants to the area.

To view a complete list of humanitarian aid projects as well as relief projects, visit wels.net/relief.

Ministry of Christian Giving

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving serves on behalf of the Conference of Presidents to encourage every WELS member to “excel in the grace of giving” through Christ. In 2019 the Ministry of Christian Giving coordinated campaigns for several areas of ministry including Congregational Services’ “For the Generations to Come,” World Missions’ “Grace-Hmong outreach in Vietnam,” and Martin Luther College’s “Equipping Christian Witnesses.”

Christian Giving also refreshed its congregational planned giving manual and mailed a copy to every congregation to help church leaders share with members ways to support gospel ministry through planned gifts.

In 2018-19, WELS Christian giving counselors made 280 presentations to WELS congregations on topics such as smart Christian giving, will planning, and WELS ministry efforts.

To request free, confidential assistance with a gift, visit wels.net/Christian-giving or call 800-827-5482.

Communication Services

WELS Communication Services helped coordinate WELS’ 65th biennial convention. It also kept the synod informed about the events of the convention through its various communications platforms. Some of those platforms include “Together,” an e-newsletter and video update; WELS’ Facebook page, facebook.com/welslutherans; wels.net, WELS’ official website; and Forward in Christ, WELS’ official monthly magazine.

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc., (WELS CEF) provides financing through loans and grants to mission congregations so they can acquire land and ministry facilities to be used for gospel outreach in coordination with WELS Home Missions. WELS CEF also provides loans to self-supporting WELS congregations and schools for land and facility projects. The money to carry out CEF’s mission comes from investments and gifts from WELS members, congregations, and affiliated organizations.

In fiscal year 2018–19, $45.1 million of new loans and $2.3 million of new grants were approved to mission and mission-minded self-supporting congregations. In addition, WELS CEF provided a grant of $1.86 million to the Board for Home Missions from its annual endowment distribution and operating earnings. WELS CEF ended fiscal year 2019 with assets of $204.3 million and net assets of $104.9 million. More than 3,200 WELS members invested $94.1 million. The loan portfolio held $161.6 million in 217 loans to congregations and affiliates.

Pictured above is Rev. Stephen Apt, pastor at Divine Savior Church, Santa Rita Ranch, with his wife and daughter at the groundbreaking of their church supported by WELS CEF.

For more information, visit wels.net/cef.

WELS Foundation

WELS Foundation exists to help God’s people support gospel ministry through WELS. WELS Foundation currently administers more than 1,100 donor directed planned gifts including endowment funds, donor advised funds, and gifts that provide income payments to the donor and/or their family members and loved ones. These planned gifts, generally established with the assistance of a WELS Christian giving counselor or other WELS advancement representative, benefit WELS congregations, schools, missions, and other affiliated ministries.

In 2019, WELS Foundation was privileged to distribute $5.92 million in donor directed gifts to various WELS ministries. This included $2.17 million to WELS Missions and Ministry Support, $1.36 million to WELS Ministerial Education schools, $1.03 million to WELS Church Extension Fund, $840,000 to WELS congregations, and $520,000 to WELS-affiliated ministries and area Lutheran high schools.

Visit wels.net/foundation for more information.

WELS Investment Funds, Inc.

WELS Investment Funds is a self-supporting subsidiary of WELS. Its mission is to provide cost-effective, professionally managed investment portfolios exclusively for WELS-affiliated ministries. By pooling investment resources through WELS Investment Funds, congregations can take advantage of lower cost, institutional priced investment alternatives that would not otherwise be available. As more congregations and WELS-affiliated ministries invest in WELS Investment Funds, the cost reduction benefits increase. It’s another way we can help support each other.

As of Nov. 30, 2019, WELS Investment Funds manages more than $230 million in assets, which includes $54 million for 188 congregations and 20 affiliated ministries.

Visit wels.net/welsfunds for more information. 

WELS Benefit Plans Office

The WELS Benefit Plans Office (BPO) serves WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) workers and organizations through administration of the WELS Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Health Plan, the WELS Pension Plan, and the WELS Shepherd Plan.

The WELS VEBA Health Plan provides benefits for church and school workers in accordance with God’s Word while remaining compliant with the federal health care reform law. The plan provides comprehensive, nationwide coverage. More than 80 percent of WELS workers and calling bodies participate in WELS VEBA.

The WELS Pension Plan provides WELS called workers with a valuable source of guaranteed income during retirement.

The WELS Shepherd Plan provides workers the opportunity to save and invest a portion of their earnings to provide income during their retirement years.

One important advantage of participating in WELS Benefit Plans is that the coverage and benefits provided are uniform throughout all 50 states. This supports the WELS ministry and call process because worker call decisions are not influenced by health insurance and retirement benefit decisions.

Visit welsbpo.net for more information.

Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) provides Christ-centered, biblically sound resources to the people of WELS and beyond. NPH publishes Forward in Christ and Meditations, elementary and Sunday school curricula, Bible studies, worship materials, music, and faith-strengthening books for WELS members. In 2019, NPH released more than 25 Christian resources in print and digital formats, including:

  • the Holy Bible: Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV), a fresh and complete translation of the Bible;
  • the EHV version of Luther’s Catechism;
  • Purposeful Grieving, a book with 56 devotions that recognize the challenges of grief but also point readers to the comforting cross of Christ;
  • Christmas and Lent service kits for churches;
  • a vacation Bible school program; and
  • 14 music offerings for organ, piano, and/or choir.

In addition, NPH published two Bible studies—Pray, Praise, and Give Thanks, a psalm-focused study to help students discover and apply to their own lives the meanings of nine psalms; and Politics Is Driving Me Crazy, a timely study that explains the separation of church and state and reminds us to listen to God, who rules over all things—as well as two professional books—A Christian Guide to Mental Illness, Volume 2, an informative and encouraging resource for church workers who want to help Christians obtain help for mental illness; and A Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, a comprehensive resource that looks closely at the Greek text of these two letters of Paul.

NPH also continued work on production of the new hymnal and its related suite of resources.

NPH serves our WELS church body through its website, nph.net, by phone at 1-800-662-6022, and through its displays at conferences and events.

Visit nph.net to learn more about the ministry of NPH.

Discipleship

Small group ministry resonates with Millennials

“I started going to growth groups here, and that fueled my faith like never before,” says Jackie Huebner, a 29-year-old member of St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis. “Finding people who wanted to talk about Jesus was awesome as well as seeing firsthand how fellow Christians would filter their lives through what God says. And to dive deeper into his Word and become a closer community of Christians is such a powerful thing.” 

Rev. James Hein, a pastor at St. Marcus, says that Huebner is a good example of a Millennial—someone who was born from 1980–2000. “Millennials are looking for close relationships,” says Hein. “We try to ensure that small group ministries are an essential part of the St. Marcus culture. We currently have 12 to 15 small groups running, and virtually all of our leadership comes from and is involved in these small, relational study groups.” 

Hein himself prepares the material for most of these groups, often based off of the previous Sunday’s sermon. A lay facilitator then presents the material to the group and helps group members work through it. Usually these groups meet in members’ homes over a meal, but they can also meet in coffee shops or restaurants. The location is not as important as the relationships that are built as members get to know one another and share life experiences with each other. 

“I attended a growth group at a friend’s house soon after I joined St. Marcus,” says Huebner, “and now I lead one with my husband. We get the opportunity to have real conversations about faith and how to put it into action in our lives in a like-minded Christian community. I depend on it.”

To watch a series of videos that discuss ministering to Millennials, as well as discussion guides and a playbook with tips for ministering to Millennials, visit welscongregationalservices.net. Choose the “Modules” dropdown menu and then “Discipleship.”


Teens learn they are never alone

From June 26–29, 2018, approximately 2,100 WELS teens and youth leaders attended the WELS International Youth Rally at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Organized by the WELS Commission on Discipleship, teens gathered for praise, learning, and fellowship under the theme “Never Alone.” This theme was based on the message of Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Attendees were assured that God is ever-present in their lives and that they are not isolated in their belief. Teens sang their praises with worship band Koiné and worked on a collaborative piece of artwork that was coordinated by WELS artist Jason Jaspersen (both pictured, left).

Evangelism

WELS Commission on Evangelism released To the Ends of the Earth, the fourth and final film in WELS’ outreach series, in September 2018. The four films in this series were a collaboration between WELS Commissions on Evangelism and Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Encouraging witnessing is an important feature of the film, which tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi. To view a trailer and learn more about the film, visit wels.net/totheendsoftheearth


Synodwide Outreach Campaign

WELS Congregational Services launched a synodwide outreach campaign called C18. The overarching goal of the program was to reach one million people with the gospel message during the 2018 Christmas season. Every commission from Congregational Services provided royalty-free resources that congregations and members could use in this effort.

“It all boils down to WELS members growing closer to Jesus so we have a heart that beats with a love and passion for the lost and we are willing to step outside our comfort zone to do whatever we can to share the gospel,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Congregational Services.

To learn more about C18, visit wels.net/c18.

Special Ministries

God’s Word—in Braille

“Her hands are her eyes,” says Timothy Redfield. He is talking about his six-year-old daughter, Libby, who was born blind due to an optic nerve condition.

Redfield and his wife, who are members of Trinity, Belle Plaine, Minn., are teaching Libby (pictured) how to read Braille. They are able to get free children’s books in Braille from the state and county, but they also want Libby to be able to read about her Savior, so they sent several of their favorite Christian story books to the Mission for the Visually Impaired. Volunteers then produced and positioned clear Braille stickers into the books so Libby could read along. The Mission for the Visually Impaired also provides weekly Christ-Light Sunday school lessons in Braille for Libby. 

Manned by volunteers and headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., the mission, which operates under WELS Commission on Special Ministries, produces devotional and other materials in Braille, large print, and on cassette tape. These are distributed free to WELS and non-WELS visually impaired people. The mission currently is working on a project to have downloadable Christian audio resources available online.

“Our goal is to spread his Word—in any way we can!” says Bill Bremel, director of the Mission for the Visually Impaired.

Learn more at wels.net/visually-impaired.


Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) Conference

OWLS members greet Steve Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, who presented on the challenges they’ve experienced during Steve’s career as a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot, which included a life-changing crash.

Worship

WELS Hymnal Project

Committees have been at work on the WELS Hymnal Project since 2013.  Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the Hymnal Project, says, “Our focus continues to be on the scriptural integrity and Christ-centeredness of the resources we are seeking to provide, on both preserving and producing faith-strengthening materials for worshipers today and in generations to come. Our goal continues to be to bring forward texts and music that will serve people of all ages in a broad array of contexts, so that through Scripture and rites and hymns and psalms, God will be glorified and his people edified.”

The work of the Hymnal Project is closely coordinated with WELS Commission on Worship. As part of the hymnal’s development, surveys and field testing have been conducted. The executive committee plans to review and approve final content for all resources in 2019 so that the hymnal will be available for purchase in Advent 2021.