Congregational Services

WELS Congregational Services, which encompasses the work of the Commissions on Congregational Counseling, Adult Discipleship, Youth and Family Ministry, Worship, Evangelism, Special Ministries, and Lutheran Schools, has put together a five-year plan to direct its work. The plan addresses current demographic challenges facing many WELS congregations. Plans include:  

Creating a present-day mission emphasis—The Commission on Evangelism is developing a comprehensive evangelism curriculum that congregations can use to offer annual evangelism training and encouragement. 

Better capitalizing on WELS’ historic strengths—WELS’ school system, its compassion ministries, and gospel-centered worship are known strengths of our church body, so Congregational Services is working to strengthen these areas and promote them in our communities and to our congregations. 

Focusing on closing the “back door”—The Commissions on Adult Discipleship and Youth and Family Ministry in particular want to help churches address delinquency quickly, revitalize youth ministry, produce resources for Millennial outreach and retention, and create stronger inter-congregation connectivity.

Striving to strengthen the family—Congregational Services is working to produce resources that help train families how to grow together spiritually. 

Each area of WELS Congregational Services is working on different aspects of the five-year plan, but many times the groups are working together to develop resources to face these challenges. One major component of Congregational Services’ five-year plan is to develop a clearinghouse for all these resources so that congregational leaders can easily find the materials that they need. 

For more information, visit wels.net/congregational-services

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.

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.

Did you know? More than 80 percent of WELS workers and calling bodies participate in WELS VEBA.

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.

WELS Investment Funds currently manages $205 million in assets, which includes $44 million for 168 congregations and 22 affiliated ministries.

Visit  wels.net/welsfunds  for more information.

Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) exists to deliver Christ-centered, biblically sound resources within WELS and beyond. NPH publishes Forward in Christ and Meditations, Bible studies, music, elementary and Sunday school curriculum, worship materials, and books for our WELS members. In 2017, NPH released more than 40 Christian resources in print and digital formats, including:

  • a new edition of Luther’s Catechism and supporting teaching tools;
  • four devotional/inspirational books for adults and children;
  • two books, a film, and other resources in celebration of Reformation 500;
  • three resources for pastoral growth;
  • Christmas and Lent service kits for churches;
  • Christ-Light digital resources for Lutheran elementary schools;
  • a vacation Bible school program, along with a Luther film for children and an accompanying curriculum;
  • thirteen sheet music offerings for adults and children;
  • five new Bible studies for large and small groups; and
  • the Evangelical Heritage Version New Testament and Psalms.

In 2017, NPH reached WELS members through 85 book fairs in churches and schools and through displays at 28 WELS events.

Visit nph.net or stop by the NPH Christian Books and Gifts store in Milwaukee, Wis., to learn more.

Did you know? More than 21,000 music books and sheet music pieces are distributed by NPH for use in worship each year.

 

Read Together article “NPH launches new website .”

Read Together article “A lifelong Christian resource .”

WELS Foundation

WELS Foundation exists to help God’s people support gospel ministry through WELS. Planned gifts provide funding for WELS congregations, schools, missions, and other affiliated ministries. In 2017, WELS Foundation administered and distributed $9.8 million in donor directed gifts to various WELS ministries. In July, WELS Foundation distributed $832,338 for synod ministry from the WELS Endowment Funds—$372,667 to Ministerial Education and $459,670 to Missions.

Visit wels.net/foundation for more information.

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 2016–17, $19.6 million of new loans and $2.3 million of new grant requests were approved. WELS CEF’s loan portfolio ended the year at $149.8 million with 216 loans to WELS congregations and affiliates.

For more information, visit  wels.net/cef.

Chaplain Certification Program

Mike Indest (pictured: third from left), a member of Crown of Life, New Orleans, La., recently completed chaplaincy certification through a partnership between the WELS Commission on Special Ministries and Martin Luther College. Indest became interested in the program after counseling he received following Hurricane Katrina. 

The Chaplain Certification Program is about helping people in special circumstances with special ministry needs. Training is open to all WELS members, both lay members and called workers, with a heart for meeting the spiritual needs of people in circumstances that require particular spiritual care. Specific areas of ministry include those in prison, hospitals, nursing homes, the military and their families, and public servants such as police officers and firemen and women. Chaplain Certification Program courses can be taken online through Martin Luther College. 

If you’re interested in becoming a chaplain, visit wels.net/chaplains. To enroll in training, visit mlc-wels.edu/continuing-education/wels-chaplain-certificate.   

 

Read Together article “Chaplain Certification Program courses offered.”

Offering spiritual growth opportunities

The WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship strives to help members grow spiritually. Interactive Faith Bible studies are presented twice each year. These live, online Bible studies can be used by congregations, small groups, or individuals. Members can gather at church or around their own computer to join in fellowship and learn about the Bible with brothers and sisters in faith from around the world. In 2017, the studies focused on enriching marriage and Luther’s lasting impact. To learn more, find out when the next study takes place, or watch archived studies, visit wels.net/interactivefaith.

WELS Women’s Ministry offers a rich assortment of free Bible studies at wels.net/women. The third edition of Heirs Together of God’s Gracious Gift of Life, a Bible study that discusses the unique callings and interdependence of man and woman, was released in 2017 and is available through Northwestern Publishing House at nph.net.

Did you know? WELS Youth and Family Ministry produces a monthly video newsmagazine for youth. Titled Kids Connection, the video features spiritually uplifting stories about people, places, and programs around WELS. For information, visit wels.net/kidsconnection.

Providing programs and resources for congregations

The Commission on Congregational Counseling operates a variety of programs that help congregations evaluate their ministry. One is the Self-Assessment and Adjustment Program.

As Rev. Jon Hein (pictured), director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling, notes, “The Self-Assessment and Adjustment Program not only helps the congregations to assess and adjust their ministry, but it also gives our commission a unique vantage point, allowing us to identify consistent challenges and needs among WELS congregations. We can then pass this information along to the other areas of Congregational Services, allowing them to shape their efforts in a way to meet these challenges and needs.”

For more information, visit wels.net/ccc.

Excellence in worship on display

The WELS Commission on Worship hosted the 2017 National Conference on Worship Music and the Arts June 13–16 at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis. More than one thousand people attended the conference, which included a focus on Martin Luther’s contributions to worship as part of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The conference also included: 

  • morning and evening worship services;
  • a plenary address by Rev. Michael Schultz, the director of the Hymnal Project, who offered a Reformation perspective on worship;
  • more than 50 breakout sessions;
  • performances by WELS musicians in a wide variety of styles;
  • a children’s choir and high school honor choir;
  • a collaborative art project that was displayed at the closing service; and
  • a juried art exhibit.

2017 National Conference on Worship, Music, & the Arts

Read the Together article “Worship conference celebrates Lutheran worship.”

 


The WELS Hymnal Project

The subcommittees of the WELS Hymnal Project continue to make progress on the development of the synod’s next hymnal. The hymnal and accompanying resources could be available for purchase as early as 2021. As part of the hymnal’s development, WELS Hymnal Project subcommittees have been giving congregations an opportunity to use and review samples of the materials developed so far. The work of the WELS Hymnal Project is closely coordinated with the Commission on Worship. 

In July 2017, Forward in Christmagazine began running a series of nine articles that are focused on the use of hymnody. Along with those articles, the WELS Hymnal Project has published online the current list of Christian Worship and Christian Worship: Supplement hymns, indicating which hymns have been selected for inclusion in the next hymnal and which ones have not. All members of the synod may offer feedback on this preliminary list. Visit welshymnal.com.

Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach

WELS maintains one of the largest private school systems in the United States. The greatest growth in WELS’ school system over the past 20 years has been in early childhood ministries. Many congregations have started early childhood ministries to reach into their communities to share the gospel with nonmember families and create a gateway for new members to join the church. Research has shown, though, that while these ministries are doing a wonderful job sharing God’s Word with their young students, most are not reaching their students’ families. To help congregations create a harvest strategy that might better share God’s Word with these families, the Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools created Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach.  

Telling the Next Generation is a daylong workshop (pictured: below, left) that helps congregation and school leaders focus on their joint mission, build relationships within the church and with school families, and develop an organized program to connect school families with the Word. From April 2016 through September 2017, 17 workshops were held in 11 of WELS’ 12 districts. Almost 800 people from 109 congregations participated.  

“The Telling the Next Generation workshop has had an incredible impact on the early childhood ministry of Apostles,” says Rev. Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles, Billings, Mont. “We walked away with a detailed ministry plan and a refreshed focus to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus to children and their families. Our meetings and future planning have become more streamlined as we go forward with our agreed upon outreach and evangelism goals.”  

Bickelhaupt also reports that within two weeks of the workshop, God blessed Apostles with two preschool families in the congregation’s Bible basics class. As he notes, “Telling the Next Generation has empowered our ministry team spiritually with the gospel and has provided the practical lessons we needed to position our early childhood ministry as an outreach arm to our community.”  

For more information, visit wels.net/tellingthenextgeneration

Did you know? The WELS Commission on Evangelism provides a devotion each weekday that can be e-mailed to your inbox. Visit wels.net/subscribe to begin receiving these daily devotions.


Preparing principals to lead

Serving as a principal in a WELS school has grown in complexity over the years. The 21st-Century Principal Initiative recognizes that fact and encourages a shift in thinking and action from the traditional WELS principal approach. This initiative, coordinated by Lutheran Schools and Martin Luther College, encourages congregations and schools to structure the principal position in a way that respects the complexity and importance of the task and the training it requires. In addition, Lutheran Schools and Martin Luther College are providing training before a teacher is called to be a principal to help prepare a worker for this important role. The first cohort of seven teachers with leadership potential began Leadership Candidate Training in 2017. 

Sharing God’s message with Spanish speakers

Jackson (pictured), a new Lutheran living in Venezuela, can’t keep the peace he found in the gospel to himself.

“You fill them up with the gospel and this hope and peace and comfort, and it starts to spill out,” says Missionary Mike Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America. 

What’s amazing is that less than a year ago, Jackson didn’t have that peace. Living in a country that economically and socially is falling apart—and where there aren’t any churches that faithfully share God’s true Word—Jackson was looking for hope. He saw a Facebook post from Academia Cristo that shared the gospel message and invited him to join a Whatsapp (texting) group that discusses a daily devotion. As he learned more, Jackson began peppering group leader Henry Herrera, pastor at Most Holy Trinity, Medillín, Colombia, with questions. Herrera invited Jackson to take an online class that he was leading through Academia Cristo. Jackson joined all Herrera’s classes, went through Bible information class, worshiped online with Most Holy Trinity, and within months was confirmed. 

But that wasn’t enough for Jackson. He began inviting people into his home in Venezuela and teaching them what he had learned. He also started offering weekly worship, using the WELS website Iglesia Luterana Cristo for worship resources. 

Jackson is just one example of the people Academia Cristo is reaching. Since its launch three years ago, Academia Cristo has reached Spanish-speaking people in every Spanish-speaking country with the life-saving message of Jesus. And some of those people, people like Jackson, are sharing that message with others. 

Did you know? Academia Cristo (Christ Academy) is a joint effort between World Missions’ One Latin America Team and Multi-Language Publications that offers Christ-centered resources for Spanish speakers around the world.

Vietnam

“We thank you for the WELS training for the past three years. Now, we believe that we have salvation. Without that, today we would still be living in the darkness of Satan. We believe that God already answered our prayers through the WELS.”

This is just a snippet of the letter written to WELS from the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam, after members of the Global Hmong Committee and the Pastoral Studies Institute conducted pastoral training in Hanoi. Pastor Bounkeo Lor (pictured teaching), coordinator of the Hmong Asia Ministry, and members of the Pastoral Studies Institute Team have been consistently visiting Vietnam to conduct training since 2015. In just three years, the Hmong Fellowship Church has grown from 65,000 to 100,000 members and formed 53 new churches. The Hmong pastors in Vietnam are yearning for the gospel and eager to grow in a faith that centers around the free grace received from Jesus Christ.

Learn more about Hmong Ministry. 

Ethiopia

Missionaries and the Administrative Committee for Africa have organized a new operational team for all of Africa, the One Africa Team. With new requests for gospel teaching coming from seven additional African countries, the One Africa Team is prepared to share resources and increase partnerships with national pastors and missionaries to meet this growing cry for outreach. Some of these new outreach fields include South Sudanese refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia (pictured), and Liberia as well as Mozambique, where the national church of Malawi is in the process of registering with the government to conduct mission work.

Read Missions blog “Africa Awaits! One Africa Team Assembles for Action.”

Read Missions blog “Expansion of Christ’s Kingdom: Kakuma Refugee Camp.”

Outreach to Native Americans

Our Savior, Bylas, Ariz., used a community garden to reach out to its members and the community. Our Savior is part of the Apache mission, which was established as the first WELS world mission in 1893. In 2018, the Native American mission is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Lutheran mission work on the reservation. To learn more about the anniversary, visit nativechristians.org.

Read Missions blog “Not a Bite Left, but a Hunger for More .

Building relationships

The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a second site ministry begun by St. Matthew, Spokane, Wash. The congregation held its launch service on Oct. 1, 2017. Twenty-five members of St. Matthew volunteered to serve as a launch team for the new mission and have been busy reaching out in Couer d’Alene. Members of the Vine have been volunteering in the community and hosting community events (pictured: left) as a way to be involved in the community, show kindness in action, and demonstrate the love of Jesus to their neighbors. They and their pastor, Rev. Kevin Schultz, are also building relationships with unchurched families so that they can share the gospel with them. 

As Schultz shares, “Shortly after moving to Coeur d’Alene, I met a lady at a local hotel who was making the arrangements for our church to have a meeting there. She mentioned to me that her dad died a few days prior and she was feeling kind of down and depressed. I listened to her talk about her dad for a little while and how she was hurting inside, and then I shared with her some words of comfort from God’s Word. A few days later, I followed up by sending her a sympathy card in the mail just to show her that I cared. She called me to say thank you for thinking of her and for sharing words of comfort and encouragement with her. About a week after that, she called me again and started asking me questions about our new mission church and what ‘kind’ of church is it going to be. I shared with her information about The Vine and asked if I could stay in contact, so that she would know what we’re doing at The Vine and I could invite her to be a part of it. She said, ‘I would love that. Thank you for caring.’ God is using our efforts to build his church here—one relationship at a time.”

Did you know? Home Missions oversees 115 congregations, 87 of which are subsidized and 28 of which are unsubsidized. These congregations are located in 33 states, Canada, and two islands in the West Indies.

Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz.

On Nov. 25, Santo Tomas, Phoenix, Ariz., celebrated its 20th anniversary. This Spanish-speaking mission congregation averages four baptisms per month and has confirmed more than 18 adults and 13 youth this year (pictured: youth confirmation in April 2017). Each month, the congregation welcomes an average of 23 first-time visitors. 

“Friendship evangelism is a key part of our growth,” says Rev. Tom Zimdars (pictured: far right), one of Santo Tomas’s two pastors. “Most of our members enter the congregation via special celebrations like baptisms, weddings, and quinceañeras.”

Zimdars notes that as visitors encounter the gospel, “they receive the joy and peace of knowing that their sins are forgiven through faith in Christ, and this message continues to work in their lives as they grow in their faith and share their faith with their family and friends.”

Santo Tomas was formed in 1997 by St. Thomas, an English-speaking congregation that saw the growing Latino community and need for a Spanish-speaking ministry. Santo Tomas now has 169 communicants and 360 baptized members. In addition to Zimdars, the congregation has a second pastor, Rev. Frank Cossio (pictured: far left), who was born in Cuba. WELS Home Missions and WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc., help support this cross-cultural mission. 

Encouraging discipleship

Peace, Aiken, S.C., won one of two ministry grants awarded by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2017. The grant is helping fund the discipleship program at Peace. As Jonathan Bourman, Peace’s pastor, explains, “We have three levels of discipleship here. Peace 101 is our membership course. Peace Academy is regular and ongoing doctrinal study. And Peace Lutheran Institute is our inaugural program to raise up the next group of leaders to work, minister, and lead in our church. This year we are piloting the program to see what works best and grow it into a sustainable ministry that year in and year out is producing leaders at Peace.”

Pictured is a Peace Kidz class, which is Peace’s spiritual component for kids, equivalent to Sunday school. 

“Peace aims to be a place where the whole family can grow!” notes Bourman.

Using God’s gifts

I gave chapel for the first time in fall 2016. It was nerve-wracking, of course, but it was also an excellent chance to learn and receive encouragement from classmates and friends. 

Participating in chapel is wonderful, too, of course. It’s not only a worship opportunity, but it’s also such a great resource for us as future ministers of the gospel. To hear the message in many different ways from many different, excellent leaders is honestly invaluable. 

I actually started at MLC with majors in secondary instrumental music and elementary education. During my Early Field Experience my sophomore year, I realized that although I enjoyed leading music, it wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do. My parents reminded me that I could be asked to lead or perform music as a pastor, too, and they helped me see that I have gifts to be a pastor that might not otherwise be used as a music teacher. 

It’s been a busy transition, to say the least. I’ll be attending MLC for five years. This semester has been the hardest, challenging me with three different languages—Greek, Hebrew, and German—at once. I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

Carl Boeder
Reprinted from
Martin Luther College In Focus, Spring 2017


MLC Day

Supporting MLC students

MLC Day has become an annual event each spring that brings together all who support MLC around the world. MLC supporters send messages to the college, pray for its ministry, share its ministry with others, and give gifts to assist in carrying out its mission. MLC students (pictured) then share their stories and thanks with supporters. 

Launched for the 2016–17 school year, the Congregational Partner Grant program also supports many Martin Luther College students as they train for full-time ministry. The program encourages congregations to support their students who attend MLC with up to $1,000 per student, which is then matched by MLC. During the first year of the program, 78 churches participated, providing 106 incoming freshmen with grants. In the second year, 145 churches participated, supporting 239 freshman and sophomore students. To learn more, visit mlc-wels.edu/go/cpgp.

Taste of Ministry

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., and Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., prepare high school students to attend Martin Luther College for future service as pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. For the 2017–18 school year, Michigan Lutheran Seminary has 200 students and Luther Preparatory School has 415. 

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 students shadow pastors and teachers to learn more about the ministry. Pictured is Nathaniel Boertman spending time in a classroom at St. John, Bay City, Mich.

Many Luther Preparatory School students participate in Project Timothy mission trips, which offer them the opportunity to help a congregation with outreach. Here Alexys Blodgett volunteers at a soccer camp for Christ Our Redeemer, El Paso, Texas.

The “Holy Ordinary”

Every year for more than 150 years, men have gathered in the classrooms at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to study the Bible in-depth. Paul O. Wendland, president of the seminary, calls this the “Holy Ordinary,”
that year-in and year-out men say, “Here am I, send me!”

Wendland notes, though, that preparing pastors for the worldwide
mission of WELS isn’t just about being in the classroom. “It is so valuable for a seminary student to have a wide range of experiences because it helps him transfer what is in his head and heart to his feet, his hands, and his mouth,” he says. 

That’s why the seminary offers classroom experiences as well as practical experiences. Some students serve youth in urban ministries, others reach out to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, some visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities, others participate in prison ministry, and still more teach English as a Second Language classes.

Second-year students spend Tuesday mornings in Lutheran elementary school classrooms, learning how to teach catechism class to seventh and eighth graders. Two seminary students are assigned to one congregation. The first two weeks they simply observe the local pastor. The next six weeks, they alternate teaching so that each student ends up preparing and teaching three lessons.

“This is one way that our guys can get real world experience as part of their training,” says Prof. Tom Kock, who oversees the program. “It’s one thing to teach them the mechanics of putting a lesson together; it’s quite another thing to teach a lesson to real students.”

For more information, visit wls.wels.net.

Did you know? Grow in Grace, the institute for pastoral growth at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, coordinates a Pastor Partners Mentoring Initiative that includes 64 experienced pastors who serve as mentors to 74 newer pastors. Pastor Partners provides mentors for seminary graduates for the first three years of their ministry. 

Pictured above: Ethan Boese teaches catechism at David’s Star, Jackson, Wis., as part of his seminary training. 


Paul Spaude

Each Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary senior completes a thesis—a capstone paper in an area of his choosing. Students are encouraged to work with WELS congregations or ministries on research that will benefit the church. Throughout their senior year, under supervision of an advisor, they research and write the thesis. In the spring, the students present their research and papers. Pictured is Paul Spaude, a 2017 graduate, who researched adult learning techniques for his senior thesis. In his paper, Spaude offers steps that congregations can take to help potential members assimilate more naturally into congregational life.

Equipped to do God’s will

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., embarked on a new six-year strategic plan in 2017. Titled “Equipped to do God’s will,” this plan keeps the college focused on its central purpose, which Rev. Mark Zarling, president of MLC, describes as “to train even more gospel servants to seize the ever-growing opportunities to go and tell.” 

MLC continues to be the WELS college of ministry, bestowing a bachelor of arts degree for those who complete preseminary training and a bachelor of science degree for those studying early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, special education, and staff ministry. The college also offers a master of science in education, a master of science in educational administration, and other continuing education programs. 

As Zarling notes, “MLC remains a dedicated college of ministry, seeking by the Spirit’s grace to be Bible-based and Christ-centered in all we do.” 

Those outside the college have recognized MLC’s commitment to its purpose as well. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools wrote, “This institution is blessed with faculty and staff members who are exceptionally committed to the mission of preparing students for ministry, who are exemplary in their care for and involvement with students, and who are gracious in their relationships with colleagues.” 

During the 2017–18 school year, MLC served 756 undergraduates and 995 students pursuing graduate degrees or continuing education.

For more information, visit mlc-wels.edu.


Early Experience

MLC provides many experiential learning opportunities for its students, including early field experiences that allow students to plan and execute lessons in Lutheran elementary school classrooms.

Vicar year experiences

Russell Scoggins (pictured) was born and raised in Austin, Texas. For the 2016–17 school year, he and his wife lived in the Washington, D.C., area where he served as a vicar at Grace, Falls Church, Va. During his vicar year, he put into practice what he had learned in the classroom at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.

Reflecting on his vicar year experiences, Scoggins says, “The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area has a little over six million people. Here, on any given day, we would drive past hundreds of thousands of people who are navigating through life without the true forgiveness, hope, and comfort that is found only in Jesus. On the one hand, that is a bit of a discouraging thought; on the other hand, it is motivation to keep moving forward and keep finding new ways to bring the Good News to those around us. There are almost an infinite number of barriers between you and others in the area—race, language, culture, or socioeconomic status. Even if it appears you have nothing in common with someone, you must remember that you have the need for a Savior in common.”

While serving as a vicar, Scoggins also worked closely with some who were fighting addiction. “With the growing opioid problem in America,” says Scoggins, “I think that it will be important for our churches to turn more attention to ministry to addicts in the coming years. After the seminary, I intend to continue study in addiction and counseling.”


Noah Willitz

Noah Willitz spent a year as a vicar in a mission setting at Victory of the Lamb, Katy, Texas. Willitz notes, “In all our classes, professors often say things like, ‘In your ministry, you’ll find people who . . .’ or, ‘Someday, someone in your church will . . .’ Serving in a congregation has allowed me to replace hypothetical situations with real names and faces. I often remember a specific piece of advice offered in the classroom and apply it to an interaction with the man standing in front of my desk or the woman lying in the hospital bed.”

Disasters open door to show Christ’s love

WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided more than $700,000 in grants in 2017. The organization works through WELS pastors and congregational leaders to assess needs, distribute aid, and bring in volunteers when requested.

The 2017 hurricane season was especially devastating. Christian Aid and Relief has provided aid to those in Florida (pictured), Georgia, Texas, Puerto Rico, Antigua, and Barbuda. Volunteers have helped with cleanup and rebuilding efforts and some projects are still underway in 2018.

For more information or to volunteer, visit wels.net/relief.

Excel in the grace of 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 2017, a special committee appointed by the Conference of Presidents completed its review of the Ministry of Christian Giving, concluding that this area is well-positioned to help God’s people positively impact WELS ministry going forward. 

One recent emphasis was the “Every Neighbor, Every Nation—WELS Missions and You” campaign presented by the Ministry of Christian Giving and WELS Missions. By God’s grace, WELS members gave more than 1,400 immediate gifts for new missions initiatives, totaling more than $700,000.

To request free, confidential gift assistance, visit wels.net/christian-giving.

Communication Services and Technology

Communication Services uses social media as one tool to update WELS members. WELS’ Facebook page, facebook.com/welslutherans, has more than 55,000 followers, and content is posted daily. WELS also has an Instagram account, @welslutherans, with more than 2,900 followers; a Twitter page; and a Vimeo channel. A bi-weekly print newsletter, “Together,” is e-mailed to subscribers the first and third Tuesday of each month. On the second and fourth Tuesday, a “Together” video update is sent. To subscribe to “Together,” visit wels.net/subscribe. While there you can subscribe to other communications, including devotions, blogs, and a Bible-reading plan.


Luther Movie

Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy was shown by more than 1,000 WELS congregations and groups in local movie theaters across the United States in 2017, helping to spread Luther’s message of God’s grace found in Scripture. A version of the movie also appeared on PBS. Northwestern Publishing House is now offering DVDs of Return to Grace. To learn more, visit nph.net.


WELS Technology has been focusing on security, efficiency and stewardship, and digital outreach. The development of the online called worker compensation calculator, which can be found at wels.net/cwcompcalc, streamlines the compensation process for congregations. 

WELS benefits

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.

One of the important advantages 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.

Did you know? The WELS Pension Plan pays more than $1 million in total retirement benefits every month to nearly 2,200 retired workers and surviving spouses.

Financing for mission congregations

Beautiful Savior, Moncks Corner, S.C., dedicated its first church in May 2016 with the help of Home Missions and WELS Church Extension Fund.

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 2015–16, $32.8 million of new loans and $4 million of new grant requests were approved. WELS CEF’s loan portfolio ended the year at $139.7 million with 208 loans to WELS congregations and affiliates.

For more information, visit wels.net/cef.

Professionally managed investment portfolios

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.

WELS Investment Funds currently manages $180 million in assets, which includes $36 million for 171 congregations and 35 affiliated ministries.

Visit wels.net/welsfunds for more information.

Helping people support ministry

WELS Foundation exists to help God’s people support gospel ministry through WELS. Planned gifts provide funding for WELS congregations, schools, missions, and other affiliated ministries. In 2016, WELS Foundation administered and distributed $6.6 million in donor directed gifts to various WELS ministries. Visit wels.net/foundation for more information.