Something new and exciting is coming!

You have likely noticed that things which once were in books or in print are now moving to a digital or web-based platform.

Two weeks ago members from the Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MDHH) group were able to bring to reality a project that has been several years in the making – an online Christian Sign Language Dictionary.  The project is entitled “Gospel Hands” and can be found at The MDHH team members spent significant time over two days signing and recording to video more than 900 religious sign language signs. It was intriguing to hear the discussion about what was the best sign and possible alternatives for a certain words or concepts. While the videos are still being edited and uploaded, it is exciting to see this effort finally coming to fruition.

This initial group of videos is only the beginning. There are plans to record more signs in the future and to keep growing this online resource.

Watch for more news in the coming weeks as the videos of these hundreds of signs are uploaded and we make this resource available publicly.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries




A new perspective

From time to time, it is good to have a new or different perspective on something you are familiar with or have been a part of for a long time. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Special Ministries for over a decade from several different perspectives.

I began my affiliation with Special Ministries as the chairman of the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Ministries (IDDM) committee. I then, almost simultaneously, accepted the call to serve as the director of Jesus Cares Ministries and was elected chairman of Special Ministries.  For the last decade I’ve said that I’ve been blessed to have a foot in both camps. Being a part of Special Ministries and also having the privilege of leading a partner of Special Ministries has given me many opportunities to bridge the two and help serve many, many people in both areas.

With this issue of His Hands we express a debt of gratitude to Jim Behringer for his loving leadership of Special Ministries over the last 11 years.  Special Ministries has been simultaneously associated with Jim and vice versa. Thank you, Jim, for being the “heart” of Special Ministries and for all you’ve done to help the many people served by the different arms of Special Ministries!

I consider it an incredible privilege to be asked to serve as only the fourth director (Alfons Woldt, Carl Ziemer and Jim Behringer) in the 50-year history of WELS Special Ministries. While I’ve been involved with this area of ministry, I now have a different perspective that has me seeing what it takes to help Special Ministries on a day-to-day basis serve and assist the many people and areas of what has been described as the “heart” of WELS. I humbly ask for your prayers that I would carry on the good work of those who have led Special Ministries for the last 50 years.  I look forward to working with everyone associated with Special Ministries in any way. I welcome any thoughts, input, questions, concerns, etc. you might have as together we continue to serve as His Hands.

Joel Gaertner, director, WELS Special Ministries





Years ago a member of the Commission on Special Ministries asserted that instead of speaking of retirement, we should use the word “redirection.” From all I’ve heard about that stage of life, it’s not pulling back from life. Most retired people I know say they are busier than ever, but they are doing something different. Redirection seems more accurate.

I mention retirement and redirection because this is my last month serving the call to be WELS director of Special Ministries. This call redirected me for over a decade. I had been a parish pastor until I was called to this office. The Lord gave me new challenges and a different way to serve him as I served my fellow WELS members through this office.

I expect new challenges and different ways of serving Jesus. God’s people never come to a point in life where we stop serving him. I have some ideas of what my next stage of serving might look like while I still have health and energy. Having watched my grandparents and parents before me, I even have some idea of what serving the Lord may look like if I live to be frail or sick. Wherever Jesus directs me, I pray that I will be a blessing to others.

I recently attended the retirement of a dear sister in Christ and she was asked what advice she would give new teachers. She didn’t hesitate: “Love your students.” It took me back to the beginning of my ministry, and the advice of seasoned pastors I admired who stressed, “Love your people.” If you’ve read what I’ve written or said in Special Ministries, you already know what my parting advice will be: Love them. Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.

Sensitive Lutheran readers are thinking to themselves, “That paragraph is loaded with Law!” My response is that Christian lives are loaded with love. In grace, God has made us his beloved children, redeemed us, and made us alive with Christ. In grace, God also loves the people we serve. They may not make sense to us. They wander and are unfaithful. They get angry and impatient. But our God’s love fills us with the urgent longing that none of them be lost. No matter what the barrier, no matter what the unfortunate circumstance, may they learn the life-giving gospel and know the love of Jesus.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director, WELS Commission on Special Ministries



European retreats restored . . . and restoring

Retreats for WELS service men and women (and civilians) are a big deal for our brothers and sisters scattered across Europe. In the early 1970s the European chaplains wanted to find a way to get their people all together in the same place—people living in many different locations across Germany and Europe. They started with an annual retreat at Easter. This was so popular that Fall retreats were added and even Spring retreats in the U.K. The retreats had a 50-year history when they were interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Because of government restrictions on travel and large group meetings, no retreats were held in the years 2020 and 2021. Then in 2022 when we scheduled our first retreat for Easter, the chaplain and his wife both came down with COVID, and the retreat had to be cancelled. But, we thank God, the retreats have been restored!

WELS has a civilian chaplain living in Germany to provide spiritual support to members of the military and their families while they’re away from home as well as civilian WELS members who moved to Europe.

This past Easter service men and women who are WELS and living in Europe met in Würzburg where, once again, all areas of our current ministry were well represented—servicemen and women from Ramstein Air Base—part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (the largest American community outside of the United States), from the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria in Grafenwöhr, from the U.S. Army Garrison Italy in Vicenza, a Navy family from the joint service military community in Stuttgart, as well as civilians from various places in Switzerland and Germany, including German friends from the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (our sister synod in Germany), and even a couple visiting from the States.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, from the oldest to the youngest. Our oldest participant, Marilyn Galow, has been attending retreats since they began. She is the widow of a serviceman who stayed on in Germany after retiring from the military. She still works at the U.S. Army Garrison in Wiesbaden. And our youngest, one-year-old Otto Waldschmidt, especially liked the Easter egg hunt. His family is finishing up their tour at Ramstein and will be heading to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii in June. The three Waldschmidt children were baptized during their stay at Ramstein and mom Tana was also baptized and confirmed.

Do you, or does someone you know, serve in the Military? Whether stateside or oversees, you can sign up to receive spiritual support and be put in contact with a WELS pastors near where you’re stationed.

The retreats are restored, but more importantly they are restoring. In Würzburg we enjoyed special worship on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter, made even more special by being together with fellow believers from all over Europe. We grew together studying the Word, and the kids had the chance to grow in their faith and friendship as they learned and played together.  It is a treat and a privilege to share our faith and our lives in this way. We want to thank our WELS brothers and sisters for supporting this ministry, which is so important for all of us.

Learn more about WELS Military Services.

Chaplain John Hartwig, pastor, civilian chaplaincy in Germany



Equip them!

“Now what am I supposed to do?” There’s more work than any called worker can ever do. There has to be! God’s Word says that our Lord prepared good works for each of his people to do (Ephesians 2:10). Called workers were never intended to be Jesus’ only servants. Those who try to take too much responsibility eventually hit a wall. They can’t do more, yet more needs to be done. A child with Down’s needs Sunday school. Grandpa loves to come to church but his hearing is so bad he gets nothing out of the sermon. Two members have been deployed and their families are struggling. “What am I supposed to do?”

The apostles set the example in Acts 6 (recruiting deacons) and gave us this advice: “Equip them!” The New Testament tells us that God calls workers to equip Christians for works of service (Ephesians 4:12). The pastor doesn’t have to install a better sound system for those with hearing loss, but he may have to coach some members on the issues and needs and motivate them to do something about the sound system. The WELS teacher may observe the special needs of a small child; she may not become the child’s teacher but may offer to coordinate the Sunday school teachers and parents until a plan is formed.

The Bible teaches that God has given different gifts to the various members of your church. How will those members use those gifts, if they are not equipped and given the opportunity to serve?

If equipping sounds like an added task on top of the already too-long list, consider this: Special Ministries can help ministry leaders equip Christians. Do you have a blind member? Several people with hearing loss? We can provide training for visitors to jails or help to mentor a member after release. We have resources for all kinds of challenging situations. Special Ministries can help equip God’s people to serve in extraordinary ways.

“What am I supposed to do?” Contact Special Ministries to get help equipping others to serve those with unique needs!




Support WELS Intellectual and Development Disabilities ministries.


Summer camps for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities

One of the joys of warmer weather is camping, and for many years congregations and organizations throughout our synod have rented or maintained campgrounds for WELS members to use and to provide camping retreats. Some of these camps offer multi-day or even week-long programs geared toward different groups of people. Many WELS members have fond memories of attending camp when they were young, making new friends, and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.

Camping can be a challenge for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so Jesus Cares Ministries has partnered with several WELS camping organizations to provide fellowship, outdoor activities, crafts, and most importantly, God’s Word to campers with special needs. These camps have been very popular throughout the years, so it’s important to make plans soon!

These camps are staffed by dedicated volunteers who return year after year because of their love for Christ and the differently-abled. There are some caveats: participants must be ambulatory and must be able to take care of their bathroom needs on their own. You can see what exactly is offered and what the attendee requirements are for each camp at their respective websites:

Camp Phillip in Wautoma, Wis.

Camp Basic, June 10-15, 2024 and June 16-21, 2024 in Bagley, Wis.

Camp Omega, Sept. 15-16, 2023, in Waterville, Minn., and Camp Green Lake, Oct. 9-10, 2023, in Spicer, Minn.

In addition to these camps, the South Central District Special Ministries team just held their first Special Needs Family Camp at Camp Shiloh in Pittsburg, Texas. This inclusive camp opportunity welcomed families with a child(ren) with special needs such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other conditions. The work that the South Central team did can serve as a pattern for others to offer inclusive camps geared toward families and not just individuals.

The community of Christ is made up of people of different ages, races, abilities, and conditions. We rejoice in opportunities to bring God’s people together to serve, be served, and give glory to our Creator and Savior!

WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry



Support WELS Intellectual and Development Disabilities ministries.


Child safety: Why talk to kids about abuse?

An average five-year-old knows that putting a hand in the fire is painful. The child understands it is dangerous even if they have never experienced a burn. Why? Multiple adults and older children have warned them about the dangers of fire, which keeps them safer. The same holds for child abuse. Children are less likely to be victimized when caring adults teach them about abuse (Findelhor, D. & Dziuba-Leatherman, J., 1995).

If education is a critical component of abuse prevention, why is it missing in many churches and schools? The topic is difficult to broach with children, and it can lead to hearing discomforting stories from students.

Some people believe that Christians are immune to this sin. The Bible shows us this is a false view of the impact of sinful human nature in our struggle against sin. For example, although the Bible calls Lot a man of faith, it also records that he offered his daughters to the mob men in Sodom. Can you imagine his daughters’ fear when they heard their father invited those men to do with them as they pleased? Emotional abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Even the possibility that child abuse and neglect could happen in our schools and churches or among our families should compel us to teach our children about abuse. The loving way to help children is to provide education about it. This gives them the tools to understand what is and is not okay, no matter what an adult tells them.

Abuse education signals to children that they have an adult who will listen and believe their story and don’t need to “keep a secret.” Those stories are the only way for children to get help and stop the abuse. They need powerful allies who will speak and advocate for them.

Many good educational programs are available to give children age-appropriate skills and keep them safer. They incorporate training for parents so that parents practice with their children. These programs teach children in a non-threatening way, opening the door for continued discussions.

Abuse prevention starts with teaching children to protect boundaries for body safety, recognize trouble and move away from it, and get help from adults in power. It allows you to change a child’s life.

Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). Victimization prevention programs: A national survey of children’s exposure and reactions. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19(2), 129–139.

We recommend these programs for teachers and parents:

Freedom for the Captives, part of WELS Special Minisitries, seeks to empower the Christian community to respond with excellence to the sin of child abuse. To this end, we provide resources to pastors, teachers, and lay Christians that will deepen their understanding of child abuse and improve the Christian response to the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of maltreatment. We also have resources for survivors including recommended readings and guidance in selecting counseling or other services. In addition to the resources on our website, we also offer direct assistance to individual survivors who may have a spiritual question not addressed on our website or who need assistance in finding a counselor.

Learn more at



Christian Worship available in braille

Lutherans have a great history of incorporating biblical hymns into our worship. Martin Luther was an enthusiast for music, and this is why music and singing forms a large part of Lutheran services.  He translated sacred Latin songs into German so the whole congregation could sing.  The first of many Lutheran hymnals was published in 1524. For the first 20 years of our existence, churches of our synod  did not have a standard hymnal. Congregations used their own hymnals brought from Germany. In the 1870’s our synod began producing hymnals. They were in German and contained lyrics of hymns, a short liturgy, and a few prayers.

Christians who lose their eyesight still want to sing God’s praises with their fellow believers. We at WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) continue Luther’s tradition of translating hymns so the blind can actively participate in the worship service.  This is why we are brailling the 2021 edition of Christian Worship.

The braille hymnal will contain lyrics of more than 650 hymns along with the standard liturgy. We have contracted with the American Printing House for the Blind to translate and emboss 10 hymnals. We are anticipating their arrival in April 2023.

Books in braille are still a necessity and MVI will provide the new braille hymnal free to WELS/ELS churches and visually impaired members who need them. MVI is also working to supply the hymnal electronically in braille for those who use handheld devices to read braille on the internet. MVI is currently uploading the lyrics of all Christian Worship hymns to our Listen Library for braille access by the blind. Our patrons can already search for hymn lyrics at under the “Worship” tab. Any person who is visually impaired can become a patron with free access to all our Christian resources by completing the MVI Service Application on the Listen Library website.


WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired is able to make resources available through the generous gifts of supporters. Your support helps WELS MVI serve more people with audio, braille and large print Christian literature.



Support the ministry work of WELS Mission for the Visually Impaired.


Hearing loop troubleshooting

Does your church currently have a hearing loop? Have you considered installing one because of the grants that the WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing(MDHH) is offering?

If your congregation is able to provide this to hard-of-hearing people who attend your services, this is a tremendous blessing. God be praised!

Even with a loop, you may still receive feedback that people are having trouble using it. This guide serves to help you troubleshoot common issues, before needing to call for maintenance. Take time with the person running into challenges and test your system with these ideas.

  1. Ensure the loop system is switched on. (Any technology how-to will start with the step of “try turning it off and on again!”)
  2. Ensure there are no errors or warnings on the loop machine.
  3. Check the AV system to make sure everything is wired up properly.
  4. Have the hearing aid wearer move around throughout the looped area and test different locations. Amplification may vary at different points in the sanctuary.
  5. Have them check with the audiologist to find out if the hearing aid is hearing loop compatible and if that feature is turned on.
  6. Check the manual for the hearing aid. Some sense the loop automatically, while others require the wearer to change the T-switch on the hearing aid. Newer ones may connect via a smartphone.
  7. If the loop is turned on, and their hearing aid is set up correctly, and the sound is still not working, then it is probably time to call in a technician for maintenance.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach as each system, space, and hearing aid is different.

As with any sound system-related issue, it is a great opportunity to wonder at our creator. God said “Let there be” and humans and animals could hear with amazing precision all the depth of sound and music he has given us.

Meanwhile, in a fallen world, while the Lord has blessed us with amazing technology, it can never compare.

So, many hours are spent fine-tuning the microphone levels to create a similar experience on a livestream as those worshiping in person are experiencing. Pastors have many stories of microphone mishaps. Similarly, hearing aids and hearing loops are prone to being finicky.

Despite that, all these tools can be used to help spread the gospel more clearly to hurting souls.

Hopefully the ideas above can help if you are experiencing issues. As with any questions you may have around the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people, please reach out to MDHH if we can assist you.

You can message us on Facebook at or email us at [email protected].




Those in prison are important to Jesus

Recently someone asked, “Why was prison such a big deal to Jesus and early Christians?” I was startled by the question, because I didn’t think that incarceration was a particularly significant issue of that time. Prisons in those days were generally a place to hold people until a case was decided and then, if punishment was imposed the person was killed, beaten, or fined. The Roman government and others at that time did not impose a prison sentence as a penalty for a crime. Life sentences were unknown.

I also didn’t think that Jesus made a “big deal” out of incarceration. When I think of the messages of the New Testament—justification by faith, salvation by grace, mercy for sinners, and condemnation of work righteousness— those could be called “big deal” messages.

But a discussion of Christ’s words in Matthew 25 about Judgment Day prompted the question about prison. If we didn’t have these words of Jesus about the Last Day, we might picture the Judge railing angrily against the murderers, robbers, rapists, and other evil people when he judges the world. Instead, Jesus tells us that the Judge will condemn those who don’t feed the hungry or the stranger, give drinks to the thirsty, clothe the naked, or visit the sick and imprisoned.

Books could be written about Matthew 25, but what struck this person was that Jesus included visiting prisoners in the list of things people will be accountable for at the Judgment. The New Testament also commanded God’s people, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” (Hebrews 13:3) Clearly the Lord has not forgotten the prisoner, even if the world has.

We should not be surprised, then, that Christian churches have had prison ministries down through the centuries. Like food pantries, visits to the homebound, and hospitals (a Christian invention), Christians have found ways to organize resources and people to care for others in their need. You may not be visiting an inmate – you may be supporting jail ministry with your resources. In your prayers, remember prisoners and those who bring them the good news.

Sometimes we have an opportunity to show the love of Jesus personally. If someone from your family, your church, or your community is incarcerated, send them a card or note, and say a prayer for them. These are men and women for whom Christ died. Whether they are incarcerated unfairly (as Jesus and Paul were), or whether they are getting the punishment they deserve (like the thief on the cross), the Lord has not forgotten about them.

In a world that regards money as the solution for most problems, Christians are tempted to think that sending money to the incarcerated is showing love. The love of Jesus is so much more than money, and grace is so different from the material goods that money provides. Remember Peter’s priorities with the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (Acts 3:6) where he didn’t give him any money but spoke to him in the name of Jesus. Isn’t the greatest gift eternal life? Isn’t the rarest blessing for an inmate to experience the love of Christ?

Prison is a big deal to Jesus. So is sickness. So is sin. As his followers, we reflect his compassionate priorities in whatever opportunities he puts before us. Thank you for your partnership in serving those who are incarcerated and remember them in your prayers.

Rev. James Behringer, Special Ministries director




Hidden Christians

Do you know most of the members of your congregation—or, at least, do you recognize most of the people who regularly worship at the same time that you do? If you belong to a smaller-sized church and worship regularly, you may be able to answer “yes” to both questions. In a very large congregation, you might not know all of the church’s members, but you may trust that the members of your church staff do.

However, it is very possible—even likely—that your congregation has members who are unknown to most others and possibly pretty unfamiliar to the staff. No, I’m not referring to members who are considered “straying sheep”—who are choosing not to attend worship or be involved in church activities. Nor am I referring to elderly members who once attended regularly but are no longer able to do so. Instead, I’m referring to other Christians who may be hidden from the congregation: parents of children with extraordinary challenges.

Through our work in the Light for Parents ministry, we often hear from parents who very much want to join in worship regularly and feel connected to other Christians, but have found this to be nearly impossible because of their child’s disability, medical condition, or mental health or behavioral challenges. Consider these examples:

  • Jim and Kathy realize that their child with sensory processing disorder cannot be in the sanctuary for a worship service because the sounds are so loud or the lights so bright that the setting becomes overwhelming.
  • Adoptive parents Tom and Grace know that their child, who has a history of being abused, is likely to be frightened by the crowd or by certain people in the sanctuary who appear scary, resulting in “fight or flight” behaviors.
  • Matt and Laura are concerned that their child who has a disability will loudly make involuntary grunting noises or call out words at random times, disrupting the service.
  • Sarah and Kevin, parents of a child with ADHD, know from experience that their child will not be able to stay in the pew for the duration of the service, but will need to walk around or even run during that time.
  • Kelly and Jacob are worried that their child, who has frequent meltdowns due to autism spectrum disorder, may have a meltdown at church.
  • Bill and Hannah, parents of a child with a medical condition that severely weakens their child’s immune system, are concerned about exposing their child to so many people in a relatively small space.
  • Greta and Phil, whose child is difficult to move from one place to another due to a physical disability, are exhausted from caring for their child’s needs each day and unable to imagine adding another difficult trip: the journey from home to church and back.

*All names have been changed.

These are just a few examples of parents who struggle to find opportunities to worship in church or get to know other congregation members. They stay in the background, often becoming very isolated from their fellow Christians. They are hidden within congregations.

These parents would love to be present at worship services. They would love to have the friendship and support of other Christians. They would love to serve others outside their homes. And they would love to have their children participate in the various children’s ministries that their church homes offer. Yet they remain hidden.

God tells us “Carry each other’s’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV). Now that you now about these “hidden Christians,” would you like to know how you can help carry their burdens and make it possible for them to play a greater role within the congregation? The first step is awareness—learning which parents in your congregation are isolated because of their children’s challenges and asking them their needs. Try saying, “I would truly appreciate the opportunity to be a blessing to you. How can I be helpful?”

The next step is making your worship services and children’s ministries accessible to all. This involves more than just having special parking spaces and ramps available. It involves letting isolated families in the congregation know that you truly want to make it possible for them to worship, and then building a circle of support around them and meeting their family’s worship and children’s ministry needs. As you do so, you may find that your congregation will begin to get a reputation as one that is very welcoming to all, and your ministry may grow as a result!

How to carry this out is a big topic, but Light for Parents is here to help. We have speakers available who would be happy to come share with your pastors, staff ministers, teachers, children’s ministry staff, and all members ways that your congregation can better open its arms to families of children with extraordinary challenges. A partial list of available topics can be found at Let us help you learn how you can be a blessing to your “hidden Christians”—and how they can be a blessing to you as well!

Written by Jane Mose

Light for Parents Program Coordinator





One way to support those in recovery

Often when we think about supporting a group of people, we think about what WE can do for THEM.

It is counterintuitive to think, “What can they do for us?”

But people from an addiction rehab near one WELS congregation have made it clear. They want opportunities to volunteer and serve.

In fact, one person said this: “I’ve let a lot a people down. You don’t know what it means to me that you are giving me the opportunity to be responsible and give back.”

Based on the comments of those in recovery, CrossWalk Lutheran Church has begun to offer opportunities to serve including:

  • Monitoring the parking lot to prevent catalytic converter theft. (The congregation lost four over the last several months)
  • Helping to take down signs, canopies, tables, and chairs after church services
  • Delivering Thanksgiving meals to needy families through the church’s Feed-a-Family program.

Providing opportunities to serve can be uncomfortable. Initially, congregations may find themselves feeling a bit like Peter before Jesus washed his feet. They may protest that it is improper or selfish to accept service rather than provide it.

But the risk of not providing opportunities to serve is great. The church could inadvertently reinforce what sociologists call “learned helplessness.” And congregations might be preventing the needy from worshiping God with their gifts of service.

What can this mean for your church?

Your church may not have collaborations with local rehabs. But it is likely that you bless your community through a number of charitable acts of giving and service.

If you want to bless your community in this novel way, the first step is to make a mental shift. Instead of thinking about what your church can do for your community, think about what your community can do for your church.

By providing opportunities to serve, you are reversing learned helplessness and fulfilling the words, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.” You are denying yourself in order to provide someone else with the opportunity to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you’re interested in learning about being spiritually supportive of people in recovery, see the Special Ministries video and study guide at

Jason Jonker
CSM Mental Health Needs Chair




Stumped and full of hope

A massive stroke. A profound birth defect. A house fire.

We don’t expect such things to happen to us. They sound to us like the end of hope, a devastating derailment of our dreams.

Isaiah’s picture of the “stump of Jesse” captures the end-of-hope feeling. The glorious kingdom of David and Solomon was smashed into rubble and the people driven out with just a stump to mark the spot. Israel’s conquest and captivity appeared to be the unthinkable finale to happiness.

The imagery of the stump of Jesse could also symbolize earthly life when a person experiences something so terrible that every expectation of joy is erased. A productive career is cut short. The joy of childhood energy is stilled. Resources for old age are gone in an instant. We stare at the stump of what once was our lives, and we are stunned.

Special Ministries exists because the stump is not the end of the story for Christians. Isaiah prophesied, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The stump is not where life ends; it is the beginning of his rescue. From that wrecked kingdom Christ came to seek and to save the lost.

In our darkest hour, our hope remains in God. Jesus told his disciples a man’s blindness would be an occasion to display what the Lord can do (John 9:3). Hope in the Lord drives Special Ministries’ work. Whether you have a disability or a struggle, whether your life has hit a wall or seems to have lost its purpose, we know the God who rescues. The Lord who caused a shoot to grow out of the stump of Jesse has a glorious eternal plan for you.

The Savior healed the deaf and blind as well as restoring hope to sinners shattered by shame. That’s not a coincidence. His mission ultimately delivers not only from damnation but also from the effects of this fallen world. Those who cannot physically hear the gospel now, already hear his voice. The blind see their Savior already in his Word. Neither trauma nor abuse can stop his healing love. The Branch is already bearing fruit and we see it in Special Ministries. The stump is not the end of the story, it’s the place where hope springs up. See Special Ministries’ information online for resources and guidance when you or someone you know is stumped!

Jim Behringer, director, WELS Special Ministries




Called worker mental health

Nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2019, according to a recent study by Mental Health America. More than half of Americans reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health. Of these nearly 50 million people, over half went untreated. The study shows that many are uninsured and for those who have coverage, a large percentage are forced out of network for mental health care. This makes treatment harder to find and less affordable.

Depression and anxiety are often wrongly viewed as character flaws that can be cured through stronger faith. Many Christians consider the called workers to be on a higher level spiritually than themselves and not susceptible to these problems. We observe our spiritual leaders spreading God’s Word and caring for the spiritual needs of the adults and children in our churches and schools. As well intentioned, but uninformed Christians, we assume that people who exhibit this type of faith would be immune to mental illness. Numerous studies and real-life experiences have shown us that God’s dedicated servants are not exempt.

In order to better support our called workers, we need to change our own perception of mental illness and become educated on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of them. The Rev. Dr. Todd Peperkorn is an Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastor who wrote a book called “I Trust When Dark My Road: A Lutheran View of Depression” in which he shares his deep struggles with anxiety and depression. His struggle began when he was a talented, energetic young pastor, devoted to his family and flock. It is shocking to hear him describe the stages of his depression that eventually caused him to completely withdraw from his ministry, family, and friends. He describes his struggles with the shame of others finding out about his diagnosis and finally the decision to take a leave from his ministry. It is heartening to hear of his treatment and ongoing recovery.

For a called worker struggling with depression, it is crucial to have the support of family, friends, another pastor, and the congregation. If your church already has a Care Committee for Called Workers, consider discussing mental health issues as a part of the annual meeting. If your congregation does not have a CCCW, concern with mental health during these stressful times provides a strong argument to form one.

Once the decision has been made to support a called worker in need, the members of the CCCW may wonder where to start. Christian Family Solutions provides confidential Lutheran counseling care and services – at no cost to the called worker. Their mission is “Healing and helping people in need through the ministry of Jesus Christ.” Since they can only help those who seek treatment, we should make it a priority that every called worker needing such help receives it.

Kurt Holzhueter, chairman of WELS Care Committee for Called Workers

Christian Family Solutions provides mental health outpatient counseling, school-based counseling, day treatment, and intensive outpatient programs for individuals and families through its clinics in seven states, at partner schools, and through telehealth. Through its Member Assistance Program, Christian Family Solutions offers confidential counseling services for called workers in all 12 districts, WELS World Missions, and other WELS/ELS organizations, at no cost to the called worker. There is a limit to the number of sessions available and may require a referral from your organizational leader or district president.  Please contact your organization for more information on how to participate in the Member Assistance Program.  You can also visit the Christian Family Solutions website to find more helpful resources or to request an appointment online: Or call 800-438-1772 to speak with the Christian Family Solutions intake staff about your care options.





What that family wishes you knew

It’s impossible to miss us as we come into your church for the first time – three of us are walking upright while the fourth member of our family is being pushed in a wheelchair (or walking with a cane, or needing his/her hand held). And as you see us, you smile politely as you would to any other family visiting your church. But we can sense that you’re a little uncomfortable about approaching us. It’s something that we’ve sensed from other people over the years as well. You’re curious, and, as a Christian, you’re a caring person, but you don’t know what to say and you don’t want to offend.

Here are seven things we wish you knew about us.

  1. We’re just like you. You can’t imagine dealing with our situation. But neither could we, not at first. We aren’t superhuman or specially gifted or anything like that. If you wonder how you would feel if you had to deal with a family member with exceptional needs day-after-day, know that we wonder the same thing about ourselves.
  2. We aren’t going to ask for your help, even if we need it. We don’t know the level of assistance you would be willing to give us, and we don’t want to impose on you. But we very well may need some help this morning, and for us to get it you’re going to have the make the first move.
  3. We aren’t going to be offended by any questions you have. We know you’re curious. We would be very happy to tell you about ourselves, our family member’s diagnosis, and the challenges we face. In fact, we would be very appreciative if you asked.
  4. Each of us is an individual. It may be very hard for our exceptional family member to communicate with you. But they will perceive your concern about them in their own way. Please treat them the same way that you treat the rest of us, even if you don’t seem to get any response. They are God’s child just as much as the rest of us are God’s children.
  5. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. We experience many challenges, but God always keeps his promises – including his promise to bring good out of every situation for his people. As much as we appreciate being able to share information about our challenges, we also want to tell you about the special blessings God has given us.
  6. Each of us is a sinner forgiven by Jesus – just like you are. That forgiving love of Jesus has forged a bond in our family that is stronger than any disability, and it just might be that the Lord means for that bond to extend between us and you as well. That’s why we’re visiting your church this morning – we’re looking for a stronger connection with God and with his people.
  7. While sympathy and simple assistance is always appreciated, what we really long for is understanding and acceptance, rooted in the knowledge that each follower of Jesus carries unique burdens, just as he said we would.

We know that it might take effort on your part to welcome us into your midst than it would take to welcome a typical family. May the love of Christ move you to make that effort!

By Rev. Stephen Schmidt, chairmain of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry




Focus on the church family

Instead of saying “congregation,” I prefer the expression “church family.” When we think of a congregation, we picture from an organization with a constitution and prescribed activities. When we think of a family, we see loving relationships that can vary, like parents, siblings, and spouses. Within the church family, you’ll find relationships like shepherd/sheep, church council/member in the pew, fellow members, choir members, altar guild members, and youth group members. The expression “church family” suggests a mutual love and commitment to each other with differing relationships.

Special Ministries equips church families. Our mission is to provide resources and guidance for churches to care for their own.

Special Ministries sometimes serves an individual directly. We provide Christian audiobooks for the blind. We send seasonal Christian cards and letters to people with developmental disabilities. But the true goal of Special Ministries’ work is to foster church members’ love and compassion and a commitment to meeting the spiritual needs of every member of the church family. Pastors may use the resources we develop and guidance we provide, but our hope is that other members of the church family will be able to serve, using Special Ministries’ training and materials.

Another parallel between family and church: family members often bring home friends. People Mom works with become aunts and uncles. Classmates from school join the family on trips. These “outsiders” are drawn because the family has blessings to share. In a similar way, the church family grows to include people in the community. Just as the love between family members morphs naturally into compassion for others, so the church family grows. Special Ministries cultivates compassion ministry – why serve only one little girl with a developmental disability when the neighborhood has other children who need the same accommodation for Sunday School and worship?

Family takes care of each other. It’s a family responsibility, and when it doesn’t happen, we call it “neglect.” Can we neglect our frail senior members who need help hearing the service or accessing the building? Can we ignore the spiritual needs of the young adult with autism, or our daughter who struggles with recovery from addiction? Of course not – these are children of our Heavenly Father, brothers and sisters of Christ our Savior. We have a commitment to bring the gospel and to love each other as the Lord Himself instructed us. If you need help for a member of your church family to worship and participate in the family, contact Special Ministries!

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries




Ideas and resources for compassion ministry

Compassion ministry has gotten a lot of attention in the past decade. It was even the topic of the 2022 Symposium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. What is compassion ministry?

Maybe we should start by defining what it is not. Compassion ministry is not an activity that competes with proclaiming the gospel. It is not Social Gospel, which sets an agenda of achieving transformation of society— focusing church work on achieving a better world in the here and now.

In contrast, compassion ministry flows from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again. He loves us, body and soul. The gospels frequently comment on the compassion of Jesus for sinners—for the broken, and those with disabilities and struggles. The apostles followed their Lord as they organized Christ’s followers. The gospel was the priority, and yet they had compassion for the poor and people who had disabilities. After the apostles passed on, the compassion of Jesus was such a part of his followers’ lives that even people who rejected Christianity admitted that Christian compassion was genuine.

Here’s my definition of compassion ministry: serving one another in love as we share and live the gospel. “We love, because he first loved us.” Christian love shows itself in acts of caring for others as well as devotion to God. Compassion doesn’t pass by the hurting person on the road to Jericho. We see the need and recognize what Christ would do because he cares for the hurting and the lost.

In an age when “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), church leaders need to intentionally cultivate Christian compassion. How can churches and their leaders nurture compassion ministry? Try Special Ministries resources as a ready-made tool for compassion ministry.

Special Ministries has resources to help congregation members care for people who are:

  • Blind or visually impaired
  • Deaf or hard of hearing
  • Intellectually or developmentally disabled
  • Inmates in jails or prisons
  • Military personnel
  • Struggling with mental health needs
  • Struggling with porn
  • Struggling with addiction
  • Survivors of abuse
  • Homebound or in care facilities
  • Caregivers

Special Ministries has resources to train your members to serve as:

  • Parish Nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Mentors
  • Advocates to protect children from abuse
  • Care Committee for Called Workers

On the WELS Special Ministries web page, you will see links to information and resources for helping others. Many of these are tied directly to being able to share the gospel despite barriers. You’ll also find encouragement to respond in love and include others in fellowship and service.

Congregations can also “prime the compassion pump” by organizing help for someone experiencing a medical or financial crisis. WELS Christian Aid and Relief can guide your members as they express their love and concern and join together to help someone who is hurting. Grant funds can also help serve someone with a disability or challenge with matching funds to get the congregation serve them.

Compassion ministry is Christian love and Christ-like service, flowing from Jesus who died that we might serve him now and eternally. Special Ministries is here to help you serve. Check out our resources, our training, and our programs!






Mentoring a Returning Citizen training

God has richly blessed ministry to the incarcerated as an outreach to the lost. Whether it is WELS Prison Ministry’s correspondence Bible studies, Institutional Ministries’ chaplain visitation and email devotions, or local efforts at jail ministry, the gospel has been changing hearts. In correctional facilities across this nation, the Spirit has opened the eyes of people who had no hope and showed them life in Christ, here and eternally.

What happens to these souls when they are no longer behind bars? Will they find the spiritual support they need to follow Christ in true freedom?

WELS Prison Ministry created an online mentoring course for returning citizens based on a successful mentoring model which Minnesota River Valley Mentoring Program ( that helps people who struggle with many different challenges. Our course videos and workbook are online and can be used at any time. But of course, the training experience is more enjoyable and effective when a facilitator leads a group through the training.

You can learn to provide guidance and encouragement to a man or woman returning to your community or church from incarceration. We call the people in this uniquely challenging category “returning citizens.” A Christian friend and a congregation can be extremely helpful to such people. They’re the key to spiritual support as well as assimilation back into the community and the church.

You’re invited to participate in a special group offering of online training, Mentoring a Returning Citizen, in the next few months. The training will help you evaluate whether you have the gifts and abilities to serve as a mentor and, if so, equip you to begin your service. There is no commitment to serve if you take the course. The skills that are taught and practiced have application in many areas including parenting and interacting with people at work. So the time you invest will be well spent regardless of whether or not you decide to pursue this ministry.

The facilitator for this course will be Prison Ministry Committee member Tom Koepsell. “Mentoring is a subject near to my heart,” says Tom. “Having worked with the incarcerated for well over a decade, I have come to appreciate the challenges they will face upon release. But more than that, I have experienced the role their Savior is playing in their lives and what Jesus means when he talks about seeking and saving the lost. When you bring Jesus to such people, you learn to love them as Jesus does. It’s a rewarding experience.”

The course will be a combination of online sessions with other participants, videos that can be viewed individually by the participants, and activities in a workbook with both individual and group exercises. You can view elements of the course at  Details about the course can also be found there.

To register for the class or obtain more information, contact Prison Ministry Administrator Dave Hochmuth at [email protected] or Tom Koepsell at [email protected].




Conversations about solutions and coping

Joan, an elderly member of your church, is slowly losing her eyesight because of Macular Degeneration and now finds it difficult to read print. You may be aware that Mission for the Visually Impaired (MVI) has audio, braille and large print Christian literature for Joan. Did you know that MVI volunteers understand Joan’s challenges and welcome the opportunity to talk to her?

MVI offers people with vision loss guidance and assistance in coping with the challenges they face. A new MVI ministry resource is a quarterly Zoom call to discuss how someone can overcome the challenges of blindness. The MVI Zoom session is open to anyone interested in learning about the resources available to live with physical blindness. We welcome people with vision loss and the blind to participate in these calls, but pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and family members are also invited and encouraged to join the conversation.

Few pastors or lay leaders are equipped to help a newly blind member or a potential member experiencing vision loss manage what may seem to be insurmountable challenges. MVI has several board members and leaders who are blind. As blind persons, they live with their physical blindness on a daily basis and have become experts on the challenges and resources for blind people.

Future MVI Zoom calls will discuss how a blind person can overcome the isolation and depression and managing daily tasks that comes with becoming blind. Another MVI call will showcase resources available to accomplish basic tasks, such as reading the Bible in an alternative format. Because the calls are not recorded lectures but real discussions, participants can ask specific questions. You can inquire about solutions tailored to your situation.

Our first quarterly MVI Zoom call will be Tues., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. Central Time. For further information, please reach out to MVI Chairman, Larry Povinelli at [email protected] or (651) 291-1536.

MVI members are here to serve you. Their involvement in MVI demonstrates that losing physical sight does not mean the end of a productive life. By encouraging each other and helping one another through the challenges of vision loss, we can keep our focus on the cross as we follow Christ. Our ultimate goal is that the blind may see heaven. To God be the glory!





MDHH ministry in action

“Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (Psalm 105:1-3)

We hear these words of the psalmist and easily imagine their application: loud shouts of praise to God . . . singing beautiful hymns and anthems to God’s glory . . . sharing and telling the whole world the life-changing news of the gospel . . . talking with other Christians as we remember God’s goodness. . . .

But our praises to God are not acceptable because of our voices, or because of a beautiful hymn, or because of a rich blend of musical instruments. Our prayers and praises are the spiritual sacrifices we offer to God that are only “acceptable to God, through Christ Jesus.” (1 Peter 2:5).

Here at Bloomington Living Hope, we are reminded of that truth as our deaf and hard of hearing members and friends grow in God’s Word through worship and Bible study. With hearts and hands they “give praise to the Lord, and proclaim his name.” They “tell of his wonderful acts” as they encourage one another. Their shouts of praise echo loudly through the new hearts and lives that the Holy Spirit has created by faith.

Each week at our Living Hope location, our 10 a.m. weekly worship service always has an interpreter. Our deaf members and the community can always count on having a live church service in which to worship each Sunday. The same service is streamed and archived on our website with a “picture in picture” view. The interpreter is recorded with a separate camera, so there is always a clear view. It takes work, preparation, and many volunteer hours, but God has richly blessed our efforts!

Another blessing of God is our weekly deaf Bible study. On Tuesday nights our deaf members bring their friends together to study God’s Word. It’s a loose format. Pastor leads the study, with the interpreter close by. We sit close to one another. We pray together. Anyone can ask any question at any time. It’s a bit different from the typical Bible study, but some things are the same. We open the Word and God richly feeds us.

Over the past two years, we’ve held our weekly deaf Bible study over ZOOM. Sometimes the screen is so full of people it’s hard to pick out the interpreter – what a blessing! The technology allows the deaf community to join us from anywhere. Deaf members in Illinois, Washington, South Dakota, and Arizona are brought together by the Spirit’s power to grow in faith week after week.

Starting in fall of 2022, our deaf Bible study is expanding to twice a week. Tuesday at 6 p.m. in person and Thursday 1 p.m. via Zoom. If you would like further information about these Bible studies or to view Sunday services signed by our interpreter, please go to our website

Over the past years, it is incredible to recall how God Has grown our DHH ministry. God can do the same for your church too!





When dreams need to change

Do you remember a time that you and your spouse eagerly awaited the arrival of a new child entering your family? If not, have your shared the excitement of a close friend or family member waiting for the birth of a child?

It can be such a wonderful time, full of hopes and dreams! The expectant parents imagine what their child will look like. They picture themselves enjoying everyday events with their child, such as family meals, trips to the zoo, and school field trips. They imagine the fun of birthdays and Christmases together. And they dream about who and what their child might someday become.

But sometimes those dreams need to change. A child may be born with a severe disability or a serious and chronic medical condition, or the child may experience an accident that changes physical or mental abilities forever. And the parents’ dreams are no longer realistic. When that happens, parents generally go through a period of grieving. Eventually, a greater acceptance occurs, and the parents change their dreams and recognize the blessing that their child still is.

This acceptance doesn’t eliminate parental doubts, however. Raising a child with extraordinary needs tends to be very overwhelming and exhausting. Even when the parents fully accept and appreciate their child, on days when those parents are especially overwhelmed and exhausted, they may tend to have doubts such as these return:

  • Why did this happen to my child? We didn’t plan for this!
  • There’s nothing special about me as a parent. I’m not a good enough parent for this situation. I don’t think I can handle this!
  • If God cares for me and my child so much, why doesn’t he fix this?
  • Other parents just don’t get it. I feel so alone!
  • I have a “forever child” whom I will need to care for as long as I live—and what will happen to my child when I die? I can’t die!

These thoughts are all natural and nothing for which parents should feel ashamed. Our Light for Parents ministry is led by parents of children with extraordinary needs who want to make sure other parents of such children receive the Christian love and support that they need.

This fall, Light for Parents will begin leading online book discussion groups, and the first book will address the types of questions listed above from a Christian perspective. Please watch the Light for Parents website and Facebook page for an announcement and sign-up information. And pray specifically for the parents you know who may be experiencing such thoughts, even if they don’t tell you about them. Pray that they will feel God’s love and care for them—including through the work of Light for Parents.




Finding good peer pressure

“If you have to be a follower, why don’t you follow someone good?” The mother who asked this question was frustrated because her son was always getting into trouble. He never seemed to be the instigator. His true problem was not, she realized, that her son was a follower. There are always leaders and followers. Not all followers are influenced by the troublemakers.

She had discovered an important perspective. Peer pressure can be good or bad.

What if we analyzed who should influence us? Gang recruits and people who are incarcerated may think that they only have one option: to give in to the pressure of their peers to do bad things. What if they saw another way? What if they came to see the hope that Jesus gives and followed him?

Peer Pressure is the topic of the newest Bible study in the WELS Prison Ministry self-study Bible correspondence course series. Thoroughly Biblical (over a dozen Scriptures are studied) and Christ-centered, the new course, Peer Pressure, navigates the question of who to follow. Students follow the experiences of “Pete” who is new to prison and pressured by a gang leader, along with the spiritual guidance of his Christian cellmate “John.” Pete learns the joy and peace of following Jesus, although not without suffering at the hands of those who expected him to join their sinful activities. Having suffered, Pete discovers that when he follows Christ, the Lord gives him freedom he didn’t have when he felt trapped by going along with the crowd.

Because God wants to keep us from being led astray by Satan and this world, he gives us the church, his believers who provide the best kind of peer pressure. As this new Bible study lays the foundation for resisting the pressure to sin, it quotes Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIRV), “Let us consider how we can stir up one another to love. Let us help one another to do good works. Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return.”

We don’t gather with other believers only to help ourselves, but to encourage others with words of hope. It’s more important than we might think. Others are looking for acceptance, hope, love, and a sense of direction. Often citizens returning to society from incarceration feel judged all over again by God’s people. Our Lord planned for the family of believers to encourage each other, not resurrect the guilt Jesus already paid for. The world is eager to pressure them to go in the wrong direction, back to old friends and habits. Our Savior put us here to provide encouragement and hope through the eternal gospel. Watch for opportunities to provide the best kind of peer pressure! Pray that this newest Prison Ministry Bible study will be a great blessing to many who are incarcerated.

Rev. Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries




The wind beneath a caregiver’s wings

I’ve known people who have 24/7 responsibilities for the care of a loved one. The obligations of being a caregiver (including those whose loved ones are in a facility) can make a person feel isolated, worn out, and stressed in ways that friends and family might not even suspect.

Our loving Father does not intend for caregivers to carry out their task by themselves. After all, God’s Word teaches, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV) You and I can be the wind beneath a caregiver’s wings.

I confess that I have often reflected silently and guiltily when I’ve seen an elderly wife or husband care for their disabled or ill spouse all by themselves. I felt bad and helpless when I see parents caring for a child with extraordinary needs and I didn’t know what to do.

You and I can be a big help and encouragement in small ways. I’ve learned to start with a thoughtful conversation with the caregiver. Before I start the conversation, I make a list of tasks the caregiver might need help with. I keep spiritual needs in mind.

Making a list helps me see little tasks that can take burdens off the caregiver, but conversation gives the caregiver a chance to be heard and understood. The list changes. Offering to mow their lawn is not a help when the caregiver looks forward to that activity. Sometimes the caregiver has needs they don’t want made public. The conversation also sets realistic expectations. I am not volunteering for everything on the list! I’m trying to understand ways that this family can be helped.

I look at the caregiver’s list and I pray about it. If I’m not good at recruiting, I talk to my spouse or my pastor to find help enlisting volunteers. Are there tasks which require special training or confidentiality? Special Ministries’ Light for Parents has resources to organize and train volunteers who are willing to help caregivers. Contact them at [email protected]. I think of people who might want to get involved. I share tasks on the list with them. I consider whether the caregiver has financial burdens which might be met through a congregational grant from WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Some items on the list may never get done, but the caregiver has felt the wind beneath his or her wings – the love of a church family that is willing to talk and help. It is really the Lord who lifts up that burden, but God does it with the encouragement and help of his people.

For the Christian family member or friend, caregiving may be a vocation to which the Lord calls us at some time in our life. I might have to care for my wife or she for me. That’s the thing about caregiving: many people become caregivers for a time. Since it happens to so many, let’s talk to each other and consider how we can help carry each other’s burdens.

Jim Behringer
Director, Commission on Special Ministries





Updates from Conquerors through Christ

Conquerors through Christ is not JUST a ministry for those addicted to pornography. For the last ten years we’ve been creating resources and recognize that the problem of porn is so much bigger than just the people who are using porn.

There are spouses, significant others, parents, siblings, teachers, and pastors who are affected. Whether it’s through broken trust and resulting pain or a desire to support and help, the problems of porn ripple into the lives of others.

That’s why CTC is continuing to add to its suite of resources to address the many other issues that attend pornography addiction.

Our “First 40 Days” devotional is an empathetic daily devotional for a person to start any time they fall into sexual temptation. It walks the reader through practical ways to build habits for 40 days that will set them up for success. This can be a great first resource to give someone you know who is struggling, but can also be a resource for you to understand their struggle.

Parents want to prepare their children to fight the sexualization of our culture. To support them, we created the “Parent Support System.” This tool guides parents, teachers, and pastors to train children from preschoolers into high school to prepare themselves to resist sexual sin.

How do you preach on pornography?!? We developed our “Training Camp” which helps pastors become better equipped to preach about pornography. Additionally, we have Bible studies to thoughtfully talk about pornography and other sexual sin.

Finally, we are excited to announce that we are in the process of developing a suite of resources to help couples (and other family members) rebuild trust after a loved one falls into pornography. This will include a triage resource for the emotions that come when a loved one feels hurt, an interactive assessment tool for identifying issues, a plan for rebuilding trust, and tools for maintaining that trust in the years to come.

Whether you’re married, single, a parent, a child, or a called worker, we want to help you pursue godly sexuality. Visit





“Heart to Heart” from Parish Nurse Ministry

Would you like your blood pressure checked? Do you need wellness assistance in the community? Have you ever needed an encouraging word or someone to pray with you? This is the ministry offered by parish nurses. Parish Nurses has a unique volunteer role serving the members from the heart. Parish nurses want to be present for you and for your family. They cannot provide medications or shots, start IVs, or perform anything invasive. However, parish nurses can provide education, resources, and tools to the congregation in order to support your spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being. A parish nurse’s goal might include providing:

  • Monthly blood pressure checks
  • “Welcome home” calls when a member is discharged from hospital
  • Wellness articles with a Biblical perspective in the church newsletter
  • Resource assistance in the community
  • Offer a CPR certification program
  • Encouragement, support, and prayer

Parish Nursing dates back to the New Testament as Phoebe opened her home to help the sick and needy. Then many years later, in 1881, Lutheran General Hospital, in Chicago, staffed deaconess nurses. It would be a century before Parish Nurses were given a name. Presently, hundreds of parish nurses serve in churches throughout the States (and internationally) where the programs are energetic and effective.

As a parish nurse, we have a variety of opportunities to make a positive impact on our congregation. We could all benefit from Christian women and men showing love through a warm smile, blood pressure checks, and reassurance the Lord understands their struggles and pain. Check out Anna in Luke 2:37. Anna was “a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”  We also can share in the joy of serving with our nursing skills and knowledge. We pray the Lord will reveal wonderful ways to use our nursing gifts as we joyfully surrender to the Lord’s plan and will. If you are a nurse, take time to invest in a parish nurse program for further education, networking, and support. Look up to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Trust him to direct our path! Connect with your pastor if interested.

Heidi Gilbert-Then is a Wisconsin native, wife and mother of four, animal lover, and Bible study leader with a nursing degree from CUW. And water-skiing enthusiast.

Learn more about Parish Nursing.





The ministry of presence

The concrete chasm still outlined Champlain Towers’ footprint, but the 12 stories that had once climbed out of its basement had, a fortnight prior, crumpled into it. The acre-size void offered a metaphor for the emptiness that now filled multitudes of mourners.

In the early hours of June 24, 2021, the Surfside, Fla., condominium catastrophically collapsed, killing 98 inhabitants. The dead were far outnumbered by the living whose hearts were ground into grief. They included residents who had escaped, survivors whose loved ones had not, and neighbors who feared that their high-rise might be the next in the news. Add hundreds of adrenaline-amped first responders, who were less sapped by the summer sun than sobered by the sadness that recovery, not rescue, would constitute the majority of their mission.

So many distraught, despairing hearts. So many troubled, traumatized souls. Physical resources poured in, but pouring out their pallet of indescribable woes to a pallet of inert goods offered hollow hope. Hurting humans hunger for the emollient of empathy.

Chaplaincy is aptly described as a “ministry of presence.” We chaplains could not solve the survivors’ suffering nor repeal the responders’ revulsion. We could listen to their anguished accounts. We could validate their emotions. We could offer our prayers and our presence. We could focus intently and thereby convey that no one meant more to us than they.

Parish ministry is more about talking and leading; chaplaincy is more about listening and learning. Pastors have a duty to unhesitatingly proclaim divine truth to an audience that demands it. Chaplains have a duty to attend patiently until—if—the sufferer grants leave for the solace-giver to deliver the message of incomparable comfort.

Serving as a chaplain for our county’s jail, and later its fire department, has afforded me the privilege to practice “presence.” This ministry reaches people who have known dark days yet may never darken the doors of a church.

Does working “outside the walls “of your church intrigue you? Perhaps God is calling you to chaplaincy. Learn more at


By Rev. David Rosenbaum, pastor at Redeemer, Merritt Island, Fla.




All because of one referral

To steal a quote from Colonel Smith of The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

WELS Military Services Committee has a plan to help military members receive religious services on base. Marine Corps Recruit, David, followed the plan.

It started with a simple text. “Hey Pastor Schulz, this is David. I’ll be in San Diego for Bootcamp starting August 26. I’m under the impression that you are my contact pastor that can visit me during basic?” He was correct. I was the Military Contact Pastor. But to visit him on base was going to be up to him.

Fortunately, there is a specific document at It is titled: How to have religious services on base. Recruit David followed all the steps.

A few weeks later a Religious Program Specialist (RP) from Marine Corps Recruit Depot – San Diego called me and told me there was a recruit who requested Holy Communion. I was able to get on base and have a devotion and Holy Communion with Recruit David! I love it when a plan comes together!

But there was much more to the plan than I could have ever dreamed. As I was leaving that day, one of the RP’s pulled me to the side. “You are a Lutheran pastor. We don’t currently offer a Lutheran service on base. Would you want to start one?”

Since then, I have been leading a worship service on base every Sunday morning. An average of 30 Recruits and Marines attend every week. Because it is a training depot, there is constant turnover. The thirty in attendance are different Recruits and Marines every six weeks! Only a handful have been WELS. Many of the others haven’t been to church in a long time, and some never have. But all in attendance hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

And this amazing blessing all started because of one referral. I love it when a plan comes together! And I love it even more when God grants his blessings upon that plan! To God be the glory!

By Rev. Paul Schulz, pastor at Risen Savior, Chula Vista, Calif.




Why a CCCW?

To encourage, support, and enhance the physical and spiritual lives of members sounds like part of the job description of WELS called workers. Most members of a calling body take for granted that called workers will encourage and support them. However, many overlook the fact that these workers are also members and need the same support as everyone else. Who will be there to make sure that the physical and spiritual needs of these dedicated workers are met?

A Care Committee for Called Workers (CCCW) can address these needs. The main areas that a local CCCW would support include spiritual needs, continuing education, compensation and benefits, providing encouragement and showing appreciation, addressing practical matters (especially for new workers and those nearing retirement), and fellowship activities. The committee serves as an advocate for the called workers and can bring the workers’ needs to the appropriate group, such as a committee, board, council, or voters. The CCCW is not designed to be a problem-solving group. It exists to facilitate communication and called worker encouragement.

While many calling bodies informally provide support to their workers, having an intentional, structured plan and organization makes sure workers are heard and encouraged. The national CCCW focus is to help calling bodies establish or maintain a local committee. This is done by providing support and materials for congregational called worker care committees. Resources for this ministry are easily accessible on the CCCW webpage.

Once a calling body has a care committee in place, several activities can help them offer appropriate support to the called workers. The primary work is done through three types of visits – entrance, annual, and transition visits. The entrance visit is a time to get acquainted and aid in the transition to a new call. The annual visits provide a regular opportunity for the committee to offer encouragement and identify any areas where support is needed. The transition visit is used to express appreciation and assist with adjusting to a new situation.

Called workers are not likely to request the support that a CCCW can provide. Therefore, it is important that interested members take the lead in providing care for those servants that God has provided. Why not a CCCW?





Prepared to serve the military neighbor

Most Americans assume that spiritual ministry to military members and their families is carried out by a U.S. military chaplain. In contrast, WELS Military Services strives to equip WELS congregations to serve military members when they are stationed nearby. It is rare to find a church body focused on equipping churches for local gospel and fellowship ministry to military personnel and their families, but civilian ministry to the military is a cornerstone of WELS Military Services’ work.

Across the nation, 125 WELS churches near military installations and their pastors (called Military Contact Pastors) are appointed to reach out to serve the men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces.

April 26-28, the WELS Military Services Committee held its annual Military Contact Pastors Workshop at Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga., near Army Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Members of the Military Services Committee met with a group of WELS Military Contact Pastors to discuss ministry to the military with Fort Stewart chaplains and military personnel, including WELS members Lt. Col. Michael Hefti and his wife Katie, who described the stresses of military life and the importance of their WELS pastors and church family in supporting them spiritually.

Every year, attendees look forward to the opportunity to visit a military installation. Fort Stewart extended extraordinary hospitality to the group by holding a meeting attended by more than a dozen of the post’s military chaplains. The chaplains explained their work and the retreat attendees spoke to them about the unique needs of WELS military personnel for religious accommodation. Fort Stewart representatives explained family resources available to military members. The official program ended with a demonstration of how a worship service in the field would be set up, and a visit to 3rd Infantry Division Museum on the post.

The annual workshop is sponsored through a generous grant from the Lutheran Military Support Group, a national organization of WELS and ELS veterans. The Lutheran Military Support Group also sponsors free professional Christian counseling for military members served by WELS Military Services and WELS and ELS veterans.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, said, “Of all the Military Contact Pastors workshops, this year’s meeting was superior. Fort Stewart’s chaplains went the extra mile to create mutual understanding. They were impressed by the WELS desire to serve military personnel and they made every effort to help us in that regard. Our attendees are always highly motivated by the speakers, but we had some outstanding presentations that I hope will improve our ability to serve military members with the gospel while helping them carry their burdens.”

Rev. Paul Horn, chairman of the WELS Military Services Committee, notes that the key to serving more WELS members in the military is through referrals from their loved ones, which they can do by going to “When we know who our WELS military members are and where they are stationed, we can better serve them with Word and Sacraments.” Horn adds, “When our congregations are aware that military families are in their church, the best thing they can do is to assimilate them into the mission and ministry of the congregation as quickly as possible. Military families move often. Making your church their church home will provide much needed encouragement and support.”

To learn more about WELS Military Services, visit

For more information about the Lutheran Military Support Group, visit


God’s People Can!

It’s in our nature when we come across a person with physical or intellectual challenges to focus on what that person can’t do. Perhaps we even define them according to what they cannot do. This person cannot live independently. That person cannot walk. This person cannot speak. That person cannot hear.

In a sense, that’s how God decided to define all of us when he planned to send his Son to earth to save us: he defined us by what we could not do. We could not come to God of our own will and serve him. We could not obey God’s commandments. We could not make up for our sinfulness with good works of our own. Our Lord Jesus did what we could not do – living a perfect life and paying for our guilt.

Now God says that we can: we can serve him. We can obey him. And that spirit of “can” applies to all of God’s people – including those with disabilities and challenges.

Take Amber Todor from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Oak Creek. As a young woman with autism, Amber and her family find ways for her to participate in congregational life and offer service to fellow members and, more importantly, to God. Amber assists her mother Shirley in assembling the monthly church newsletter. Amber attends worship and the monthly Jesus Cares program her congregation offers. Amber also comes to the monthly SMILES (Songs, Movement, Instruments, Learning, Encouragement and Signing) service that runs concurrently with the Sunday morning church service, and even pitches in with clean-up after congregational meals.

When asked why she likes doing things in and around her church, Amber simply says, “Everyone is busy.” And she’s right on several levels. First, Amber recognizes that she has free time that others might not have. That time can be spent, as her mother’s schedule allows, in God’s house, a place where Amber feels comfortable and close to her Savior. Secondly, and more importantly, Amber sees all the work her fellow Christians do for their congregation and wants to do her part as well. Amber is proof that God’s people – ALL God’s people – have a place in their local congregation and service to render to God and their fellow members.

One of the primary goals of WELS Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry is to help congregations utilize their members who, like Amber, have unique challenges. Looking for ideas specific to your church setting? Contact WELS Special Ministries.