VEBA rate increase lower than expected

WELS Benefit Plans announced that the VEBA health plan rates are increasing by two percent for 2019; this is a significantly lower increase than initially projected. Over the past three years the VEBA health plan rates have increased by an average of 6.6 percent, and budget forecasts are usually estimated at around ten.

A two percent increase is far better than expected, says Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of Benefit Plans. He explained that in today’s market, cost increases for many other employer group health plans have been in the five to eight percent range over the past few years. Rate increases for many health insurance plans available to individuals, such as those on public exchanges, have recently been ten percent or higher.

Peterman says one major factor in the lower-than-expected increase is better utilization of benefits by members. “We want to pass that savings back to the local ministries in the form of a lower increase,” he says. As VEBA members use medical care more efficiently and are, in general, healthier, the reduced health care costs are shared throughout the synod.

With the rate increase lower than planned for, it is the hope that calling bodies that use WELS VEBA will find a bit of a budget surplus that could be reallocated for ministry or other local needs. As an example of savings, for a family plan in Wisconsin, the difference between a two percent increase and a ten percent increase ranges from approximately $1,500 to $2,200 per year.

Peterman says, “It’s a blessing to be able to provide reliable, comprehensive medical coverage for our workers across the country so they can focus on their ministry and sharing the gospel. Providing this coverage at rates that are stable over time and as low as reasonably possible allows us to support calling bodies and help them achieve their ministry plans.”

This fall, VEBA will hold a limited open enrollment from Nov. 1–30, 2018. Eligible called and lay workers at calling bodies already participating in VEBA will be able to either enroll in or change their benefits.

To learn more about WELS Benefit Plans and WELS VEBA, visit welsbpo.net.

 

 

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Equipping women to mentor

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This was the theme for the recent Women’s Ministry Conference held in July. Approximately 350 women from around the country met at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to get encouraged by and equipped with God’s Word.

The conference explored how Christian women serve as mentors to those around them. Marilyn Miller, chairwoman of WELS Women’s Ministry, says, “Women are natural mentors and do it without even thinking about it. This conference helped Christian women realize how their words and actions reflect Christ wherever they might find themselves. It is our prayer that women will intentionalize their mentoring, letting God use them to shape the character and transform the thinking of everyone with whom they come into contact. God is in the business of changing hearts, and I know he will do just that through some of the women who joined us last week.”

Su Hansen attended the conference from Redeemer, Tomahawk, Wis. She summed up the conference with one main word: “Encouragement.” She says, “It’s a very godly way to gather together sisters in Christ and grow together and encourage one another in our various callings.”

Attendee Ahnsharee Klusmeyer, Peace, Wautoma, Wis., finds it important for Christian women to gather around God’s Word. She says, “It’s good for women to have fellowship with each other, especially knowing we’re all coming from the same Christian background based on the Bible.”

Presenters led Bible study sessions examining how Christ is the ultimate mentor and how to model one’s mentoring after his.

Kathie Wendland, a member of the Women’s Ministry Committee, led a study titled “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,” which focused on the apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. She says, “Time after time Paul in all of his epistles clearly points all Christian eyes to Jesus Christ himself as the only one who as true God understood perfectly the humble servant attitude necessary to demonstrate that humble servant attitude in word and action in a hostile world.”

Dawn Schulz, a member of the Women’s Ministry Committee, led a study titled “Jesus–A mentor for me.” “As a mentor my identity, purpose, priorities, words, and actions are all determined by the fact that I am God’s child because of Jesus. Jesus not only shows me how to live in this grace, he teaches me how to mentor it to others by understanding their individual and diverse needs, giving them time to grow, and living transparently in order to set before them a living picture of a life patterned after Jesus,” she says.

WELS Women’s Ministry, part of the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, holds a conference every three years; the next conference will be held in 2019. Learn more about WELS Women’s Ministry.

View photos from this year’s event.
2016 Women's Ministry Conference

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2015 MLC graduate assignments

The synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., last week to assign candidates for the teaching ministry and staff ministry to their places of service. Eighty-six candidates received calls into the teaching ministry. Some of these assignments were one-year assignments for a first or second year; others were previous one-year assignments that were made permanent. The remaining candidates were assigned permanently. No assignments of staff minister candidates were made.

All 2015 graduates from Martin Luther College who are able to serve anywhere were assigned. Some graduates have requested deferment for a year to pursue academic or cross-cultural opportunities. Others with marriage plans (and, therefore, limited in where they can serve) are eligible to be called directly by congregations near where they will be living. Two previous graduates await assignment in the future.

More than 40 requests for teacher assignments were not able to be filled, either because of the lack of candidates or because the training of candidates did not fit the needs of the specific call.

We have great reason to be filled with thanks and joy that God has provided well-trained and dedicated workers for his harvest field. Keep them in your prayers as they begin their service, and pray that God would continue to provide men and women to teach the Savior’s lambs in our schools.

Assignment of vicars and pastors takes place this week at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Vicar assignment will be announced on Tuesday evening, and the same will be done for pastoral candidates on Thursday morning.

Serving in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schroeder

 

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Announcements about WELS Night at Miller Park

WELS President Mark Schroeder will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and Koine lead singer Brian Davison will be singing the National Anthem during the second annual WELS Night at Miller Park on Fri., Aug., 14. Make plans to join other WELS members for an evening at Miller Park to watch the Brewers take on the Phillies.

Last August, more than 1,700 WELS members attended the inaugural WELS Night at Miller Park.

This year’s tickets for WELS members and guests are discounted up to 50 percent and are reserved all together in a block of seats. Groups of 20 or more can avoid the online service charge by contacting WELS member Jason Fry, senior manager—ticket sales, at 414-902-4516 or [email protected].

Get your church group together to enjoy a relaxing evening out, catch up with old friends, and cheer on the Brewers. Tickets can be purchased online at www.brewers.com/wels.

 

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Women’s Ministry committee meets

The Women’s Ministry Committee, part of the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, met last week at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis. The gathering included all members of the executive, development, conference planning, and congregational ministries teams. The full group meets once every two to three years.

Naomi Schmidt, a member of the executive team, says, “Having the opportunity to sit down at a table, face to face, allowed us to make tremendous strides on several important projects. It also allowed us to spend several hours in Bible study together, giving us the strong foundation of Scripture to guide and motivate all we do. The unity we experienced deepened friendships to the glory of God and was a blessing that makes the communication so much easier.”

The women used their time at the conference to make headway on conference planning for their upcoming 2016 Women’s Ministry Conference on July 21-23, 2016, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.

In addition to conference planning, the committee made plans to continue developing resources such as devotions, Bible studies, and Advent by Candlelight programs for women and women’s groups in congregations. All resources are available for free online at wels.net/women.

 

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New survey asks for members’ favorite hymns

What’s your favorite hymn? A new survey from the WELS Hymnal Project asks WELS members that very question.

The survey gives worshipers an opportunity to share up to ten of their favorite hymns fromChristian Worship (CW) or Christian Worship:Supplement (CWS), three from The Lutheran Hymnal that aren’t in Christian Worship, and three from the songbook Let All the People Praise You.

“Use this survey as an opportunity to celebrate our rich heritage of hymns by sharing with us your personal treasures,” says Rev. Jonathan Bauer, chairman of the Communications Committee of the WELS Hymnal Project. “We simply want to know the hymns that are close to your heart.”

For those who want to do a more extensive review of the hymns in CW and CWS, an additional survey allows worshipers to rate each hymn individually.

A special effort is also being made to give students the opportunity to share their thoughts on their favorite hymns. “The student survey will be accompanied by a lesson plan that teachers can use in a hymnology/religion class,” says Bauer. “It will serve as a way to do a little education and introduce students to the project in addition to giving them a chance to think about their favorite hymns.”

The favorite hymn survey can be taken online or printed and filled out by hand. All surveys are due by May 31. “There are so many good hymns. If nothing else hopefully this exercise leads people to appreciate how many good hymns God has blessed us with,” says Bauer.

The results of these surveys will be shared with the members of the WELS Hymnal Project as they continue to determine what hymns to include in the new hymnal that is being developed. Bauer says the Hymnody Committee is also looking at current usage of hymns as well as carefully reviewing and examining each hymn individually for its quality and usefulness in worship.

Four additional surveys have been conducted by the WELS Hymnal Project. A look at the survey results will be included in the May and June issues of Forward in Christ.

Find the favorite hymn survey at welshymnal.com.

Positive response to Spanish website

Initial response to Academia Cristo, a Spanish-language website released by WELS Latin America missions in February, has been encouraging. According to Rev. Michael Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America, videos created by Academia Cristo received more than 330,000 views in the first three weeks, more than 4,000 people watched theCome Follow Me movie in Spanish, and more than 100 signed up on the website to study the Bible. Numbers continue to rise.

The goal of Academia Cristo is to use videos and audio Bible studies both to reach out to non-Christians as well as to train Latin American church members how to share their faith. Hartman, the Latin American national churches, and other members of the mission team work closely with WELS Multi-Language Publications to create the materials. Currently six courses are completed, including two five-lesson Bible studies based on the Come Follow Me movie as well as other courses on what Christians believe and who Jesus is.

“We are now working to connect those who come to the site with existing ministries throughout Latin America,” says Hartman.

They are also working to start an online church, iGlesia Cristo, to provide worship opportunities and resources to connect people who live far from a Lutheran church.

Latin American missions is promoting the new website in Latin American countries primarily through Facebook. They are also physically sharing the site among WELS Spanish-speakers in the United States. Hartman says that when he was visiting Risen Savior, Milwaukee, Wis., Hispanic members came up to him excited about the site and how they can use it. “Multiple members said, ‘This allows me to share what I’m learning at my church here in Wisconsin with my family who lives far from a Lutheran church in southern Mexico,’ ” says Hartman.

Check out the site at www.academiacristo.com

6 new home missions authorized

At its April 17 meeting, the Board for Home Missions authorized the establishment of six new home missions throughout the United States totaling $563,000 in funding. The new mission openings being funded are located in Blair, Neb.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Fenton, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Liberty Hill, Tex.; and Tyler, Texas.

“As a church body, it is a huge blessing when Home Missions through district mission boards can partner with active congregations looking to have a hand in starting the next mission,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. Many of these new Home Mission starts have a core group of WELS members from our established churches in their area. “Some of these Home Mission starts already have 50 committed members willing to offer their time, talents, and offerings to help support the new congregation. In most of these locations initial outreach has already started by active core groups supported by the existing congregations near these six communities.”

One of the new places is in Blair, Neb., a city 20 miles north of Omaha. Rev. Stephen Helwig, pastor at Gethsemane, Omaha, was excited to learn that this mission had received funding to help start a new church in Blair.

For years Gethsemane has asked its vicars to serve a core group of 15-20 members in the Blair community. “It’s been a great thing to see the vicars come in with their enthusiasm to canvass a new area and lead Bible classes for our core group,” says Helwig. “It’s about sharing our Savior with a new community outside the Gethsemane church neighborhood.”

It is a huge opportunity for an established congregation like Gethsemane to assist in the start of a mission, but it will also require the prayers and support of the synod. “It isn’t everyday a Home Mission congregation gets started, so it is very important for the community to understand that we are establishing a church that is in it for the long haul and wants to become part of their community,” adds Helwig.

A vital partner to Home Missions, the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), recently adopted an unrestricted net assets policy that provides annual special grants to Home Missions over and above CEF’s matching grant programs. “The new CEF policy is allowing us to open two new Home Mission starts in Fiscal Year 2016,” says Free.

“We continue to be blessed by people investing with CEF and by remembering us with bequests and gifts,” says Mr. Ron Hillmann, CEF president. “Our first responsibility is to ensure the security of our investors’ money, which we do. Once that is secure, then the extra dollars are used to do mission work.”

Home Missions has been provided increased synod support, which was made possible by Congregation Mission Offerings and the WELS Church Extension Fund grant. That, coupled with direct gifts to Home Missions from WELS members, provided enough funding for the six new mission starts. “One of the neat things is the cooperation of each district mission board in determining the feasibility of these six sites. We had many excellent proposals presented and if we had the extra funds, we had at least three more missions we would have been willing to authorize,” says Free.

Learn more about the work of Home Missions at www.wels.net/missions.

Graduates preparing to serve

There are about 80 vacancies for pastor-trained workers throughout WELS. About 65 of those vacancies are for parish pastors. Forty-one pastoral candidates will be available for assignment in May upon graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. There are also about 95 vacancies for teacher-trained workers, but it is still too early to determine how many vacancies there will be at assignment time, since this number will likely change significantly during the next three weeks. Approximately 36 men and 51 women will be available for assignment, after graduating from Martin Luther College, WELS’ ministry training college.

Conference of Presidents (COP)
The COP is concluding its yearlong effort to update and expand a document entitled, “Marriage, Divorce, and Re-Marriage.” The document was originally authored by Prof. Armin Schuetze and was first published in 1989. The revision is intended to address issues and questions that have become more prominent in recent years, particularly questions regarding how current temptations such as Internet pornography can affect the marriage bond. The final document is planned for publication later this spring.

The COP is working with the Ministry of Christian Giving (MCG) to plan the One in Christ synodwide debt retirement offering, which will be launched at the synod convention in July. The COP is also developing a communications plan for next fall to encourage Congregation Mission Offerings.

The COP will undertake an in-depth review of the Ministry of Christian Giving. This review is not to address any problems, but simply to identify areas in which the work of the MCG can be utilized most effectively and efficiently. The review will begin next January.

Synodical Council
The Synodical Council (SC) will be meeting later this week. After spending a shortened time addressing normal business, the SC will begin to develop the next Long Range Plan for the synod. The current In Christ Alone plan runs through 2017.

The Book of Reports and Memorials, which contains the reports and recommendations that will be addressed by the synod convention in July, will be distributed during the second week of May. An online version will be available about a week before the published version is shipped.

Discussions with the Church of the Lutheran Confession
Representatives of WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) conducted a second round of doctrinal discussions on Fri., April 17. Discussion centered on a document that summarizes the biblical doctrine of church fellowship. The meeting was cordial and productive. A third meeting is planned for August. [Note: the CLC was formed in the 1950’s by individuals and congregations that left WELS and the ELS out of concern that WELS and the ELS were not breaking fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The CLC has not been in fellowship with WELS and the ELS since that time. The CLC is comprised of about 70 congregations and operates its own seminary, college, and high school in Eau Claire, Wis. The CLC also works in several foreign mission fields.]

Prayers requested for the Ukrainian Lutheran Church
The Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), our partner synod in Ukraine, is facing new challenges as a result of the conflict with Russian separatists. Even though the government has exempted Orthodox and Greek Catholic priests from the military draft, no such exemption has been made for Lutheran pastors. Already two pastors serving multiple congregations have been drafted into the Ukrainian military, leaving their congregations without shepherds. We are contacting the ULC to ask what we might do to help. In the meantime, our fervent prayers will be much appreciated by our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Tool kit helps cross-cultural outreach

“Lots of congregations want to reach out with the gospel to the ethnic groups in their communities,” says Rev. Paul Prange. “They’re just not sure how.”

To help congregations witness to their cross-cultural neighbors, Prange has developed a Domestic Tool Kit as part of his role as the synod’s coordinator for global cross-cultural outreach under the WELS Joint Mission Council. “Some congregations have just a few members who are aware of the immigrant groups around them,” says Prange, “and those congregations could probably use some training in cultural competence to get more members ready to welcome new people.”

That kind of training is already available from WELS’ Schools of Outreach, Congregational Assistant Program courses, or certificate courses offered by Martin Luther College. Sometimes the training also can be done by a WELS member from the ethnic group that the congregation wants to reach out to. Prange says that one of his roles is connecting such people to such congregations.

But what if a congregation has already done something like an English as a Second Language program and not seen many results? “That is a typical problem,” says Prange. “The solution is simple on paper but often tricky in real life.” Prange says the solution is to identify members of the ethnic group that the pastor and congregation members already know, find a meeting time and place for them, and ask them to answer a simple question: What are the needs of the immigrant group?

“It doesn’t usually take long to list the needs,” observes Prange. “The interesting challenge comes when the congregation asks itself which of those needs they are in a position to address, and how to turn that activity into an opportunity for people to come into contact with the gospel in Word and sacrament.”

That’s where the Domestic Tool Kit comes in. As part of the tool kit, Prange has identified WELS mentors who are willing to work with congregations in finding contacts, facilitating the meeting to develop a list of needs, and helping the congregation tailor existing programs or start new ones to meet these needs of the immigrant groups.

When it comes time for worship and Bible classes in a language other than English, WELS has a wonderful resource in its Multi-Language Publications (MLP) program. “What people don’t realize about MLP is that if it does not have something for outreach, instruction, or worship in a particular language, it has a process to develop those materials,” says Prange.

Prange adds, “I think people are afraid to get started because they are afraid that the effort will outstrip their resources. But many of the tools in the tool kit have minimal costs associated with them, and some are absolutely free, provided by our pooled resources from Congregation Mission Offerings. With increasing ethnic diversity in our communities, the Domestic Tool Kit may be an idea whose time has come.”

For more information about the Domestic Tool Kit, contact Prange at [email protected]or 414-256-3236. To see examples of the cross-cultural outreach already happening in our synod, view a PowerPoint slideshow at www.wels.net/images.

Seminary graduation in Nigeria

Nine men graduated from Christ the King Lutheran Seminary near Abak, Nigeria, on March 14. The men were from WELS’ two sister synods in Nigeria-seven from All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria and two from Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria. Rev. Joel Jaeger, a visiting professor; Rev. John Holtz, a missionary from Malawi; and Rev. Douglas Weiser, missionary to Nigeria, participated in the service.

This is the fourth graduating class from Christ the King Lutheran Seminary; the last class graduated in 2008.

The new pastors completed five years of formal studies—two in the preseminary and three in the seminary—as well as several years of service in congregations. “Men from both Nigerian synods study together in both preseminary and seminary,” says Weiser. “For the All Saints students that means living far from home and leaving their families behind for months at a time.” Nigerian pastors and professional school teachers teach courses for the preseminary years, while Weiser, two Christ the King pastors, and 16 volunteer WELS pastors lead the seminary courses.

Jaeger, pastor at Christ, Milwaukee, Wis., has taught seminary courses in Nigeria four different times, most recently from Feb. 19–March 16. “I never would have imagined that I would be involved in training pastors, but I think this system works really well,” says Jaeger. “Their parish ministry is so different in so many ways, and yet it’s exactly the same because it’s preaching law and gospel, it’s applying God’s Word to souls that are hurting, and it’s helping people see the joy in Christ’s salvation. To be part of that process, to have the Holy Spirit use us to get [students] to that point, is really special.”

Weiser says that the next round of students will begin preseminary classes in July 2016.

For the first time, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria will run its own preseminary, allowing All Saints students to be closer to home for the first two years of their training. A grant from WELS World Missions allowed All Saints to construct a building to use for these classes as well as for an administrative office for the synod. All the students then will complete their studies at Christ the King Lutheran Seminary. “By joining theological students for seminary training, the two synods enhance their fellowship in God’s Word and a sense of unity among their pastors,” says Weiser.

Weiser serves part-time as a non-resident missionary to WELS’ two sister synods in Nigeria. He works closely with 26 national pastors who serve 56 congregations/preaching stations and 5,203 members.

Learn more about the graduation, including the trials the students went through over the years, in a recent blog by Missionary Holtz. Learn more about our sister synods in Nigeria at www.wels.net/missions.

Congregation Mission offerings rise

Congregation Mission Offerings for March totaled $1,729,000 or $261,000 (17.8%) more than last March. Year to date, offerings have totaled $4,229,000 or $219,000 (5.5%) more than the same period last year. These offerings represent 103.7% of subscriptions, meaning that for the first quarter of the year offerings are 3.7% above what was projected. We are thankful to our congregations for this generous support, and we thank God for his blessings.

Synod statistics for 2014

The synod statistics for 2014 show some mixed results. Total baptized membership fell slightly from 376,177 to 373,022, a decline of 0.8%.  Communicant membership also dropped slightly from 298,899 to 296,080, a decline of 0.9%. There were slightly fewer infant baptisms (5,980 in 2014 compared to 6,074 in 2013), but there was a small increase in adult baptisms, adult confirmations, and members received by profession of faith. Fewer members were lost due to death and departures for other churches. There was a small decrease in church attendance (42.4% to 42.1%). Giving for all purposes increased synodwide from $331,704,402 to $338,534,947 (an increase of just over 2%). Per communicant, giving for all purposes increased from $1,110 to $1,143.

Many factors produce statistics in a church. We know, of course, that God remains in control of his church and that the faithful proclamation of God’s Word remains the only thing on which the life and health of God’s church depend. At best, a statistical report can be one more reminder for us to examine our faithfulness in being stewards of the blessings God gives—blessings of time, resources, his Word, and the opportunities to proclaim the saving gospel to as many people as possible.

You can see the complete statistics here.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

A new way to give

Online searching and shopping now have an added bonus – they’re another way to support the synod.

WELS members now can give to WELS’ operating fund when they shop online at Amazon. Through the program AmazonSmile, you’ll find the same products and deals as on the online shopping site, www.amazon.com, with the added benefit that the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible purchases to your selected charity. To choose WELS as the charitable organization you wish to support, go to http://smile.amazon.com/ch/39-0842084. Then when you shop, go to smile.amazon.com.

WELS members also can support WELS through using www.GoodSearch.com as their search engine. Simply choose “Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (Waukesha, WI)” from the pull-down menu when you search. Each search will generate approximately $.01 for WELS. More than $10,000 has already been earned through use of this search program. The GoodSearch organization has also added GoodShop, which donates a percentage of your purchases from several online retailers to your charity.

Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer, says, “The benefit is, you’re searching [the Internet] anyway, why not benefit the charity of your choice, in our case WELS?”

NPH to print Lutheran Bible translation

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) will be printing and distributing a new translation of the Bible produced by the Wartburg Project, an independent Lutheran Bible translation effort by WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) pastors and professors.

Since late in 2013, more than 90 WELS and ELS pastors, professors, and others have been working through the Wartburg Project on the translation. The goal is to publish a New Testament and Psalms special edition in 2017, with a future date for the complete Bible yet to be determined.

NPH was chosen from among other publishers to publish this new translation. “Printing this translation aligns with NPH’s mission to ‘deliver biblically sound, Christ-centered resources within WELS and beyond,’ ” says Mr. Bill Ziche, NPH president. But he stresses that this will not be the only translation used by NPH in its materials. “NPH will continue to pursue an ‘eclectic approach,’ as directed by synod resolution, utilizing the best translation for the context of any given work. The Wartburg Project translation will be one translation option among others.”

Not funded, owned, or directed by WELS, the Wartburg Project formed after the 2013 synod convention. While convention delegates defeated a resolution calling for the synod praesidium to appoint a committee to explore producing a Lutheran translation of the Bible, discussion on the floor was encouraging for those who wanted to work on a translation on their own. “There were a number of groups doing that,” says Prof. John Brug, general editor and Old Testament editor for the Wartburg Project. “We thought, why not try to bring everyone together under one umbrella in a purely positive project.”

Brug says the Wartburg Project’s goal is to aim for the “middle road” in its translation. He says that means they will preserve traditional biblical idioms like “the glory of the Lord” and “manger” but also look for better ways to say things that may be confusing in other translations.

While the translation is based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts, translators also will be building on the heritage of the English translations that already are available. “From the beginning, I’ve enjoyed saying that we are standing on the shoulders of giants,” says Rev. Brian Keller, New Testament editor. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. Copyright laws are certainly being honored. But there is this long tradition of English Bible translation that provides a base to work with.”

About 20 pastors and professors are the main core of translators and technical reviewers. More than 70 other pastors and professors as well as additional teachers and laypeople are helping with readability. All are volunteers, working on the project in their spare time.

“One of the blessings of the Wartburg Project is the great opportunity which it is providing to many of our pastors for continuing education in the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Bible,” says Brug. “The knowledge they are gaining will provide rich dividends to the church as it works its way into their preaching, teaching, and writing.”

Members of the Wartburg Project are excited that the translation is progressing so quickly. “We appreciate all the support, encouragement, and prayers,” says Keller. “We thank God for his blessing and ask for his help. If this translation turns out to be a blessing for many, may God alone have all glory and praise!”

Learn more about the Wartburg Project at www.wartburgproject.org. Download a complimentary Passion History developed by the Wartburg Project and learn more about NPH’s publishing plans at www.nph.net/wartburgproject.

Planning for the 2015 synod convention

“One in Christ.” That is the theme for the 63rd biennial convention of our synod, when 400 delegates and 50 advisory members will meet at Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, Mich., July 27-30.

It’s a fitting theme because it reminds us of who we are – sinners reunited with God and with each other. Together, we are united with God and with each other as members of his family. We confess a common faith, grounded in God’s Word. And we share a common mission to proclaim the saving gospel to a dying world.

It’s also a fitting theme because it identifies the one who creates and sustains this unity. Our oneness with God and with each other has been brought about only in Christ, only through his perfect life, his innocent death, and his powerful resurrection.

The convention is a time for us to review the blessings that God has worked in us and through us. It’s a time to see the opportunities God is placing in front of us. It’s a time when, as a synod, our representatives will make important and prayerful decisions regarding the work we do together.

At this convention, we will elect a synod president and second vice president. We will elect others to serve on various boards and commissions. We will adopt a ministry financial plan (budget) for 2015-2017, outlining how we plan to use the gifts that God provides to carry out the synod’s mission and ministry.

The convention essay, drawn from the convention theme and focused on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, will be delivered by First Vice President James Huebner. Prof. Paul Koelpin of Martin Luther College will deliver the opening sermon. There will be special presentations by missionaries and others who serve on our behalf.

The Ad Hoc Commission 2 has been working for two years to develop recommendations to improve various areas of the synod’s work. The commission will deliver its report to this convention for discussion and action.

The 2015 convention will also serve as the kick-off of the special synodwide offering (approved by the 2013 convention) to retire the synod’s consolidated capital debt. That debt was identified in 2007 and amounted to $22.4 million. In the years since, through an initial special offering and through regular payments, the debt will be less than $5 million by the time the convention meets. The special offering will be carried out under the same theme as the convention, “One in Christ.” Once it is retired, the funds used for debt repayment can be redirected to support gospel ministry.

The Book of Reports and Memorials, which contains all information regarding convention business, will be available online by May 1. The published hard copy book will be sent to called workers, congregations, and delegates during the week of May 11.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Instructors needed for Master’s program

Martin Luther College (MLC), the synod’s college of ministry in New Ulm, Minn., is looking for qualified WELS members to teach online courses on an adjunct basis in its Master of Science programs.

“We need more qualified instructors to meet the increasing demand for graduate education among WELS teachers,” says Prof. John Meyer, director of graduate studies. Currently, 128 teachers are enrolled in the master’s program, which has emphases in classroom instruction, special education, leadership (administration), and educational technology. MLC is adding new programs in administration, special education, theology, and early childhood.

Qualified candidates should be WELS members in good standing who hold a doctorate in the area they will be teaching. “We especially need instructors in areas of early childhood, educational leadership, educational technology, special education, educational psychology, reading, and theology,” says Meyer.

Pastors, teachers, and congregational leaders are asked to submit names of candidates who might be able to serve in this way. No relocation is required, and once called, candidates will be asked to teach a course about once every two years. They will receive a stipend for their work.

Submit names for consideration to Prof. John Meyer at [email protected] or by mail at Martin Luther College, 1995 Luther Court, New Ulm, MN 56073.

Korean pastor requests colloquy

A Korean pastor from the North Atlantic District has requested a colloquy so he can become a pastor in WELS. Rev. Kwang Hoon (Peter) Wee is a member at Our Savior’s, New Brunswick, N.J., and currently serves as its minister of evangelism, helping with outreach to the Korean and Chinese communities in the area.

A colloquy is an in-depth interview with a pastor who has left another church body due to its false teaching or practice and now wants to serve as a WELS pastor. “His personal and family background, his theological training, his understanding and confession of scriptural doctrine and practice—all are part of a thorough review to understand the colloquy candidate and his reasons for requesting a colloquy into WELS,” says Rev. Donald Tollefson, North Atlantic district president. “The goal is to provide assurance so that when a candidate completes the colloquy process, all those involved can say, ‘We believe, teach, and confess the same scriptural truths.’ ”

Wee had served at a nondenominational campus ministry at Rutgers. When he and his members needed a place to worship, he approached Our Savior’s and its pastor, Rev. Mark Johnston. Johnston and Wee began talking about doctrine. From those discussions, Wee discovered what he had been missing. He decided he wanted to become a WELS pastor and began studying confessional Lutheranism with area pastors through a program put together by the Pastoral Studies Institute. Now he has requested a colloquy to become a WELS pastor.

A colloquy is a rigorous process involving a committee consisting of one of the WELS vice presidents, a member of the faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, and the president of the district where the applicant lives. “There is great responsibility in being involved in the colloquy process to ensure, as much as humanly possible, that goals and desires for requesting and going through a colloquy are plain and understood by all involved,” says Tollefson. “There is, however, also great privilege in being involved in this process so that, with God’s guidance, it will lead to a common bond and unity with another called servant to proclaim the Word of the Lord and lead souls to Christ.”

Formal notice to the WELS constituency of a colloquy request is required by the synod’s constitution. This notice is included below.

REQUEST FOR COLLOQUY
Kwang Hoon (Peter) Wee, Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, formerly a Christian & Missionary Alliance pastor and now a WELS member, has requested a colloquy for the purpose of serving in the pastoral ministry of WELS. Correspondence related to this request should be sent by April 15 to North Atlantic District President, Donald Tollefson, 40 Coleman Rd, Long Valley NJ 07853; [email protected].

New Spanish-language website

In an effort to get the gospel into the homes of more families in Latin America, a new Spanish-language website, Academia Cristo (Christ Academy), has been developed to provide further outreach and training opportunities.

“We have an opportunity to communicate the gospel in Latin America like we’ve never had before,” says Missionary Michael Hartman, field coordinator for Latin America, referring to the statistic that there will be 70 million smartphone users in Mexico by the end of 2015. “People are getting on the Internet, and they’re getting on with their mobile phones.”

Whereas Spanish-language printed materials developed by Multi-Language Publications (MLP) had been used in the past, the goal is to replace this written material with videos and audio Bible studies that can be distributed more widely through the Internet. Hartman says this will be appealing to Latinos, who don’t have a reading culture but are regularly on their smartphones.

While there will be simple courses available for non-Christians, the point of the site isn’t strictly outreach. “Gospel outreach happens when you sit down and you talk with your friends or family about Jesus,” says Hartman. “What we really want to do is enable Christians to be able to do just that.”

For that purpose, Academia Cristo will also include a level of courses for local leaders that will show them how to share their faith. A future goal is to add seminary courses for those training for the ministry.

Hartman, the Latin American national churches, and other members of the mission team are working closely with MLP to create the courses. Currently six courses are completed, including two five-lesson Bible studies based on the Come Follow Me movie as well as other courses on what Christians believe and who Jesus is.

World Missions sees this site as a way to help serve scattered members throughout Latin America, providing ways for them to grow in the faith as well as share their faith with others.

With more and more Hispanics moving into the United States and connecting with WELS churches there, the site also offers a way for those far away from their homeland to share the gospel message they discovered.

This is not to take away the human element. A missionary or a national pastor is connected to each course, available to answer questions and concerns. Two members of the Latin American mission team also work directly with national church bodies and their members to explore new opportunities for outreach and training. One lives in Mexico; the other works with Hispanic members throughout the United States.

Check out the new site at www.academiacristo.com.

Parenting webcast on March 10

Join Forward in Christ for its first live webcast on Tues., March 10, at 8 p.m. (central). The webcast will focus on the magazine’s new parenting column, Heart to heart: Parent conversations.

Each month Heart to heart has a diverse group of parents discuss one topic in the magazine and on its blog. In March, the topic is, “How do we talk about Jesus with our children?” This will also serve as the theme of the March 10 webcast.

During the webcast, three parents who write for Heart to heart will share how they talk about Jesus in their homes and will give parents information about resources that they can use with their children. The webcast fits well into the column’s mission to help Christian parents build each other up and support each other.

To view the webcast, go to www.wels.net/forwardinchrist. You can also participate in the discussion via the chat feature.

WATCH LIVE on March 10 at 8 p.m. (central).

Synodical Council approves Ministry Financial Plan

The Synodical Council (SC) held its winter meeting last week. The foremost item on the agenda was the adoption of the 2015-2017 biennium Ministry Financial Plan (budget) to be recommended to the synod convention for consideration this summer.

Prior to adopting the plan, the SC received word that the Church Extension Fund (CEF) will be making grants of $700,000 to Home Missions in each of the next two years. In addition, the WELS Foundation also forwarded a grant of $460,000 to the synod this year and is planning grants of $150,000 annually during the biennium. Both of these grants to the synod resulted from newly adopted policies governing the unrestricted net assets of the WELS Foundation.

As a part of the planning process the SC first adopted the Support Forecast, which estimates the anticipated financial support available for the synod’s mission and ministry. On the basis of that information, the SC then established spending levels for all areas of ministry in a Ministry Financial Plan that includes the following features:

  • The operating support total of $29,426,700 for the first year is virtually unchanged from the current operating support of $29,410,800.
  • The operating support total for the second year of the biennium drops to $27,890,800, since the anticipated retirement of the synod’s capital debt will no longer require the $1,600,000 allocation for debt repayment.
  • Total expenditures (which include synod support and special funds) increase by $1.2 million in the first year, with the majority of that increase in Home Missions, made possible by the use of additional special funds already on hand and the grant from the CEF.
  • Even though the synod support levels have been kept flat, the overall plan provides sufficient support for our Ministerial Education schools and for all existing World Mission fields and expanded work in Home Missions.
  • Home Missions receives an additional allocation of $700,000 in both years of the biennium as a result of the grant from the Church Extension Fund. This will enable it to plant several additional new home missions.
  • The Support Forecast assumes a 1% increase in CMO in each year of the biennium. Increases greater than that will either enable some unfunded items to be funded or will result in a smaller drawdown of the Financial Stabilization Fund.

While the decrease in Congregation Mission Offering subscriptions for 2015 presented some challenges, the SC earlier made reductions of $825,000 in the current year plan to enable the synod to operate within expected levels of support. Additional steps taken in forming the 2015-2017 plan are also intended to keep the synod’s expenditures within the planned levels of support. The complete plan will be published in the Book of Reports and Memorials.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Live parenting webcast

Forward in Christ’s new parenting column, Heart to heart: Parent conversations, is hosting its first live webcast on Tues., March 10, at 8 p.m. (central). Get to know three of the column’s authors and ask them questions.

Laura Schaefer, a mother of three young children, has been following the Heart to heart articles since their debut in the January issue and has joined the conversation online at the column’s blog. She says, “I’m connected online with many friends and relatives that are parents, and we share stories, ask for advice, and support each other. I find the Heart to heart group valuable—in addition to my own network—because the range of topics being discussed is more broad and the pool of parents leaving comments is new to me. The authors come from different walks of life and are at different points on the path of parenthood. Getting to know them through their bios, their writing, and this webcast is a privilege and an encouragement to me.”

The conversation of the March webcast will focus on the topic of March’s column: “How do we talk about Jesus with our children?” Sometimes we as parents struggle to talk about Jesus in natural ways with our children. It’s easy to read them a Bible story about Jesus, but it’s harder to apply that story as a situation unfolds. See how authors Wendy Heyn, Dan Nommensen, and Ann Jahns deal with this topic with their children and share ways that you talk about Jesus with your children.

Does your congregation have a mom’s group? This would be a great get-together. The group can participate in the broadcast and then have its own discussion after the broadcast is over. Or consider making a date with your spouse to tune in after you put the kids to bed.

To view the webcast, go to www.wels.net/forwardinchrist. You can also participate in the discussion via the chat feature.

> WATCH LIVE on March 10 at 8:00 p.m. (central)

 

Malawi flood relief update

Relief efforts have been ongoing in the flood-damaged areas of Malawi. WELS missionaries in Malawi, leaders from the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi (LCCA), WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and WELS Kingdom Workers have been collaborating to meet the needs of affected LCCA members. So far, Christian Aid and Relief has designated $50,000 to relief efforts, but initial assessments indicate that needs are extensive and ongoing.

In January, Malawi experienced damaging floods that destroyed or damaged the homes of an estimated 3,200 LCCA families and nearly 20 LCCA church buildings. The floods also washed away crops, depleting the local food supplies, and increased the threat of diseases such as malaria and cholera.

So far, WELS Kingdom Workers volunteers and LCCA leaders, working with Christian Aid and Relief, have been distributing supply buckets with sheet plastic, nails, and blankets to provide temporary housing to affected families, but traveling the flood-damaged roads can be difficult. To help expedite the travel and delivery process, Christian Aid and Relief is funding two more Kingdom Workers volunteers to rent additional trucks in Malawi and get supplies to members more quickly.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief Director of Operations Mr. Mark Vance is planning a trip to Malawi in March to assess the damage and determine ongoing relief needs, particularly food and medical needs in addition to the structural damage to homes and churches.

The LCCA is WELS’ sister synod in Malawi. To help support relief efforts, you can donate online or send checks to WELS, Re: Christian Aid and Relief, flood disaster relief fund, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188-1108

Congregation Mission Offering subscriptions for 2015

Ninety-seven percent of all WELS congregations submitted Congregation Mission Offering (CMO) subscriptions for 2015. This is the highest percentage of congregations to submit subscriptions in several years. We are grateful for the prayerful commitments made by our congregations to support the work of the synod in the coming year and are confident that those congregations that did not submit subscriptions will also share in supporting our common mission, as they have in the past.

The total dollar amount of subscriptions, however, showed a 1.8% decline from actual offerings received in 2014. Total CMO subscriptions for 2015 are $20,617,656 compared to $21,264,681 in actual gifts received in 2014. Subscriptions from more than half of the congregations were higher or the same as their actual gifts in 2014, but a significant number of subscriptions were lower than the previous year’s totals.

Later this month, the Synodical Council (SC) will be putting the finishing touches on the Ministry Financial Plan (budget) it will present to the synod convention this summer. As the SC carries out that task, it will need to consider the challenges posed by this decline in CMO subscriptions and how it will affect the overall mission and ministry of the synod.

Last year, in response to lower-than-planned CMO commitments in 2014, the SC made reductions in the Ministry Financial Plan totaling $825,000 through program cuts, underspending, or other cost savings. This action, along with the “CMO revisit” and the resulting actual offerings in 2014 that slightly exceeded the new commitments, should help to lessen the impact of lower 2015 CMO subscriptions. In addition, World Missions, Ministerial Education schools, and other areas of ministry have benefited from significant gifts from individuals and bequests.

It’s anticipated that the Synodical Council will present a Ministry Financial Plan to the convention that features no increase in planned synodical support for both years of the biennium. If offerings do exceed what is anticipated (and we pray that is the case), the SC will recommend a list of unfunded priorities that could be implemented when funding becomes available.

God continues to bless our synod with the generous support of our congregations. Since he continues to place many opportunities to spread the gospel, we pray that he would continue to move our people to generous and joyful giving, motivated by the good news of what Christ has done for us and for a world of sinners.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Registration open for summer conferences

Registration is now open for the WELSTech Conference 2015, and registration for the National School Leadership Conference will be open soon.

The National School Leadership Conference will run June 15-18, 2015, at the Country Springs Hotel, Pewaukee, Wis.

“The goals of the conference are to strengthen and equip WELS professional educators to serve our preschools, elementary schools, and secondary schools. This year’s conference will strengthen participants’ minds, bodies, and souls for the work of the gospel. Additionally, participants will have the opportunity to interact with other WELS professional educators from preschool all the way through college. Forming and developing these partnerships will mutually benefit our schools, but more importantly, strengthen the WELS school system,” says Mr. Shawn Herkstroeter, principal at Faith, Fond du Lac, Wis., and a chairman of the School Leadership Conference.

The WELSTech Conference will run from July 9-11, 2015, also at the Country Springs Hotel.

WELS Chief Technology Officer Mr. Martin Spriggs says, “The conference is designed for anybody interested in the effective use of technology for ministry. This could include pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay leaders. Each participant can select from over 100 sessions that will provide very practical tools and ideas that will aid personal and professional ministries.” Presentation topics will include the effective use of social networks, worship technologies, introducing tablets and Chromebooks in the classroom, networking, website building, productivity, and many more.

Find more information about both events and how to register at www.wels.net/events.

Online class for friendship evangelism

The Commission on Evangelism is offering an online course on friendship evangelism April 6 to May 8 through the continuing education program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

Taught by Rev. John Huebner, retired mission counselor, the class is designed to enable learners to confidently share their faith in a personal, transparent, and informed approach.

While anyone can take the class, Rev. Mike Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, says the course speaks directly to lay members. “It’s not about congregational evangelism and program. It’s about talking to your neighbor, to your friend at work, and to your relative,” says Hintz. “It’s being able to understand the obstacles and challenges but also to take what we already know and grow in our confidence to share Jesus with others.”

This course is one of three that make up an Evangelism certificate program through MLC, along with “The Mission of the Church” and “Practical Evangelism for Congregations.” “Evangelism is the work that God has given us as the church to do,” says Hintz. “These classes are designed to help members of WELS—lay members or called workers—to grow in the understanding and skill in evangelism so they can help their congregation with this important work and also be better able to do it in their personal lives.” Anyone can take individual courses, even those not interested in pursuing the certificate.

Hintz says the goal is to offer each course once a year. After the upcoming course on friendship evangelism, “The Mission of the Church” will be offered this summer, starting June 15, and “Practical Evangelism” for Congregations in fall, starting Sept. 14.

While there are fees for taking these courses, Hintz suggests that congregations consider budgeting funds for congregational lay leaders to pursue this opportunity.

Learn more about the courses and how to register at www.wels.net/evangelism. Class size is limited.

Representatives from the CLC, ELS, and WELS meet

On Jan. 30, representatives from the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC), the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and WELS met for doctrinal discussions at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. This was the first meeting between representatives of these three synods since 1990. It was called by the synod presidents, with the encouragement of the appropriate synod committees, upon the request of a grassroots group of pastors from all three synods in the Mankato, Minn., area.

The meeting was cordial and productive. The participants shared perspectives on the history of the relationship between the three synods. The participants also discussed the “Joint Statement Regarding the Termination of Fellowship Between Church Bodies,” a document that was prepared in 1990 during the last round of doctrinal discussions. A reconciliation is not expected to come about easily or quickly between the CLC and ELS/WELS. But attendees found it was useful to hear first-hand how the situation looks from the perspective of others and to discuss what it would take to overcome the breach that has separated the synods.

Representing the CLC were Pres. Michael Eichstadt, Rev. Paul Nolting, and Rev. Bruce Naumann; representing the ELS were Pres. John Moldstad, Prof. Gaylin Schmeling, and Prof. Erling Teigen; and representing WELS were Prof. John Brenner, Prof. Thomas Nass, and Pres. Mark Schroeder. Only one of these participants was involved in the 1990 meetings, so this meeting brought together a new generation of leaders who have not discussed the issues together before.

A second meeting is planned for April 17 in Eau Claire, Wis., to continue the discussions. The second meeting will focus more pointedly on the “Joint Statement” of 1990 and will begin the discussion of additional topics of concern.

New Multi-Language Publications coordinator

Rev. Nathan Seiltz has accepted the call to serve as coordinator of WELS Multi-Language Publications. Seiltz will replace Rev. Paul Hartman, who is retiring after serving in this position for 14 years as well as 10 years as director of publications for Latin America missions before that.

Multi-Language Publications (MLP) assists in the production of confessional Christian literature and other mass media in more than 45 different languages. Increasingly, MLP produces digital publications in addition to print publications.

Mr. Sean Young, director of Missions Operations, says, “Paul Hartman’s dedication and perseverance have helped MLP grow into what it is today. From the very beginning, Paul has nurtured and grown the portfolio of offerings within MLP and has worked tirelessly to ensure that the synod’s ‘hidden jewel’ gets uncovered and shared with everyone looking for solid material sharing the saving message.”

Seiltz will be charged with continuing Hartman’s work. A 1994 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., Seiltz is currently serving as principal at Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma, Wash. His past service includes time as a world missionary in the Dominican Republic. In July 2014, he became chairman of the Europe Administrative Committee of the Board for World Missions.

As Seiltz transitions to his new role, the office of the MLP coordinator will move from El Paso, Tex., where much of MLP’s work is currently performed, to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis.

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of the WELS Board for World Missions, explains that having the MLP coordinator near other WELS resources that can support and strengthen the reach of its materials will be “a welcome connection.” Connecting with the missionaries and national workers who travel to the Center for Mission and Ministry will also now be easier.

As Schlomer notes, “It is time to make sure WELS sees and uses this gem. The treasure of materials, the experience of production, and the help of many brothers and sisters in many cultures is the strength MLP brings to WELS efforts to reach the lost in the world.”

Learn more about Multi-Language Publications at www.wels.net/mlp.

First steps taken for Malawi relief

The first steps have been taken on the long road to recovery in flood-ravaged Malawi. In January, flash floods damaged or destroyed countless homes, fields, and communities. An estimated 3,200 member families of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa – Malawi (LCCA) alone have lost their homes. And, the rainy season will continue for months.

LCCA leaders have received many calls from local congregational leaders who are seeking assistance for members. To begin, LCCA members and Kingdom Worker volunteers have been helping to distribute supply buckets with sheet plastic, nails, and blankets that can provide temporary housing. New permanent housing is still months away. In addition, nearly 20 LCCA church buildings have been completely washed away or damaged.

Malawi missionary Rev. Mark Panning and Christian Aid and Relief anticipate a three-step approach to aid. First is to meet the immediate need for temporary housing through the supply buckets. Distribution takes time, but is ongoing. Second is to repair or rebuild the damaged and destroyed LCCA churches. Malawian builders and contractors are in high demand; it could take quite a while to get on a builder’s schedule. The third step looks ahead to predicted food and water shortages. Many crops and fields were destroyed and water supplies tainted—ongoing food and water needs will have to be met.

So far, your generous gifts have provided about 500 of our brothers and sisters in Malawi with temporary assistance. WELS Christian Aid and Relief is accepting donations to its “Flood Disaster Relief” fund and will continue to send aid to Malawi as needs are determined. Please continue to keep our LCCA family, and all affected Malawians, in your prayers.

Read more from our WELS Missions blogs.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

You should also know

Save the Date

The date for the second annual WELS Night at Miller Park will be Aug. 14, 2015. Mark your calendars and plan to join us for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Last year more than 1,700 members enjoyed the evening and fellowship together as they watched the Brewers defeat the San Francisco Giants. View a slideshow from the Aug. 5, 2014, WELS Night at Miller Park.

The Brewers are again offering WELS members 50 percent off the price of tickets. Seating will be in a block for WELS members. The pricing is Field Outfield Box for $21/ticket, Loge Outfield Box for $17/ticket, or Terrace Reserved for $9/ticket. The web link to purchase discounted tickets for WELS Night at Miller Park will be available by March.

More details will be released in future issues of Together.

New and improved WELS App

A new, updated version of the WELS App is now available for Apple, Android, and Amazon users.

The updated app was designed for easier navigation and to take advantage of built in features of the phone. Some of the new features include ability to play audio and video files from within the application, a new WELS Radio player with improved interface and reliable playback, additional content, and a more up to date Synod Yearbook.

The app makes it possible to listen to or read daily devotion and Bible readings while on the go. Also available is WELS news, videos, and radio. WELS Technology Officer Martin Spriggs reminds users to leave a review in the app stores to help encourage others to download and use the app.

To download the free WELS app, simply search for “WELS Mobile” in your favorite app store. For more information, visit http://m.wels.net on your device’s internet browser.

Statistics and CMO deadline

Congregations are asked to submit their 2014 statistics through the congregational statisticsweb form on Connect by Feb. 6. Also due Feb. 6 are CMO subscriptions for 2015. Thank you to all congregations who sent in final 2014 offerings by the January deadline.

WELS Annual Report 2014

Copies of WELS Annual Report 2014 are now available. Every WELS congregation is being sent five copies of the report, and one is being included in the annual statement of each synod donor.

As WELS President Mark Schroeder explains in his introduction to the report, the annual report gives WELS members a glimpse of our common mission as a synod. Schroeder notes, “I hope that [this annual report] will remind you of the privilege we have to do that work, that it will encourage you in your zeal to participate in that work, and that it will be a reminder of God’s blessings on our mission and ministry.”

Stories and photos highlighting gospel ministry from 2014 are the focus of the annual report. A financial summary of the year is also included.

A limited number of print versions of the report are available from Northwestern Publishing House for free. Christian Giving counselors are also available to present a PowerPoint presentation to your congregation that summarizes the information in the annual report. Contact the Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for more information.

Order extra copies from Northwestern Publishing House.

View the digital online version.