Congregational Services presents scope of work

WELS Congregational Services comprises several areas of ministry committed to guiding and assisting WELS congregations and schools in conducting local ministry.

The Commissions on Congregational Counseling, Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism, Lutheran Schools, and Special Ministries all provided overviews and updates from their respective ministries.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, Congregational Services coordinator, introduced the upcoming Lutheran Leadership Conference being held January 21-23, 2020, in Chicago. The conference will feature sessions that address issues many congregations face in local ministry and congregational operations. Find out more about the conference at lutheranleadership.com.

Congregational Counseling
Congregational Counseling (CCC) helps congregations assess their needs and develop strategic plans for local ministry. They accomplish this through a Self-Assessment and Adjustment Program; Ministry, Organization, and Staffing Evaluation; and the School of Strategic Planning. The CCC is working to train circuit pastors to proactively assist congregations in doing self-assessments and setting and meeting goals.

Evangelism
Evangelism aims to instruct members on reaching out in their communities by creating a congregational outreach culture. One resource to accomplish this is the upcoming C19 program. Much like the C18 program over the 2018 Christmas season, C19 resources will be developed and available to aid congregations in their evangelism efforts over the Christmas season. For year-round efforts, a video-based online congregational evangelism kit to train congregational leadership will be available on welscongregationalservices.net by early 2020.

Rev. Eric Roecker, Commission on Evangelism director, introduced the upcoming Let’s Go initiative, planned for summer 2020. This online training program is being developed to help any Christian become a more informed gospel witness by helping to remove fears and provide tools.

Discipleship
Rev. Donn Dobberstein, Commission on Discipleship director, presented Welcome Home, an effort to care for the 155,000 WELS members who don’t attend church regularly and “welcome them home” to active church life. Every member will be encouraged to attend on this special Sunday, which can be held on October 20 or October 27. Welcome Home includes a worship series that encompasses the season of End Times as well as elder training resources to assist church leadership in compassionately and zealously meeting the spiritual needs of delinquent members.

A new stewardship program, 10 for 10, suggested to start in September, is a three-Sunday emphasis on the biblical principles of giving. 10 for 10 is designed to incorporate Bible studies into the weekly worship service over three weeks, then for the next 10 weeks to challenge members to increase giving. 10 for 10 stands for tithing for 10 weeks.

Resources for Welcome Home and 10 for 10 are available at welscongregationalservices.net.

Future priorities include focusing on strengthening families and home devotional life, anchoring young people ages 14 to 24 to their church, encouraging small groups in congregations, improving Sunday schools, and creatively approaching adult instruction.

Also announced was the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally, June 23-26, 2020, in Knoxville, Tenn. More information will be available in upcoming issues of the WELS “Together” e-newsletter.

Worship
The Commission on Worship is assisting in the development of the new WELS Hymnal, scheduled to be introduced in 2021. Rev. Bryan Gerlach, Commission on Worship director, suggested congregations start budgeting for the new printed hymnals as well as the supplemental books and digital tools.

Lutheran Schools
The Commission on Lutheran Schools (CLS) provides resources, training, and support for WELS schools and teachers. Mr. James Rademan, Commission on Lutheran Schools director, discussed the changing landscape of Lutheran elementary schools. About 15 percent of elementary students and 29 percent of early childhood students are now from families without a church home, creating a tremendous outreach opportunity. To help meet this opportunity, CLS offers the Telling the Next Generation program to assist schools in creating outreach plans.

Looking ahead, CLS is focused on recruiting and training principals and early childhood directors to help meet vacancies as well as mentoring and supporting new principals and directors. This helps mitigate the number of new graduates stepping into these roles without appropriate training and experience.

Special Ministries
Rev. Jim Behringer, Commission on Special Ministries director, said Special Ministries is about compassion, outreach, and inclusion—removing barriers that prevent people from hearing the gospel. The Special Ministries umbrella covers eight specialized areas: Mission for the Visually Impaired, Care Committee for Called Workers, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Ministry, Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Commission on Mental Health, Health and Wellness Committee, Military Services, and Prison Ministry, which is marking 25 years of ministry.

Special Ministries invites members to sign up to help meet the spiritual needs of those impacted by incarceration, those serving in the military and their families, and families with loved ones with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Go to wels.net/refer.

To learn more about the many ways Special Ministries serves congregations and members, visit wels.net/special-ministries.

 

 

 

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Delegates complete election of committee members

One of the responsibilities of synod convention delegates is to elect members and chairmen for a variety of synod committees and boards. On Wednesday morning, delegates completed their voting, and the names of those elected were reported by the Elections Floor Committee.

Rev. John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla., was re-elected as chairman of the Commission on Discipleship.

“I consider it a great privilege to continue to serve our gracious God in this way,” says Boggs. “As chairman of the commission, I see myself partnering with our administrator, our commission members, and Congregational Services as a whole to get resources, encouragement, and ministry tools into the hands of leaders in our congregations.”

Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of Discipleship, also appreciates this partnership. He notes, “The ministry of Discipleship is so vast. A ‘just-me-and-no-more’ style of leadership would be at best a lonely way to do ministry and at worst a horrifying waste of the members of the body of Christ, which he loaded with gifts and abilities.”

“I believe it is critical for WELS leadership to continue to involve both called workers and lay leaders serving in congregations throughout our nation and the world to be involved in helping lead WELS forward in the blessed work our God has given us to do,” says Boggs. “Working together, I believe we can better understand the challenges before us as well as plan and implement ministry tools that address these challenges. We truly can accomplish more together than by ourselves.”

The full list of election results is available at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Ministry presentations filled Wednesday

Throughout Wednesday, delegates heard about several ministries.

Rev. Keith Free, WELS Home Missions administrator, and Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, Board for Home Missions chairman, provided an update on the scope of Home Missions’ ministry. Home Missions has provided support for 89 new mission starts and enhancements since 2011. In 2019, the Board for Home Missions approved three new starts and one enhancement. In addition to starting new churches and providing support for mission-focused ministry enhancements, Home Missions also supports WELS Campus Ministry and cross-cultural ministries serving Hispanic, Hmong, Korean, South Sudanese, and more. Learn more about Home Missions at wels.net/missions.

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) shared the history of the synod’s publishing house, from its beginnings in 1902 to its recent move to the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in May. Rev. Curtis Jahn, vice president of publishing services at NPH, provided a look at many resources NPH offers, ranging from children’s curriculum, devotionals, adult Bible study materials, music resources, and more. Learn what NPH has to offer at nph.net.

Rev. Joel Pless from the WELS Historical Institute invited delegates to learn more WELS history by visiting the first WELS church, Salem, in Milwaukee, Wis. The WELS Historical Institute exists to preserve and present the history of WELS. It works closely with the synod archives, located at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry. Learn more about the historical institute and the synod archives at wels.net/archives.

Chairman of WELS Christian Aid and Relief Rev. Robert Hein gave an overview of the type of assistance Christian Aid and Relief provides around the world, including relief following natural disasters and humanitarian aid that supports ministry efforts of world missions and congregations in North America. Christian Aid and Relief was able to grant $466,212 for humanitarian aid in 2019 for projects such as digging boreholes for fresh water, literacy programs, and health clinics. Learn more about Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, spoke about trends in Congregation Mission Offerings. 2018 offerings totaled $21.1 million, which was 0.7 percent below commitments and 1.2 percent below prior year receipts. 2019 subscriptions point to a decrease of 0.9 percent from 2018 actual offerings. “We thank the Lord and commend his people for these gifts and commitments,” said Lueneburg. He encouraged congregations, “When setting CMO, aim for ten percent of offerings. If at or above this goal, encourage your congregation to maintain its generous support or consider increasing it as you’re able with God’s blessing.”

Rev. Jason Hacker, pastor at Grace, Waukesha, Wis., a board of directors member for the Lutheran Military Support Group (LMSG), began his presentation recognizing veterans and service members serving as delegates. The LMSG supports the needs of our military veterans and our military families of both active duty members and veterans, working closely with WELS Military Services. The goal of the LMSG is to have a liaison at every WELS congregation to provide resources and ideas to minister to service members. Learn more about the group at lutheranmilitary.org.

Speaking about the new hymnal project, Rev. Michael Schultz directed delegates to welshymnal.com for the latest updates on the project. He said 80 to 100 volunteers on 15 different committees are working on different aspects of the project. When completed, it won’t be just the hymnal, but encompass 18 different hard copy books for various elements and musical arrangements as well as worship planning software. The committee is planning to complete the new hymnal in time for Advent 2021.

 

 

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Rev. Mark Schroeder re-elected as synod president

Delegates re-elected Rev. Mark Schroeder as synod president Tuesday morning.

“It is truly humbling that you have placed this trust in me again, and I can assure you that it is a privilege that I thank God for every day that I get to serve you as your synod president,” Schroeder said to the delegates as he accepted the call. “Please continue to keep me in your prayers and God’s church in your prayers.”

Schroeder was first elected as president in 2007. This will be his fourth four-year term.

Rev. Joel Voss, pastor at Resurrection, Centerville, Ohio, was also re-elected as the synod’s second vice president. He already has served in this position for two-and-a-half terms, elected first in 2009.

He too accepted his call. “For three decades of parish ministry and now a decade of serving our synod, I have experienced every day what you also experience—that when you serve the Lord Jesus out of love for him, you are always blessed back from God more than you gave,” said Voss. “It’s been a pleasure to serve our synod, and I appreciate your prayers and your support.”

Elections for members of various WELS boards and commissions will continue. Keep up-to-date on election results at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Looking ahead for the generations to come

Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling, presented his essay topic following the theme of the convention, “For the Generations to Come.” In his presentation he provided an overview of current church membership trends, not just in WELS, but in Christianity across America, as well as the social and cultural factors that contribute to these trends.

The heart of Hein’s message focused on the real motivation for the work of WELS as a church body and its individual congregations—sharing the love of Christ, as Christ commanded in Matthew 28:19,20.

In examining membership decline, Hein noted that, if trends continue, WELS could lose anywhere from 260 to 400 congregations in the next 20 years. Hein attributes this decline to a few cultural shifts in recent years, including the acceptance of religious pluralism, secular humanism defining modern morality and ethics, the erosion of the traditional family, and increasing distrust in churches as institutions. Meanwhile, 25 percent of Americans in 2019 identify as having no religious affiliation, an increase of more than 70 percent in the last decade.

“We’re facing very real and large challenges, but the way the Lord always works, he takes things that look bad and makes them good,” says Hein. “We need to seek first that we’re glorifying Christ.”

He stressed the importance of creating a Christian community through relationships and building friendships with people God puts in our lives.

Delegate Daniel Douglas, principal and teacher at Mt. Olive, Overland Park, Kan., says, “It was comforting to reinforce my approach as a principal – that it’s about the importance of relationships. When you have a relationship with people, then that can open the door for ministry.”

Rev. Jim Strand, pastor at St. Paul, Bloomer, Wis., says the idea of encouraging members to let their light shine is critical to standing out today. “If you let your light shine, then people might ask why, and then you can proclaim Jesus. That’s the best evangelism program.”

In his presentation, Hein said: “We will help our members see the face of Christ in their neighbor. We will encourage them to build authentic friendships with those currently outside the church. Hospitality will be a core value among us. We will do whatever is necessary to knit our members into something more than acquaintances. They will have a family. We will zealously, almost recklessly, pursue the straying.”

“If we are doing all we can with the gospel, the numbers do not matter,” concluded Hein. “Only the gospel can create faith, but we need to do a better job of creating an audience for the gospel.”

 

 

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Presentations highlight mission opportunities

Delegates had several opportunities to learn more about mission work at home and abroad on this first day of the convention.

The morning started with women from the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) presenting the 63 flags of the countries where WELS is actively partnering in gospel outreach. Ms. Emily Kom, who just completed serving as LWMS president, greeted the delegates on behalf of the 60 LWMS circuits around the U.S. and Canada.

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, and Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of the Ministry for Christian Giving, then shared more about the amazing opportunity that WELS has to train Hmong pastors and leaders in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam. Through a synodwide campaign called Grace—Hmong Outreach in Vietnam, congregations and individuals have given more than $1.5 million of the $2 million needed to support the building of a theological education center and ministry education costs for a two-year period­­­. This funding will allow WELS to provide seminary-level education for 350 pastors and catechism training for an additional 2,500 leaders, who will in turn share the gospel with the more than 120,000 members of the Hmong Fellowship Church.

Delegate Joel Bradtke, a member at Pilgrim, Menomonee Falls, Wis., was moved by what he heard about WELS’ work in Vietnam. He served for 14 months in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. “Like a lot of veterans, I came back from the experience uninjured physically yet still carrying the baggage of participating in a war,” he says. “It is healing for me to think about the door that the Lord has opened. We’re finally able to beat our weapons of war into plowshares—sharing the gospel—and into pruning hooks, pruning away the idolatry and misconceptions that some of the people we are reaching will have. I’m just grateful for the opportunity [for WELS] as well as for the healing that this gives me.”

Delegates also heard an overview of other exciting things happening in World Missions from Schlomer. Then they were able to dig deeper into several ministries at the evening’s missionary presentations. There they learned more about the work in Latin America, Hong Kong, and South Asia. They also heard about home mission outreach in Castle Rock, Colo., and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, will present more about the opportunities in the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking West Indies in his report tomorrow.

 

 

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Rev. Schroeder delivers President’s Report

On Tuesday morning WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder provided an overview of the mission and ministry work WELS is privileged to conduct as well as some blessings and challenges the church faces.

Contemplating the idea of contradictions, Schroeder explained that what seems like a contradiction in a Christian’s life—or a church body—is no contradiction at all: “The details of our future may be unknown to us on the one hand, but on the other hand we know exactly what God has in store for us, since he himself has promised that all things—all things—will work together for our good and will be used by him to carry out his good and gracious will.”

Along with sharing highlights of the work of WELS Missions, Ministerial Education, and Congregational Services, Schroeder provided encouragement for the work the synod does and will do together and called for a recommitment to stand firm in the Word and share that message with the world, passing it along to the generations to come.

Here are some excerpts from his report:

“The Lord Jesus has entrusted his saving gospel, as well as all the truths of Scripture, to us believers and disciples. Our stewardship of those gifts involves two important and compelling responsibilities. First, we need to hold on to those truths for ourselves. That involves committing ourselves to remain faithful to the doctrines that we have learned. It involves defending God’s truth against all attacks from within and without the church. It means recognizing our Lutheran heritage, based solely on the truths of God’s Word, as a treasure to be embraced and retained no matter what the cost. But the second responsibility is one that flows from the faith and joy that the gospel has worked in us. That is the responsibility to share that good news with our children, with our friends and neighbors, with our communities and country, and ultimately with the world. And that message is not just for us and our families and for people today. It’s a message that we will want to preserve and proclaim for the generations to come.

“As part of a renewed effort to preserve God’s truth now and for generations to come, we have begun to focus our attention and efforts on how we can be more faithful in that stewardship of God’s blessings. The commissions of Congregational Services are leading the effort to focus our attention on encouraging faithful and zealous efforts to reach the lost, nurture the saved, regain the straying, enrich and preserve our worship, and grow in our practice of faithful Christian stewardship. At this convention, you will hear much about innovative new resources that will be made available to congregations as they strive to enhance their efforts in gaining and retaining members and in the area of faithful Christian stewardship. It is my prayer that you will take what you learn back to your congregations, circuits, and districts. We don’t know what God has in store for us if these efforts are carried out faithfully across the synod. But we know with certainty that he will bless those efforts in his own way and in his own time. His Word—and we depend only on his Word—will not return to him empty.

“Since we do not know exactly what God has in store for us, today is a day for recommitment. A recommitment to standing firm on his unchanging and powerful Word. A recommitment to sharing that message with the world and passing it along to the generations to come. A recommitment to live in the joy and freedom of the gospel. A recommitment to support the work with generous Christian giving. A recommitment to defend God’s truth when it is attacked and to witness to God’s truth when given the opportunity. A recommitment to support and encourage one another in Christian love and fellowship.”

Schroeder summed up his message, saying, “In a time when we worry about the future—at home, family, church, work—it’s really important that even though we don’t know what the future holds, God holds the future in his hands. That confidence guides the work we do as a church and gives us every reason to do our work with joy and leave the results to him.”

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Delegates learn more about WELS ministries

WELS delegates began hearing presentations on Tuesday. Some of the convention presentations help delegates as they work in their floor committees. Others give them a broader view of WELS ministries and the ministries with which WELS partners.

Rev. John Moldstad, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, brought his greetings from our sister church body and noted, “What a joy and privilege it is for us to be bound together in confessing the truths of God’s holy Word and also in putting doctrines into practice.”

Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions, gave two presentations on Tuesday morning. The first centered on the amazing opportunity WELS has to train Hmong pastors and leaders in the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam. The second presentation focused on the many other areas where WELS is spreading the gospel around the world. Schlomer shared that WELS has a mission presence in 40 countries, with new mission opportunities in 25 additional countries. More than 700 people are enrolled in pastoral training programs around the world.

Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education, gave an overview of WELS’ four ministerial education schools—Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. He emphasized the message that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Mr. Todd Poppe, WELS chief financial officer, detailed the ministry financial plan for the next biennium that has been submitted to the delegates for their consideration. He explained the process that WELS areas of ministry follow as they develop a ministry financial plan and the current financial realities and forecasts that were used to create this biennium’s plan.

Mr. Dan Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., shared the college’s mission with delegates. He noted that Wisconsin Lutheran College is WELS’ college of lay leadership and said, “Wisconsin Lutheran College is as passionate about the cross of Christ as any other WELS ministry I’ve served. . . . The anchor of our school is the joy we have to promote spiritual growth to our students.”

Convention presentations will continue on Wednesday.

 

 

 

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WELS delegates now meeting in convention

WELS’ 65th biennial convention is now underway at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., under the theme “For the Generations to Come.”

“The theme of the 2019 synod convention emphasizes the privilege and responsibility that we have to hold on to God’s saving truth for ourselves and to pass it down to those who will come after us,” says WELS President Mark Schroeder.

The synod convention helps set the priorities and chart the direction of the synod’s areas of ministry in the coming years. About 400 delegates—including pastors, male teachers, male staff ministers, and laymen—have the opportunity to provide grassroots input about the work that we do together as a synod.

The convention opened with a worship service at MLC’s Chapel of the Christ on Monday evening, July 29. Nearly 700 people attended that service.

The first order of business at this year’s convention is the election for synod president, to be followed by the election of WELS’ second vice president. Delegates will also elect chairmen and members for various synod committees and boards.

Throughout the convention, the delegates will hear reports from WELS’ areas of ministry so that the delegates are well informed as they work in floor committees and present resolutions to the full convention. These reports also help the delegates as they come together to adopt a ministry financial plan for the synod for the next two years. This ministry financial plan will detail how WELS will use the financial resources God provides to carry out his work.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 30, Rev. Jonathan Hein will present his convention essay, titled “For the Generations to Come.” Hein will present on the challenges and opportunities facing WELS as it carries out God’s mission today and in the future.

Closing worship is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Aug. 1, and will include the installation of the synod officers elected this week.

Follow the convention from home by visiting wels.net/2019synodconvention. The majority of the convention will be streamed live. In addition, WELS will provide daily video and news updates along with photos from all the convention’s activities. As floor committee resolutions are presented, those resolutions will be posted to the convention website as well as daily convention minutes.

 

 

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Synod convention opens with worship

Nearly 700 convention attendees and visitors filled the Chapel of the Christ at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., Monday evening for the opening worship service of the 65th biennial synod convention.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder presided over the service and Rev. Jonathan Bauer, Good News Lutheran Church, Mount Horeb, Wis., preached a sermon themed “The bigger our picture of the Church, the bigger our prayer for the Church,” based on Ephesians 3:14-21.

Bauer says, “As we think about the work we do as a synod, it’s easy to see a much smaller picture than Paul does and, as a result, be filled with worry rather than confidence as Paul is. My hope is that the time we spend in these words gives us a sense of calm confidence as we remember Christ’s Church will never die or fall.”

About 65 choir members ranging in age from sixth grade and up from New Ulm-area congregations, along with 13 instrumentalists, including the piano and organ, led the service’s music. Many of the service’s liturgical elements, hymns, and instrumentation selections were a preview of the new WELS hymnal, which will be released in time for Advent 2021.

Mr. Earl Heidtke, a retired Martin Luther College professor who sang in the choir, says, “It’s a joy that the opening service is based on songs and liturgy from the new hymnal; it’s a great way to introduce it. And, the instrumentation is so broad.”

“For me it was exciting to hear the choir and voices together,” says Rev. Dennis Klatt, president of the Minnesota District and pastor at Holy Trinity, New Hope, Minn. “The Word was so crisp and clear from Pastor Bauer, reminding us that the big picture is about Christ and his Word worldwide.”

“That service – was wow,” says Mr. Gene Szaj, a lay delegate from Star of Bethlehem, New Berlin, Wis. Saying he was at a loss for words after the worship service, he plans to call his wife to tell her to watch it online tonight.

You can watch the entire worship service at livestream.com/mlc-streams.

 

 

 

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Hosting the synod convention

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is the host of this year’s synod convention. The convention site rotates between three of the WELS ministerial education school campuses: Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; and Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.

“Hosting a synod convention means that delegates and friends can explore their college and walk around their campus,” says Rev. Mark Zarling, MLC president. “The more they learn about MLC’s role in the Great Commission, the more people can pray for us.”

Planning already started for the convention in December 2017. Leaders and staff from MLC and the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry worked together to arrange all the details. “I love putting this puzzle together—from figuring out the right dorm room for a delegate, to the right shuttle for them to take from the airport, to providing the meals they need,” says Mrs. Michelle Gartner, MLC’s event coordinator.

Gartner says about 35 MLC faculty and staff are volunteering for the four-day event, doing jobs ranging from communion assistant to cafeteria greeter. “We are honored to host this convention and for the opportunity to welcome people from all over the country to our campus,” she says. “For many it will be their first time here, and we want to make them feel at home. We just love having company, and this and other events throughout the year afford us that opportunity.”

MLC hosts more than 100 events a year, everything from local business meetings to Children’s Theatre, which brings five thousand people to the campus over four days.

“It is a distinct privilege and blessing for MLC to host the synod convention,” says Zarling. “It is a great encouragement to me to see so many people who will return home with prayers for the kingdom work we do together.”

Learn more about Martin Luther College at mlc-wels.edu.

 

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Synod convention begins July 29

The 65th biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod will be held at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., July 29–Aug. 1. The convention will be attended by over 400 voting and advisory delegates. Approximately half of the delegates are lay, with the other half being pastors, teachers, and staff ministers.

The opening service for the convention will be held Mon., July 29, at 6:30 p.m., in the Chapel of the Christ at MLC. The convention opens on Tuesday morning after the presentation of the flags by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society.

The first order of business is the election for synod president, to be followed as soon as possible by the election for the synod second vice president. Tuesday morning will also include an overview of the mission opportunity in Vietnam, a presentation of the synod’s ministry financial plan, and the report of the synod president.

After the election for president and second vice president is concluded, elections for other offices will take place whenever possible on the schedule.

Along with reports from all areas of the synod’s ministry, the convention will act on a recommendation for a formal declaration of fellowship with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–Kenya, and with a public affirmation of our synod’s fellowship with Christian Lutheran Evangelical Church in Taiwan, formally a WELS mission but now an independent synod.

Floor committees will prepare reports and resolutions dealing with all areas of ministry and support services. More than 20 memorials have been submitted for consideration. (Memorials are requests from individuals, congregations, or groups for convention action.) These memorials have been assigned to floor committees, which will then make recommendations to the plenary convention. In addition, numerous proposed changes to the synod’s bylaws will be considered by the convention.

Closing worship is scheduled to take place on Thursday afternoon and will include the installation of the newly elected officers.

The majority of the convention will be streamed live. The livestream can be found at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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First Taste of Missions a success

On July 13, more than 400 WELS members gathered for the first Taste of Missions hosted by WELS Missions. Held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., the event gave WELS members an opportunity to hear firsthand from WELS home and world missionaries, sample food from around the world, visit mission displays, and participate in a worship service during which three new world missionaries were commissioned.

“It was really wonderful to be able to meet and talk with so many people involved with missions as well as people who are so passionate about missions,” says Mr. Mark Blauert, school chaplain at Wisconsin Lutheran School, Racine, Wis. “The commissioning service was powerful and such a wonderful way to end the event. It was great to be able to see three missionaries being sent off to begin their ministries.”

The three missionaries who were commissioned include Rev. Bounkeo Lor, who is serving as the coordinator of Hmong Asia Ministry and is focusing on training the leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam; Rev. Abram Degner, who is joining the Latin America missions team and will be serving as a missionary based in Paraguay; and Rev. Dan Witte, who is joining the One Africa Team and will be serving as a theological educator based in Zambia.

Witte’s wife, Debbie, says, “The overwhelming encouragement and sense of support Dan and I got from that day has really served as a ‘booster shot’ for our resolve to embark on this new ministry opportunity.”

Mr. Sean Young, director of WELS Missions Operations, notes, “We wanted to invite our entire family in Christ for an opportunity to learn more about the exciting mission opportunities they’re supporting, and it was so encouraging to see how well received it was. Experiences like these remind our missionaries that their synod cares for them and is praying for them and at the same time puts a face and a name to those prayers for WELS members. We can’t wait to build on the success of this year’s event for the 2020 Taste of Missions.”

To learn more about WELS Missions, visit wels.net/missions.

 

Taste of Missions 2019 

 

 

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New seminary planned for Indonesia

Groundbreaking for a new seminary facility for Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI), WELS’ sister church in Indonesia, took place in May. This will replace the current seminary, which is on the island of Java.

“It is one of many steps in the process of indigenization and coming of age as a daughter denomination of WELS and a member church of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference,” says Prof. Gregory Bey, professor at Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Lutheran (STTL), GLI’s seminary. “It gives GLI a sense of stability and permanence.”

The new location will offer other advantages, including space for the students and professors to live on campus. Currently students commute back and forth from the dorm to the seminary classrooms, and the professors rent places to live. “A new campus will allow for one location with all the facilities in one place,” says Bey. The local community and its government officials also have approved this new building project.

Bey says that they pray construction will be completed in the next two years.

The new campus will be located close to one of GLI’s oldest congregations, which started nearly 30 years ago. “Initially the small band of believers met as a ‘house church’ as in the days of the apostles,” says Bey. “Eventually, nearby land was purchased, then a worship facility was erected, and finally a small ‘pastori’ or parsonage was added.” One of the sons of the congregation even served the church as its called worker. Having this congregation nearby will allow students to have a place for worship while they are away from home and a support group of like-minded Christians. It also will give them opportunities to gain practical ministry experience.

WELS first established a seminary to train Indonesian called workers in the mid-1980s. Classes were temporarily suspended in the mid-1990s for various reasons, but the seminary was reopened in 1998. Now almost all the classes are taught by national pastors, with Bey being the only full-time foreign professor. Currently seven students are enrolled, and three new students will potentially start in August.

WELS declared fellowship with the GLI in 2003. Twenty-five national pastors serve 1,239 people in 6 congregations and 23 preaching stations. This includes four pastors who teach full-time in the seminary.

Learn more about the work in Indonesia at wels.net/missions.

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WELS Night a hit

Despite watching a Brewers defeat, more than 2,400 WELS members enjoyed a beautiful summer evening of baseball and fellowship for the sixth annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Several WELS members took part in the game festivities including WELS First Vice President Rev. Jim Huebner throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. “Preaching to a crowd like that would have been less nerve-wracking than throwing a baseball, but it was fun nonetheless,” he says. “It was an honor to wear a WELS Night T-shirt and meet some of the kind and helpful Brewers staff.”

Wisconsin Lutheran High School recent graduate Fernanda Rocha did a beautiful job of leading the 41,000 fans in singing our national anthem.

During the fourth inning, eight-year-old Addison Bauer from Good News, Mt. Horeb, Wis., was invited to announce the Brewers batting lineup as the junior announcer.

WELS Night at Miller Park 2019

“The hundreds of WELS members wearing their bright blue WELS shirts really stood out in the near-capacity crowd, and it was great to greet them as I passed them in the concourse,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, WELS communications director. “Many of them suggested dates for me to consider when I schedule next year’s seventh annual WELS Night event.”

 

 

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WELS Christian Aid and Relief approves humanitarian aid grants

The administrative committee for WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved $466,212 for humanitarian aid work in fiscal year 2019-20. These are projects developed by WELS home and world missionaries to reflect Christ’s love to the people of their community and open doors to share the gospel.

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

All projects originate in the mission fields as the missionaries discover opportunities to help. Then the projects are brought to the Christian Aid and Relief administrative committee as well as to the WELS Missions administrators for approval.

Some of the approved projects are:

  • New or repaired water wells in Zambia and Malawi.
  • Medical clinic renovation in Zambia.
  • Rural medical clinic and medical care in Nigeria.
  • Food assistance for the poor in Indonesia.
  • Medical, vacation Bible school, and English training in Thailand.
  • Outreach programs in Bulgaria and Russia.
  • Assistance for war refugees, orphans, and the poor in Ukraine.
  • Food and transportation programs in Mexico.
  • Water projects and medical equipment in India.
  • Medical clinics, sewing classes, clothing for poor, and flood assistance in Nepal.
  • Medical assistance and skill training program in Pakistan.
  • African immigrant assistance in Las Vegas.
  • Welcome programs for immigrants in Toronto.
  • Various outreach and assistance programs in Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, College Station in Texas and Denver, Colo.

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

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Work in Vietnam continues

WELS leaders traveled to Vietnam in June to continue the training of Hmong church leaders as well as to further plans for the theological education center being built in Hanoi.

Rev. Bounkeo Lor, Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, and Rev. E. Allen Sorum, director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, taught 60 men from the Hmong Fellowship Church courses on the book of Isaiah, pastoral counseling and family ministry for missionaries, and dogmatics (teaching Bible truths).

“Our training session on Isaiah has helped the students in many ways,” says Lor. “I think especially important is that our instruction has helped our students learn how to interpret the Bible. We are talking about the law and the gospel in Isaiah. This approach to studying Isaiah is totally new to them. The law and the gospel are so clear in Isaiah. They are enjoying it very much.”

Mr. Sean Young, director of Missions Operations, arrived later in the trip to work through details regarding the building of the theological education center. Land has been purchased and cleared, and bids are being gathered for the construction project. Construction should begin later this year.

“There is a growing sense of excitement among the Hmong Fellowship Church about having an educational center of their own,” says Young. Classes currently are being held in a rented church owned by the Vietnamese Fellowship Church.

Lor, as Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, teaches many of the classes and oversees the education program, working closely with WELS Missions and the Pastoral Studies Institute. He also directs Hmong outreach in other parts of Southeast Asia. His original call was for two years, but it has just been made permanent as training continues for these Vietnam Hmong leaders and as new opportunities emerge. He will be formally commissioned at the Taste of Missions event, July 13.

Gifts for the building project have been received from hundreds of congregations and individuals, totaling more than 65 percent of what is needed to support the building project and ministry education costs for a two-year period.

“Please continue to keep this opportunity in your prayers as we look to bring the truths of the gospel to the 100,000-plus members of the Hmong Fellowship Church,” says Young.

Learn more about this opportunity at wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

 

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WELS EdTechLead Summit connects leaders across disciplines

Held in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., June 25-27, the WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Conference (EdTechLead) brought more than 400 teachers, pastors, and other synod leaders together to explore ministry tools, techniques, and best practices.

The conference opened the morning of June 25 with worship and a formal welcome. Dr. Daniel W. Johnson, president of Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC), Milwaukee, Wis., shared the first keynote message under the theme “Press On!”

“We’re all coming here with our own experiences and states of mind to reflect on our vocational callings and journeys,” Johnson said. “God does not need us. We simply get to serve.”

John McHugh, director of Corporate Communications, Leadership, Development, and Training at Kwik Trip, Inc., La Crosse, Wis., provided the morning keynote presentation—called “Purpose and Compassion at Work”—on June 26. He encouraged attendees to promote and participate in a mission-driven culture at their organization.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday featured dozens of workshops on numerous topics, including student motivation, teacher evaluation, school safety, website design, social media, data management, leadership health, organizational communication, gospel outreach, and more. Additionally, a special event called an IGNITE session allowed seven presenters to share quick, practical, and inspiring ideas for ministry.

“I think at times you can work within your little bubble, just teaching a certain subject or working at a certain school,” said Mr. Dan Albrecht, teacher at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wis. “Here you can meet others in related fields. By learning from their experiences, you can implement what they’re doing. You can share your own stories as well.”

“I appreciate the fellowship,” added Mr. Jarred Beduze, vice principal at Northland Lutheran High School, Kronenwetter, Wis. “I appreciate knowing we all share that common goal of sharing Jesus with everyone we can.”

WELS EdTechLead was formed as a combination of the School Leadership Conference and the WELSTech Conference. It was created to be more sensitive to the time and funds of those who may have been interested in attending both conferences.

“It seemed that the thirst to learn and improve for the sake of the gospel was at the heart of everybody who was there,” said Mr. Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer.

Visit welsedtechlead.com for more details about the events of the summit.

 

 

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LWMS convention highlights mission projects

The Wild Rose Circuit of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) welcomed nearly 950 attendees from 821 WELS congregations to praise God and show their support for WELS mission work. “Let Us Ever Walk with Jesus in the Heartland” was the theme for the 56th annual LWMS convention, held in Des Moines, Iowa, June 27-30.

During the convention, attendees learned about the expanding outreach efforts by missionary teams in Latin America and Africa and about the continuing growth of the mission field in East Asia. “My wife and I have known over the 12 years we’ve served in a mission field that the ladies of LWMS were praying for us and sending us letters, but to be here and meet them face to face and receive their hugs is something we definitely miss when we are serving overseas,” says Rev. Joel Sutton, missionary to Latin America. “It is very encouraging for us to see these wonderful people who are passionate and have a big heart for missions.”

In addition, home missionaries shared their experiences with outreach in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Workshops included topics of new mission opportunities in Vietnam, the WELS Mission Journeys program for short-term mission trips, and a panel discussion by missionary wives who shared their experiences.

Each year the individual LWMS circuits gather offerings for several Home and World Mission projects. This year $41,204 was given to both the East Asia Outreach and Campus Ministry projects. LWMS also raised $49,938 for kids c.a.r.e.—kids’ summer Bible camps. “The support LWMS provides Home and World Missions is a huge boost and extremely important for our outreach efforts. The people behind those gifts praying for us and the knowledge they take back home and share with their congregations is vital to our ministry,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions.

Betty Schwede was one of 138 first-time attendees to the convention and was impressed with the missionary presentations. “It was so exciting to see all of the amazing things happening at home and around the world. The fellowship and support are so encouraging—I can’t wait to go back to my home congregation to share what our synod is doing around the world and hopefully encourage even more outreach into our community.”

Next year’s convention will be held June 25-28, 2020, in Athens, Ga., under the theme “2020 Vision for Missions.”

Learn more about LWMS at lwms.org.

LWMS Convention 2019

 

 

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MLC online courses bolster local ministry

This fall, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is offering online courses toward its Chaplaincy and Evangelism certificates. These courses are intended for both WELS called workers and lay members who wish to further their knowledge and skill in conducting local ministry.

Class participants can earn certificates in Evangelism and Chaplaincy, indicating they completed the course work. Particularly for chaplaincy work, the certificate from an accredited institution like MLC, better enables members to enter institutions like jails and nursing homes to reach those thirsting for the gospel.

“The courses are designed to deepen a person’s understanding of those they serve and to help them to have a Christ-centered response,” says Dr. John Meyer, director of graduate studies and continuing education at MLC.

Registration and courses are online. The Chaplaincy certificate requires 10 credits, and the Evangelism certificate requires three one-credit courses. Prospective students also can enroll in courses that interest them without pursuing a certificate.

Four three-credit courses toward the Chaplaincy certificate are scheduled this fall. They include: Communicating Forgiveness, Ministering to the Incarcerated and Their Families, Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry, and Grounded on Scripture. One one-credit course for Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, is being offered as well.

These courses are conducted in partnership with the WELS Commission on Special Ministries (Chaplaincy) and WELS Commission on Evangelism (Evangelism). They were started to utilize the educational foundation of MLC for the training of members for ministry.

“Our mission at Martin Luther College is to train a corps of witnesses for the ministry needs of WELS. These courses fit exactly into our mission. We are assisting called workers and lay leaders in communicating the gospel and sharing the Word of God with people,” says Meyer. “We’re all called to serve in one way or another, and these courses provide a deeper understanding and practical ways to do that.”

This year Martin Luther Elder Care Ministries is providing a full scholarship to any WELS member interested in taking “Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry.” This class will provide both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for the homebound and institutionalized. Visit mlecm.org to learn more about this opportunity.

To see the full list of available courses and descriptions and to register, visit mlc-wels.edu. It is recommended that interested students should enroll by Aug. 5, 2019.

 

 

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New President at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

At the end of this month, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., will experience a change in leadership. Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland will be stepping down as president and will move back into the role of full-time classroom professor. Seminary Vice President Rev. Earle Treptow has accepted the call to serve as the seminary president and will officially begin his duties on July 1, 2019.

The role of the seminary president is an important one. It’s been said that “as the seminary goes, so goes the synod.” The seminary is the place where nearly all WELS pastors are trained, so it goes without saying that for the synod to remain faithful to God’s Word, the seminary will need to remain faithful to the doctrines of Scripture. It is the responsibility of the seminary president to ensure that the seminary carries out that responsibility.

The seminary president is also the spokesman for the seminary. Our synod looks to the seminary faculty to provide guidance and input on doctrinal matters. The Conference of Presidents often consults with the seminary faculty when discussing doctrinal issues. It is the role of the seminary president to speak for the faculty when discussions on doctrinal matters take place.

President Wendland first joined the seminary faculty in 2001 after serving in both world and home mission settings, in an established congregation, and as a professor at Northwestern College and Martin Luther College. He has served as seminary president since 2004. We are thankful for the years in which President Wendland has faithfully carried out these important responsibilities and pray for God’s continued blessings on his new role in the classroom.

Prior to coming to the seminary in 2016, President-elect Treptow served as a pastoral recruiter at Martin Luther College, as a pastor in British Columbia and Denver, Colorado, and as the president of the Nebraska District. As Treptow begins his role as seminary president, we can be thankful that God has blessed our seminary in the past and that those blessings will continue under the leadership of President Treptow.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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10 for 10 encourages thoughtful Christian giving

A new congregational stewardship program called 10 for 10 is now available from WELS Congregational Services.

10 for 10 is based on three weeks of preaching and teaching on the topic of giving. Then congregation members are asked to contemplate if they are able to give one-tenth of their income to the Lord for ten straight weeks—hence the name 10 for 10. This is based on the Old Testament practice of tithing.

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

Some WELS congregations have already implemented initiatives similar to 10 for 10. Members of these churches have expressed an appreciation for the scriptural roots of these stewardship programs. Notably, 10 for 10 opens the conversation on the often difficult topic of money in a Christlike manner.

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

While it is not the focus, congregational stewardship programs like that of 10 for 10 have successfully increased weekly offerings significantly during their periods of enhanced giving, explains Dobberstein. Afterward, numbers will often decrease again slightly, but rarely do they fall as low as previous levels.

While 10 for 10 can be held at any time, WELS Congregational Services encourages congregations to begin planning this summer and to implement the program this fall.

Materials to help congregations with their planning, including a step-by-step timeline, are available on welscongregationalservices.net/10-for-10. Other introductory and promotional tools plus worship materials, midweek devotions, Sunday sermons, PowerPoint slides, videos, letters, and more can be downloaded for free to help congregations promote 10 for 10 before and after the period of advanced giving.

Visit welscongregationalservices.net/10-for-10 to begin your congregation’s planning today.

 

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Assignment of WLS graduates reduces vacancies

Assignments at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

On May 23 the synod’s Assignment Committee met at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to assign vicars and graduates. Sixty requests came to the Assignment Committee (77 last year, 57 the year before). There were 30 candidates available (34 last year, 33 the year before). All candidates were assigned; 30 of those calls were unfilled (43 last year, 24 the year before). Of those 30 candidates, 26 were seniors receiving their first call and four were from previous classes. In addition, three were reassigned to one-year calls, and three had previous temporary assignments made permanent. Several candidates were assigned to new mission starts or restarts. After the Assignment Committee did its work, there were still 104 vacancies for pastor-trained men synodwide. About 90 of those vacancies were for parish pastors.

Congregation Mission Offerings update

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) receipts for May of $1,826,000 represent an increase of $204,000 (12.5%) over 2018. Through May, receipts are up $153,000 (2.0%) over 2018 and are 3.3% ahead of projections for the first five months. Michigan, South Atlantic, and Western Wisconsin districts are significantly ahead of projected receipts for the first five months. This is very good news, and we can be thankful to God for moving his people to provide these offerings of thanks for the support of the work we do together as a synod.

District meetings

Most districts are holding meetings this month in a variety of formats. Some of these meetings are intended to prepare delegates for the synod convention in July; others are focusing on continuing education for called workers. The synod convention will be held July 29 through Aug. 1 at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Learn more about the synod convention at wels.net/2019synodconvention.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

Leaders discuss students’ needs at the Campus Ministry Staff Conference

From May 20-21, WELS Campus Ministry hosted the 2019 Campus Ministry Staff Conference in Pewaukee, Wis. Over 50 called workers and other ministry leaders from dozens of colleges came together to discuss their current efforts and goals.

WELS Campus Ministry, a ministry of WELS Home Missions, provides resources, support, and encouragement to approximately 30 ministries on college campuses and many congregations near college campuses in the United States and Canada.

Campus Ministry Committee Chairman Rev. Charles Vannieuwenhoven, Northdale Lutheran, Tampa, Fla., notes that the simple mission to connect college students to Jesus united all conference attendees no matter their individual circumstances.

“Sometimes we get in our minds that campus ministry has to be this big thing,” he says. “But just get those students into worship on Sunday. That’s campus ministry. Maybe you have four that you can get together for a little Bible study. That’s campus ministry. You can look at it as a youth group for college kids. That’s campus ministry. Serve the students that are there. Find ways to involve them.”

The theme of the conference was “Defending the Faith.” Rev. Michael Berg, assistant professor of theology at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., led a presentation about apologetics within the context of campus ministry.

“Part of a successful campus ministry,” Berg explains, “is having secular students interact with intelligent Christians so that they can see that the Christian worldview and the gospel of Jesus Christ is a viable, beautiful, life-altering thing and that it is intellectually robust.”

Attendees also learned how campus ministry might work together with other WELS ministries. Mr. Shannon Bohme, Mission Journeys coordinator, spoke about how Mission Journeys’ short-term service trips are fulfilling experiences for college-age believers.

“We can give them the opportunity to share their faith in a completely different situation with people that they don’t know and get some practice with that. Then they get to come back with that confidence and with that zeal for sharing the gospel,” Bohme says. “Hopefully then they are able to more easily put that into practice on the campus.”

Between presentations and discussions, attendees were also able to enjoy devotions, networking, and fellowship.

To learn more about WELS Campus Ministry, visit wels.net/campus-ministry. To help your organization understand the importance of campus ministry today, WELS Campus Ministry leaders are available to speak at church and synod events. Request a speaker at wels.net/speaker-request.

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WELS Night ticket deadline only days away

The Milwaukee Brewers have selected Fernanda Rocha, a May graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Milwaukee, Wis., to sing the national anthem for the sixth annual WELS Night at Miller Park on Fri., July 12, 2019. The Milwaukee Brewers play the San Francisco Giants. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Rev. James Huebner, first vice president of WELS, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Huebner is a pastor at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis.

Due to the game being sold out other than the tickets on hold for WELS members, the deadline to purchase tickets is Fri., June 14. “More than 1,200 WELS tickets have already been purchased,” says Mr. Lee Hitter, director of WELS Communications. “Groups planning to attend the game should buy tickets as soon as possible as the remaining 1,400 tickets may not last until next week Friday.”

The Brewers are offering WELS members up to 50 percent off the price of tickets. The ticket service fee will be waived for groups of 20+ if you contact Greg Souza at 414-902-4492 or Greg.souza@brewers.com.

Buy tickets online

 

Assignments at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Last week the synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., to assign teacher and staff ministry candidates. The Assignment Committee is comprised of the Conference of Presidents and is assisted by various advisors.

One hundred forty candidates were assigned to the teaching ministry. All candidates who were able to go anywhere were assigned. Many candidates that could be assigned to limited geographical areas (due to marriage or other circumstances) were assigned, and more of those will be assigned in the coming weeks.

Two staff minister candidates who could go anywhere were assigned; two that were limited by geography were not yet assigned but could be assigned in the future if calls become available.

The complete list of assignments can be found at mlc-wels.edu.

This week the Assignment Committee moves to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. There the committee will assign vicars and pastoral candidates. The announcement of those assignments will take place on Thurs., May 23, at 10:00 a.m. The service can be viewed live online at wls.wels.net.

Our gracious God has provided candidates to serve in the public ministry, and he has moved them to say, “Here am I; send me!” We thank God for these gifts to his church and pray for his blessings on their service.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

Home Missions approves new projects

The Executive Committee of WELS Board for Home Missions met on May 9 and authorized financial support for one new mission congregation and one ministry enhancement.

“Even though there was limited funding this spring, we are excited about the new mission start in Houston, Texas,” says Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn, chairman of WELS Board for Home Missions. “The work the core group has already done and the demographics have us feeling this is the right place and the right time.”

A dedicated group of core members from other WELS churches in the area has been meeting monthly for Bible study since 2015. Rev. Keith Free, administrator of WELS Home Missions, credits these monthly meetings as a strength of this mission.

“They have put in the time so that now as friends in Christ they are ‘all in’ to start a mission,” says Free.

The new mission will be located in an urban neighborhood that is seeing a resurgence in popularity as people strive to be closer to the city center. Sixty-five percent of those living in the target area are not involved in a religious congregation or community.

Home Missions is also supporting a ministry enhancement to the campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. For more than 35 years, Martin Luther, Oshkosh, Wis., and other local congregations have supported a campus ministry at this university alongside WELS Campus Ministry. Known as Rising Son Ministry Center, this campus ministry has a house just a couple blocks off campus that is used for fellowship, Bible study, and worship. Currently, though, activities are only taking place one night per week because there isn’t a dedicated staff member to oversee the ministry.

The financial support from Home Missions will allow Martin Luther to call a pastor whose job will be to serve half-time at Martin Luther and half-time at Rising Son Ministry Center.

Rev. Nathan Ericson, who currently serves at Martin Luther and works with Rising Son Ministry Center, notes, “A city of Oshkosh study has shown how the UW–Oshkosh campus neighborhood has gone from being 50 percent renter-occupied to more than 90 percent renter-occupied in the years 2000 through 2016 and will approach 100 percent in coming years. Most of the 15,000 residents of this area are juniors, seniors, or recent graduates. There are essentially no churches in this area except Rising Son Ministry Center. With increased staffing we can attempt to reach this field that is ripe for harvest.”

WELS Board for Home Missions also approved two other new starts whose financial support is coming from outside the budget of WELS Home Missions for the next two fiscal years. These unsubsidized missions are opening in Folsom, Calif., and Wesley Chapel, Fla. The board also changed the status of the mission in Killeen, Texas, from “subsidized” to “unsubsidized” since it is now receiving financial support outside Home Missions’ budget. Home Missions provides assistance to unsubsidized mission congregations through its district missions boards, mission counselors, and synodical support staff.

To learn more about WELS Home Missions, visit wels.net/homemissions.

 

 

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Serving the military personnel of WELS

Through WELS Military Services, numerous resources are available to support the faith of those who serve and have served in the United States Armed Forces. This committee operates through a national civilian chaplain and liaison to the military, a full-time civilian chaplain in Europe, and many WELS pastors who serve those stationed stateside.

Two recent events represent how WELS aims to meet the spiritual needs of both active and retired members of the military.

April 30­–May 2, the WELS Military Services Committee held its annual Military Contact Pastors Retreat at Risen Savior, Chula Vista, Calif., near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

When a WELS congregation is located near a military installation like Camp Pendleton, the pastor serving that congregation may be asked to serve as a military contact pastor. Currently more than 100 WELS pastors are serving WELS military personnel in this capacity.

This year, 22 WELS military contact pastors, five Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) pastors, six WELS Military Services Committee members, and three special speakers were in attendance at the Military Contact Pastors Retreat under the theme “Serving Those Who Serve Our Country.” The retreat’s presentations provided the attendees with insights into the unique challenges of the military lifestyle during and after deployment. Attendees were also able to visit Camp Pendleton. There, they spoke to the camp’s chaplain who explained how WELS pastors and certified lay leaders can serve certain spiritual needs of WELS military personnel.

Then, May 3–5, the Lutheran Military Support Group hosted its second annual Veteran Spiritual R&R at Camp Phillip, Wautoma, Wis. The retreat was open to all WELS and ELS veterans who live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Attendees gathered from across the United States. Over the three days, they encouraged one another through their shared experiences in military service and shared faith in Jesus Christ. They bonded through team activities and topical workshops.

“I am so amazed at how people who have never known each other can connect so quickly and offer such meaningful support to each other,” says Rev. Jason Hacker, Grace, Waukesha, Wis. “What a blessing it was to witness it!” Hacker is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Lutheran Military Support Group and a WELS civilian chaplain.

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.

“The best thing civilian laypeople can do to help is to refer their troops, whether they are family members or friends,” Horn explains. “They should go to wels.net/refer to enter military members’ information so we can serve them with Word and Sacraments.”

To learn more about WELS Military Services, visit wels.net/military.

For more information about the Lutheran Military Support Group, visit lutheranmilitary.org.

 

 

Moving forward with the Vietnam opportunity

WELS members have responded overwhelmingly to the opportunity that God has given our synod in Vietnam. Gifts have been received from hundreds of congregations and individuals, totaling half of what is needed to support the building project and ministry training costs for a two-year period.

The Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam (HFC), a church body with approximately 100,000 members, has asked WELS to provide theological training for its pastors. Their leaders and several dozen pastors have been receiving instruction from WELS pastors for about three years. They have concluded that we are teaching biblical truth and have embraced the teachings of the Lutheran church. They want to be a Lutheran church body. With the permission—and even encouragement—of the Vietnamese government, the HFC has invited WELS to establish a theological training school where eventually all their pastors will receive thorough instruction and pastoral training.

Due to the generous outpouring of support, the first concrete step in making this plan a reality was taken two weeks ago. I, along with Board for World Missions Administrator Rev. Larry Schlomer and Director of Missions Operations Mr. Sean Young (pictured, center), traveled to Vietnam to sign a memorandum of understanding with Vietnamese religious officials and with the leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church. This agreement enables our synod to secure the use of a four-acre parcel of land on the outskirts of Hanoi and to begin construction of the planned theological training school. Details are now being worked out, and we hope that construction will begin in the near future. Gifts received so far have enabled us to secure the land and will make it possible to build the school. We pray that additional gifts will provide the means to operate the school with WELS instructors.

We do not know where this effort will eventually lead. What we do know is that we have been given an amazing opportunity that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. As we begin down this road, we do so realizing the risks, but also with our eyes of faith focused on the grace and promises of God and the opportunity he is giving us to proclaim the saving gospel in a place where it has been rarely heard. To God be the glory!

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

To learn more about this special opportunity in Vietnam, visit wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

 

 

2019 Book of Reports and Memorials available online

The 2019 Book of Reports and Memorials is now available online. This book summarizes the activities of each WELS area of ministry over the last year and contains the proposed ministry financial plan for the next biennium. The information in the Book of Reports and Memorials will help guide the 400 delegates at WELS’ 65th biennial convention, which is being held at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., July 29–Aug. 1, under the theme “For the Generations to Come.”

“This theme emphasizes the privilege and responsibility that we have to hold on to God’s saving truth for ourselves and to pass it down to those who will come after us,” says WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. “Convention worship, essays, and decisions will focus on that theme and highlight the challenges and privileges we will have as we carry out the mission that God has given to us.”

Schroeder also notes that major items for consideration at the 2019 convention include the proposed ministry financial plan (budget) for 2019–21, the recognition of full fellowship with two Lutheran church bodies, and the plans for a concerted effort to assist congregations to remain spiritually healthy.

Twenty memorials are also included in the Book of Reports and Memorials. A memorial is a formal request to the synod convention for specific action.

One printed copy of the Book of Reports and Memorials is being mailed to each delegate, congregation, and male called worker. These printed copies should arrive before the end of May.

To view the online version of the Book of Reports and Memorials, visit wels.net/2019synodconvention and look under “Key convention documents.”