WELS Night tickets and shirts now available

Tickets are now on sale for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Organize your group and plan to join thousands of WELS members for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburg Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020. Game time is 7:10 p.m.

The Brewers are offering WELS members up to 50 percent off the price of tickets.

The pricing is Field Outfield Box for $21/ticket, Loge Outfield Box for $17/ticket, or Terrace Reserved for $9/ticket. All seats are on the third-base side. The link to purchase discounted tickets, www.brewers.com/wels, is now live. The deadline to purchase tickets in these reserved WELS sections is Friday, June 26.

WELS Night at Miller Park shirts are available for sale at a cost of $6/shirt. Shirts can be purchased online.

 

 

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Upcoming 2020 WELS events

The time is here to explore all the opportunities for learning and fellowship through WELS events coming up this spring and summer. Consider the opportunities below.

WELS Women Writers Conference
April 24-25
Waukesha, Wis.

The conference is intended to encourage beginning and experienced women writers in the vocation of writing and provide practical help and resources for writing improvement. Plus, the editorial staff of Forward in Christ magazine will be doing a presentation. Learn more and register

WELS International Youth Rally
June 23-26
Knoxville, Tenn.

Registration is now open for the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally! The 2020 International Youth Rally will be held June 23-26 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The theme for the rally is “Vision 2020: Seeing Christ Clearly. Serving Christ Boldly.” It’s an opportunity for WELS teens from around the country to come together to learn about and grow in their faith, enjoy fellowship, and participate in fun excursions. Contact youth leaders need to preregister members of their group. Once the group is preregistered, then individual rally goers will receive personalized links to finish registration. Learn more and register

57th annual Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society Convention
June 25-28
Athens, Ga.

The 57th annual LWMS Convention will be held June 25-28, 2020, in Athens, Ga. The weekend will include worship, workshops, speakers, displays, fellowship, and fun. Attend to hear from WELS missionaries and learn about WELS mission work around the world. Learn more and register

Taste of Missions
July 11
Mequon, Wis.

Registration is now open for the second annual Taste of Missions! It will be held on Saturday, July 11, 2020, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Plan to attend for an afternoon of family fun, ethnic cuisine, fellowship with home and world missionaries, and more! Learn more and register

WELS Night at Miller Park
July 24
Milwaukee, Wis.

Tickets are now on sale for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Organize your group and plan to join thousands of WELS members for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburg Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Learn more and read more in this issue of Together.

 

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Full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief

Last fall, the Synodical Council made the decision to call a full-time director for WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been the vehicle by which WELS members have generously supported relief efforts in times of natural disaster and in other situations where our Christian love moves us to provide some type of financial assistance. Until now, the work of WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been faithfully overseen by a commission with a chairman who also serves as a full-time pastor. But experience has shown that the scope of the work requires more than what part-time commission members and their chairman can provide. That led to the establishment of a full-time position.

One of the benefits of a full-time director will be the development of a program to prepare and train congregations and their leaders in disaster response before a disaster hits. The new director will spend much of his time developing resources for congregations and providing the training needed to prepare for relief efforts. One part of the plan is to position lay coordinators in all 12 districts who can provide local expertise and advice to congregations when disasters occur.

Why call a pastor for this work? The primary reason is that disaster relief efforts often provide opportunities for gospel outreach efforts in the communities affected by disasters. The Synodical Council recognized that in addition to providing aid as an expression of our Christian love, this work is also a ministry in which the sharing of the gospel can and should play a vital role. As a pastor, the new director will also have many opportunities to preach in congregations throughout the synod as he represents the mission of WELS Christian Aid and Relief.

Learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief at wels.net/relief.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Youth rally registration opening soon

It’s time for congregations to round up their teens and start planning for the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally. The theme for this year’s rally is “Vision 2020.”

“We want thousands of teens to see Christ clearly, and seeing Christ clearly will be the motivation to serve Christ boldly,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Commission on Discipleship. “This rally will position Christ and the cross in front of teenagers for clarity of faith and motivation to boldly serve.”

The 2020 youth rally will be held June 23-26 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Registration opens March 2 and is $375 per attendee through April 30. Registration from May 1–May 29 is $395 per attendee.

In addition to a wide variety of workshops and fellowship opportunities with more than 2,000 fellow Christians, the rally features two keynote speakers. Rev. Joel Russow, Faith, Tallahassee, Fla., will present “Focused Living” based on Colossians 3:12-14. His address will focus on the characteristics with which Christian’s should clothe themselves: “Instead of stressing over concerns like ‘What will I do with my life?’ or ‘How can I make a difference?’ what if we put on the outfit God has given us to wear and then serve? God has already given you the perfect outfit for a heroic life of faith and for a difference-making life of service. Wear it!”

Rev. Jon Bare, Pastoral Studies Institute, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, will present a keynote on a Christian’s “Clear Purpose,” based on 1 Peter 2:8,9. His presentation will discuss: “As God’s children, we live with a clear purpose—to praise God! . . . But what about when we face the realities of living in a broken world? What about when all we can see is very real persecution for who we are? What about when our own failures or lacking blur our sight?”

Contact Youth Leaders—the main point of contact between your church’s group and the youth rally office–can preregister their group members starting March 2. After preregistration, members of the group will receive personalized links to complete their registration and payment.

Detailed registration and rally information is available in the youth rally registration book.

Learn more and view videos about the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally.

 

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2020 Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 4-6, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “Share the Feast,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS. Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered in specific topics.

These sessions included discussions on mission trips for congregation members, how to use social media and the internet to reach out, world mission updates, how small groups are a blessing to congregations, planting churches in rural areas, reaching out to military members, a member’s perspective on starting a mission congregation, and cross-cultural urban ministry.

In addition, WELS organizations set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom. This introduces future pastors to all the synodical resources available to support ministries.

“As I worked with the organizers for the displays, I was able to appreciate the different services that WELS has to offer to its members,” says senior Daniel Schmidt, one of the event organizers. Hearing from the presenters “helped me to solidify my interest in missions.”

Seminary students are not the only ones who benefit from the event. On Feb. 4, the junior class of pastor-track students at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., attended presentations. On Feb. 5 and 6, students from Bethany Lutheran Seminary, Mankato, Minn., attended. In all, almost 200 students, professors, and guests participated.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

 

 

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First WELS Leadership Conference a success

WELS Congregational Services hosted the first ever WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership in Chicago, Jan. 21–23, 2020. Approximately 800 people, representing about 350 WELS congregations, met to hear five plenary speakers and attend a selection of breakout sessions.

Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says, “The focus of the conference was that we want to do all we can with the gospel to serve Christ’s mission. ‘Doing all we can with the gospel’ requires leaders to focus on two things.  First, we look at tactics. Is the way we are carrying out gospel ministry smart?”

He continues, “But underneath tactics is congregational culture. The group—the collective—needs to have the right thought habits and attitudes. That was what the plenaries were all about.”

Attendee Mr. Wes Schappert, a lay leader at Resurrection, Maumee, Ohio, says he appreciated the emphasis on personal evangelism. He says, “The point was simple, people sharing Jesus with others—people free from the curse of sin and Satan, sharing what lives in their heart so that others may know Christ.”

The first day of the conference started with three plenary presentations focusing on how lay leaders and called workers encourage one another for local ministry, finding our voice as a gospel-centered church, and encouraging both men and women to use their gifts to serve God. The evening concluded with an opening worship service with communion, bringing together WELS members from around the country as the embarked on learning and growing together as leaders of the church.

On day two, attendees could attend five breakout sessions, picked from 20 available sessions on a wide variety of topics. Hein said many attendees were interested in workshops that focused on reaching and retaining younger generations as well as personal evangelism. Additional topics ranged from ministry in rural areas to worship to apologetics.

On the second evening, attendees were treated to a preview on the new hymnal, set to be released by Northwestern Publishing House by Advent 2021. The new hymnal will maintain the name Christian Worship and comprise a suite of resources including a comprehensive psalter, musical arrangements for various instrumentation, and an easy-to-use service folder builder. Worship services and devotions at the conference included liturgical and hymn arrangements from the upcoming new hymnal. Learn about the new hymnal at christianworship.com.

The final day of the conference concluded with two more plenary speakers. Rev. Dave Rosenau, St. Mark, Leesburg, Fla., spoke about the importance of reaching people one-by-one using God’s Word, and Rev. Adam Mueller, Redeemer, Tucson, Ariz., presented on the need to commit to Christ’s mission.

Attendee Mr. Scott Krause, a member at St. Luke, Watertown, Wis., says, “I found the conference to be a great boost to my faith in the good Lord and what he has done for me. It was totally Christ- centered. My main takeaway was that I need to focus on a daily basis to love and reach out to my friends, family, and neighbors with the good news of the gospel.”

Following the success and overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees, the conference planning committee is exploring options for a second WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership, likely sometime in 2022. Watch for information in upcoming editions of the WELS Together e-newsletter, wels.net, and Forward in Christ.

Registrations exceeded expectations for the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. If you didn’t make it to Chicago for the conference, all five plenary presentations and many of the breakout sessions will be available to view online over the next few months at lutheranleadership.com.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership

 

 

 

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Your gifts, God’s blessings 2020

“Your gifts, God’s blessings: An annual report to our members” is now available online.

“I encourage every WELS member to read the annual report to learn the length, breadth, and depth of the impactful gospel ministries that Jesus graciously allows us to conduct in his name and to his glory through our prayers and offerings,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving.

Read the 2020 report to learn more about

  • Samuel Lor, a second-generation Hmong student who is in his first year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary;
  • Qiang Wang, a recent graduate of the Pastoral Studies Institute, who is serving as a missionary to the Chinese in a suburb outside of Vancouver;
  • Pastor Chaplai, a Hmong pastor in Vietnam, who notes, “I want to say thank you to WELS because you have given me peace;” and
  • Kyle Opperman, who drifted away from the WELS church of his youth but returned two years ago and now is so grateful to be “home.”

The report includes photos of Christian brothers and sisters around the world, stories of faith, updates on WELS’ ministry, and a summary of WELS’ financial picture.

“As you review the ministries we support together,” says WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder, “keep our synod and its work in your prayers, and thank God that he has given you an opportunity to be a part of the soul-saving mission he has placed before us.”

Print versions of the report have been sent to every WELS congregation and synod donors. Additional print versions are available from Northwestern Publishing House for free. Visit nph.net or call 800-662-6022.

To view the report online, visit wels.net/annualreport. At this website you can also download a PowerPoint presentation of the report with notes that allow anyone to share the highlights of our synod’s work. Alternatively, churches can invite a WELS Christian giving counselor to give the presentation. Contact WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for more information.

 

 

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Announcing WELS Night at Miller Park

It’s time to mark your calendars for the seventh annual WELS Night at Miller Park. Each year thousands of WELS members gather for an evening of fellowship and fun, and you can join them for the Milwaukee Brewers’ game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Fri., July 24, 2020.  Game time is 7:10 p.m.

The Brewers are again offering WELS members up to 50 percent off the price of tickets. The pricing is Field Outfield Box for $21/ticket, Loge Outfield Box for $17/ticket, or Terrace Reserved $9/ticket. The web link to purchase discounted tickets for WELS Night at Miller Park won’t be available until March. A promotional flyer is available to download to assist you in organizing your group for the game.

 

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Evangelism Day at MLC

The annual Evangelism Day at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in January, brought a break from classes as students attended stellar seminars and got fired up about proclaiming Christ.

“Evangelism Day,” says Maddy Leckwee, “is filled with energy and fire for the gospel. It makes you excited for the work you are training to do.”

Pastors, teachers, and laypeople presented on topics ranging from youth ministry and social media outreach to the gospel in East Asia and witnessing to Mormons.

Others snagged an opportunity to practice confessing their faith with Praise and Proclaim Ministries’ evangelism training. The group looks forward to canvassing later this spring.

View photos from the day.

Article from Martin Luther College’s e-mail newsletter KnightWatch.

 

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Conference of Presidents met for winter 2020 meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) met for its winter meeting on Jan. 6-9. The COP meeting addressed many topics, including:

  • The COP approved proposals to amend the synod’s bylaws dealing with disciplinary procedures carried out by the districts. These proposed changes are intended to clarify the terms, timing, and process to be followed when discipline becomes necessary. The proposed amendments will be reviewed by the synod’s Constitution Committee and will ultimately be presented to the 2021 synod convention.
  • Asia Lutheran Seminary has enrolled several American students who will soon graduate. To prepare these students for serving in stateside ministry, the COP approved Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s plan to provide these graduates with a year of stateside vicar experience and with two semesters of additional instruction at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.
  • The COP issued a divine call to Prof. John Hartwig to serve as a civilian chaplain in Europe and to Mr. James Sievert to serve as a part-time assistant consultant for the Commission on Lutheran Schools.
  • The COP has asked for a review of the Ministry of Christian Giving’s major gifts program to ensure that the Ministry of Christian Giving is best positioned and structured to carry out its work.
  • The COP received with thanks the news that Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) for 2019 were $330,000 higher than what congregations had committed. CMO subscriptions for 2020 are now being gathered, with the prayer that congregations will be able to increase their subscriptions to provide additional support for WELS missions and ministry. Looking ahead to 2021, the COP will prepare an encouragement video highlighting the blessings that Congregation Mission Offerings have made possible.
  • The COP approved a proposal that congregations will be encouraged to designate one Sunday in 2021 as a “WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday” as a way of highlighting the work we do together. Informational and worship materials will be provided.
  • Each of the 12 districts will be asked to consider the proposed change to the WELS Pension Plan at this summer’s district conventions. Informational materials will be provided well in advance, and each district will be given a detailed overview of the proposed changes. Districts will be asked whether or not they approve of the changes. Depending on the results of those votes, the Synodical Council will determine how and when to proceed with the process.
  • The COP has overseen a restatement of the synod’s doctrinal position on the roles of men and women, entitled “Male and Female in God’s World.” The restatement does not reflect a change in our teaching; rather, it was intended to clarify and update the current doctrinal statement. The restatement will be reviewed by pastor and teacher conferences. In addition, an accompanying Bible study is available for use in congregations. The districts will be asked to provide reaction and input before a final draft is presented to the synod convention in 2021.
  • The COP has also developed a “Statement on Human Sexuality,” which presents a biblical perspective on the transgender issue.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Easter outreach program available

Victorious!

It’s a message that the world needs to hear today.

“Many people in our country feel defeated by life. Many are being defeated by disease. All will eventually be defeated by death,” says Rev. Eric Roecker, director of the Commission on Evangelism.

That’s why the theme “Victorious” is so fitting for a new outreach program to invite unchurched souls to worship at WELS congregations this Easter. “Easter changes all of that. Because Jesus was victorious over death when he rose from the grave, those who follow him are already victorious knowing that their sin has been forgiven,” continues Roecker. “What’s more, even though they may die one day, Jesus promises to raise them from the grave and give them eternal life. His victory is our victory.”

WELS Congregational Services is providing resources for this synodwide program called Easter 20, or E20. “Outreach programs like E20 provide ready-made materials for congregations to use so that they do not need to create their own from scratch. This can save both time and money,” says Roecker. “Additionally, having a themed approach ties everything together—from postcards to door hangers to business card invites to social media ads.” Provided worship plans, service folder designs, and sermon thoughts then help tie that theme into an Easter festival service.

According to Roecker, studies show that Easter services are one of three worship services that unchurched people are most likely to attend. That’s why it’s so important for congregations—and individual members—to extend the invitation to worship. “People are especially likely to attend if invited by an acquaintance,” he says.

Most of the E20 materials are offered as free online downloads, with minimal costs for ordering postcards, business cards, and door hangers. Helpful “how-tos” provide direction for implementing this outreach program successfully.

Access resources at welscongregationalservices.net/e20.

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Church in Panama City rededicated after hurricane

What a difference a year makes. On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael blew through Panama City, Fla., as a category five hurricane, severely damaging the church and parsonage of Amazing Grace as well as the homes of many of its members. On Oct. 20, 2019, Amazing Grace moved back into its rebuilt worship facility. During that year, more than 200 WELS volunteers poured into Panama City to help Amazing Grace with the necessary cleanup and rebuilding. In addition, people from around the world joined together in praying for their Christian brothers and sisters and donating funds and materials to help.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Amazing Grace’s members banded together to check on one another and to help each other. As soon as the roads were cleared, members from neighboring congregations also pitched in. Then, volunteers from WELS Christian Aid and Relief and Kingdom Workers’ Builders For Christ began arriving, including more than 40 Martin Luther College students who volunteered at various times.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, one of the Martin Luther College students who helped with cleanup soon after the hurricane. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines lay all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. A building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

The roof of Amazing Grace’s church was ripped open during the storm and the parsonage’s roof was peeled up, causing flooding throughout the home. With such extensive water damage, most items needed to be replaced and much needed to be rebuilt. Yet Amazing Grace was blessed with donations and volunteers every step along the way to lighten the load.

On Jan. 12, 2020, members of Amazing Grace rededicated their worship space and invited volunteers back to celebrate with them. About 25 volunteers who helped with the rebuilding process attended this grand reopening celebration.

“The grand reopening was more like a grand reunion,” says Rev. David Kehl, current pastor at Amazing Grace.

Although the past year posed many challenges for them, members agree that this experience brought them closer together—with each other, with their fellow WELS members, and with their community. As they move forward, they’re excited to take the next step with their ministry plans.

As Mr. Torger Reppen, president of Amazing Grace, notes, “It’s so nice to be back in our own building, our own home. Now we can focus on outreach. We’ve been focusing on rebuilding, and now we can focus on daily church stuff.”

View a WELS Connection about Amazing Grace.

To see photos of Amazing Grace during its rebuilding process, view the slideshow below.

 
CAR in Panama City - 2019
 

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WELS-ELS-LCMS continue annual informal discussions

Representatives from WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) met in Jacksonville, Fla., last week for the eighth in a series of annual informal doctrinal discussions. These are “informal” doctrinal discussions, an indication that we recognize that a restoration of fellowship is not anticipated in the near future. Rather, these meetings are intended to provide a forum that increases mutual understanding of each synod’s doctrine and practice and to establish good lines of communication between the synods. The discussions have been helpful in identifying where the synods agree and where differences remain.

Topics for this year’s discussions included the doctrine of justification (with a focus on objective justification), an area in which the three synods are in complete agreement. Also discussed were the doctrines of the ministry and prayer fellowship, where some differences remain.

New participants this year included Rev. Peter Lange, the newly elected first vice president of the LCMS, and Rev. Paul Prange, the newly appointed administrator for the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations.

Another meeting is planned for next year and will include continuing discussion of the topics of prayer fellowship and the ministry, as well as a discussion of the WELS statement on the roles of man and woman, “Male and Female in God’s World.”

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Funding secured for theological education facility in Vietnam

Through the support and prayers of WELS members, WELS has surpassed its goal of receiving $2 million to support a theological education facility in Vietnam. This funding will pay for the land, building construction, and the first two years of operating expenses.

The communist Vietnamese government invited WELS in 2018 to build this facility in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi to train leaders of the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC).

“Since I became Christian in 1994, I’ve been searching and praying for a church body that would bring me the true Word of God,” says Rev. Zang, one of the HFC leaders who is receiving training. “I have been to much training in the last several years, but none like WELS. Finally, God sends a church that teaches the true Word of God to Vietnam. The Word of God has brought peace to our community, and we are sure that our salvation is only found in Christ Jesus.”

WELS first had contact with the Hmong Fellowship Church in 2011, when a leader in that church got in touch with Rev. Bounkeo Lor, a Hmong pastor who then served in Kansas City, Kan., after reading his online sermons. Lor made his first training trip to Vietnam in 2012. Members of the Pastoral Studies Institute began to accompany Lor on some of these trips starting in 2016. Since that initial trip, the church has doubled in size—now with more than 120,000 members—and discovered the true message of God’s grace.

“The members of the HFC have been grateful for the message of the gospel, that they are saved by God’s grace alone,” says Rev. Xiong, one of the HFC leaders receiving training. “Now they are eager to have the opportunity to use the center in Hanoi for training pastors in the Word of God, especially in law and gospel.”

Lor, who now serves as Hmong Asia ministry coordinator, says the training center is important for the ministry in Vietnam so that Hmong leaders can continue to grow in their understanding of God’s Word. “Nowadays, many churches call themselves Christian, but it is sad that they don’t teach the true Word of God anymore,” says Lor. “One of the brothers in the HFC told me that before they met WELS, they thought that every church taught the truth from the Bible, but now they know the differences between true and ideology teaching. They praise God for the teaching that WELS extends to their church body. They are eager to bring whatever they’ve learned from WELS to their leaders and members.”

So far, land has already been purchased in Vietnam, and plans are being made for construction to begin on a new campus that will include a worship space, dormitories and kitchen facilities, ministry offices, and four classrooms.

To date, more than 550 WELS congregations have given offerings to this campaign, and another 2,300 individuals and groups have offered special gifts or commitments. “While we trust our Lord to lovingly provide resources for the work we do together in his name,” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Christian Giving, “we marvel at how our Savior moved his people to give so quickly and generously to this unique opportunity. We praise Jesus and thank his people for their joyful, heartfelt participation!”

Lor asks for WELS members’ continued prayers on the ministry: “Please continue to ask God to bless the center so that it may serve more people, not only Hmong but also other minorities in Vietnam.”

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

 

 

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Recently announced changes in East Asia mission field

Recently the Board for World Missions decided to pull our East Asia Team missionaries and families out of their focus country because of security concerns. The government of their focus country is now regularly detaining, interrogating, and deporting any Westerner or group suspected of religious activity. Many mission organizations, large and small, have already pulled their operations out of the country over the past few years.

The East Asia missionaries and their families are being relocated to a nearby country from which they hope to continue their work in the focus country through online teaching, through distance mentoring and coaching, and through regular monthly visits back into the focus country. Over the next few months, the team will be working hard to acquire new visas and adjust to the new reality in the relocation country.

The Board for World Missions and the East Asia Administrative Committee have been monitoring this situation for the last few years and had been preparing for this contingency for months. As a result, the team is not in a state of panic, and everyone is safely out of harm’s way. Most important, the team is humbly confident that the Lord works even through these difficult times to advance his kingdom’s work.

The leadership also continues to closely monitor the political situation in Hong Kong where Asia Lutheran Seminary is located.

Please keep this situation in your prayers. Pray that our heavenly Father would protect the brothers and sisters of the focus country and give them courage to continue to stand upon the gospel and share it. Pray that our missionaries and families would be encouraged in this time of upheaval. Pray that the Lord would continue to keep the professors, staff, and families of Asia Lutheran Seminary safe.

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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MLP hosts translation expo in Africa

WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP) sponsored a conference in Lusaka, Zambia, in August to equip and inspire representatives from our partner synods in Africa. The MLP Expo 2019 brought 17 Africans from 6 countries and 3 American missionaries together for 4 days. The two main objectives of this event were to give participants linguistic tools to translate confessional Lutheran literature from English into their local languages and to produce a prioritized list of the publications needed in each sister synod.

Missionary John Roebke of the One Africa Team, says, “Our partners in Africa are looking for the essential tools needed to conduct gospel ministry. Thankfully translations of the Bible in their native tongues already exist. But how confidently can someone call himself ‘Lutheran’ if he never read anything written by Martin Luther?”

Both the Ethiopian and Kenyan Lutheran synods want to translate the Small Catechism into a total of seven languages between them. Other goals include adapting MLP’s “Bible Stories in Pictures—Expanded Version” for Sunday schools in the African churches as well as creating doctrinally sound hymnals, evangelism tracts, and prayer books for special services such as funerals and church dedications.

Roebke reports, “Our African brothers and sisters in Christ want to walk with us in the same faith, yet they have a much more difficult path to follow than we can even begin to understand. In Cameroon, armed rebels shut down the country every week on Mondays and are threatening to make this a permanent arrangement until they get independence. Pastor Mathias walks six hours to preach at one of the congregations he serves and then another six hours to get home. Pastor Mweete struggles to increase attendance at Bible class and to keep from losing his members to the Pentecostal church. Pastor Onunda tries to communicate the Bible’s timeless truth to the youth of his church, even though they don’t understand his Lutheran style of worship and he doesn’t speak their ‘Sheng’ (a type of slang that is popular among Kenyan youth).”

Reading materials printed on paper are still the primary method of receiving information about the world in these regions of Africa. Although some older smartphones and social media apps are starting to appear in the capital cities of Africa, internet access remains an expensive luxury for most people.

“WELS congregations across the United States make use of hymnals, Sunday school lessons, and other educational books without any thought of where those materials come from. Each one of our sister synods in Africa also has a great need for high-quality, scripturally faithful materials printed in at least two or three of the languages spoken by their members. God’s servants work diligently for months and even years before their manuscripts come into print. Tight budgets, untimely illnesses, and armed conflict stop publications projects in their tracks,” says Roebke.

To learn more about the work of WELS Multi-Language Publications, visit wels.net/mlp.

 

 

 

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Hymnal Project continues to move forward

The WELS Hymnal Project Executive Committee met for its final face-to-face meeting this month. This 14-member committee charged with carrying out the development of the new hymnal and its auxiliary resources started meeting in 2013.

At that meeting, the committee made final decisions on the two main pew books—the Hymnal pew edition and the Psalter pew edition—before sending the files to Northwestern Publishing House for editing, proofreading, and layout.

“There was a temporary pause for reflection at the meeting,” says Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the WELS Hymnal Project, “but there are still a lot of things to finish to get the balance of the books out.”

Schultz is talking about the 15 to 17 books and 3 digital products that will accompany the hymnal—the majority of which will be released at the same time as the hymnal in Advent 2021. Several subcommittees of the WELS Hymnal Project are continuing to write and develop these materials that will provide direction, support, and resources to pastors, worship planners, musicians, and choir directors. The Technology Committee especially is ramping up as it takes finished materials and inputs them into a digital service builder software program.

To begin introducing the new hymnal to WELS members, the WELS Hymnal Project is releasing a 64-page preview booklet at the January 2020 WELS Leadership Conference in Chicago. Each congregation also will receive multiple copies of the booklet. Schultz says the booklet will show features of the new hymnal, psalter, and other resources so that congregations can start planning for the hymnal’s release. A formal Hymnal Introduction Program will start at the same time, offering introductions to the products that are coming out, ideas for introducing the hymnal to members, as well as tips for funding. New hymnal materials also will be highlighted and featured at the next worship conference in 2021.

Schultz says the executive committee will still meet online as products continue to be finalized. He says, “There’s still a lot of work to do!”

Read more from Schultz in his October Forward in Christ article. Learn more about the work of the WELS Hymnal Project at welshymnal.com.

 

 

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Synodical Council holds fall 2019 meeting

The Synodical Council (SC) met last Friday and Saturday for its fall meeting. Among the items discussed and decision made were:

  • After two years of work exploring various options, a special committee presented a proposal to make changes to the synod’s retirement benefit program. The proposed improvements to the plan would better support our workers and our overall ministry efforts. Following the Conference of Presidents’ support of the proposal in October, the Synodical Council approved the proposal, which will be presented as a resolution to the district conventions this summer. A complete description of the proposal, along with a “Q and A” feature and opportunities for online comments and questions, will be shared with the synod in January. The proposed changes will not apply to current retirees receiving pension benefits.
  • The SC heard a report from WELS Christian Aid and Relief detailing ways in which the synod can be better prepared to assist congregations and individuals in times of disaster. The SC extended a call to Rev. Robert Hein to serve as the full-time Director of Christian Aid and Relief, a position that has been unfilled for several years. The director’s role will be to facilitate efforts to provide congregations and districts with training to help them prepare for response when disasters strike.
  • The SC approved a number of Ministry Financial Plan modifications. One of those modifications gave the approval to the Board for World Missions to move forward with the plans to establish a ministry training school in Vietnam. Funding for this effort has been provided by the generous gifts from congregations and individuals.
  • The SC approved funding for one item on the “Unfunded Priority List.” This action will enable the calling of an additional person for the congregational counseling effort, which provides assistance to congregations as they consider ministry plans to address increasing challenges posed by demographic changes and other factors.
  • The SC received the report on the financial results from the fiscal year that ended June 30.  Even though Congregation Mission Offerings were $300,000 less than the plan, underspending and other factors more than made up for the shortfall and the year ended with the synod in a healthy financial position. WELS Investment Funds has $225 million of assets under management. The WELS Church Extension Fund and WELS Foundation also had strong financial results, enabling their boards to transfer excess reserves to the synod for the support of missions and ministry.
  • WELS financial statements received an unmodified opinion, the best you can get, from external auditors.
  • The SC reviewed the balances in the special funds of the synod’s areas of ministry and ministerial education schools and found that across the board the balances were higher than four years ago.

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Rev. Richard Gurgel accepts call to serve as MLC president

Rev. Richard Gurgel has accepted the call to serve as president of WELS’ college of ministry, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. He will begin his new call on July 1, 2020.

Gurgel brings years of parish and teaching experience to his new ministry. Since 1999, he has served as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., teaching homiletics, systematics, and Christian education. He also directs the continuing education arm of the seminary, the Grow in Grace Institute.

The MLC Governing Board issued the call Sept. 26, and Gurgel officially accepted Oct. 21, saying, “With a deep awareness of my weaknesses as a jar of clay but with a still deeper appreciation for Christ’s forgiving and empowering grace, I accept the call to serve as Martin Luther College’s next president. May God give me a double portion of the servant-hearted, gospel-filled spirit with which President Zarling has so faithfully served.”

Furthermore, Gurgel noted, “God has used and continues to use what happens on MLC’s campus to prepare one generation after another of Christian witnesses to proclaim the gospel of his kingdom in classrooms and congregations and communities around the world. Truly a city set on a hill cannot be hidden!”

Rev. Mark Zarling, retiring president of MLC, is grateful that such a faithful shepherd will soon assume the leadership mantle. “Prof. Gurgel is a shepherd gifted with many abilities and with a heart that beats with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Zarling. “I am thrilled that he has accepted and am confident that Jesus will use him mightily for the good of this important ministry.”

To learn more about MLC, visit mlc-wels.edu.

 

 

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Unrest in Ethiopia affects WELS and sister churches

Recent political unrest in the country of Ethiopia caused some frightening moments for missionaries and pastors of WELS and our sister church bodies in Africa.

Last week, two events scheduled to take place in Ethiopia had to be canceled when riots broke out in several cities. Representatives of the African churches belonging to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference had planned a meeting in the city of Bishoftu. That meeting was to conclude with the dedication of a new building to house a theological training school operated by the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia.

When the rioting broke out, the U.S. State Department issued a strong advisory that all U.S. citizens should return, if possible, to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, by air travel or take shelter immediately. After some rather close encounters with armed mobs, World Missions Administrator Larry Schlomer and Professor Emeritus Forrest Bivens, who were already in Ethiopia for the planned events, were able to follow WELS Risk Management’s plans and make their way safely out of the country. WELS President Mark Schroeder, who arrived in Ethiopia just as the rioting began, was also able to return safely to the United States. All representatives from other African countries and WELS missionaries were also able to depart safely.

News reports indicate that the decision to leave was a wise and necessary one. More than 60 people were killed and more than 200 injured when the rioting spread to Addis Ababa.

We pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia and for the end of the violence in a normally peaceful country.

 

 

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COP addresses major topics at its fall meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its fall meeting last week at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis.

Two years ago a special committee was appointed by the Synodical Council to consider ways to improve the WELS pension plan for called workers. That committee has completed its work; its recommendation will be considered by the Synodical Council in November. Since the Conference of Presidents has a vital interest in the called workers of the synod, the committee shared the details of its proposal with the COP. The COP expressed its support for the recommendation and will forward its endorsement to the Synodical Council. If the Synodical Council adopts it, the detailed proposal will be made public and sent to the districts for consideration at their conventions this summer.

The COP adopted a document entitled “Human sexuality, Personhood, Identity, and the Historic Christian Faith: A Confession on Human Sexuality.” This document was written to address the current controversy and unbiblical views of the transgender issue. A shorter pastoral brief on the issue is also being prepared to help pastors as they address this issue in their ministry. These documents will be ready for publication as soon as they are placed into final form.

Another major decision of the COP was to accept the work of a committee that has produced a restatement of our synod’s doctrinal position on the God-given roles of man and women. “Male and Female in God’s Word” does not represent any change in our synod’s position; rather it is intended to clarify and expand on several aspects of the issue that are not fully addressed in the current WELS doctrinal statement. An accompanying Bible study has also been produced. These materials will be made available later this fall for study and discussion at pastor and teacher conferences and in congregations. Input and questions will be sought during the next year, and the statement will be presented to the synod convention for approval in 2021.

The COP is continuing its work on revisions to the synod’s bylaws that deal with the process of discipline for called workers and congregations.

Finally, the COP is also continuing to investigate whether the IRS provisions allowing ministers of the gospel to deduct their housing expenses applies to female teachers. There are some questions about whether the IRS and the courts have changed in their interpretation of this law and whether female teachers qualify for the deduction. The COP will report its findings as soon as they are available.

Serving in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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OWLS mining for Jesus at annual convention

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) was “mining for Jesus” this year at its annual convention for seniors in Galena, Ill., Oct. 7-9. The region around Galena was known for mining of lead when the first settlers came to the area, but the OWLS came in search of spiritual treasure found only in the Savior and the life he gives.

The four main speakers presented ways to be “miners for Jesus.” Missionary Dan Sargent presented on how God helps us to accomplish his plans bit by bit, Christian Life Resources Director Rev. Bob Fleischmann shared how a lifetime of experience prepares us, Special Ministries Director Rev. Jim Behringer’s presentation was titled “Christian caring matters,” and Chaplain Ken Wenzel spoke about lessons on Christian hope connected with medical objects.

Galena is known for its historic downtown and the beautiful countryside around it. Attendees had the opportunity to visit the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in nearby Dubuque, Iowa­, before the opening of the convention. An unexpected highlight of the convention happened as a result of a last-minute necessity. The cancellation of the musical entertainment led the organizers to ask OWLS President Norman Schell to do a presentation on the American effort to put a man on the moon. Schell worked on the Apollo project and showed some never-before-seen pictures of the project.

The OWLS rejoiced at the creation of a new OWLS branch in Downers Grove, Ill. Members of the new branch were present to receive their charter and a warm welcome into the organization.

For more than a decade, the OWLS has used its offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $50,000 for work in Europe. Two convention offerings and record proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

The OWLS also provides $350 scholarships to six Martin Luther College students. This year’s recipients are Claudia Meyer, Morgan Gosch, Daniel Bilitz, Dayne Kopfer, Clara Kammueller, and Derek Gulrud.

Professor Em. John Paulsen, OWLS executive director, says, “This convention provided a chance for everyone to grow in historical knowledge and about researching and preserving your own history. Everyone I talked with said that they had learned so much and enjoyed the convention at the Eagle Ridge Resort, all the while able to see eagles soar in the distance over the lake below.”

The 2020 OWLS convention for seniors will be held in New Ulm, Minn. With the theme “Tell the Next Generation,” the convention will have a special focus on Martin Luther College. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

 

 

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Equipping Christian Witnesses effort underway

Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., is embarking on a two-year synodwide offering called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.”

Martin Luther College (MLC) is our WELS college of ministry. It prepares nearly all of our called workers, training teachers and staff ministers to serve when they graduate and providing college-level training to young men who will enroll at the seminary to prepare to serve as pastors. Our synod is experiencing a great need for more called workers, and that is what this effort intends to help address.

The offering will provide resources to increase recruitment efforts around the synod.

In addition to that, it will address one barrier to enrollment at MLC: the cost of education. Even though MLC strives to keep educational costs down (and is widely considered to be successful in doing that), the prayer is that this offering will assist in recruitment by providing additional resources for student financial aid, reducing the need for students to borrow for their education.

Another goal of this offering is to provide funds that will help the college improve its facilities, particularly student housing and recreation facilities. While certainly not the main motivation for studying for the ministry, campus facilities do play an important role in recruitment.

We pray that God will move the hearts of our congregations and their members to take part in this opportunity to support the important work that MLC is doing on behalf of us all.

To learn more, visit mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Commission on Inter-Church Relations holds its fall meeting

The WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations (CICR) held its fall meeting last week. The CICR serves under the Conference of Presidents in the following ways:

  • To preserve and strengthen—on the basis of complete unity in scriptural doctrine and practice —the bond of confessional fellowship with those church bodies with which such fellowship already exists.
  • To extend the bond of confessional fellowship with other church bodies where complete unity in scriptural doctrine and practice becomes apparent.
  • To extend the true doctrine and practice of the evangelical Lutheran church by offering testimony and assistance—outside of fellowship—to groups that show a desire to grow in their understanding of scriptural doctrine and practice.
  • To keep itself informed on doctrinal trends as they become evident in the church at large.
  • To formulate doctrinal statements needed for dealing with other church bodies and, upon request, to address other doctrinal issues.

The members of the CICR keep in contact with churches around the world that are a part of our worldwide fellowship. Those contacts are intended to provide encouragement and support to those churches and to keep our synod informed of how God is blessing those church bodies. In addition, members of the CICR are also assigned to monitor and observe what is happening in Lutheran church bodies that are not a part of our fellowship. A good part of the meeting was spent reviewing reports from CICR members.

The CICR also participates in reviewing requests from Lutheran groups around the world seeking possible fellowship with our synod. In the past two years, the CICR has recommended to the synod convention to recognize and declare fellowship with Lutheran church bodies in Ethiopia and Kenya. Other opportunities continue to increase, especially in Africa, with inquiries coming to us from countries like Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, and others. The same can be said about Asia (Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines) and Latin America (Costa Rica, Ecuador, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba, and others)

God continues to open doors of opportunity for the proclamation of the saving gospel. Please pray that God would continue to build his church around the world. Pray also for your Commission on Inter-Church Relations as it works diligently to strengthen these fellowship relationships.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Celebrating the blessings of WELS youth ministry

As one decade comes to a close and another begins, WELS youth ministry programs have exciting milestones and events on the horizon.

First, the monthly video news magazine Kids Connection is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Created to complement the WELS Connection monthly video news magazine, Kids Connection encourages children and their families to “stay connected to Jesus” through Christ-centered stories and segments presented by two teenage hosts.

“We have an incredible number of passionate kids and adults in our church body,” says Mrs. Kris Snyder, producer. “God places each of us in spaces and situations and in different relationships to nurture our faith and provide us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. Kids Connection is our chance to share their stories and connect us through our common faith.”

Snyder recalls how the tagline “stay connected to Jesus” first came to be a signature element of the program.

“Early on, we used the line ‘stay connected to Jesus’ to close a few episodes, just encouraging kids to stay in their Bibles, to learn more about their Savior,” Snyder says. “Soon, kids began to quote that line when they wrote letters to us; it became a permanent tagline. I even heard it used during one of our WELS grade school graduations!”

Kids Connection is valuable in numerous settings, including grade schools, Sunday schools, preschools, early childhood education centers, and Christian homes. It can even be shown after worship for the whole congregation or during visits to elderly homebound church members.

Another way for young people to stay connected is the WELS International Youth Rally. The next rally will be held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, June 23–26, 2020, under the theme “Vision 2020: Seeing Christ Clearly, Serving Christ Boldly.”

“So much in our culture distracts, distorts, or outright denies the incredible love of God who sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for their sins,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Commission on Discipleship. “This rally will position Christ and his cross in front of them to encourage clarity of faith and motivate bold service to him in their lives.”

Youth rally attendees will join more than 2,000 others who share their faith, making this event the largest regular assembly of WELS members. Special speakers and workshops will further bring into focus the meaning of their Savior’s presence in their lives today and in the life to come. Christ-centered discussions of critical topics like evangelism, anxiety, and social media will guide and empower teens long after the event.

“We don’t want the rally to impact them for just four days,” says Dobberstein. “We want this to be transformational in their lives as they understand who they are and what their God has equipped them to do.”

Attendees also will be able to enjoy the Anakeesta Theme Park, river tubing, paintball, and other recreational activities around Knoxville for an additional fee, all the time growing through fellowship with their Christian brothers and sisters.

Churches and schools are encouraged to start promoting and planning for the youth rally by announcing the dates of the event to church teens and youth leaders and by connecting with the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Registration booklets will be available at churches and online in January. Early-bird registration begins March 2.

To learn more about and subscribe to Kids Connection, visit wels.net/kidsconnection. To learn more about the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally, visit wels.net/youthrally.

 

 

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WELS CEF special rates coming to an end

To meet the need for increasing requests for loans from WELS home missions and mission-minded congregations, WELS Church Extension Fund (WELS CEF) has been offering special interest rates for new investors.

For a limited time, WELS CEF has been offering a four percent interest rate on a minimum investment of $5,000 in either a 56-month-term loan certificate or a 60-month-term IRA certificate. WELS CEF’s investment certificates pay and compound interest quarterly. The four percent interest rate applies only to new money investments. The opportunity to invest under these terms is ending Sept. 30.

WELS CEF makes loans below or at market rates for WELS churches that are either new and building for the first time or established congregations with a new mission-focused initiative. WELS CEF funds these loans through WELS congregations’ and members’ investments in WELS CEF products. With the need for funds increasing, WELS CEF, through this special offer, has been seeking to raise approximately $10 million in investments. So far, investments of nearly $9 million have been made.

Mr. Scott Page, director of WELS CEF, says, “WELS Church Extension Fund would like to thank all our investors. These investments help WELS missions and self-supporting congregations build and expand their ministries. We are pleased to assist you in being good stewards of your gifts while also providing funding to help spread the gospel around the United States.”

View rates online at wels.net/cef. New IRA investors should contact WELS CEF at 866-511-7793 for investment materials. Investors can also manage their accounts and investments online.

 

 

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Ministerial education school enrollments

Total enrollment at the four ministerial education schools for the 2019-20 school year is 1,452, down slightly from 1,487 last year. Two of the schools saw small increases from last year; the other two schools experienced slightly lower enrollments.

Here are the unofficial opening enrollments at each school:

We thank God for moving these young people to prepare for the public ministry. We pray that he would bless them in their studies and bless the work of our ministerial education schools.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Lutheran Leadership Conference to kick off 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregation. Twenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministry, equipping members for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts.”

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: called workers and lay volunteers, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants. Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference.

“A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.”

Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event.

Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images.

 

 

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Learning to be a church that welcomes members home

As part of its “Welcome Home” initiative resources, WELS Congregational Services released a series of four videos with accompanying Bible studies to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. The videos are meant to be used by congregational leaders and members to guide congregations as they strive to bring straying sheep back to the Good Shepherd. Rev. Nate Bourman, Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation.

Bourman explains that a welcoming church is “a church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcomed to participate.”

He says the most common reasons he’s heard that members haven’t felt welcome is because they weren’t greeted, no one talks to them, and they felt like an outsider. “It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house,” says Bourman.

It’s important that all members participate in being a welcoming church. “Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastor’s job. It is not just the elders’ job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate in their care. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home,” says Bourman. “All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other.”

All congregations are encouraged to participate in the Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27, 2019. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies in the Welcoming Returning Members series—“Members drawn away because of sin,” “Members who left after being sinned against,” “Members whose needs were ignored,” and “Members who left for another church”—are available at welscongregationalservices.net/welcome-home.

 

 

 

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C19: Sharing the meaning of Christmas with others

According to current research, Christmas is the most appealing time for the unchurched and dechurched to attend a worship service. That makes C19, this year’s synodwide outreach campaign for Christmas, a critical opportunity.

Available from WELS Congregational Services, C19 equips congregations and individuals to share the good news of Jesus’ birth with others in their community and to invite them to Christmas worship services. This year’s theme is “God so loved the world.”

“Many people look at the pain and suffering in our world and conclude that either there is no God or that, if there is a God, he doesn’t love the world,” explains Rev. Eric Roecker, director of WELS Commission on Evangelism. “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem proves that God does indeed love the world, a world that includes every single soul.”

Here are some of the resources that are available:

  • Worship materials for Christmas. C19 provides ready-to-use worship folder templates with liturgy and music that edify heart, soul, and mind.
  • Evangelism materials for Christmas Eve. Low-cost outreach postcards as well as free Facebook video advertisement and digital files to post on church websites are available to share the message of the theme.
  • School resources. C19 provides guidance for using schools as outreach arms during the Christmas season. The program resources help encourage even the youngest WELS members to invite others to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Special needs ministry. C19 includes materials to help congregations reach out to families who have children with special needs.

About 70 percent of WELS congregations utilized some or all of the resources provided through 2018’s synodwide outreach campaign, C18. Its goal was to reach one million souls, and Roecker has high hopes again this year with C19: “With the Lord’s blessing, we would like to see more than one million people invited,” he says.

Many C19 materials will be offered as free downloads at welscongregationalservices.net/c19. Some materials are available now; others will be provided in the coming weeks. Pastors and interested laypeople should sign up now to receive updates, which will include notices when new materials are posted online as well as planning tips and timelines to carry out the program successfully.

 

 

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