Encouraging and equipping your congregation for gospel ministry
Telling the next generation
When the doors to Apostles Lutheran Preschool in Billings, Montana, open this fall, the preschool staff hopes that parents and their families won’t only see the bigger reception area complete with refreshments, a library filled with parenting materials, and a ready smile from the teachers and pastor. They pray that the parents will also see Jesus.
“We developed a guarantee in our [church] leadership team,” says Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles. “The guarantee is that if someone comes on our campus they will experience the love of Christ.”
And this guarantee isn’t just the responsibility of the staff; it’s a direction for every volunteer at every church event that preschool families attend.
This is all part of Apostles’ harvest strategy—a detailed outreach plan to connect non-member families to the means of grace. The ultimate goal of Apostles’ strategy? “To have 100% of our families hear about the good news of Jesus’ salvation through a worship service, preschool event, or law and gospel presentation.”
A large part of that plan is building relationships, whether at fellowship events held at the church and preschool or just a friendly greeting every morning. “From start to finish, from the beginning to the end of the day, we are trying to focus around this harvest strategy,” says Melissa Bickelhaupt, the preschool’s director. “We are looking for any opportunity we can have to be a part of their lives.”
While serving as an outreach arm for the congregation has been the mission for this preschool since it began in 2005, Bickelhaupt says a WELS workshop the staff attended in 2017 called “Telling the Next Generation” helped them develop this laser-like focus on evangelism strategies, including developing their written plan of goals, philosophies, and intentional outreach experiences—special events held throughout the year to build relationships and to provide gospel-sharing opportunities.
“It was a six-hour drive to the conference, and on the drive home we used that opportunity to talk about all our takeaways and to give ourselves goals,” says Melissa. “And then we discussed how to hold ourselves accountable to implement them.”
Part of holding themselves accountable was developing the actual written plan. “The harvest strategy gave us a shot in the arm,” says Jay. And he was happy to say that they accomplished their goal of sharing the gospel with all of their nonmember preschool families last school year—27 out of 31 families. “It was awesome to have this written down so we could go and reflect and see where we are at,” he says.
WELS Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools piloted “Telling the Next Generation” workshops in April 2016 to provide planning and resources help to congregations implementing outreach strategies through their Lutheran elementary school and/or early childhood ministry. Since then 174 congregations have attended a workshop.
“More and more of our schools are welcoming community families into the school. As we open our doors to communities, we’re opening our doors to opportunities to connect people with the means of grace, to share that precious gospel,” says Cindi Holman, WELS coordinator of early childhood ministries. “The goal of ‘Telling the Next Generation’ is to help congregations have an intentional plan so that we won’t miss any opportunity to connect people with that message of grace.”
More “Telling the Next Generation” workshops are scheduled for this fall. WELS Lutheran Schools is also working to make workshop materials available online to help those who can’t attend in person. Learn more at wels.net/tellingthenextgeneration.
Another great opportunity WELS schools have for reaching families is that as students learn about Jesus at school, they take that message home to their parents. As Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles, Billings, Mont., puts it, “We’re training 32 little evangelists.”
As the synod prepares for C18 and the opportunity to reach 1 million people with the gospel message this Christmas, WELS Lutheran Schools is preparing materials to help teachers train their students on how to live and share their faith with the friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors.
“The children in our Lutheran schools are greatly blessed to have friends who are fellow Christians. However, most of those WELS children also have friends who do not have a church home—kids from the summer soccer league, kids from dance classes, or simply the next-door neighbor kids. Let’s teach our children how to be what Jesus wants them to be now, even when they’re young—witnesses,” says Jon Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services. “Children who are trained to witness in simple, basic ways become adults who are bold ambassadors for Christ.”
Learn more about C18 and its witnessing opportunities at wels.net/c18.
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Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018
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