Pictured above: Joseph Lindloff was installed as the new home missionary in Marquette, Mich., in October 2023. Marquette received funding as a new mission in March 2023 in the first round of missions approved as part of WELS’ initiative to launch 100 missions in 10 years. Pictured with Lindloff are his wife, Julie, and their three children.
WELS officially launched its 100 missions in 10 years initiative in 2023. The initiative includes plans to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023–2033, and it is off to a strong start. In 2023, the Board for Home Missions approved support for 10 new missions and 10 enhancements.
- Bentonville, Ark.: Bentonville, the headquarters of Walmart, is anticipated to see 35 percent population growth in the next three years. Only two churches of any denomination are located in the target area of southwest Bentonville/Centerton. The 12-person core group has been active in the community and looks forward to planting a new church in an area with no current WELS presence.
- Panama City Beach, Fla.: Amazing Grace, Panama City, is looking to expand west and start a second site in the greater Panama City Beach area. The core group of about 12 members has been meeting regularly for more than two years as they make plans to reach a growing retirement population and the young families that serve the aging population and tourists.
- Idaho Falls, Idaho: The greater Idaho Falls area is experiencing tremendous growth due to jobs, quality of life, and cost of living. The Mormon church has a strong historical presence in the area so the 11-person core group has been working with Truth in Love Ministries, a WELS-affiliated organization that reaches out to Mormons and equips others to do so.
- Boston, Mass.: Boston, a city with 4.3 million souls, is known as “America’s College Town” with 53 colleges and universities. The closest WELS church to the urban center is a 90-minute drive to the south. This unique urban mission is being modeled after church plants in Atlanta and New York City and has strong potential for college and cross-cultural ministries.
- Marquette, Mich.: Marquette serves as the hub of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and 52 percent of the people in and around Marquette do not have a home church or attend a church. It is also home to 7,000 students at Northern Michigan University, a ripe opportunity for a campus ministry program. A group of WELS members live in Marquette, and many students remain in the area after graduation.
- Kalispell, Mont.: Kalispell is considered the fastest-growing micropolitan city (population 10,000-50,000) in the United States and is 100 miles away from the nearest WELS church. The dedicated core group has been gathering for worship on a regular basis for years, first in private homes and currently in a motel conference room. The pastor at Living Savior, Missoula, Mont., leads onsite worship twice a month while lay leaders organize other weekly Bible studies and outreach events.
- Cincinnati, Ohio: Beautiful Savior, Cincinnati, Ohio, is starting a second site in the Oakley and Hyde Park neighborhoods, just northeast of downtown. A core group of 20 members have been meeting regularly for fellowship, Bible study, and outreach since fall 2022. This new location would put Beautiful Savior closer to three colleges in the area, opening opportunities for campus ministry growth.
- North Collin County, Texas: A core group of 15 members from Atonement, Plano, Texas, are starting a new church in North Collin County, a northern suburb of Dallas. Divine Savior Ministries, a WELS-affiliated ministry with four church/school campuses, has committed to providing guidance and resources to the new mission and is planning to build a Divine Savior Academy by year five of the mission start.
- Kronenwetter, Wis.: Five WELS churches in the greater Wausau, Wis., area are supporting a new mission in Kronenwetter. This growing community south of Wausau is home to Northland Lutheran High School, which houses this new church. The 22-member core group has been meeting monthly since December 2021 for Bible study and mission planning.
- Buffalo, Wyo: A group of 27 WELS members living in the Buffalo area have been worshiping weekly in the local civic center since March 2020, led by the pastor from Lord of Lords in Casper, Wyo. Core group members have started three different Bible study/book study opportunities outside of Sunday worship and Bible study and are actively inviting friends to join.
- Beautiful Savior, West Des Moines, Iowa
- Our Redeemer, Ladysmith, Wis.
- Good Shepherd, Midland, Texas
- Fairview, Milwaukee, Wis.
- Christ the King, Port Charlotte, Fla.
- Divine Savior–Sienna, Missouri City, Texas
- Mount Calvary, Redding/Anderson, Calif.
- Christ the King, Palm Coast, Fla.
- Hope in Deerfield, Wis.
- Cross of Christ, Las Cruces, N.M.
Did you know?
WELS Home Missions supports 145 home mission congregations, including churches in 38 states, Canada, and the English-speaking West Indies.
North Collin County, Texas
“We are so humbled and excited to have been chosen for mission status in this first year of WELS’ 100 in 10 mission initiative,” says Brad Johnston, the core group leader of Divine Savior, North Collin County. “We have learned so much about our community and the needs of our neighbors and friends over the past two years of active outreach efforts. They have no greater need than to hear the message of peace that comes from knowing their Savior Jesus.”
Johnston and other members of the core group in North Collin County have been meeting every other week since 2021 for planning meetings and Bible studies. They have also participated in community outreach opportunities, including cleaning up litter. In July 2023 Caleb King was installed to serve as a home missionary for Divine Savior in North Collin County.
In March 2023, members of Divine Savior–Sienna submitted a request through our district mission board to the Board for Home Missions for an enhancement grant to allow us to call for a second pastor. The Board for Home Missions granted that request.
Dan Laitinen was the first pastor we called. He moved with his family to Sienna in July 2023, and we celebrated his installation on July 30 with worship and a massive serving of Texas-smoked pulled pork.
So . . . how’s it going? Incredibly!
As we partner with Divine Savior Academy on our campus, there are so many opportunities for ministry. This year, the school has grown to 350 students in PreK–11th grade. We anticipate more students next year with the completion of a building project.
So much ministry can happen with two pastors! While I serve 10th graders and teach the Old Testament, Pastor Laitinen can study the Bible with Kenneth, our security officer, and Keith, our technology specialist, progressing toward membership at Divine Savior Church. While Pastor Laitinen invites Connect Group leaders to his home to encourage and equip them for our small group ministry, I am the invited guest at the homes of academy parents like Jake and Amanda or Will and Jordan, who take our START class to become members. While I take time to engage and interact specifically with worship visitors and guests, Pastor Laitinen leads a Sunday morning small group study. While Pastor Laitinen works with our youth group leaders to plan consistent events to connect teens to Christ, I work with the outreach team to plan our soccer camp and Easter egg hunt.
More kingdom work is happening. More people are equipped to serve in our mission. More souls are connected to Christ!
Kevin Boushek, home missionary at Divine Savior–Sienna
Campus ministry in Atlanta
Colleen Thorson didn’t grow up in the church. In fact, when she started at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga., she hadn’t ever set foot in a worship service. On the other hand, Colleen’s new roommate, Megan Smith, a member at Victory of the Lamb, Katy, Texas, had been going to church her whole life. When Megan asked if she wanted to check out a new church together, Colleen joined her at Intown Lutheran Church, a mission congregation in the heart of Atlanta, Ga.
After that first worship service, Colleen didn’t waste any time making plans to come back. “All I could think about was that I wanted to learn more,” she says. “I felt incredibly blessed to worship with so many kind people and was very inspired by the beautiful message Pastor Lucas was sharing.”
Lucas Bitter accepted the call to start a new mission in Atlanta in 2017. He sees the city’s college students as souls hungry to hear about the peace and security Jesus offers. When Megan and Colleen first attended worship at Intown, Bitter quickly learned their names and invited them to attend that week’s Campus Ministry Bible study. If there was any doubt in the roommates’ minds that they belonged at Intown, these weeknights spent in the Word dispelled them immediately.
“When things get tough during the week,” explains Colleen, “this time in the Word is a great reminder of what’s really important. We’re always trying to get more people from the area involved, to show them how much of a difference Jesus can make in their lives too.”
When Colleen approached Bitter one Sunday after worship and asked what she needed to do to prepare herself to take Holy Communion, he saw an opportunity. He invited her to take the church’s Bible Basics course. She completed the course and was baptized and confirmed on Easter Sunday 2022.
“Since Colleen completed the course and got baptized, several other students have enrolled in the class,” says Bitter. “Lord willing, there may be more adult baptisms coming soon!”
Visit wels.net/college to learn more about WELS Campus Ministry.