New director for WELS Special Ministries

Rev. Joel Gaertner has accepted the call to serve as the director of the Commission on Special Ministries, taking over for Rev. James Behringer who served in the role for 11 years and is retiring this month. Gaertner has started his work and officially will be commissioned at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis., on Wed., June 21.

“I want to give thanks and gratitude and appreciation to Jim Behringer for all that he’s done in the last 11 years for continuing to advance Special Ministries. I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to serve in this role,” says Gaertner.

The Commission on Special Ministries offers spiritual care and other services to people whose needs are not typically met by the regular ministries of WELS congregations and schools. This includes ministry to members in the military; outreach to those in prison; resources for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or visually impaired; support for parents with children who have special needs; resources for mental health needs; and more.

Gaertner is not new to the work of WELS Special Ministries. He has spent many years on the commission and has served as the director of Jesus Cares Ministries for the last 10 years. He says even from his earliest days in the ministry, he has always had the opportunity to serve those with different needs in congregational ministry.

“One of the exciting things for me in taking this call is to grow awareness,” says Gaertner. “Look at all the various things Special Ministries does. It gives us the opportunity to share Jesus with a whole lot of people who, sadly, a lot of times get left out, are marginalized, or just aren’t taken care of. That’s where I want to keep it going and raise the awareness.”

Behringer says, “There’s nobody better equipped to succeed as director of Special Ministries than Joel because he has been working in the field for a lot of his ministry.”

After more than a decade serving as the director of Special Ministries, Behringer reflects, “Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.”

He concludes, “In addition to being in the Word, sharing the faith, and worshiping the Lord, how we love one another is an essential part of Christian and congregational life.”

Learn more about WELS Special Ministries at Watch a livestream of Behringer’s farewell and Gaertner’s commissioning service at 8:30 a.m. CT, June 21.