It’s not too early to be thinking about Christmas.
But I’m not talking about sales shopping. I’m talking about considering whom to invite to hear about Jesus, the Light in the darkness.
Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says Christmas Eve is the #1 worship service that unchurched and dechurched people are willing to attend. “The Christmas season is actually a pressure point for a lot of people. The suicide rates go up over the holiday season and depression spikes,” he says. “The world is a dark place; it’s been that way since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. What can pierce that darkness? Only Christ—he is the Light in the darkness.”
A new synodwide outreach campaign called C18 is now available from WELS Congregational Services to help congregations and individuals with this outreach opportunity. The theme, “A Light in the darkness,” is based on Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” The overarching goal of the program? To reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season.
Every commission from Congregational Services will provide royalty-free resources that congregations and members can use in this effort:
- The Commission on Worship is providing worship resources, including worship plans, sermon helps, worship folders, and newly commissioned music, for Advent and Christmas.
- The Commission on Evangelism is developingpromotionalmaterials such as postcards, banners, and Facebook posts for congregations to use. A Bible study related to the new outreach movie To the Ends of the Earth (coming out this fall) will discuss how to witness and share your faith to help prepare members to invite their unchurched friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors to Christmas Eve services.
- The Commission on Discipleship is producing family Advent devotions, with a special emphasis on training and encouraging families to reach out to the unchurched during the holiday season.
- The Commission on Lutheran Schools is providing WELS school with evangelism training materials for children and teens.
- The Commission on Special Ministries is developing supplementary materials for the Christmas for Kids program developed by Northwestern Publishing House to allow congregations to offer a service for special-needs children.
- The Commission on Congregational Counseling is providing materials to help congregations coordinatethisoutreach effort as well as helps for following up on contacts after the holiday season.
“It all boils down to WELS members growing closer to Jesus so we have a heart that beats with a love and passion for the lost and we are willing to step outside our comfort zone to do whatever we can to share the gospel,” says Hein. “Every commission is thinking about this overall goal of gospel ministry and how they can serve it.”
Hein says that this needs to be a synodwide effort and that congregations and their members need to work together as a church body. “Our job is to simply share the gospel as zealously as we can. We leave the results up to the Holy Spirit,” he says. “However, if together we would achieve the goal of reaching one million souls, and if the Holy Spirit would bless that effort at a similar rate he has for past programs, it would mean about 1,500 people and their families would join a WELS congregation as a result of the C18 program.”
This synodwide outreach campaign is the first of three—plans are already being discussed for programs for a fall festival in 2019 and Easter in 2020. Says Hein, “We want this to become part of WELS culture—that we work together to reach out to the unchurched in our neighborhoods.”
He continues, “The best evangelism is done by individuals looking to share their faith. The second this launches in June, I want laypeople to start thinking about whom they are going to start talking to and spend time developing a relationship with so that they can invite them to attend a Christmas Eve service to hear about the Light in the darkness.”
Promotional and planning materials for C18 will be available on the Congregational Services resource center in June. Learn more about C18 at wels.net/c18.
New online resource center
C18 is just one way WELS Congregational Services is working to help congregations. As part of its five-year strategic plan, Congregational Services is providing multiple resources to assist congregations as they attempt to reach new prospects while simultaneously work to retain current members.
These materials will be available on a new online resource center, welscongregationalservices.net, which is launching this month.
While Congregational Services has provided helps in the past, many of those programs were available through conferences and workshops. This includes the popular School of Outreach and School of Worship Enrichment. While Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, says this type of in-person help is ideal, it also can be cost-prohibitive for some congregations and may mean congregations have to wait months or even years for a program to come to their area. “Our thought is let’s provide resources and training online where it can be asynchronous, immediate, and free,” says Hein. “There will always be a need for face-to-face contact, but if we can better utilize technology to help more congregations quickly and at less cost, that just makes a lot of sense.”
Much of this training will be conducted through high-quality videos and supporting materials. The site will include a wide variety of modules that deal with specific ministry needs like training volunteers, starting a small-group ministry, working with delinquents, and developing a strategic plan. The site will also provide training materials for lay leaders as they serve in different positions in their congregation.
New resources will be added every six months. Hein says that while many resources are already in the works, Congregational Services will also be looking for grass-roots input at the district conventions this month to discover what kind of help congregations need most.
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Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
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