Home Missions

WELS Home Missions is blessed to plant churches and assist mission-minded congregations in the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies. Home Missions currently supports 157 congregations with financial subsidy or district mission board/mission counselor assistance, with 32 of those being cross-cultural mission congregations. Home Missions also provides over 45 campus ministries with financial support, while assisting hundreds of other congregations that serve college students around the United States and Canada.

WELS has fourteen Home Missions districts, each with their own District Mission Board (DMBs). These DMBs, comprised of pastor and lay volunteers, work to start new missions and support existing missions in their districts. Two representatives from each district serve on the Board for Home Missions. This Board for Home Missions votes on the new starts and enhancement ministries for the next year and sets overall direction for WELS Home Missions.

Fast Facts

  • 157 home mission congregations
  • 12 new mission starts/enhancements approved in 2024
  • 150 new mission starts/enhancements since 2011
  • Home Missions in 37 states, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies
  • 32 cross-cultural missions
  • Financially supports 45+ campus ministries

In 2021, synod convention delegates approved an ambitious new goal that allows WELS Home Missions to plant 100 new home mission churches and enhance 75 existing ministries from 2023-2033.

Yellow = 2024 new starts and enhancements: WELS Home Missions approved 12 new home mission starts and enhancements in April 2024. Learn more at wels100in10.net.

Red = Current home mission churches: Current home mission churches have applied for and received full home mission status from the Board for Home Missions. Funded home missions receive direct financial support from Home Missions. Unsubsidized, or self-funded, home missions do not receive direct financial support but still have access to the many other benefits offered to all home mission congregations: assistance through their district mission board, mission counselors, and synodical support staff plus full access to loans and grants from WELS Church Extension Fund and the Board for Home Missions.

Blue = Exploratory missions: District mission boards and mission counselors work with exploratory missions to develop a core group of members and begin Bible study and initial outreach before coming to the Board for Home Missions for official home mission status. These missions are not currently approved, but are preparing the groundwork needed for their formal ministry request to the Board for Home Missions. Each request is thoroughly vetted and either prioritized, deferred, or denied. Prioritized requests are authorized as funding is available. Please note that there might be some exploratory missions on this list that will not end up receiving home mission status after the review process.

Support WELS Home Missions. Your gift will allow Home Missions to plant new churches, enhance ministries at current congregations, and support current home mission outreach efforts around the United States, Canada, and English-speaking West Indies.

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Meet the Mission Counselors

District mission boards (DMBs) and home mission churches are supported by three home mission counselors, a Hispanic outreach consultant, an Asian ministry coordinator, and a Campus Ministry counselor. These six mission counselors work with the DMBs to find, evaluate, and develop new home mission locations. They also provide onsite assistance to home mission congregations and counseling and training to the new missionaries who are called to serve them. This support is crucial in guiding mission congregations on the way to becoming self-supporting congregations.

Rev. Mark Birkholz has served as a WELS Mission Counselor since 2007. Since then, he’s spent time with mission efforts connected to all fourteen district mission boards. Currently he supports the efforts of the Dakota/Montana, Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, Michigan, North Atlantic, and the eastern half of WELS Canada district mission boards. For most of the past fifteen years he lived in Denver, Colo. In 2022 he and his wife relocated to Sioux Falls, S.D. 

Rev. Birkholz graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1983 and was assigned to begin a mission in Northeast Denver. Over the course of 23 years, that mission grew to the extent that it was able to open an elementary and preschool, be a key player in forming a federation of congregations that eventually opened Rocky Mountain Lutheran High School, and partner with Home Missions in opening three nearby daughter congregations. In 2006/2007, Rev. Birkholz served at Grace Lutheran Church in Grenada before accepting the call to be Mission Counselor. 

Rev. Birkholz and his wife Lin have been married since May 1981. They have four children (three of whom are married) and seven grandchildren. Those respective families live in San Diego, Denver, Sioux Falls, and Indianapolis. 

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

Rev. Matt Vogt has served in Home Missions his entire ministry. Called to plant a new church (Water of Life) in Las Vegas in 1997, he served there for over 20 years. His ministry in Las Vegas also included daughtering a second congregation in northwest Las Vegas (Shepherd of the Hills), training pastors for and assisting in starting both a Korean ministry and an African immigrant/refugee ministry, starting a preschool/Kindergarten ministry, and exploring a new world mission field in Liberia. He served for a number of years as chairman of the Arizona-California district mission board and as a member of the WELS Board for Home Missions and its Executive Committee. He currently serves as a Mission Counselor for WELS Home Missions. He works with five districtsSouth Central, Nebraska, Colorado, Pacific Northwest, and the western half of WELS Canadaand around 70 mission fields/congregations. His wife, Kelli, and their two boys, Noah and Caleb, still call Las Vegas home. Kelli serves as the office manager at Water of Life Lutheran School. Noah attends Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, studying to be a pastor. Caleb attends the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studying construction management. 

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

As one of WELS Mission Counselors, Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn was called by Home Missions to serve four districts: Arizona-California, Northern Wisconsin, Southeastern Wisconsin, and South Atlantic. He works with the four district mission boards to research, help launch, and counsel new mission churches. 

He has served the following congregations in his 32 years of ministry: St. Paul’s, Valley City, N.D.; Atonement in Baltimore, Md.; Fount of Life in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Beautiful Saviour in Carlsbad, Calif. He also previously served as chairman of the Colorado district mission board and chairman of the Board for Home Missions.  

He and his wife, Daneen, have four adult children and three grandchildren. Their two daughters are married, and two sons are single and living on their own. 

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

Rev. Tim Flunker was born in Iowa but grew up in Puerto Rico, where his father served as a missionary. It was there where he learned Spanish. After high school in Nebraska and college in Watertown, Wis., Rev. Flunker began his seminary training at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He took a year sabbatical during his training to teach for a year at a local WELS high school, where he met his future wife, Terri. They married after he spent his vicar year in Tomah, Wis. 

Upon graduation, Rev. Flunker served in Flower Mound, Tex., for six years; Mexico City, Mexico, for three years and Green Bay, Wis., for six years. In Green Bay he began work as a consultant in ethnic minority ministries, serving the districts in the state of Wisconsin and focusing on Spanish ministry. In 2009, WELS Home Missions called Flunker to be the Hispanic Outreach Consultant. Since then, he has helped congregation throughout the United States that are already doing Hispanic outreach, as well as new congregations who are looking for advice and counsel as to how to begin Hispanic outreach. By God’s grace, 18 locations have weekly worship services in Spanish and another five locations offer Bible classes in Spanish. 

Rev. Flunker and his wife Terri have been blessed with three children: Charles, Amelia and Michael; and three precious grandchildren, Zooey, Isaak, and Ava. 

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

Rev. Dan Lindner serves as the WELS Campus Ministry Mission Counselor. He partners with a variety of individuals, groups, and institutions to serve college-age students. He works to strengthen and support existing campus ministries, encourages high school students (both domestic and international) to connect with a campus ministry, works with congregations to start and maintain active campus ministry programs, and equips domestic and international students to share their faith with family and friends wherever they call home. He also partners with district mission boards as they explore planting new churches where colleges would be part of the mission field.  

Rev. Lindner spent his vicar year at Cristo Glorificado in Puebla, Mexico. Prior to his current call, he served as a tutor at Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School, a parish pastor at St. John’s in Minneapolis, Minn., and the campus pastor for True North Campus Ministry in the Twin Cities. 

He and his wife live in Minneapolis, Minn. She is a teacher at a Hmong Charter School in St. Paul, Minn. In their free time, they enjoy traveling together, spending time in National and State Parks, kayaking, and enjoying various activities and events in Minneapolis. 

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

Rev. Neil Birkholz was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council in 2020 to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator under the WELS Joint Mission Council. He supports WELS outreach efforts that take place in Asian cross-cultural situations and coordinates the WELS Diaspora Ministry Facilitator (DMF) program that helps build connections between home and world mission efforts. This relativity new program assigns a stateside pastor to every World Mission team overseas. This stateside pastor, or DMF, helps facilitate connections and outreach between people-groups in North America and their home country. Rev. Birkholz also works with the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) as they train non-traditional students who are uniquely equipped to serve in Asian outreach situations. He encourages them through their studies while also helping identify their local mission fields where they can serve while taking classes.

Before graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Rev. Birkholz served with Kingdom Workers in Brazil (6 months) and with Friends of China (2 years). Upon graduating in 2014, he was assigned to the WELS World Mission field in East Asia where he served until the summer of 2020. He then accepted the call to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator (75%) and quarter-time parish pastor (25%) at Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, Calif. In summer 2022 his current position as Asian Ministry Coordinator became full-time.

Rev. Birkholz, his wife Becky, and children Caleb, Malachi, Noah, and Kaia are blessed to be supported by their home congregation, Reformation, as they transitioned from living in Asia back to the United States. Becky teaches part-time at Reformation in the 7-8 grade classroom and their four children are all attending the school. Because of their location in San Diego and the outreach efforts of Reformation, the Birkholz family continues to have opportunities to connect with many Asian people in the local setting.

Download and read more biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.

Praise and Proclaim Ministries

Praise and Proclaim Ministries teaches and equips Christians how to joyfully and confidently share the important message of God’s salvation with others. They provide an immediate, well-organized opportunity for Christians to put their training into action by conducting a door-to-door canvassing experience to proclaim the gospel. By participating, members of congregations learn how to engage, proclaim, and invite neighbors and friends to hear the gospel. Many home mission congregations are taking advantage of Praise and Proclaim as a part of their overall outreach strategy. To learn more about this ministry and how your congregation might use it, visit praiseandproclaim.com.

WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF)

WELS CEF is a valuable partner of Home Missions. WELS CEF provides loans to qualified home mission congregations so they can acquire land and build or renovate ministry facilities used as tools for gospel outreach. Besides offering loans at affordable interest rates, WELS CEF also has a matching grant program that provides additional financial assistance to home mission starts. Since 1993, CEF has provided over $38 million in matching grant dollars to help offset initial costs of home mission mortgages.

On top of the matching grant program, CEF also provides special grants to Home Missions to support additional ministry. To learn more, visit wels.net/cef.

Vicars in Mission Settings Program

Through the Vicars in Mission Settings program (funded through a partnership between WELS Home Missions and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary) seminary students are assigned to serve their vicar year in home mission congregations or established congregations with a mission mindset. This program allows vicars to watch and learn from a man who has a gospel heart for members and for the lost, and see how integral outreach is to ministry.

Truth in Love Ministry

Truth in Love Ministry was founded by Pastor Mark Cares to reach Mormons with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ministry’s distinctive outreach approve has been recognized worldwide. To learn more about this ministry, please visit www.tilm.org.

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