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New director of discipleship joins Congregational Services

“Encouraging and equipping congregations for faithful and fruitful gospel ministry.”

That’s how Rev. Donn Dobberstein describes his new position as the director of discipleship for WELS’ Congregational Services. In this new role, Dobberstein will serve the WELS Commissions on Adult Discipleship and Youth and Family Ministry. These commissions coordinate WELS Women’s Ministry, the Interactive Faith online Bible study series, marriage enrichment programs, the biennial international youth rally, the Kids Connection video series, and other ministry resources.

Dobberstein is not a stranger to Congregational Services, having served as the chairman of the Commission on Evangelism for the past 10 years. He also says, “Twenty-two years in parish mission settings have given me ministry experiences showing the importance of and the connection between ‘making disciples’ and ‘continuing to disciple.’ Evangelism and nurture are not at odds with each other but are complementary.”

Dobberstein served as pastor at Our Savior’s, Port Orange, Fla., for the past 17 years. He and his wife, Beth, moved from Port Orange to the Milwaukee, Wis., area in November as he began his work at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. The couple have four children, two of whom still live at home.

Dobberstein clearly feels a sense of urgency for this ministry. He notes, “After years of the position being ‘dormant,’ clarifying a sense of direction and vision will be a priority. Evaluating and prioritizing resources needed for WELS congregations will help us set goals for the next five years. My intention is to listen and learn, support and serve my fellow coworkers and God’s people. I believe God has given us a unique moment in his kingdom that can be seized that, God-willing, can lead to ministry activity.”

Next Interactive Faith features Martin Luther

The next Interactive Faith online Bible study will begin Wed., Oct. 4, and run every Wednesday through Nov. 8. The study will stream live twice each Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central). The online Bible studies are a great opportunity to get together as a group or to participate individually in a synod-wide Bible study.

The upcoming study is titled “Luther’s Lasting Impact,” and will be led by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Professor Joel Otto.

Otto says, “The fact that the world is marking the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses says something about the lasting impact of the Reformation. This is especially true for us who call ourselves Lutherans. What we understand—and the world often misses—is that Luther’s Reformation was theological. Luther recognized that the problems in the church stemmed from faulty teaching.”

This Bible study will examine some of Luther’s key theological emphases and note how they impacted the life of the church in areas like his translation of the Bible into the language of the people, education and his catechisms, worship, and everyday Christian living.

“Luther’s theological emphases, rooted in Scripture, continue to impact the life of the church today and the way we, as Lutheran Christians, live our faith in the face of 21st century challenges,” says Otto.

To join the study, visit wels.net/interactivefaith.

 

 

 

Enriching marriage through online Bible study and getaway weekends

Throughout the month of February, hundreds of WELS members have joined the Interactive Faith online Bible study discussing marriage led by Rev. Randy Hunter. The final session will be tomorrow, Wed., Feb. 22. Hunter will be leading the study live at both 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central). If you’ve missed this Interactive Faith series, archived sessions are available at livestream.com/interactivefaith for viewing at your convenience.

While some couples participate at home, some congregations have been using the online study for group Bible study. Members of Mt. Calvary, Redding, Calif., have been meeting each week as a group to participate in the study.

“This was our first Interactive Faith done as a group. I think it might have been the first anyone did here,” says Rev. Brian Doebler, pastor at Mt. Calvary. “The main benefit of the Interactive Faith is the expertise from other pastors you can bring into your own church. Pastor Hunter regularly does marriage retreats and brings a lot of research, biblical insight, planning, and experience. Plus, I got to participate with my wife as a student rather than the teacher.”

Hunter says he wrote this study to help couples continue the conversations that will help grow their marriage. “Each of the study guides includes conversations that can continue for weeks to come. Sometimes the timing isn’t right or the couple next to us is too close or maybe one spouse just needed to think about it more. Couples can take their study guide with them on date night and rekindle the conversation at a restaurant, coffee shop, or on a walk. The online study may only last an hour, but the conversations can continue for many more,” he says. The study guides can be downloaded for free at cad.welsrc.net.

Beyond the online study, Hunter travels around the country to lead marriage enrichment weekends hosted by congregations. He says, “One reason WELS Marriage Enrichment and Getaway Weekends are so successful is the unique Lutheran emphasis on our fallen nature and the rescue Jesus has carried out. The Spirit uses that message to change hearts; I just follow up with application of the difference that makes in our marriages, skills that demonstrate the fruit of faith, and help couples learn from other couples.”

Though individual congregations organize these weekends, anyone is invited to attend. Upcoming marriage enrichment weekends are scheduled in Zion, Ill., March 17-19; Leesburg, Va., April 21-23; Lake Mary, Fla., Aug. 4-6; and Deadwood, S.D., Oct. 20-22. Learn more about these marriage enrichment weekends at wels.net/events.

 

 

 

Winter 2017 Interactive Faith announced

The next Interactive Faith online Bible study will begin Wed., Feb. 1. The sessions will be offered live twice every Wednesday in February at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central).

The study will be led by Rev. Randy Hunter from St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis. Hunter, who has spent several years touring the country leading marriage enrichment workshops for WELS members, will be discussing “Mysterious Marriage,” a study on building a Christian marriage.

“This study is for couples who want to build their marriage on the gospel of Jesus. Marriage isn’t a sacrament like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but it is a profoundly holy thing. The gospel of Jesus helps us understand and practice marriage. Marriage helps us understand and appreciate the gospel,” says Hunter. “Marriage matters. It matters to our nation, to our communities, our children, our churches, and our Lord. Your marriage is part of your testimony about God’s promises to us.”

Many congregations gather as a group for the study; other WELS members connect as small groups or individuals. The studies are designed to have 10 to 15 minutes of lecture by the instructor, followed by 5 to 10 minutes for congregations to discuss a question or two or do further study. Participants can interact with the instructor via a chat box on the live stream. To join the study, visit wels.net/interactivefaith.

 

 

 

Summary of the September meeting of the COP

The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its fall meeting on Sept. 20-23 at the Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis. The COP received a number of reports and presentations from groups such as Martin Luther College, the Reformation 500 Committee, the Commission on Lutheran Schools, the Commission on Congregational Counseling, WELS Christian Aid and Relief, and the Compensation Review Committee. The Conference of Presidents welcomed four newly elected members: Rev. David Kolander (Southeastern Wisconsin), Rev. Michael Jensen (Western Wisconsin), Rev. Chuck Westra (South Atlantic), and Rev. Phil Hirsch (Nebraska).

Items of business and actions taken included:

  • The Reformation 500 Committee continues to make plans for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. The committee is producing books and Bible study materials for use in congregations and also has been directly involved in the production of a documentary that will be aired nationally on PBS. The committee also will compile and publicize a list of various Reformation-related activities throughout the synod.
  • The COP received an update on formal doctrinal discussions taking place between WELS, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). A joint statement on when church bodies need to sever fellowship for doctrinal reasons was adopted by the nine-member committee. The statement was adopted by the ELS convention last summer, shared with WELS district conventions (and will be considered at the 2017 WELS convention), and was discussed at the CLC convention last summer with directions for further study in CLC pastoral conferences. The committee plans to meet again in August 2017.
  • The COP received an update on the synod archives project. The space for the archives has been prepared, and the archivist (Susan Willems) has been working at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to prepare the archives collection for relocation. The first phase of the move will take place this fall, with the remainder of the materials to be moved in the spring. In addition to the archives, the space on the lower level of the Center for Mission and Ministry also includes a visitor center with displays depicting synod history and current ministry programs.
  • The COP received an update on the development of a revised catechism, scheduled to be released in 2017.
  • A special committee had been appointed to review the Military Chaplaincy to determine if military policies had changed sufficiently to allow WELS to participate. After a yearlong review, the committee concluded that the original reasons preventing WELS from participating had not changed and recommended that WELS continue to serve military personnel with civilian chaplains. The committee also encouraged all WELS congregations to do as much as they can to provide ministry support to military personnel.
  • In keeping with a resolution of the 2015 convention, the COP will appoint a committee to oversee a thorough review of the newly revised Christian Standard Bible (formerly the Holman Christian Standard Bible). The Translation Liaison Committee has been providing suggestions to the translators of the Christian Standard Bible, and many, if not most, of those recommendations have been accepted.
  • In an effort to assist organizations and groups as they plan conferences and seminars, the COP adopted guidelines that can be used when speakers and topics are chosen for such events. The guidelines encourage early communication between the planners and the president of the district(s) in which such events are planned.
  • The COP once again reiterated its support for the calling of a director of Family Ministry. This position would provide leadership to the Commission on Youth and Family Ministry and to the Commission on Adult Discipleship. Some discussion has begun about whether or not it would be beneficial to combine these two commissions into a single group assisting congregations in addressing spiritual needs of both adults and youth. The Synodical Council will now consider this position as it develops the Ministry Financial Plan for 2017-19.
  • The COP is working toward the timely submission of both Congregation Mission Offering subscriptions and congregational statistics. The goal is to have all congregations submit this information in a timely way, with district presidents encouraged to follow up with congregations that do not provide the information.
  • The COP is working with the director of communications to improve the process for preparing delegates for the synod convention.
  • The COP is making plans to give appropriate expressions of thanks to God when the synod capital debt is fully eliminated in the coming months.
  • A special committee conducting a thorough review of the Ministry of Christian Giving has submitted a preliminary report. Initial recommendations from the committee include the calling of additional Christian giving counselors who work with individuals to encourage current gifts. The COP resolved to request that the Synodical Council approve the addition of one counselor in the next biennial ministry financial plan if possible.
  • The COP encouraged WELS Lutheran high schools to complete their study of the COP-produced Bible study dealing with fellowship principles and applications in our schools. The COP looks forward to hearing reactions, questions, and input from all of the schools.
  • The COP was informed that People of Grace, an organization that has made many presentations throughout the synod on the subject of same-sex attraction, has announced that it is an educational and informational organization (not a ministry) no longer affiliated with WELS. Even though the main presenter is a WELS member, non-WELS members are now serving on its board of directors. Congregations, schools, and other groups will need to be aware of this when they consider inviting this organization to make presentations.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

My Son, My Savior available this Advent

During Advent and Christmas 2015, congregations distributed more than 85,000 copies of My Son, My Savior. This WELS outreach movie and its related materials are still available for use this year.

My Son, My Savior portrays Mary experiencing and pondering the miracle of Jesus’ coming and then humbly growing in her understanding that her son is also her Savior. The main message for viewers is that Jesus is their Savior too. WELS has a number of resources to complement the movie, including an Advent by candlelight program titled A Mother Remembers, a small group study resource, and a four-session Bible study.

Rev. Mike Hintz, director of WELS Evangelism, suggests that congregations can use the movie for outreach by

• giving the DVD to guests at Christmas services;

• distributing the DVD to those on the prospect list and then following up with a discussion about the movie’s message;

• having members give their relatives and friends a copy of the movie along with an invitation to worship services;

• handing out the movie to visitors at events such as Advent by candlelight, live nativities, or Christmas for kids; or

• hosting a movie night at church or a local theatre with a showing of the movie.

If you or your congregation would like to use My Son, My Savior, visit wels.net/mysonmysavior to find links to purchase the movie and to see all the resources available to assist you. A bulk discount is available so that the purchase price is only $2/DVD plus shipping when bought in boxes of 100.

My Son, My Savior is the third in a series of four outreach movies that are planned as a collaboration between WELS Commissions on Evangelism and Adult Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. The first two movies, Road to Emmaus and Come Follow Me, have been distributed worldwide and received critical acclaim from a number of Christian film groups. The fourth film is being planned for distribution in 2018.

 

Interactive Faith Bible study

The next six-week Interactive Faith Bible study will begin Wed., Sept. 21, 2016. Rev. John Braun, vice president at Northwestern Publishing House, will lead the study twice each Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central) through Oct. 26.

The theme of Braun’s study is “What does this mean? The continuing importance of Luther’s Small Catechism.”

“We will study the importance of Luther’s Small Catechism for our own society and culture. We will review the six chief parts. What does it mean for Christian morality in today’s world without moral standards? What does it mean for Christian beliefs in a world where you can believe anything? What does it mean for Christian devotion and our personal relationship with God? What does it mean for our church life as Lutherans when the church appears to be more social than spiritual? The class will start with a little history of the Catechism and its importance in the Reformation and conclude with a discussion of what the future may hold for us and the next generation,” says Braun.

Thousands of WELS members have participated in the Interactive Faith Bible studies, which are held twice a year and led by a WELS pastor or professor. Many congregations gather as a group for the study; other WELS members connect as couples or individuals. The studies are designed to have 10 to 15 minutes of lecture by the instructor, followed by 5 to 10 minutes for congregations to discuss a question or two or do further study. Participants can interact with the instructor via a chat box on the live stream.

“These studies are not meant to replace the faithfulness of our pastors and teachers and lay leaders in our congregations. They are intended to give another option to God’s people for encouragement,” says Rev. Gary Pufahl, Commission on Adult Discipleship chairman. “Whether you live in a bustling city or on the plains, we are in this world together with the same purpose—reach more people with the precious, life-changing Word of God. It is through God’s Word that Jesus connects people to himself for eternity.”

To learn more or join the study, go to wels.net/interactivefaith.

 

 

Equipping women to mentor

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This was the theme for the recent Women’s Ministry Conference held in July. Approximately 350 women from around the country met at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to get encouraged by and equipped with God’s Word.

The conference explored how Christian women serve as mentors to those around them. Marilyn Miller, chairwoman of WELS Women’s Ministry, says, “Women are natural mentors and do it without even thinking about it. This conference helped Christian women realize how their words and actions reflect Christ wherever they might find themselves. It is our prayer that women will intentionalize their mentoring, letting God use them to shape the character and transform the thinking of everyone with whom they come into contact. God is in the business of changing hearts, and I know he will do just that through some of the women who joined us last week.”

Su Hansen attended the conference from Redeemer, Tomahawk, Wis. She summed up the conference with one main word: “Encouragement.” She says, “It’s a very godly way to gather together sisters in Christ and grow together and encourage one another in our various callings.”

Attendee Ahnsharee Klusmeyer, Peace, Wautoma, Wis., finds it important for Christian women to gather around God’s Word. She says, “It’s good for women to have fellowship with each other, especially knowing we’re all coming from the same Christian background based on the Bible.”

Presenters led Bible study sessions examining how Christ is the ultimate mentor and how to model one’s mentoring after his.

Kathie Wendland, a member of the Women’s Ministry Committee, led a study titled “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,” which focused on the apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. She says, “Time after time Paul in all of his epistles clearly points all Christian eyes to Jesus Christ himself as the only one who as true God understood perfectly the humble servant attitude necessary to demonstrate that humble servant attitude in word and action in a hostile world.”

Dawn Schulz, a member of the Women’s Ministry Committee, led a study titled “Jesus–A mentor for me.” “As a mentor my identity, purpose, priorities, words, and actions are all determined by the fact that I am God’s child because of Jesus. Jesus not only shows me how to live in this grace, he teaches me how to mentor it to others by understanding their individual and diverse needs, giving them time to grow, and living transparently in order to set before them a living picture of a life patterned after Jesus,” she says.

WELS Women’s Ministry, part of the WELS Commission on Adult Discipleship, holds a conference every three years; the next conference will be held in 2019. Learn more about WELS Women’s Ministry.

View photos from this year’s event.
2016 Women's Ministry Conference

Interactive Faith coming this fall

Adult Discipleship offers LIVE online Bible studies for use by congregations, small groups, or individuals to serve as a mid-week Bible study. Gather at your church or around the computer to join in fellowship and learn about the Bible with brothers and sisters in faith from around the country.

The next study will begin Wed. Sept. 9

Rev. Keith Wessel, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., will lead the next Interactive Faith Bible study, which will be streamed online live each Wednesday, Sept. 9 through Oct. 7, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. CDT.

His study will focus on the life and ministry of Elisha.

Studies will be held Wednesday nights

Two times: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central)

There are times for lecturing and times to allow local congregations to discuss on their own.

To view the study, you will need a high-speed internet connection.  For best viewing you’ll want to project it, and hook your computer to speakers.

Study guides will be available on the WELS Resource Center.

Questions? Contact Us.

View archived sessions online!

Who am I and why am I here

Presented by Rev. Tom Kock
Pastor Kock leads us to see that the grace of God gives us a wonderfully positive understanding of what God has declared us to be, filling us with confidence and peace.
Originally presented January 2013

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I’d like to read my Bible, but …

Presented by WELS President Mark Schroeder
Rev. Mark Schroeder provides practical helps for people to study God’s Word on their own with confidence and understanding.
Originally presented February 2014

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Next Interactive Faith coming up

The next Interactive Faith online Bible study is just one month away. What better way to start the new year than by gathering online with WELS members around the world to study God’s Word.

Beginning Wed., Jan. 7, 2015, Rev. David Scharf, Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., will lead a six-week study called “Breaking the Cycle with Grace (a study of the book of Judges).”

Scharf says of the topic, “It has been said that nearly every doctrine of the Bible can be found in the biblical narratives contained in the book of Judges. That fact alone merits a deeper look! And yet, how often have we read, let alone studied this action-packed book of God’s grace? In our lives, we go through cycles of ups and downs—we think God is pleased one moment and that he is not the next. Come and break the cycle of uncertainty with grace as we study a book full of God’s love and patience!”

The study will be streamed live online twice every Wednesday night between Jan. 7 and Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central).

Thousands of WELS members have participated in the Interactive Faith Bible studies, which are held twice a year and led by a WELS pastor or professor. Many congregations gather as a group for the study; other WELS members connect as couples or individuals. The studies are designed to have 10 to 15 minutes of lecture by the instructor, followed by 5 to 10 minutes for congregations to discuss a question or two or do further study. Participants can interact with the instructor via the chat box.

To learn more or join the study, go to www.wels.net/interactivefaith.

Start the year with Interactive Faith

January is two months away and what better way to start a new year than with a new Interactive Faith online Bible study series.

Beginning Wed., Jan. 7, 2015, Rev. David Scharf, Immanuel, Greenville, Wis., will lead a six-week study called “Breaking the Cycle with Grace (a study of the book of Judges).”

Scharf says of the topic, “It has been said that nearly every doctrine of the Bible can be found in the biblical narratives contained in the book of Judges. That fact alone merits a deeper look! And yet, how often have we read, let alone studied this action-packed book of God’s grace? In our lives, we go through cycles of ups and downs—we think God is pleased one moment and that he is not the next. Come and break the cycle of uncertainty with grace as we study a book full of God’s love and patience!”

The study will be streamed live online twice every Wednesday night between Jan. 7 and Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (central).

Thousands of WELS members have participated in the Interactive Faith Bible studies, which are held twice a year and led by a WELS pastor or professor. Many congregations gather as a group for the study; other WELS members connect as couples or individuals. The studies are designed to have 10 to 15 minutes of lecture by the instructor, followed by 5 to 10 minutes for congregations to discuss a question or two or do further study. Participants can interact with the instructor via the chat box.

To learn more or join the study, go to www.wels.net/interactivefaith.