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Discipleship

Small group ministry resonates with Millennials

“I started going to growth groups here, and that fueled my faith like never before,” says Jackie Huebner, a 29-year-old member of St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis. “Finding people who wanted to talk about Jesus was awesome as well as seeing firsthand how fellow Christians would filter their lives through what God says. And to dive deeper into his Word and become a closer community of Christians is such a powerful thing.” 

Rev. James Hein, a pastor at St. Marcus, says that Huebner is a good example of a Millennial—someone who was born from 1980–2000. “Millennials are looking for close relationships,” says Hein. “We try to ensure that small group ministries are an essential part of the St. Marcus culture. We currently have 12 to 15 small groups running, and virtually all of our leadership comes from and is involved in these small, relational study groups.” 

Hein himself prepares the material for most of these groups, often based off of the previous Sunday’s sermon. A lay facilitator then presents the material to the group and helps group members work through it. Usually these groups meet in members’ homes over a meal, but they can also meet in coffee shops or restaurants. The location is not as important as the relationships that are built as members get to know one another and share life experiences with each other. 

“I attended a growth group at a friend’s house soon after I joined St. Marcus,” says Huebner, “and now I lead one with my husband. We get the opportunity to have real conversations about faith and how to put it into action in our lives in a like-minded Christian community. I depend on it.”

To watch a series of videos that discuss ministering to Millennials, as well as discussion guides and a playbook with tips for ministering to Millennials, visit welscongregationalservices.net. Choose the “Modules” dropdown menu and then “Discipleship.”


Teens learn they are never alone

From June 26–29, 2018, approximately 2,100 WELS teens and youth leaders attended the WELS International Youth Rally at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Organized by the WELS Commission on Discipleship, teens gathered for praise, learning, and fellowship under the theme “Never Alone.” This theme was based on the message of Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Attendees were assured that God is ever-present in their lives and that they are not isolated in their belief. Teens sang their praises with worship band Koiné and worked on a collaborative piece of artwork that was coordinated by WELS artist Jason Jaspersen (both pictured, left).

Evangelism

WELS Commission on Evangelism released To the Ends of the Earth, the fourth and final film in WELS’ outreach series, in September 2018. The four films in this series were a collaboration between WELS Commissions on Evangelism and Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Encouraging witnessing is an important feature of the film, which tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi. To view a trailer and learn more about the film, visit wels.net/totheendsoftheearth


Synodwide Outreach Campaign

WELS Congregational Services launched a synodwide outreach campaign called C18. The overarching goal of the program was to reach one million people with the gospel message during the 2018 Christmas season. Every commission from Congregational Services provided royalty-free resources that congregations and members could use in this effort.

“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 Rev. Jonathan Hein, director of WELS Congregational Services.

To learn more about C18, visit wels.net/c18.

Special Ministries

God’s Word—in Braille

“Her hands are her eyes,” says Timothy Redfield. He is talking about his six-year-old daughter, Libby, who was born blind due to an optic nerve condition.

Redfield and his wife, who are members of Trinity, Belle Plaine, Minn., are teaching Libby (pictured) how to read Braille. They are able to get free children’s books in Braille from the state and county, but they also want Libby to be able to read about her Savior, so they sent several of their favorite Christian story books to the Mission for the Visually Impaired. Volunteers then produced and positioned clear Braille stickers into the books so Libby could read along. The Mission for the Visually Impaired also provides weekly Christ-Light Sunday school lessons in Braille for Libby. 

Manned by volunteers and headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., the mission, which operates under WELS Commission on Special Ministries, produces devotional and other materials in Braille, large print, and on cassette tape. These are distributed free to WELS and non-WELS visually impaired people. The mission currently is working on a project to have downloadable Christian audio resources available online.

“Our goal is to spread his Word—in any way we can!” says Bill Bremel, director of the Mission for the Visually Impaired.

Learn more at wels.net/visually-impaired.


Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) Conference

OWLS members greet Steve Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, who presented on the challenges they’ve experienced during Steve’s career as a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot, which included a life-changing crash.

Worship

WELS Hymnal Project

Committees have been at work on the WELS Hymnal Project since 2013.  Rev. Michael Schultz, director of the Hymnal Project, says, “Our focus continues to be on the scriptural integrity and Christ-centeredness of the resources we are seeking to provide, on both preserving and producing faith-strengthening materials for worshipers today and in generations to come. Our goal continues to be to bring forward texts and music that will serve people of all ages in a broad array of contexts, so that through Scripture and rites and hymns and psalms, God will be glorified and his people edified.”

The work of the Hymnal Project is closely coordinated with WELS Commission on Worship. As part of the hymnal’s development, surveys and field testing have been conducted. The executive committee plans to review and approve final content for all resources in 2019 so that the hymnal will be available for purchase in Advent 2021.

Lutheran Schools

The Commission on Lutheran Schools began presenting its Ministerial Growth and Evaluation Process during the 2018–19 school year. Jim Rademan, director of Lutheran Schools, notes, “The Ministerial Growth and Evaluation Process makes use of Scripture and a variety of research-based educational best practices and tools to assist teachers, peer coaches, principals, and early childhood directors in encouraging and supporting one another for strengthening both student learning and our schools.”

The goal is to train all schools in the Ministerial Growth and Evaluation Process over the next 18 to 24 months. In November 2018, 50 school leaders in the Western Wisconsin District (pictured) attended a training session on the process.

Kirsten Duin, director of Grow in Peace Learning Center, Sun Prairie, Wis., says, “The Ministerial Growth and Evaluation Process training was an encouraging event for me because it gave me new tools to help me coach my staff and guide us to the goal of improving the way we serve our families in our center along with the quality of education that we provide to the community.”


Women’s Ministry

WELS Women’s Ministry is hosting a conference with the theme “Living stones, positioned to thrive” from July 18–20, 2019, at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. Learn more about the conference and the other resources provided by WELS Women’s Ministry at wels.net/women.

Christian Aid and Relief

WELS Christian Aid and Relief provided $850,000 in humanitarian aid and disaster relief grants in 2018. The organization works through WELS pastors and congregational leaders to assess needs, distribute aid, and bring in volunteers when requested.

Much of the money granted in 2018 was to help congregations recover from hurricane damage. Hurricanes Florence and Michael both damaged WELS churches and the homes of members and neighbors.

Christian Aid and Relief is also continuing to help with rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico following 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. Christian Aid and Relief approved a $150,000 hurricane relief grant for phase one of repair and rebuilding to help the Confessional Lutheran Church in Puerto Rico, WELS’ sister church body. This grant will help rebuild the church building in Humacao, the church in Guayama, and pastors’ homes. Volunteers are expected to begin work in Puerto Rico early in 2019. Pictured are WELS President Mark Schroeder, Board for World Missions administrator Larry Schlomer, and Commission on Inter-Church Relations member Tim Satorius.

For more information or to volunteer, visit wels.net/relief.

Ministry of Christian Giving

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving serves on behalf of the Conference of Presidents to encourage every WELS member to “excel in the grace of giving” through Christ. In 2018, thanks to the support of WELS Foundation and others, the Ministry of Christian Giving created a planned giving newsletter, Grace of Giving, and mailed the initial edition to more than 13,000 households.

Christian Giving also represented WELS’ areas of ministry in 3,500 meaningful donor visits and partnered with Michigan Lutheran Seminary and WELS Congregational Services on special offering campaigns.

To request free, confidential assistance with a gift or Christian estate planning, visit wels.net/christian-giving.

Communication Services and Technology

WELS Communication Services coordinates the various WELS communications platforms so they have a recognizable look and feel and layers communications across those platforms. Some of those platforms include Forward in Christ, WELS’ official monthly magazine; “Together,” a bi-weekly e-newsletter and a bi-weekly video update; WELS’ Facebook page, facebook.com/welslutherans; and wels.net, WELS’ official website.

Communication Services also coordinates synodwide events such as the biennial synod convention and WELS’ annual night at Miller Park (pictured), which was attended by more than 2,400 WELS members in 2018.


In 2018, WELS released a new version of the WELS mobile app. This version replaces WELS Mobile. Now called WELS App, this progressive web app still offers a quick and easy way to get WELS news, devotions, and information but also now includes expanded content and new features like sharing and favoriting. Find the app at https://wels.app.