Pictured above: More than 2,220 teens and youth leaders traveled to Knoxville, Tenn., for the WELS 2022 International Youth Rally June 28–July 1 at the University of Tennessee. Participants joined together for worship, service, recreation, workshops, fellowship, and music under the theme “Here and now,” based on Esther 4:14. The rally was coordinated by WELS Discipleship.
Did you know?
The 2024 WELS International Youth Rally will celebrate 50 years of WELS youth rallies. Mark your calendars for June 25–28, Colorado State University, Fort Collins.
WELS Congregational Services exists to serve congregations and schools and their leaders by providing resources, training, and personal assistance so that they may carry out gospel ministry in the most faithful way on the local level. Congregational Services consists of six commissions—Congregational Counseling, Discipleship, Evangelism, Lutheran Schools, Worship, and Special Ministries—that give focused attention to specific areas of congregational life.
Congregational Services shares its resources, including all the pieces of The Foundation, at welscongregationalservices.net. The Foundation focuses on a specific theme for each season of the church year and then a sub-theme each week. These themes are reflected in the Bible readings, sermons, and music in church and can be customized to fit each congregation’s needs. The Foundation includes images, videos, and bulletin blurbs to help congregations spread the word about each week’s theme and to invite people to worship.
Women’s ministry conference
The WELS Women’s Ministry Conference was held July 21–23, 2022, at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis. More than 330 women attended. The theme of the conference, Won to be One, really dug deep into the book of Ephesians and God’s grace that gives believers their identity in Christ.
“As a woman, I constantly ask what my role is in the church and in the ministry. I cannot be a pastor and I am not a teacher, so how can I be an asset to my congregation and to the church of Christ as a whole? This conference put the Great Commission in the forefront of everything and refocused my place and identity as an ambassador of Christ. We minister in everything we say and in all we do,” says Janet Block, member at New Hope, West Melbourne, Fla.
To learn more about all the resources that WELS Women’s Ministry offers, visit wels.net/women.
Pictured are members of the WELS Women’s Ministry executive team at the group’s 2022 conference.
Military contact pastor workshop
WELS Military Services, a part of WELS Special Ministries, held its annual workshop for military contact pastors in April 2022 at Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga., near Army Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Part of the workshop included visiting Fort Stewart, which also sponsored a meeting between attendees and more than a dozen of the post’s military chaplains. WELS has 125 congregations and their pastors near military installations providing care to men and women who serve in the United States Armed Forces and their families. Learn more at wels.net/military.
Did you know?
Free resources for service members are available at wels.net/refer.
Telling the next generation
Enrollment in WELS schools was up 9.8 percent during the 2021–22 school year, with 26,586 students in 282 Lutheran elementary schools and 11,672 students in 363 early childhood ministries.
This is the highest ever recorded enrollment for WELS early childhood ministries and the highest number for Lutheran elementary schools since the 2004–05 school year, according to Jim Rademan, director of WELS Lutheran Schools.
Nearly 70 percent of WELS schools increased their enrollment in 2021-22, while 25 percent decreased and about 5 percent stayed the same.
More and more students attending WELS schools are mission prospects, with nearly 33 percent of families in early childhood ministries and 16 percent in Lutheran elementary schools identifying either as non-Christian or no church home.
“Enrollment is up in our schools,” says Rademan. “Now how can we take advantage of the opportunity? Conditions have been favorable for having more students sit at the feet of Jesus in our classrooms. But how long will that window be open and how well are we going to take advantage of that open window and be as urgent and resolute as we possibly can about sharing the gospel with those children and their families?”
Telling the Next Generation is one tool to help congregations with planning, assistance, and resources for outreach strategies in Lutheran elementary schools and/or early childhood ministries. Visit welscongregationalservices.net/telling-the-next-generation to learn more.
Pictured is Blythe, a student at Cross of Glory, Peoria, Ariz., who was baptized at one of the school’s outdoor chapel services, with her parents. Cross of Glory has seen steady growth over the past five years, growing from 80 students in 2016 to 125 in 2021.
Connecting your devotional life to Sunday worship
Devotions prepared by WELS Congregational Services follow the theme that is set for each week’s worship in The Foundation’s resources. That means that the message that you hear on Sunday can be reinforced and expanded on in the devotions you read or hear. Here are the three devotions that offer this connection.
- Daily Devotions: Published every day for general use by individuals and groups. Available as text and audio.
- Family Devotions: Published Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for families. Available as text and audio.
- Teen Devotions(titled “Transformed”): Published on Sunday to connect teens to Christ. Available as text.
Subscribe for free to any of these devotions at wels.net/subscribe.
Hymnal introduction resources
WELS Commission on Worship is sharing resources to help people gain an understanding of key features of the new Christian Worship hymnal and to help pastors orient people when the books are first used.
Visit welscongregationalservices.net/hymnal-introduction-resources to find the resources that are right for your congregation.
WELS Youth Night
In fall 2022 almost 30 congregations hosted WELS Youth Nights, offering area-congregation teens and youth leaders opportunities to grow in God’s Word and build relationships with one another.
Introduced at the 2022 International Youth Rally, WELS Youth Night is a series of three youth-focused events to bring teens and youth leaders together in between large rallies. WELS Discipleship provides all the resources to help congregations plan and run the events, which include games, food, music, prayer, a keynote address, and small group discussion.
King of Kings, Garden Grove, Calif., invited youth from 16 congregations in southern California to its WELS Youth Night in October. More than 50 6th- through 12th-graders from 8 different congregations attended.
“I had this dream of pulling [area youth groups] together out here just because when we get together it’s so special. But I was intimidated by all the work to make it happen,” says Josh Robertson, a teacher at King of Kings and the congregation’s youth and family elder. “At the youth rally, as I sat in on the WELS Youth Night presentation, I was floored by God and his goodness because literally my entire dream was already being planned by the synod.”
Learn more about WELS Youth Night at welscongregationalservices.net/wels-youth-night.
WELS Commission on Evangelism designed the Everyone Outreach program to help congregations build a culture of outreach among their members. In August 2021, the commission trained 21 pastors to facilitate these workshops. In January 2022, 20 more were trained (pictured). More than 2,400 WELS members have participated in 59 Everyone Outreach workshops as of December 2022.
When a congregation makes the commitment to participate in Everyone Outreach, a facilitator visits the congregation for a two-day workshop. During the workshop, the facilitator uses group exercises and reflection, grounded in God’s Word, to help members focus on outreach. After the workshop, the facilitator continues to encourage and support the congregation in maintaining its outreach mindset.
One participant noted, “It helped me realize that if we each do our part to reach out it can have a huge impact on the lost souls in our community.”
Learn more at everyoneoutreach.com.
Grants available to help more people hear the Word
WELS Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, part of WELS Commission on Special Ministries, is offering $500 grants toward the installation of a hearing loop to WELS congregations that apply for it. A hearing loop works with people’s hearing aids to provide a clearer sound directly into their ears. The Mission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing can point congregations toward additional research, contacts, and other resources around hearing loops.
Tom Schultz, a member at St. Luke, Watertown, Wis., which has a hearing loop installed, explains, “I think one of the key factors is the clarity. Without the hearing loop, I pick up a lot of it, but with the hearing loop, I pick up everything; it’s crystal clear.”