Tag Archive for: Called to Support 2023

WELS Church Extension Fund

Pictured above: In 2022, Living Shepherd, Laramie, Wyo., bought the facility it had been worshiping in for a year with the help of WELS CEF.

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.

WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc., (WELS CEF) provides financing through loans and grants to mission congregations so they can acquire land and ministry facilities to be used for gospel outreach in coordination with WELS Home Missions. WELS CEF also provides loans to mission-minded self-supporting WELS congregations and schools for land and facility projects. The money to carry out WELS CEF’s mission comes from investments and gifts from WELS members, congregations, and affiliated organizations.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, $24.1 million of new loans and $2.4 million of new grants were approved to mission and mission-minded self-supporting congregations. In addition, WELS CEF provided grants of $1.13 million and $0.5 million to the Board for Home Missions from its annual endowment distribution and its annual unrestricted net asset grant program.

Pictured are members of Good News, Mt. Horeb, Wis at the site of their future church building. As a Home Missions qualified congregation, WELS Church Extension Fund provided $747,914 in land and facility grants to Good News, along with a low-interest loan for the remainder of the cost of the land and construction of its new church.

For more information, visit wels.net/cef.

Northwestern Publishing House

Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) provides Christ-centered, biblically sound resources to the members of WELS and beyond. NPH publishes Forward in Christ and Meditations: Daily Devotional, elementary and Sunday school curricula, Bible studies, worship materials, music, and faith-strengthening books. In 2022, NPH released more than 725 Christian resources in print and digital formats:

  • Musicians Resource (found online at nph.net) released more than 700 various digital resources that support, enhance, and add variety to congregational singing.
  • Deep as the Sea uses doctrinal expertise to address trauma through a Christian lens.
  • God Loves Nobodies offers gospel-centered hope for average believers in a world that recognizes and praises only the most exceptional people.
  • From Egypt to Sinai is a devotional commentary exploring the relationship between the events recorded in Exodus and the Christian’s daily struggle to trust in God alone.
  • Wauwatosa Theology IV is a comprehensive offering of the literary work of three significant Wisconsin Synod theologians during the first 30 years of the 20th century—J. P. Koehler, August Pieper, and John Schaller.
  • Inashood tells the love story of dedicated Lutheran missionaries and the Apache people on eastern Arizona’s Fort Apache and San Carlos Reservations.

In addition, NPH released Christian Worship: Service Builder a custom-designed software application that allows planners to manage the complexity of worship planning and service folder creation. Christian Worship: Service Builder combines all the best features of a calendar, a word processor, and a database to unify the work of planning and preparing for worship. To learn more, visit christianworship.com/products/service-builder.

NPH continues to increase and grow audiobook offerings. In 2022 NPH released The Narrow Lutheran Middle: Following the Scriptural Road; God Loves Nobodies: Good News for Somebody Like Me; and Who Am I? Understanding Your Identity in Christ Through Facts Not Feelings to audiobook format via audible.com.

Visit nph.net or call 800-662-6022 to learn more about the ministry of NPH.

Financial Services

Financial Services provides finance and accounting services that support WELS ministries and safeguard the assets that God has provided. These services include financial planning and analysis, financial statement preparation and audit coordination, transaction processing, payroll services, insurance and risk management, cash and investment management, and legal-related services.

“WELS is financially strong,” notes Mr. Kyle Egan, WELS’ chief financial officer, “as God continues to provide the financial gifts needed to grow funding levels, which allows for expanded mission and ministry initiatives.”

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) are critical to WELS’ financial position as they fund approximately 70 percent of WELS’ operating budget every year. WELS finished fiscal year 2022 (year ended June 30, 2022) with CMO of $23.1 million, which was $0.5 million higher than the previous year and the first time CMO exceeded $23.0 million. WELS is thankful for the continued generosity of its people in supporting ministry efforts.

Other critical components to WELS’ financial position are strong reserves, including the Financial Stabilization Fund, which is utilized every year to support approximately 30 percent of WELS’ operating budget. The balance of the Financial Stabilization Fund increased during fiscal year 2022 due to higher than planned levels of CMO and overall operating expense underspending. The Financial Stabilization Fund is not an emergency or contingency fund. Rather, it holds all undesignated non-CMO funding sources (gifts, grants, bequests, investment income, and other support) to assist in supporting the annual operating expenses of the synod. WELS is blessed to have this stability in managing the operating budget year to year while allowing for the regular expansion of mission and ministry.

During the summer of 2022, the collaborative process of developing the synod’s ministry financial plan (budget) for the next two fiscal years began among the areas of ministry, ministerial education schools, synod leadership, and the Synodical Council. The ministry financial plan will be finalized at the July 2023 synod convention.

WELS Benefit Plans

The WELS Benefit Plans Office (BPO) serves WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) workers and organizations through administration of the WELS Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Health Plan, the WELS Pension Plan, and the WELS Shepherd Plan.

The WELS VEBA Health Plan provides benefits for church and school workers in accordance with God’s Word while remaining compliant with the federal health care reform law. The plan provides comprehensive, nationwide coverage. More than 80 percent of WELS workers and calling bodies participate in WELS VEBA.

Delegates of the 2021 synod convention authorized significant changes to the WELS retirement program. Beginning January 1, 2022, WELS called workers earn retirement benefits through defined contributions made to their accounts in the WELS Shepherd Plan, which is the name of WELS’ retirement savings plan for synod workers. In addition to the defined contributions, workers can save and invest a portion of their earnings in the Shepherd Plan to provide income during their retirement years. The WELS Pension Plan was frozen on December 31, 2021, which means that all Pension benefits earned through the freeze date will be paid to participants but no new Pension benefits can be earned for service performed after the freeze date.

“There are three main advantages to the change,” notes Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans. “First, workers will receive meaningful contributions for retirement benefits. Second, workers will have more flexibility to provide for their retirement income needs and to share savings with their survivors. Finally, sponsoring organization costs are expected to be more stable over time.”

Coverage and benefits provided through WELS Benefit Plans are uniform throughout all 50 states. This supports the WELS ministry and call process because worker call decisions are not influenced by health insurance and retirement benefit decisions.

Visit welsbpo.net for more information.

WELS Foundation

Over the last three years, WELS Foundation has been privileged to distribute $37.5 million in donor-directed gifts to various WELS ministries. We praise God for his blessings and are so grateful to God’s people for continuing to support gospel work.

One of the more popular charitable giving plans is the charitable gift annuity. In addition to quarterly income payments for life, the donor can also receive significant tax benefits from the gift. Then when the Lord calls the donor home, the remainder of the gift will be distributed to the ministry or ministries that the donor has chosen.

Pictured are WELS members Carol and Arnie Nommensen, who have set up multiple charitable gift annuities to support the ministries they love. Visit wels.net/charitable-gift-annuity to watch Arnie and Carol’s story and to learn more about charitable gift annuities.

WELS Investment Funds

Despite the uncertainty of the last year, God continues to bless WELS Investment Funds. We are especially blessed through the WELS ministries that have chosen to invest in the WELS Funds. As of Sept. 30, 2022, WELS Investment Funds managed $250 million in assets for more than 245 WELS ministries.

Grace, Yorba Linda, Calif., is an example of how a congregation can use the services of WELS Investment Funds. After the congregation received a generous gift from a member, Grace’s leadership wanted to explore different options for investing the gift. Grace’s church council and its pastor, Phillip Sievert, met via video with Jim Holm, executive director of WELS Investment Funds, to discuss their investment options.

Sievert was grateful for the meeting and the direction it provided: “It gave our council confidence in WELS Investment Funds and a sense of relief knowing that we can leave the gift in good hands without having to worry about constant decision-making,” he says. “What I was really pleased with is the mission-mindedness that came out of our discussion.”

Sievert concludes, “WELS Investment Funds uses its time and talents and expertise in making the most of our congregation’s gifts and investments. This frees us up to focus on what Jesus has called us to do, to ‘go and make disciples of all nations.’ ”

Learn if WELS Investment Funds can be a blessing to your ministry at wels.net/welsfunds.