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Lutheran Leadership Conference to kick off 2020

WELS Congregational Services will host the first WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership at the Sheraton Grand in Chicago, Ill., Jan. 21-23. WELS Congregational Services works under the Conference of Presidents to help congregations assess, plan, and carry out gospel ministry.

The conference will have five keynote presentations that deal with major cultural challenges before every WELS congregation. Twenty-five breakout sessions will deal with issues specific to certain congregations, including overcoming a consumer mentality in church, Christian apologetics, increasing volunteerism, retaining and gaining young members, fully utilizing the gifts of women in ministry, equipping members for personal evangelism, having a “high-expectations” church, strategic planning, using social media for outreach, operating a financially sustainable elementary school, and more.

“I hope individuals walk away from this conference with three things,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of Congregational Services. “First, I hope they are motivated to throw themselves into gospel ministry in every way: feeding the faithful, reaching the lost, and pursuing the straying. Second, I hope attendees better understand the massive challenges before our congregations but also realize that God will help us meet those challenges. Finally, I hope that they can take home some practical resources from the breakout sessions that they can immediately implement in their mission efforts.”

The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all: called workers and lay volunteers, men and women, lifelong Lutherans and new congregants. Congregations are encouraged to send multiple participants to the conference.

“A church gets the most out of a conference like this when there is a critical mass of members attending,” Hein says. “They can divide up and hit every relevant breakout. They can present a united, excited voice when they go back to their congregation.”

Travel rebates are available for congregations that send three or more individuals to the event.

Registration is now open, with an early registration discount through Oct. 31. Register online at lutheranleadership.com. There you can also find free promotional materials—including a video, posters, social media graphics, and other digital images.

 

 

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Learning to be a church that welcomes members home

As part of its “Welcome Home” initiative resources, WELS Congregational Services released a series of four videos with accompanying Bible studies to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. The videos are meant to be used by congregational leaders and members to guide congregations as they strive to bring straying sheep back to the Good Shepherd. Rev. Nate Bourman, Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation.

Bourman explains that a welcoming church is “a church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcomed to participate.”

He says the most common reasons he’s heard that members haven’t felt welcome is because they weren’t greeted, no one talks to them, and they felt like an outsider. “It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house,” says Bourman.

It’s important that all members participate in being a welcoming church. “Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastor’s job. It is not just the elders’ job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate in their care. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home,” says Bourman. “All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other.”

All congregations are encouraged to participate in the Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27, 2019. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies in the Welcoming Returning Members series—“Members drawn away because of sin,” “Members who left after being sinned against,” “Members whose needs were ignored,” and “Members who left for another church”—are available at welscongregationalservices.net/welcome-home.

 

 

 

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C19: Sharing the meaning of Christmas with others

According to current research, Christmas is the most appealing time for the unchurched and dechurched to attend a worship service. That makes C19, this year’s synodwide outreach campaign for Christmas, a critical opportunity.

Available from WELS Congregational Services, C19 equips congregations and individuals to share the good news of Jesus’ birth with others in their community and to invite them to Christmas worship services. This year’s theme is “God so loved the world.”

“Many people look at the pain and suffering in our world and conclude that either there is no God or that, if there is a God, he doesn’t love the world,” explains Rev. Eric Roecker, director of WELS Commission on Evangelism. “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem proves that God does indeed love the world, a world that includes every single soul.”

Here are some of the resources that are available:

  • Worship materials for Christmas. C19 provides ready-to-use worship folder templates with liturgy and music that edify heart, soul, and mind.
  • Evangelism materials for Christmas Eve. Low-cost outreach postcards as well as free Facebook video advertisement and digital files to post on church websites are available to share the message of the theme.
  • School resources. C19 provides guidance for using schools as outreach arms during the Christmas season. The program resources help encourage even the youngest WELS members to invite others to worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
  • Special needs ministry. C19 includes materials to help congregations reach out to families who have children with special needs.

About 70 percent of WELS congregations utilized some or all of the resources provided through 2018’s synodwide outreach campaign, C18. Its goal was to reach one million souls, and Roecker has high hopes again this year with C19: “With the Lord’s blessing, we would like to see more than one million people invited,” he says.

Many C19 materials will be offered as free downloads at welscongregationalservices.net/c19. Some materials are available now; others will be provided in the coming weeks. Pastors and interested laypeople should sign up now to receive updates, which will include notices when new materials are posted online as well as planning tips and timelines to carry out the program successfully.

 

 

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Growing together with God and with our communities

Dear Christian Friend,

The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a mission church that started in 2017 with the help of Home Missions and you, my fellow WELS members. We’re all about #GrowingTogether in our relationship with God, with each other, and with our community.

Recently, we held a “Faith in Action Day” where we did four community service projects in one day in order to grow together with our community.

  1. Sweet treats for first responders: Our members baked a whole bunch of sweet treats and then delivered them to the first responders in our community (firefighters, police officers, hospital emergency room staff, county sheriff, paramedics, etc.) as our way of thanking them for serving our community so faithfully. They absolutely LOVED taking a break from their work to try some of the delicious homemade cookies we brought them.
  2. Visiting the elderly: We visited the residents at one of the local nursing homes and spent time getting to know them, singing songs with them, and sharing Jesus with them. God blessed our time with these elderly folks, and it brought smiles of joy to their faces.
  3. Food drive: We held a food drive to support our local Coeur d’Alene food bank. When people donated food, we gave them a thank you note with an invitation to our church.
  4. Batteries giveaway: On the eve of Daylight Savings Time, we gave free nine-volt batteries to local residents in the Walmart parking lot as a reminder to change the batteries in their smoke detectors. People were pleasantly surprised and thanked us for the gift and reminder.

After we were finished with the projects, one family stopped by our church to check us out and thank us for caring so much about our community. “My husband and I were so impressed with what your church did today and how involved you guys are in the community. How often does your church do these kinds of things?” I told her that we try to do at least one community service project or outreach event every month. I said, “It gives us an opportunity to show that we care about our community as we look to tell them about our Savior Jesus.”

Community service projects like these help us and other WELS home mission congregations to connect with neighbors, show them the love of Jesus, and invite them to church to hear more about their Savior. It is our passion, and we look forward to doing it every month. But we aren’t able to fund these types of outreach activities on our own.

Would you help by considering a gift today to the WELS “Tools for Outreach” fund that makes it possible for home mission churches to do community service projects and outreach events? The Lord has given us wonderful opportunities to serve others. We want to take full advantage of it while we can.

Connecting to our community is making a difference at The Vine. With your prayers and support, we can all make a difference by reaching many more lost souls for Jesus through home mission congregations across the U.S. Thank you for allowing me to share this great opportunity to support Home Missions with you. And thank you for partnering with us to accomplish this goal. “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).

Serving Christ with you,
Pastor Kevin Schultz
The Vine, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

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MLC online courses bolster local ministry

This fall, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is offering online courses toward its Chaplaincy and Evangelism certificates. These courses are intended for both WELS called workers and lay members who wish to further their knowledge and skill in conducting local ministry.

Class participants can earn certificates in Evangelism and Chaplaincy, indicating they completed the course work. Particularly for chaplaincy work, the certificate from an accredited institution like MLC, better enables members to enter institutions like jails and nursing homes to reach those thirsting for the gospel.

“The courses are designed to deepen a person’s understanding of those they serve and to help them to have a Christ-centered response,” says Dr. John Meyer, director of graduate studies and continuing education at MLC.

Registration and courses are online. The Chaplaincy certificate requires 10 credits, and the Evangelism certificate requires three one-credit courses. Prospective students also can enroll in courses that interest them without pursuing a certificate.

Four three-credit courses toward the Chaplaincy certificate are scheduled this fall. They include: Communicating Forgiveness, Ministering to the Incarcerated and Their Families, Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry, and Grounded on Scripture. One one-credit course for Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, is being offered as well.

These courses are conducted in partnership with the WELS Commission on Special Ministries (Chaplaincy) and WELS Commission on Evangelism (Evangelism). They were started to utilize the educational foundation of MLC for the training of members for ministry.

“Our mission at Martin Luther College is to train a corps of witnesses for the ministry needs of WELS. These courses fit exactly into our mission. We are assisting called workers and lay leaders in communicating the gospel and sharing the Word of God with people,” says Meyer. “We’re all called to serve in one way or another, and these courses provide a deeper understanding and practical ways to do that.”

This year Martin Luther Elder Care Ministries is providing a full scholarship to any WELS member interested in taking “Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry.” This class will provide both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for the homebound and institutionalized. Visit mlecm.org to learn more about this opportunity.

To see the full list of available courses and descriptions and to register, visit mlc-wels.edu. It is recommended that interested students should enroll by Aug. 5, 2019.

 

 

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WELS members support Christmas outreach program

Approximately 70 percent of WELS congregations participated in the synodwide Christmas outreach program known as C18. WELS Congregational Services created myriad materials for congregations to use to encourage members to reach out to the unchurched and to promote the theme “A Light in the darkness.”

“When we began C18,” says Rev. Jon Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, “we said our goal was ‘to reach’ one million souls prior to and on Christmas Eve. I realize ‘reach’ is a nebulous term. That was intentional. It is impossible for congregations to track how many people a member invites to Christmas Eve. So it is hard to quantify. What I can report is that at least 1.2 million ‘A Light in the darkness’ Christmas Eve postcards were shared.”

Hein also notes that through follow-up surveys, he has discovered ancillary benefits to this Christmas outreach effort. One of those benefits is a renewed focus on evangelism in some congregations.

One survey respondent commented, “I have prayed for years for God to make me bold enough to share the gospel. I have now done this . . . several weeks in a row for C18 and have had very positive results. I plan to continue this method of inviting neighbors to my church year-round for different events.”

Another said, “I don’t know if we had more visitors than normal [attend our Christmas Eve service]. I can say our people were excited about trying to invite their friends and family to church. I think they will continue to do that, which will have a longer lasting impact than can be measured by one worship service.”

In addition to evangelism materials, Congregational Services offered worship resources as well as family Advent devotions.

As one WELS member wrote, “I loved that C18 focused on reaching unbelievers. But I also love that it stressed feeding our children with God’s Word.”

After hearing from WELS members about the blessings that this Christmas program offered, Congregational Services is now planning resources for C19.

To read Hein’s full report about C18, visit welscongregationalservices.net/c18-our-christmas-efforts.

Fearlessly proclaim the gospel

Students heard the voice of experience Jan. 16 at Martin Luther College’s (MLC) 14th annual Evangelism Day. Following the theme “Fearlessly Proclaim the Gospel,” 30 presenters shared their expertise and personal stories, encouraging students to communicate Christ in their personal lives and their public ministries.

Students had positive reactions “I’ve never been more excited to be a minister of the gospel!” says Josh Wordell. Abby Mleziva adds, “It’s encouraging to see all the different ways that God’s Word is being spread and then picturing how we can fit into the body of Christ doing the same work.”

“It was a great reminder of why we’re here,” says Zach Kopplin. “I came out with this zeal for evangelism,” says Aislinn Eddy. “It’s not just about global missions. It’s about evangelism right where you’re at too.”

For the second year, MLC offered four evening presentations to the public: witnessing to Muslims, doing ministry in Spanish, sharing Jesus with little children, and the role of reason in Lutheran apologetics.

New this year is E-Day Action Day, a follow-up to Evangelism Day on April 10. Students will take their learning to the streets as Dave Malnes, a WELS staff minister and the founder of Praise and Proclaim Ministries, leads students and other New Ulm WELS members in an outreach effort. Participants will receive two hours of training before they begin knocking on doors and a debriefing session afterward.

Outreach film bulk order deadline extended

Due to popular demand, the deadline for bulk rate orders of To the Ends of the Earth, the outreach film that tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi, has been extended.

Now congregations and groups have until Sept. 28 to order quantities of 100 DVDs at a low bulk rate of $200 per box, plus shipping. Bulk orders that have been placed on or before Sept. 7 are shipping now. Orders placed by Sept. 28 will ship the first week of October.

More than 600 congregations have already ordered over 50,000 copies of the movie at this bulk rate.

“We are going to hand out DVDs at events in our area such as street festivals, etc.,” says Rev. Joel Petermann, pastor at Zion, Torrance, Calif. “It is our hope and prayer that those who watch this video will hear its gospel message and want to know more about Jesus so we can follow up with Bible class invitations and worship invitations.”

Petermann also notes that the outreach emphasis in the film will serve as a precursor to the upcoming C18 effort, a synodwide outreach campaign to reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season. Film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, discuss how to witness and share your faith.

“We hope the film reaffirms a mission mindset among our members,” says Rev. Michael Vogel, pastor at St. Paul, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We will be doing a six-week sermon series and Bible study on the film in October and November. We will use the DVDs as part of our welcome package for visitors. We also will encourage our members to take one and share it with family and friends.”

Worship materials also can be used as an option for celebrating the synodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday planned for Oct. 21. All congregations received a free DVD of the film for this purpose.

To the Ends of the Earth is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Learn more, bulk order copies, and watch a film preview at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth.

 

 

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New outreach film set to be released

The new WELS outreach film To the Ends of the Earth will be released Sept. 1.

The film tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi. Its title is taken directly from Jesus’ command to his disciples at his Ascension: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “Since the movie focuses on mission activity, it reminds us of the important work that we have as we serve Christ—to reach out with the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Rev. Mike Hintz, retired director of WELS Commission on Evangelism who serves as a consultant for the film.

That’s why film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, will discuss how to witness and share your faith.

One way congregations can use the film and its resources is in connection with WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday, which the Conference of Presidents is encouraging all congregations to observe on Oct. 21. “It’s an opportunity to give thanks as we look at the ways we in WELS as congregations and a synod work to reach out with the gospel, but also to look at opportunities that are still around us and how to make the most of them as we continue to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth,” says Hintz.

By Sept. 1, every congregation will receive a free DVD of the movie for this purpose. Film resources will also be available for download by mid-August. “We pray congregations will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate God’s blessings on his church and to renew our commitment to the Great Commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:18-20),” says Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, director of the Ministry of Christian Giving.

Congregations can bulk order additional copies of the DVD to use as giveaways to congregation members and prospects or for other outreach efforts. The DVDs are available in boxes of 100 DVDs at only $200 per box, plus shipping. Bulk orders must be received by Sept. 7, 2018.

This movie is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Funding from CM CARES, the Church Mutual Insurance Company Foundation; WELS Foundation’s Shared Blessings donor advised fund; WELS Multi-Language Publications; and gifts from groups, congregations, and individuals helped make this film possible.

Learn more about the film at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth.

View photos:

 

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Online class for friendship evangelism

The Commission on Evangelism is offering an online course on friendship evangelism April 6 to May 8 through the continuing education program at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

Taught by Rev. John Huebner, retired mission counselor, the class is designed to enable learners to confidently share their faith in a personal, transparent, and informed approach.

While anyone can take the class, Rev. Mike Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism, says the course speaks directly to lay members. “It’s not about congregational evangelism and program. It’s about talking to your neighbor, to your friend at work, and to your relative,” says Hintz. “It’s being able to understand the obstacles and challenges but also to take what we already know and grow in our confidence to share Jesus with others.”

This course is one of three that make up an Evangelism certificate program through MLC, along with “The Mission of the Church” and “Practical Evangelism for Congregations.” “Evangelism is the work that God has given us as the church to do,” says Hintz. “These classes are designed to help members of WELS—lay members or called workers—to grow in the understanding and skill in evangelism so they can help their congregation with this important work and also be better able to do it in their personal lives.” Anyone can take individual courses, even those not interested in pursuing the certificate.

Hintz says the goal is to offer each course once a year. After the upcoming course on friendship evangelism, “The Mission of the Church” will be offered this summer, starting June 15, and “Practical Evangelism” for Congregations in fall, starting Sept. 14.

While there are fees for taking these courses, Hintz suggests that congregations consider budgeting funds for congregational lay leaders to pursue this opportunity.

Learn more about the courses and how to register at www.wels.net/evangelism. Class size is limited.

200th School of Outreach

On Oct. 4, WELS Commission on Evangelism held its 200th School of Outreach event. The School of Outreach program helps WELS congregations with planning, assistance, and resources for evangelism programming and implementation of outreach strategies.

Originally, the School of Outreach was held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Then congregations began hosting the program, and nearby congregations would also attend. This “satellite” School of Outreach made it possible for more congregations to participate. The first satellite School of Outreach was held in September 1993 in Modesto, Calif., and eight congregations attended. Since then, the total number of registered congregations has been 1,344. Over the years, many congregations have attended more than once.

“The School of Outreach gave us an opportunity to evaluate our community, to dig into God’s Word, and then to wrestle with how we might continue taking the Word to the community in which we live,” says Rev. Joel Russow, pastor at Faith, Tallahassee, Fla. “It was a blessing to have our members wrestling with these things. We left invigorated by the tremendous message and the ripe opportunities before us.”

Faith attended School of Outreach sessions in September 2013 and February 2014. The current program is broken into two one-day sessions that are separated by several months. District evangelism commission members conduct the sessions and stay in touch with congregations after they attend to provide follow-up assistance specific to the needs of the congregations.

Russow notes, “The School of Outreach presenters have a contagious zeal for reaching out with the gospel of Jesus, and they were a Barnabas to us. It was also mutually edifying to spend a couple Saturdays with the other WELS congregations in our ‘area’— who drove from 2 to 3 hours away—studying God’s Word and discussing outreach. It made us thankful for the partnership that we share in the gospel.”

Throughout the 200 School of Outreach events that have been held, many changes have taken place. Rev. Mike Hintz, director of WELS Commission on Evangelism, notes, “Evangelism directors have come and gone, but one person has been involved with all 200 events. That person is Audrey Bluhm, the administrative assistant for the Commission on Evangelism, who helps coordinate all the details for these events. I’m so thankful for her service.”

For more information about the School of Outreach, visit www.wels.net/evangelism or call 414-256-3287.