Tag Archive for: ministerial education

Supporting those God calls to be pastors

Dear Friend,

Would an employee of the IRS make a good pastor? What about a tradesman or a business owner? Jesus thought it would work quite well. Matthew, Peter, and John were some of the first pastors that Jesus sent out to preach and teach in his name and to proclaim the saving message of the gospel. It wasn’t their first career. It was later in life when Jesus called them first to follow him and then to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15). Jesus blessed those first disciples with a second career. He still does that today.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) in Mequon, Wis., prepares pastors. Many of these seminary students follow a traditional path that begins at a young age and ends with an assignment to a place of service for a first official career as a pastor. The seminary also prepares older men who have had previous careers, perhaps as tax collectors and fishermen, or maybe lawyers and police officers. Both the traditional and non-traditional path and pastor are good, and congregations are blessed and thankful when a well-trained pastor serves them.

It’s no secret that many congregations in our synod lack a pastor. At the seminary’s assignment day this year, 90 churches requested a graduate pastor, and 63 of them didn’t get one. There were a total of 136 pastor vacancies synodwide. We keep praying to our risen and ascended Savior for more workers for the fields. We ask the Holy Spirit to move more boys and men to consider pastoral ministry as a career. We also strive to support those who desire to be pastors, whether they are young or old, whether they follow the traditional or the non-traditional path.

A recent task force of the Board for Ministerial Education evaluated the support offered for non-traditional pre-seminary students and how it might be enhanced. There are unique challenges for a man (and perhaps his family) when he is older in life and considering a career change. One of the recommendations of the task force is to have a dynamic online resource for sharing information, networking, and encouraging. Another way to support pre-seminary students, regardless of their path, is to help with the costs of education.

Rising educational costs are no secret either, and paying for an education is particularly challenging for a person who is considering leaving a career (and likely steady income) to go back to school. An academic schedule and classroom expectations make it difficult to work a full-time job. Moving an established household can be expensive.

To support pre-seminary students, Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., which trains men for seminary and men and women for teaching, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary have highly prioritized student financial assistance. They are making aggressive efforts to limit student debt so that pastors and teachers do not carry that burden with them into their first assignments. You can help in this effort. Consider a donation to the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Scholarship Fund, which directly supports traditional students, as well as those men like Peter, Matthew, and John who wish to serve as a pastor as a second career.

Thank you for your help!

In Christ,
Rev. Duane Rodewald
Chairman, WELS Board for Ministerial Education

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you called the Twelve from their various backgrounds to serve in ministry, and you continue to call men to be pastors today. With the demand for pastors exceeding the number available to serve, we ask for your help. Send your Spirit to guide men young and old to train for pastoral ministry and make us eager to help them through our prayers, encouragement, and offerings. Amen.

Help students try MLC debt-free

Dear Friend,

You don’t have to talk to Mark for very long to figure out that he is a good kid. As a high school student, he is already trying to take classes that will prepare him to teach in a Lutheran elementary school. When he sings in the choir, he thinks about how he will encourage younger children to sing. When he pitches for his school’s baseball team, he thinks about how he is going to coach younger athletes. He hopes that working at a WELS camp this summer will help keep him in shape to play football during his senior year of high school in the fall.

He has an older brother in the pre-seminary program at Martin Luther College (MLC), the WELS College of Ministry located in New Ulm, Minn., and they exchange ideas on how to pay for school. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play football at MLC because he may need to work during the first semester of his freshman year. It depends on how much financial assistance he receives.

MLC has set a goal that no student will need to take on loans for that first year of college. The plan includes a strong partnership with incoming students and their families—everyone will pay what they can. This is also possible because of the strong partnership MLC has with WELS.

WELS supplies a general grant to MLC every year, benefiting every student. WELS members also supply special gifts for financial assistance. Because of the generosity of WELS members in the “Equipping Christian Witnesses” campaign that concluded last month, MLC can meet its goal of no student needing a loan their freshman year.

One reason MLC can confidently plan to meet that goal in the future is the annual funding it gets from the WELS Ministerial Education Endowment Fund. Contributions to that fund provide our four ministerial education schools with ongoing financial support as the endowment is designed to make steady annual distributions that increase as the fund grows.

Mark hopes to meet a critical need for our synod. He is willing to serve anywhere the Church needs him to go. He heard in May that 116 requests to the 2022 Assignment Committee for teachers could not be filled, and he wants to do what he can to make that number lower.

What can you do? Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Encourage young people to consider service. Do what you can to help them pay for college. As you are able, contribute to the WELS Ministerial Education Endowment Fund. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Cordially in Christ,
Rev. Paul T. Prange
WELS Administrator for Ministerial Education

Prayer: Lord, we praise you for giving our church body well-trained called workers thanks to our ministerial education schools. These ministry leaders are a great blessing to us as well as to those who do not yet know you. May Martin Luther College’s goal of reducing the need for student loans and debt make it easier for young men and women to enroll and complete their studies. Lead us to support these recruitment efforts through our prayers, offerings, and encouragement of students toward ministry. Amen.

Assignment Day at Martin Luther College

Assignment Day at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is one of the highlights of the year. Last Saturday, May 14, 2022, in a special service, candidates for the teaching ministry learned where they will be serving. All 74 teacher candidates who could go anywhere—57 from the graduating class and 17 previous graduates—were assigned. In addition, 51 teacher candidates who were limited geographically received assignments. Total assignments this year were fewer than in the two previous years; 116 requests to the Assignment Committee for teachers could not be filled.

There are still 140 teaching vacancies in the synod. District presidents will be working with calling bodies and with MLC to address this significant need.

It should be noted that 48 men graduated from the pre-seminary program at MLC, a significant increase over previous years. This will be a real blessing at a time when pastoral vacancies have also increased.

Jesus encouraged us to pray for workers in his harvest field. God’s people have prayed, and God has answered those prayers with young people saying, “Here am I; send me!”

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Pastors attend Celebration of Ministry retreats

Another successful year of Celebration of Ministry retreats is complete. From April 25–29, Grow in Grace, the institute for continuing education at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., hosted more than 400 people for the ninth annual retreat. Four retreats were held at the Drury Plaza Hotel on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, for pastors who are celebrating 3, 10, 25, and 35 years since graduating from the seminary. After a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, it was a blessing to be able to again offer encouragement and support for pastors and their wives in this way.

These retreats build relationships with ministry peers and offer encouragement through worship, Bible studies, workshops, and presentations. Bible study topics covered Ezekiel, the pastoral epistles, Psalms, and Colossians. Separate and joint workshops were offered for pastors and their wives and covered topics such as time management, caring for others and yourself, focusing on your own gifts, and financial challenges and opportunities.

Though these workshops and Bible studies are a key part of the retreats, fellowship with classmates, worship services, and a beautiful location also play a part in the experience.

When Grow in Grace initially began the Celebration of Ministry retreats, only pastors celebrating 10 years since graduation and their wives attended. In more recent years, the event has included pastors celebrating three years; 25 years; and, in 2018, 35 years since graduation.

The 2023 retreat plans are already underway, with the retreats set to take place in San Antonio from April 12–14. To the graduating classes of 1988, 1998, 2013, and 2020, make sure to check your mailboxes this month for your save the date to your Celebration of Ministry retreat.

 

 

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Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From February 8–10, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “A World Overcome,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS.

Each day featured a worship service, an overview of ministry highlights by WELS leaders, an encouraging keynote address by a worker in the field, and the opportunity to attend three breakout sessions of interest. WELS organizations also set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom.

In order to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered on specific topics. These sessions included discussions on world missions using technology post-COVID, continued mission opportunities to the Hmong in Vietnam, urban ministry, restarting a mission, church culture, and graphic design for worship and outreach. Many workshops had the underlying, connecting themes that pastors need to be intentional in their work and have a curious mind toward potential new ideas.

The seminary family was blessed to have visitors each day: the pastor-track juniors from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., participated on the first day and the students of Bethany Theological Lutheran Seminary, Mankato, Minn., participated on days two and three. A special moment during the opening worship service was the commissioning of Missionary Michael Hartman to England.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

 

 

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Understanding cultural diversity

Martin Luther College’s (MLC) Cultural Engagement Center offered several opportunities for students to grow in cultural awareness this January and February. The Cultural Engagement Center (CEC) works to welcome and support diverse students, provide opportunities for cross-cultural understanding, and promote community on campus—all to help students better carry out the Great Commission, Jesus’ command to share the gospel with all nations and peoples.

In January, MLC planned a full day of activities to commemorate Martin Luther King Day, including a special worship service, workshops, social simulations, and thought-provoking films. Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher and Patricia James, members at Divine Peace, Largo, Md., presented the keynote address.

In February, the Center featured decorations explaining and celebrating the Lunar New Year, a traditional festival celebrated by Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese people. The Center also partnered with the campus’ Art In Ministry group to sponsor a Lunar New Year crafting event to teach students more about traditional Chinese art.

Earlier in the school year, students also learned more about the cultures of the international students attending MLC during International Education Week, which included ethnic food nights, student presentations, and panel discussions.

According to Mrs. Megan Kassuelke, director of cultural engagement at MLC, the CEC is meant to cultivate diversity and culture-related discussion in respectful, mindful, and authentic ways. She says, “My goal is to foster a sense of belonging for all by inviting the entire campus family to join in the conversation about diversity awareness and cultural competency.”

Rev. Aaron Robinson, cultural diversity coordinator at MLC, says events like these offer students opportunities to grow in their understanding as WELS’ future called workers. “The reason we use days like this to talk about culture is not to divide but so we can better serve,” he says. “I want to continue the conversation and these moments—meeting the students where they’re at—so they can grow as God wants them to grow and minister to those who are not like them.”

 

 

 

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Teachers and staff ministers assigned at Martin Luther College

The synod Assignment Committee met last week to assign teacher and staff minister candidates from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., to the places where they will serve. Assignments included first-time calls, calls made permanent, and re-assignments to those called to serve an additional year.

About 160 assignments were announced at the call service at MLC on Sat., May 15. Assignments will continue next week and in the weeks to follow for candidates who are limited to a specific location, such as those female candidates whose spouses will be assigned this week as vicars or pastors at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s graduation and call service.

If you look at the list of assignments, you will notice quite a large number of candidates who have been assigned for one year. One-year assignments include those who have been assigned as dormitory supervisors, those who are assigned to a position where the grade levels or duties are somewhat outside of what was recommended for the candidate, and those who are assigned to a location where the needs of the calling body are uncertain for the following year. As you will see from this year’s assignments, many, if not most, of those assigned to one-year calls will be assigned permanently next year.

Even though many teaching vacancies remain, we are thankful that the Lord of the church has provided another group of well-trained and willing workers who will soon begin their ministry in God’s harvest field.

View the assignment list

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Observing MLC Day and statue dedication

Wednesday, May 5, is MLC Day, a time to support WELS’ College of Ministry and its students and graduates. To commemorate Martin Luther College’s 25th anniversary this year, MLC Day will celebrate all MLC graduates—from this year and from the past.

As part of the day’s activities, Fisher of Men, a new statue on MLC’s campus, will be dedicated live at 11:30 a.m. CT. The statue depicts Jesus at the Sea of Galilee calling Andrew and Simon Peter to become fishers of people (based on Mark 1:17). The MLC Alumni Association chose and funded this project to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary. “MLC is a great place to have a statue like this because it’s where we’re training fishers for gospel ministry,” says Prof. Jon Schaefer, director of new teacher induction at MLC and former alumni association president. “We saw it as a way to inspire people while they are on campus as well as provide something that they can carry with them into ministry.”

The statue is positioned in the center of campus, with Jesus’ gaze directed to the cross at the top of the Chapel of the Christ. Its base is inscribed with Bible passages suggested by alumni that underscore Jesus’ directive to make disciples. “It’s a beautiful addition to highlight the gospel preparation we are doing at MLC to train a core of witnesses who are ready to meet the ministerial needs of the synod,” says Schaefer.

Throughout the day on its social media, MLC also will share messages, photos, and videos that WELS members sent to congratulate 2021 graduating class members and thank past graduates for their kingdom work. Messages still can be submitted online at mlcday.com.

WELS members also can offer prayers and monetary support for MLC’s ministry at mlcday.com. All gifts go toward the Congregational Partner Grant Matching Fund, which directly matches gifts up to $1,000 from churches for their students.

Learn more at mlcday.com. Watch the statue dedication live at livestream.com/mlc-streams.

 

 

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MLC breaks ground for new athletic facility

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., broke ground on a new athletic facility, the Betty Kohn Fieldhouse, in April.

MLC administration, coaches, and students participated in the event, one which Rev. Richard Gurgel, MLC president, calls a milestone. “For many months God was moving the hearts of our brothers and sisters around the synod —with their gifts and their prayers and their encouragement to others—to build a foundation, a financial one and a spiritual one, for this day,” he says.

Hundreds of gifts, including one transformational donation, allowed construction to begin.

The 36,000-square-foot indoor turfed facility, which features large practice areas, baseball/softball batting cages, golf simulators, and locker rooms, will support a year-round physical education curriculum, enable spring sports to practice regularly, allow for additional intramural offerings, and create community connections. Plans are for students to be able to use the new athletic center by the beginning of 2022.

Jordyn Heckendorf, a first-year physical education major at MLC, took part in the groundbreaking event. “The new Betty Kohn Fieldhouse is a dream come true!” she says. “As an athlete and child of God, I am always looking for ways to let my light shine through the skills God has blessed me with, and this fieldhouse gives me the opportunity to do just that. To all the people who generously donated to make this possible, I want you to know that we will not take this for granted.”

The building is part of the facility improvement pillar of the “Equipping Christian Witnesses” campaign, which has the goal to help train a corps of Christian witnesses to meet WELS ministry needs in the future. Learn more about the campaign at mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

WELS members can continue to support, encourage, and thank MLC graduates—from this year and from the past—by participating in MLC Day on May 5. Send messages, photos, and videos to congratulate 2021 graduating class members and thank MLC graduates from the past 25 years for their kingdom work. WELS members also can offer prayers and monetary support for MLC’s ministry. All gifts go toward the Congregational Partner Grant Matching Fund, which directly matches gifts up to $1,000 from churches for their students. Learn more at mlcday.com.

 

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Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 2-4, 2021, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students during which they learn about missions and ministry groups of WELS.

Under the theme “Share Christ’s Comfort,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS—and how WELS is blessed that God gives us the message of comfort to share with those in churches, in communities, and throughout the world.

Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 23 breakout sessions were offered on specific topics.

Daily breakout topics included updates from world mission fields, COVID adjustments in WELS world mission work, gospel outreach to immigrants in local communities, multi-site ministries, campus ministry, marriage enrichment, and family ministry.

Committee member Philip Schroeder, who was involved in planning the world mission day, shared, “I was able to be in contact with many of our world missionaries while planning. I have grown to appreciate the amazing work they are doing around the world. It encourages me to keep them in my prayers. I am so thankful to have people in our synod who are not afraid to go around the world. They bring the pure gospel to people who desperately need it.”

In the past, WELS organizations have also set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom. To follow social distancing guidelines this year, WELS areas of ministry were instead invited to send information about synodical resources available to these future pastors.

“It helps me see all the resources and materials that are at my disposal to assist me in whatever situation the Lord plans to put me into,” says committee member Caleb Schaewe.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

 

 

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Mid-year graduation at Martin Luther College

Even though on-campus learning at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., has been interrupted for a time, we are happy to see that the work of the college to prepare young people for the public ministry continues. One visible reminder of that is the announcement that 22 students have completed their studies and have received their diplomas and graduated mid-year.

While most of those students will defer their assignment into the public ministry until next spring, several of them will be assigned to their field of labor when the Assignment Committee meets on Fri., Dec. 18.

Plans have been put in place to welcome students back to campus in January. In addition, President Richard Gurgel has announced that the governing board of Martin Luther College will be distributing an additional $200,000 in financial assistance to help students who return for the second semester.

Even in difficult times, God’s work—and his blessings—continue in our congregations and in our synod.

On behalf of all who work with you and for you in our synod’s mission, have a blessed Christmas!

Serving together with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Martin Luther College celebrates 25th anniversary

Twenty-five years ago when Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., was about to open its doors for the first time, there were so many questions. What will this new college be like? How will it be organized? What will the curriculum be? Will it be able to continue to produce the number of candidates for ministry needed by the synod? How well will the students in the pastor track and teacher track get along with each other? Will there be too many marriages by undergraduate students? Will the members of the synod embrace this new school?

Now, after 25 years, these questions have been answered. And, we thank God that they have been answered in a way that demonstrates God’s rich blessings on this school and on our synod. Today, 25 years later, Martin Luther College (MLC) has been embraced and supported by the people of our synod as OUR WELS college of ministry. Enrollment at MLC continues to be strong, with our WELS young people attending in good and consistent numbers to prepare for a lifetime of service in the church. The pastor track continues to produce young men who are well prepared for continuing at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; the teacher and staff ministry programs produce graduates who are well qualified to serve in our synod. Having future pastors, teachers, and staff ministers studying and working together on one campus builds relationships that will last a lifetime.

MLC used homecoming weekend as a time to mark its 25th anniversary. A special worship service was held on October 4, with Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary President Earle Treptow delivering the sermon. The service included special music and choirs. A special concert took place on Sunday afternoon. MLC will be planning other anniversary events later in the school year.

This anniversary is a time to say “thank you.” First of all, we thank God for blessing this school and enabling it to carry out its purpose faithfully. We thank the faculty and staff of MLC for 25 years of faithful and dedicated service. We thank the students of MLC, now and in years past, for coming to MLC and saying, “Here am I, send me!” And we thank the members of our synod who have embraced and supported this school with their prayers and offerings.

We pray with confidence that God will continue to bless this school as it continues to prepare our future called workers to be ambassadors for our Savior.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary holds 2020 fall symposium

This year students and faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., attended the seminary’s annual fall symposium from Sept. 21 to 22. About 175 pastors and vicars from across the U.S. and Canada joined via livestream to hear three papers presented on Martin Luther’s 1520 Treatises.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of four important treatises from Martin Luther, essayists reviewed them, shedding light on what was happening in the world at the time and explaining why the truths emphasized are still essential for Christians today.

Rev. Jason Oakland, Martin Luther, Neenah, Wis., began the symposium with his paper, “Luther’s Call to Action: A Consideration of To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.” He shared, “Luther felt compelled to write to the nobility because the church was simply not interested in reforming itself. In addition, he felt the nobility had every right to step in and work for change because they too were royal priests and, due to their vocation as leaders in the Empire, might be able to assist in bringing about much-needed change.”

Rev. Benjamin Schaefer, Mt. Calvary, Redding, Calif., wrote the second paper, “Breaking Free: Martin Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church in Context.” He discussed how “Luther attacks the very heart of Roman power over Christendom, namely, the sacramental system. His thesis is that the faithful were trapped under the pope’s tyranny, and God’s gifts had been replaced by the traditions and laws of men. Rome was more concerned with power and prestige than they were with setting souls free. The Christian’s life from cradle to grave was locked in this system of control and coercion. Luther wrote this tour de force to combat the abuses prevalent at every level of the church’s work and worship—nothing was spared from Luther’s scathing rebuke.”

For the final presentation, Rev. James C. Danell spoke on two of Luther’s essays in his paper “The Freedom of a Christian and Treatise on Good Works.” Danell, professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., noted, “It’s in his treatise The Freedom of a Christian that Luther presents the biblical, reformation doctrine of justification by grace through faith. His treatise On Good Works speaks to the sanctified life of the believer that springs fundamentally from his justification through faith in Jesus.”

The essays themselves are now available at wisluthsem.org.

Watch the presentations:

Luther’s Call to Action: A Consideration of To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation

Breaking Free: Martin Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church in Context

The Freedom of a Christian and Treatise on Good Works

 

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Ministerial Education schools open for fall

Many schools, colleges, and universities across the country have not yet reopened for in-person classes due to continuing concerns about COVID-19; in many cases, no date has been set when that will happen.

We are thankful that each of our four ministerial education schools began the fall semester with in-person instruction. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.; welcomed students back to campus last week and held their opening services. At each campus, measures have been taken to ensure that the campus environment will be as safe as possible for both students and faculty. Plans are also in place as to how to respond if anyone on campus contracts the virus.

We are also thankful that, despite the uncertainties caused by the virus, enrollments at three of the schools have held steady, with only some small declines. At the beginning of the semester, Martin Luther College enrollment is 713 (731 last year); Luther Preparatory’s enrollment is 401 (402 last year); Michigan Lutheran Seminary’s enrollment is 184 (196 last year). Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s enrollment has increased by 12 students over last year to 134.

At the opening services on each campus, new faculty members were installed in their new positions. You can find the names of the new faculty members on the website of each school.

Just as the gospel ministry and mission that God has given us has not stopped during these difficult times, so the training of future pastors and teachers continues by God’s grace. We pray that God would bless all four schools with healthy and productive school years.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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MLC releases return-to-school plans

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., the WELS college of ministry, released its “Knights Return to Campus Plan” on July 17, after months of planning. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, MLC had to conclude its 2019–20 school via alternative/distance learning.

The plan calls for students to return to the school’s campus in New Ulm for the fall semester, with classes starting on Aug. 24. Most of the courses will be delivered in person, with less than 10 percent being a blend of online and in-person instruction. The campus will host only essential on-campus events and provide virtual alternatives for other events where possible. Only students, faculty, and staff will be able to participate in the on-campus events at this time.

In a letter of introduction to the plan, Rev. Richard Gurgel, MLC president, shares that the fall planning team spent “hours listening to government officials, health professionals, collegiate organizations, new and returning students and their families, our faculty and staff, and many others in our synod” before putting together the document.

“Our top priority is providing the highest level of safety and confidence in our campus learning environment, while adhering to the spiritual and educational standards WELS expects from its college of ministry,” he says.

Students and administration will participate in daily screenings, including a temperature check. Isolation and quarantine procedures are in place for those who have symptoms for COVID-19, test positive, or have been in close contact with someone exhibiting symptoms or testing positive.

Campus officials say the plan may change as circumstances change. “We offer this plan trusting in God’s gracious care for us in our Lord Jesus,” says Gurgel. “At the same time, we also recognize that such trust does not diminish the responsibility God himself entrusts to us to be wise stewards of our health for the sake of our whole campus family as well as for the entire community of New Ulm.”

The other ministerial education schools—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.—are finalizing their return-to-school documents. As of right now all three schools are planning to have face-to-face, in-person instruction on their campuses for the start of the 2020–21 school year, with classes starting the week of Aug. 24. All four schools concluded the 2019–20 school year via alternative/distance learning due to COVID-19.

“The faculty and staff at Martin Luther College have done a remarkable job pulling together the many plans and decisions that have to be made to open safely this fall,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of the Board for Ministerial Education. “We ask God’s blessings on the faithful work of everyone at MLC and the other ministerial education schools, and we keep them in our prayers.”

 

 

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Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary candidates assigned

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., held its combined Graduation and Call Day service on Thursday, May 21, 2020. The online service incorporated elements from the traditional graduation and assignment services, with the graduation portion first. The livestream began with a view of the traditional walk the seminarians take from the chapel, under the tower, and over to the auditorium.

WLS President Rev. Earle Treptow’s sermon, “Wait for the Lord!” reminded the graduates that waiting will always be part of their service as pastors. The message was based on the class passage, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31). Treptow encouraged them “to wait for the Lord, because the Lord never tires of empowering his servants to do what they could never do on their own.”

Usually after the service professors directly speak words of blessing and encouragement to the students. Because that wasn’t possible this year, Treptow read messages from professors as he announced the graduates. Then, during the singing of the class hymn “Lord Take My Hand and Lead Me,” a slideshow of the graduates was played.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf, chairman of the seminary’s board, sent a video sharing a message of gratitude for the three seminary faculty members who are concluding their ministries at the seminary. Professor Rev. Richard Gurgel will be moving to New Ulm, Minn., to serve as president of Martin Luther College. Professor Rev. John Hartwig, who had been planning to retire, instead accepted a call to serve as a chaplain in Europe. He and his wife will be moving to Germany. Professor Rev. James Tiefel is retiring after serving WLS since 1985.

WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder then announced where students would be assigned. First, 28 members of the middler class (those in their second year) learned where they will be sent to serve as vicars (interns) for the 2020-2021 school year.

After that, 28 men were assigned to serve as pastors. Of those, 23 were seniors receiving their first call, three were from the class of 2018, and two were students from the Pastoral Studies Institute. In addition, four were reassigned to one-year calls.

Over 2,000 computers were logged onto Livestream, and there were over 2,000 views on Facebook. In the comments section, people checked in from all over the U.S. In addition, people checked in from Canada and India.

Assignment lists are available on the seminary’s website. Watch the archived footage at our Livestream page.

 

 

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MLC President Mark Zarling retiring

Rev. Mark Zarling, president of Martin Luther College (MLC) from 2007 to 2020, is retiring this summer.

During Zarling’s tenure, God has blessed the college in countless ways.

The campus saw the construction of beautiful new facilities funded by God’s people: Chapel of the Christ, the Early Childhood Learning Center, a baseball field, and a soccer pitch.

The academic catalog expanded to include majors in early childhood education and special education, many four-year secondary education majors, and minors in urban ministry and Chinese. The graduate program added two new degrees: Master of Science in Educational Administration and Master of Arts in Theological Studies. And continuing education offerings expanded tremendously, including New Teacher Induction, new certifications, and a full catalog of on-campus, online, and on-location professional development options.

Zarling’s keen sense of vision led the campus family through two strategic plans, two accreditations, a Master Site Plan, and a Master Staffing Plan. He put the spotlight on lowering student debt, broadening international services, expanding experiential learning, and recruiting new students not merely to fill current vacancies but to prepare for new ministries still in development. He also traveled extensively, serving as a warm and sincere ambassador all over the synod.

Through all these changes, he kept the campus focused on the mission statement: “To train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.”

Faculty, staff, and synod leaders have called Zarling a man of faith, a pastor-administrator, a humble visionary, a Christlike leader, and MLC’s spiritual compass. He spoke God’s promises in the hallways, prayed with colleagues in their offices, and uplifted the college family with his “Letters from Home” chapel messages.

“President Zarling has left an impression on Martin Luther College,” said WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder. “He has worked tirelessly to ensure that our WELS College of Ministry faithfully carries out its purpose. He has personally guided and shaped hundreds, if not thousands, of students. And through his leadership he has instilled in our synod’s members a love for and a confidence in Martin Luther College.”

To MLC students past, present, and future, President Emeritus Zarling offers this encouragement: “The apostle tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Live daily with eyes on Jesus—and the only way to keep eyes on him is to stay with the Scriptures that reveal him. Make time daily to prayerfully read the Spirit’s inspired words that you may build up your faith. As Jude tells us, ‘But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (20-21).’ ”

Mark and his wife, Colette, are moving to Manitowoc, Wis., this summer and are planning road trips to the East and West Coasts to see children and grandchildren.

 

 

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Assignments and graduations at our ministerial education schools

The recent disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus have had a great impact on our synodical schools. In-person classes had to be canceled at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich. In addition, decisions have now been made to hold virtual events for the reading of assignments at MLC and WLS and for graduation ceremonies at all four schools. The Assignment Committee will be meeting via video conference to make the assignments in the days before the assignments are announced.

At MLC, 171 teacher and staff ministry candidates are available for assignment. At WLS, 26 pastoral candidates and 28 vicar candidates will be assigned.

Even though graduations and assignments will take place in an entirely different format this year, the reasons to celebrate remain the same. God continues to provide workers for his harvest field, and we continue to thank him for these blessings and for the faithful work done by our faculties and students.

You can participate in these happy events by joining the online events at the schools, accessible via the schools’ websites:

Martin Luther College
Graduation: Saturday, May 16, 10:00 a.m. (Central)
Announcement of assignments: Saturday, May 16, 11:15 a.m. (Central)

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
Graduation and announcement of assignments (pastors and vicars): Thursday, May 21, 10:00 a.m. (Central)

Luther Preparatory School
Saturday, May 23, 10:00 a.m. (Central)

Michigan Lutheran Seminary
Saturday, May 23, 9:30 a.m. (Central) (10:30 a.m. [Eastern])

If you know of a graduate from one of these schools in your congregation or extended family, let them know how much you appreciate them and that the entire synod is keeping them in our prayers.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Celebrating MLC seniors

Tomorrow, May 6, is MLC Day. Each year MLC Day brings together all who support the WELS College of Ministry around the world. Martin Luther College (MLC) supporters send messages to the college, pray for its ministry, share its ministry with others, and give gifts to assist in carrying out its mission. MLC students then share their stories and thanks with supporters.

This year, MLC Day will highlight family connections even more, especially focusing on MLC seniors.

“With students continuing to study off campus due to COVID-19 restrictions, our seniors are missing out on many end-of-year activities celebrations,” says Mr. Bill Pekrul, MLC director of public relations. “We decided to focus MLC Day on them this year and have photos and videos aimed at their reflections and encouraging others to send messages of congratulations and encouragement to these future called workers.”

Pekrul offers the following suggestions on how everyone can participate:

  • Current students can share prayers, blessings, encouragement, and thanks to a graduating senior.
  • MLC seniors can offer a message of thanks to those who encouraged and supported them throughout their time at college as well as offer advice to incoming students.
  • WELS families, schools, and congregations can record short videos or submit photos with notes of encouragement and prayers for a graduating senior. MLC is providing signs and message prompts to help the creative process.
  • WELS members can offer prayers and monetary support for MLC’s ministry. All gifts will go toward the Congregational Partner Grant Matching Fund, which directly supports students. A generous donor has agreed to match every dollar donated up to $50,000.

Visit mlcday.com to learn more. There you can also access resources and message prompts so you can show your support for MLC and its students on May 6.

 

 

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Martin Luther College announces commencement plans

In consultation with the 2020 graduating class, faculty/staff, and local health authorities, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., has decided that its graduation and Call Day services will be held remotely, with graduating seniors viewing from their homes.

The 2020 commencement worship service will be broadcast via MLC’s Livestream page at 10 a.m. CT, May 16. The reading of the assignments will immediately follow the commencement service. Both events will be pre-recorded at the Chapel of the Christ on MLC’s campus. Assignment lists will be posted on MLC’s and on WELS’ websites immediately following the events.

To help the graduates celebrate, MLC is sending a “graduation box” to every senior and encouraging students to send pictures of themselves in their caps and gowns and videos of their watch parties. Stay tuned to MLC’s social media to see photos and videos.

In late March, MLC already had announced that alternative/distance learning would extend to the end of the 2019–20 school year, a decision made taking into account directives from the state of Minnesota. Distance learning started March 23.

“We thank everyone for their patience and their understanding in these crazy, crazy times as God has set them before us,” says Dr. Jeff Wiechman, MLC’s vice president for academics. “But we forge ahead knowing that he’s in total control and knowing that he has our best interests at heart. His will is being done for us and for our ministry in his kingdom.”

To help celebrate the graduates, MLC has decided to focus its annual MLC Day on its seniors, offering current students, families, friends, and MLC supporters an opportunity to give a shout-out to these future called workers. This online social media event, which also provides ways to support WELS’ College of Ministry with gifts and prayers, takes place May 6. Go to mlcday.com to learn more and to access resources and message prompts.

Commencement plans for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., will be finalized in early May. With the Wisconsin governor’s “Safer at Home” orders extended until May 26, WLS already has decided to hold classes online until the end of the school year.

 

 

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MLC continues distance learning through end of school year

Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., has decided to extend its alternative/distance learning plans to the end of the 2019–20 school year.

According to Dr. Jeff Wiechman, MLC’s vice president for academics, this decision was made taking into account the directive made by the state of Minnesota last week that all Minnesota public school districts and charter schools will implement a distance learning period through May 4.

“Taking into consideration this directive; the COVID-19 ordinances of other states; and the safety of MLC students, faculty, and staff, the administrative council extended MLC’s alternative/distance learning plans to the end of the spring 2020 semester,” says Wiechman. “This is a responsible decision for the same reasons many states have put their movement restrictions and teaching/learning ordinances in place. And yet, I hate to see it happen.”

MLC students began distance learning on March 23, after a one-week extension of MLC’s spring break to allow professors time to prepare.

The administrative council will make an announcement about end-of-year commencement events in April.

The remaining three ministerial education schools—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis.; Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.—also are teaching students through distance learning due to COVID-19 restrictions.

At this time, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and Luther Preparatory School are planning for online learning through April 24. Michigan Lutheran Seminary’s current plan runs through April 14. The prayer is that students will be able to return to the campuses after those dates.

“We thank God for the resilience of faculty, students, and staff, as online classes were quickly established and new routines were put into place,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for WELS Ministerial Education. “The blessing of stable financial situations at our schools is allowing them the flexibility to make sound decisions during this uncertain time.”

 

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2020 Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 4-6, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “Share the Feast,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS. Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered in specific topics.

These sessions included discussions on mission trips for congregation members, how to use social media and the internet to reach out, world mission updates, how small groups are a blessing to congregations, planting churches in rural areas, reaching out to military members, a member’s perspective on starting a mission congregation, and cross-cultural urban ministry.

In addition, WELS organizations set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom. This introduces future pastors to all the synodical resources available to support ministries.

“As I worked with the organizers for the displays, I was able to appreciate the different services that WELS has to offer to its members,” says senior Daniel Schmidt, one of the event organizers. Hearing from the presenters “helped me to solidify my interest in missions.”

Seminary students are not the only ones who benefit from the event. On Feb. 4, the junior class of pastor-track students at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., attended presentations. On Feb. 5 and 6, students from Bethany Lutheran Seminary, Mankato, Minn., attended. In all, almost 200 students, professors, and guests participated.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

 

 

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Evangelism Day at MLC

The annual Evangelism Day at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., in January, brought a break from classes as students attended stellar seminars and got fired up about proclaiming Christ.

“Evangelism Day,” says Maddy Leckwee, “is filled with energy and fire for the gospel. It makes you excited for the work you are training to do.”

Pastors, teachers, and laypeople presented on topics ranging from youth ministry and social media outreach to the gospel in East Asia and witnessing to Mormons.

Others snagged an opportunity to practice confessing their faith with Praise and Proclaim Ministries’ evangelism training. The group looks forward to canvassing later this spring.

View photos from the day.

Article from Martin Luther College’s e-mail newsletter KnightWatch.

 

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Rev. Richard Gurgel accepts call to serve as MLC president

Rev. Richard Gurgel has accepted the call to serve as president of WELS’ college of ministry, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn. He will begin his new call on July 1, 2020.

Gurgel brings years of parish and teaching experience to his new ministry. Since 1999, he has served as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., teaching homiletics, systematics, and Christian education. He also directs the continuing education arm of the seminary, the Grow in Grace Institute.

The MLC Governing Board issued the call Sept. 26, and Gurgel officially accepted Oct. 21, saying, “With a deep awareness of my weaknesses as a jar of clay but with a still deeper appreciation for Christ’s forgiving and empowering grace, I accept the call to serve as Martin Luther College’s next president. May God give me a double portion of the servant-hearted, gospel-filled spirit with which President Zarling has so faithfully served.”

Furthermore, Gurgel noted, “God has used and continues to use what happens on MLC’s campus to prepare one generation after another of Christian witnesses to proclaim the gospel of his kingdom in classrooms and congregations and communities around the world. Truly a city set on a hill cannot be hidden!”

Rev. Mark Zarling, retiring president of MLC, is grateful that such a faithful shepherd will soon assume the leadership mantle. “Prof. Gurgel is a shepherd gifted with many abilities and with a heart that beats with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Zarling. “I am thrilled that he has accepted and am confident that Jesus will use him mightily for the good of this important ministry.”

To learn more about MLC, visit mlc-wels.edu.

 

 

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Equipping Christian Witnesses effort underway

Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., is embarking on a two-year synodwide offering called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.”

Martin Luther College (MLC) is our WELS college of ministry. It prepares nearly all of our called workers, training teachers and staff ministers to serve when they graduate and providing college-level training to young men who will enroll at the seminary to prepare to serve as pastors. Our synod is experiencing a great need for more called workers, and that is what this effort intends to help address.

The offering will provide resources to increase recruitment efforts around the synod.

In addition to that, it will address one barrier to enrollment at MLC: the cost of education. Even though MLC strives to keep educational costs down (and is widely considered to be successful in doing that), the prayer is that this offering will assist in recruitment by providing additional resources for student financial aid, reducing the need for students to borrow for their education.

Another goal of this offering is to provide funds that will help the college improve its facilities, particularly student housing and recreation facilities. While certainly not the main motivation for studying for the ministry, campus facilities do play an important role in recruitment.

We pray that God will move the hearts of our congregations and their members to take part in this opportunity to support the important work that MLC is doing on behalf of us all.

To learn more, visit mlc-wels.edu/mlc-campaign.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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New President at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

At the end of this month, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., will experience a change in leadership. Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland will be stepping down as president and will move back into the role of full-time classroom professor. Seminary Vice President Rev. Earle Treptow has accepted the call to serve as the seminary president and will officially begin his duties on July 1, 2019.

The role of the seminary president is an important one. It’s been said that “as the seminary goes, so goes the synod.” The seminary is the place where nearly all WELS pastors are trained, so it goes without saying that for the synod to remain faithful to God’s Word, the seminary will need to remain faithful to the doctrines of Scripture. It is the responsibility of the seminary president to ensure that the seminary carries out that responsibility.

The seminary president is also the spokesman for the seminary. Our synod looks to the seminary faculty to provide guidance and input on doctrinal matters. The Conference of Presidents often consults with the seminary faculty when discussing doctrinal issues. It is the role of the seminary president to speak for the faculty when discussions on doctrinal matters take place.

President Wendland first joined the seminary faculty in 2001 after serving in both world and home mission settings, in an established congregation, and as a professor at Northwestern College and Martin Luther College. He has served as seminary president since 2004. We are thankful for the years in which President Wendland has faithfully carried out these important responsibilities and pray for God’s continued blessings on his new role in the classroom.

Prior to coming to the seminary in 2016, President-elect Treptow served as a pastoral recruiter at Martin Luther College, as a pastor in British Columbia and Denver, Colorado, and as the president of the Nebraska District. As Treptow begins his role as seminary president, we can be thankful that God has blessed our seminary in the past and that those blessings will continue under the leadership of President Treptow.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Assignments at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Last week the synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., to assign teacher and staff ministry candidates. The Assignment Committee is comprised of the Conference of Presidents and is assisted by various advisors.

One hundred forty candidates were assigned to the teaching ministry. All candidates who were able to go anywhere were assigned. Many candidates that could be assigned to limited geographical areas (due to marriage or other circumstances) were assigned, and more of those will be assigned in the coming weeks.

Two staff minister candidates who could go anywhere were assigned; two that were limited by geography were not yet assigned but could be assigned in the future if calls become available.

The complete list of assignments can be found at mlc-wels.edu.

This week the Assignment Committee moves to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. There the committee will assign vicars and pastoral candidates. The announcement of those assignments will take place on Thurs., May 23, at 10:00 a.m. The service can be viewed live online at wls.wels.net.

Our gracious God has provided candidates to serve in the public ministry, and he has moved them to say, “Here am I; send me!” We thank God for these gifts to his church and pray for his blessings on their service.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 5–7, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission & Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “Work for the Harvest,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS.

Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered in specific topics. These sessions included discussions on personal evangelism; cultivating a caring congregation; urban ministry; planting churches in rural areas; 125 years of ministry to the Apaches; and mission opportunities in Africa, Latin America, and Vietnam.

Also, to highlight synodical resources that are available to congregations, WELS organizations set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom.

“Mission and Ministry refocuses us. It takes us away from our daily routine and reminds us why we study every day. The stories presenters share give us a glimpse of what it will be like to work together with them in God’s harvest field,” says senior Andrew Nemmers, one of the event organizers. “Especially in the middle of a long winter, it’s always helpful to have that reminder that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel of training for pastoral ministry.”

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

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.

WELS ministerial education schools begin another year

The four WELS ministerial education schools opened their years with blessings and good news.

While class sizes remain in the 20s and 30s for the next two years at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., projections based upon planned graduates from Martin Luther College indicate an upward trend toward the mid-30s in the following years. The Lord is answering the need for more workers in his harvest field.

Preliminary undergraduate opening enrollment at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., as of mid-August, is 768 compared to 756 last year. (Official enrollment is finalized at the end of August.) About 200 of the undergraduates are preseminary students, 70 of which are freshmen. Total enrollment in the various educational tracks is 547. Eleven students are enrolled in the staff ministry program.

Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., opened the school year with a total enrollment of 420, up from 416 last year. Enrollment has been steady over the last five years, significantly larger than the low of 333 ten years ago. Last year LPS sent the largest number of its graduates to MLC to train for the pastoral ministry (38) in its 153-year history. Seventy percent of the class of 2018 has enrolled at Martin Luther College.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., begins the school year under the leadership of its new president, Rev. Mark Luetzow. Opening enrollment is 192, slightly lower than last year’s 195. MLS has 14 international students from five countries (Canada, South Korea, China, Germany, and Mexico). Thirty-three percent of the MLS faculty (including dormitory staff) is new since the end of last school year.

We thank God for these schools and for their students who are preparing to serve the Lord in the public ministry.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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