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Record attendance at annual OWLS convention

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) challenged seniors to “Finish the Race” well when it held its annual convention for seniors in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Oct. 9-12.  The convention had 207 attendees from around the United States, which exceeded attendance for many recent years.

Elkhart Lake, the home of Road America, is known for its ties to auto racing, relaxation, and history. Attendees were treated to a rare opportunity to ride on the race track or visit the horse-powered world of the Wade House, a historic stage coach inn.

Discussion of finishing the Christian race was focused through presentations of keynote speakers. Former missionary wife Rebecca Wendland shared the challenges of life in Africa but also spoke of the grace and strength of God to protect and guide his people. Martin Luther College President Rev. Mark Zarling and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland gave a glimpse into the preparation of the next generation of church workers, but also answered audience questions about heaven, eternal life, and other topics. Former U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot Steve Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, shared the challenges they’ve experienced running their race during Steve’s military career, both before and after a crash changed their lives. Home Missions Administrator Rev. Keith Free provided insight into the opportunities worldwide to share the gospel.

For over a decade, the OWLS have used their offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $52,000 for work in Europe. Two convention offerings and record proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

The OWLS also provide scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Jason Petoskey, Winter Fredrick, Buchanan Potthast, and Max Kerr received scholarships. Max Kerr responded, “I can’t tell you my surprise at receiving the scholarship. It feels good to be recognized for what I always strive to do: share the gospel and serve others. Thank you very much for the scholarship. It helps me very much, as I’ve had to take out many loans in my journey to become a pastor.”

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, says, “This was a convention to remember! The workshops offered something for the artistic, the health conscious, tips for Internet users, and those interested in government or international students at Martin Luther College. It was a treat to renew friendships at the Osthoff Resort on Elkhart Lake when the trees were in color.”

The October 2019 OWLS convention for seniors will be held in Galena, Ill. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

 

 

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A resource for your ministry to seniors

It may begin with Mom, or sometimes with Dad. “It” is the realization that more needs to be done for the seniors in our life, due to stroke, dementia, or another age-related trial.

Growing numbers of families are facing such decisions. What is to be the response of Christians individually, and the church as a whole? The physical needs of our aged members may be covered well, but what about their easy-to-overlook spiritual needs?

Family members will come to visit. The pastor or a trained layman may appear once or twice a month with Word, sacrament, and a few minutes of friendly conversation. But all those hours between can seem endless, and depression over loss of normality is common. WELS members are not immune.

Are there some spiritual options for Christian individuals, families, and the church? What about utilizing a great gospel resource that technology puts at our fingertips now? Time of Grace programming is widely available on TV, online, and in other ways. These messages are adaptable for gospel ministry to our own folks, as well as for outreach to other residents of senior care facilities.

When making personal visits to family members, why not share a familiar section of the Good News along with the usual family news? Or read a devotion. For the more technically inclined, a laptop can provide shorter “Your Time of Grace” messages, either recorded or online. Family members could do much more of this spiritual nurture, which would be more welcome than one might know.

What about the church’s responsibility for its senior members? Family members can get worn down seeking to meet a loved one’s needs, while active seniors often look to offer their time and talents in service to others.

Consider approaching the activities coordinator at your nearby care facility. They may be open to including free, non-proselytizing Christian video programs with their other weekly activities. On Sundays, or any day, a TV monitor could play Time of Grace messages for all interested residents. This usually works better where a trusting relationship has been established with the staff. But what an outreach opportunity, and what a blessing to many elderly, lonely residents. Staff members benefit too! This is currently being done at four facilities in the southwest Twin Cities area.

The ministry website is timeofgrace.org. For instructions on how to access, download, and play resources, see the brochures at tog.mywels.com.

We owe it to our seniors to serve them spiritually. Time of Grace can help our lay members play a crucial role in filling that need. Try it!

Arnold Lemke is a retired pastor in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area who stays active in both senior ministry and youth ministry.

 

 

 

Preventing child abuse in church

Churches should be the safest, most loving places on earth. Church leaders should be on the frontlines of protecting children. So why is child abuse so prevalent in churches? I believe there are two reasons:

Satan targets churches. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study found that 21 percent of the population are victims of childhood sexual abuse. That’s one out of five people in your pews! The study also found that victims are much more likely to participate in behaviors like sexual promiscuity or drug or alcohol abuse. (Learn more at cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy.)

The shame and sadness lead victims to look for ways to cope. They are plagued with spiritual questions: “Was the abuse my fault? Why didn’t God come to my aid? What do I do with all my shame and anger?”

Satan knows if he can hurt a child, he might just have them for life.

Perpetrators target churches. Where would perpetrators find easy access to lots of children? In church, where there are often fewer policies and restrictions than other places. Churches are also happy to see volunteers, accepting almost anyone eager to participate in ministry.

Consider how one sex offender described his mindset:

I consider church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people…I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words. (Quoted in “Ministering to Adult Sex Offenders” by Victor I. Vieth, Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, p. 214)

Four steps to prevent child abuse in your church
Jesus has called us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We don’t need to be paranoid about everyone who works with children. But we will be wise, always keeping in mind the health and safety of children. So how do we prevent child abuse in our churches?

Enforce an up-to-date child protection policy. When I arrived at my church, we didn’t have such a policy. And I didn’t know where to start. So I borrowed one from another WELS church. Then our Children and Youth Committee adapted it to fit our church and ministry. Having a professional social worker on that committee added great insight.

If possible, every church should have a committee to update and enforce its child protection policy. Make use of social services professionals. Make sure your leadership, e.g. church council and elders, are familiar with the policy so that they know how to respond to a child abuse claim.

Require volunteers to read and sign the child protection policy. Having everyone aware and on-board will create a unified culture that desires to protect children and serves as a deterrent for perpetrators.

Require background checks of volunteers. There are different ways to do this. Check with your church insurance provider for options. Background checks will flag prior offenders and deter future offenders, letting them know that you take this seriously.

Require child abuse prevention training. Freedom for the Captives (freedomforcaptives.com), a WELS ministry for survivors of abuse, has released “Standing Up for Children,” a free online video training course for churches and schools. (See the following article for details.) This training, or something similar, should be required of every volunteer who works with children.

Child abuse is a difficult topic to acknowledge, especially in church. But Satan is using this sin to harm the people whom Jesus loves. We must be wise in how we minister to children. We must find ways to encourage the many survivors who are suffering in silence in our pews. We must follow the example of the Good Shepherd in protecting his sheep. His precious lambs are worth the effort.

Ben Sadler is passionate about protecting all of Jesus’ sheep. He shepherds the flock at Goodview Trinity Lutheran Church, Goodview, Minn.

 

 

“Standing Up for Children” – Online child abuse prevention training

Freedom for the Captives, a WELS ministry, announces the release of “Standing Up for Children: A Christian Response to Child Abuse and Neglect.”

The online video course is taught by Mr. Victor Vieth, national director emeritus of the National Child Protection Training Center (gundersenhealth.org/ncptc), and Dr. John Schuetze, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and counselor with Christian Family Solutions (christianfamilysolutions.org).

Participants who watch all four videos and pass quizzes on the content will receive a certificate of completion. Veterans of similar training have called this course “excellent.”

For a conference, faculty in-service, or other group, the videos can be shown to everyone at once, then each attendee would receive the “key” to take the online quizzes.

The training is available at WELS.net University (wnu.wels.net) but must be accessed with an enrollment key. To request the enrollment key and instructions to take the course, e-mail freedom@wels.net. You must include the following information:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Name of church where you are a member
  • Whether you are a pastor, teacher, staff minister, or church member
  • Whether the training is for personal or group use (indicate which group)

Thanks to a grant from the Antioch Foundation, Mr. Vieth is available to appear in person to conduct training at select larger conferences. To request him, e-mail freedom@wels.net.

When churches and schools start conversations about abuse, it is not uncommon for Christians who have suffered abuse to seek help. Our website, freedomforcaptives.com, offers survivors a rich supply of spiritual resources and other useful information. Congregations and schools will find guidance on abuse prevention policies and other important topics.

The mission of Freedom for the Captives is “Equipping the Body of Christ to protect children and empower abuse survivors.” We hope you’ll find our resources helpful and healing.

 

 

 

Lutheran “leftovers”

It was a proud tradition in our house, and Mom was good at it. She could take a little of this leftover, a bit of that one, and just a smidgen of the one near the back of the refrigerator (the one alongside the sauerkraut)…mix it all together…call it a casserole…and feed her family another nourishing meal.

Many a Lutheran has been raised on leftovers. Some Lutherans may even think of themselves as leftovers. They’re retired or soon will be. They’ve always been active at church, and their church has been richly blessed because of them. But now they count themselves among the “saintly seniors.” They move a bit more slowly, with a little less energy, and plan a lot more carefully. Some even seem to think their useful, productive years have passed them by.

Which are you—the smidgen of leftover “flour” or one of the last “drops of oil”? You know where this is going, don’t you—to that Old Testament, famine-afflicted village of Zarephath…to that widow and her son…to their last supper…to that outrageous “Feed me first!” demand by God’s prophet. And of course you also remember what our amazing God did with those leftovers. (If not, read 1 Kings 17.)
So what might our amazing God want to do with—and for—“leftovers” like us?

Before you even try to guess, know that there is a nationwide organization designed for and entirely made up of “Lutheran leftovers.” It’s called OWLS. For more than 30 years, it has been encouraging “leftover” Lutherans to share generous chunks of their less-cluttered time and their collective talent with their churches.

The goal of OWLS is “to give older WELS and ELS Lutherans a continuing sense of purpose and involvement in church-centered work during their maturing years and to provide for their growth, development, service, and happiness in a God-pleasing manner.”

For example, wouldn’t your congregation love to have your help with the children of its Sunday school, vacation Bible school, or Lutheran elementary school? Or maybe you’d prefer helping in the office, or with maintenance, or with visiting shut-ins and nursing homes. Look around your church and you’ll find satisfying service opportunities that can be matched to the preferences and abilities of anyone who may feel like a “left-out leftover.”

Do you still manage to be “up and around” but can no longer be “out and about”? Others face the same predicament. But OWLS wants you to know that you still have options—opportunities to serve—right from your kitchen table. With your prayers and offerings you can support the European Civilian Chaplaincy, which OWLS helps to underwrite, or WELS Prison Ministry, which can always use pen pals and test correctors.

Ask if your church has an OWLS chapter. They typically gather for fellowship, service projects, guest speakers, and fun. If there is no local chapter to answer your questions, you can ask for more information at:

Online: csm.welsrc.net/owls-convention-2018
E-mail: OWLS@newulmtel.net
Mail: P.O. Box 84, New Ulm, MN 56073
Phone: 507-354-4403

Finally, only the Lord knows what he’s going to make out of Lutheran “leftovers.” But knowing our Lord, it’s bound to leave a sweet and satisfying taste in the mouths of the “leftovers” who let him use them!

 

 

 

Race to our Convention for Lutheran Seniors!

Elkhart Lake, Wis., is famous as the site of Road America, a four-mile, 14-turn race track that has hosted the “fastest racers in the world” for over 60 years.

From October 10 to 12, 2018, the town’s fame will grow when the “fastest retirees in the WELS and ELS” gather at the Convention for Lutheran Seniors in the glorious Osthoff Resort, a four-star hotel overlooking Elkhart Lake. The village is west of Sheboygan, midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay.

The convention brings together “senior saints” who are one in faith and fellowship to be spiritually enriched, have fun, meet new friends, and renew old acquaintances. Offerings support the European Civilian Chaplaincy and provide scholarships for Martin Luther College students preparing for the teaching or preaching ministry.

The convention is being hosted by OWLS (Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors) but…you don’t need to be an OWLS member to attend. Come and see for yourself the blessings the group offers to any WELS or ELS member who is 55 or over, retired or not.

We have arranged for a tour of the race track (at safe senior speeds). Other possible excursions include the Kohler Design Center in Kohler and the Wade House Historic Site in Greenbush. Back at the hotel, there will be engaging speakers, worship, fellowship, and plenty of good food.

“Finish Your Race” is the theme of this year’s convention, but “Start Your Race” at these websites:

Registration form: csm.welsrc.net/owls-convention-2018
Osthoff Resort: osthoff.com (to see the hotel but not to register for a room)
Elkhart Lake: elkhartlake.com (plenty to do in a town of 967)
Road America: roadamerica.com (learn why it’s a legend)

So “start your engines,” do your planning, and talk to others about coming along for the ride. See you in Elkhart Lake. It’ll be a hoot!

 

 

 

2018 WELS Lutheran Seniors convention

Seniors from any congregation in the WELS or ELS should set aside Oct. 10-12, 2018, for the OWLS Convention for Seniors, which will be held at the beautiful Osthoff Resort, in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The theme of the convention will be “Finish Your Race.”

Whether your congregation has a seniors group or an OWLS chapter or no senior gatherings for fun and service, you’ll find fellowship, learning, and inspiration at the OWLS Convention for Seniors. Watch the WELS website in spring of 2018 for more information.

 

 

OWLS are “filled with the gospel”

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) met in Pewaukee, Wis., Oct. 10-12, under the theme “Filled with the gospel.” About 175 members from around the United States attended.

The convention was hosted by the Dodge-Washington OWLS. This was the first convention directed by new convention chairman Mr. Werner Lemke.

For a decade, the OWLS have used their offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $50,000 for work in Europe. The convention offering and proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

For four years, the OWLS have provided scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Lailah Thabatah, Heidi Moldenhauer, Tristan Pankow, and Hannah Rundgren received scholarships.

With the convention in Pewaukee this year, attendees were given the opportunity to tour the WELS visitors’ center at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry (CMM), along with a tour of the CMM to learn more about WELS ministry. They were also treated to several presentations about Lutheran traditions and WELS ministry.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the WELS Commission on Special Ministries, says, “All the presenters were excellent. Rev. Aaron Christie’s presentation on Luther’s principles that led to the Lutheran fine arts tradition today was full of interesting examples. The OWLS were moved to hear a presentation by former European Civilian Chaplain Josh Martin and his wife, who received OWLS support during their nine years overseas. Seminary Professor Brad Wordell amazed the audience with the opportunities the Lord is giving us to train pastors around the world through the Pastoral Studies Institute, and Rev. Tony Schultz had the OWLS chuckling with recognition as he talked about opportunities to talk about Jesus.”

This year, the convention elected a new OWLS president, Pastor Em. Norman Schell from Omaha, Neb. Schell has been involved with the convention for years helping with the technology needs.

Next year’s convention will be at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart, Wis., under the theme “Finish Your Race.” All WELS members are invited, even those who aren’t part of an OWLS chapter.

Learn more about the OWLS and all the ministries under the WELS Commission on Special Ministries at wels.net/special-ministries.

 

 

 

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