Tag Archive for: Together04072015

Tool kit helps cross-cultural outreach

“Lots of congregations want to reach out with the gospel to the ethnic groups in their communities,” says Rev. Paul Prange. “They’re just not sure how.”

To help congregations witness to their cross-cultural neighbors, Prange has developed a Domestic Tool Kit as part of his role as the synod’s coordinator for global cross-cultural outreach under the WELS Joint Mission Council. “Some congregations have just a few members who are aware of the immigrant groups around them,” says Prange, “and those congregations could probably use some training in cultural competence to get more members ready to welcome new people.”

That kind of training is already available from WELS’ Schools of Outreach, Congregational Assistant Program courses, or certificate courses offered by Martin Luther College. Sometimes the training also can be done by a WELS member from the ethnic group that the congregation wants to reach out to. Prange says that one of his roles is connecting such people to such congregations.

But what if a congregation has already done something like an English as a Second Language program and not seen many results? “That is a typical problem,” says Prange. “The solution is simple on paper but often tricky in real life.” Prange says the solution is to identify members of the ethnic group that the pastor and congregation members already know, find a meeting time and place for them, and ask them to answer a simple question: What are the needs of the immigrant group?

“It doesn’t usually take long to list the needs,” observes Prange. “The interesting challenge comes when the congregation asks itself which of those needs they are in a position to address, and how to turn that activity into an opportunity for people to come into contact with the gospel in Word and sacrament.”

That’s where the Domestic Tool Kit comes in. As part of the tool kit, Prange has identified WELS mentors who are willing to work with congregations in finding contacts, facilitating the meeting to develop a list of needs, and helping the congregation tailor existing programs or start new ones to meet these needs of the immigrant groups.

When it comes time for worship and Bible classes in a language other than English, WELS has a wonderful resource in its Multi-Language Publications (MLP) program. “What people don’t realize about MLP is that if it does not have something for outreach, instruction, or worship in a particular language, it has a process to develop those materials,” says Prange.

Prange adds, “I think people are afraid to get started because they are afraid that the effort will outstrip their resources. But many of the tools in the tool kit have minimal costs associated with them, and some are absolutely free, provided by our pooled resources from Congregation Mission Offerings. With increasing ethnic diversity in our communities, the Domestic Tool Kit may be an idea whose time has come.”

For more information about the Domestic Tool Kit, contact Prange at [email protected]or 414-256-3236. To see examples of the cross-cultural outreach already happening in our synod, view a PowerPoint slideshow at www.wels.net/images.

Seminary graduation in Nigeria

Nine men graduated from Christ the King Lutheran Seminary near Abak, Nigeria, on March 14. The men were from WELS’ two sister synods in Nigeria-seven from All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria and two from Christ the King Lutheran Church of Nigeria. Rev. Joel Jaeger, a visiting professor; Rev. John Holtz, a missionary from Malawi; and Rev. Douglas Weiser, missionary to Nigeria, participated in the service.

This is the fourth graduating class from Christ the King Lutheran Seminary; the last class graduated in 2008.

The new pastors completed five years of formal studies—two in the preseminary and three in the seminary—as well as several years of service in congregations. “Men from both Nigerian synods study together in both preseminary and seminary,” says Weiser. “For the All Saints students that means living far from home and leaving their families behind for months at a time.” Nigerian pastors and professional school teachers teach courses for the preseminary years, while Weiser, two Christ the King pastors, and 16 volunteer WELS pastors lead the seminary courses.

Jaeger, pastor at Christ, Milwaukee, Wis., has taught seminary courses in Nigeria four different times, most recently from Feb. 19–March 16. “I never would have imagined that I would be involved in training pastors, but I think this system works really well,” says Jaeger. “Their parish ministry is so different in so many ways, and yet it’s exactly the same because it’s preaching law and gospel, it’s applying God’s Word to souls that are hurting, and it’s helping people see the joy in Christ’s salvation. To be part of that process, to have the Holy Spirit use us to get [students] to that point, is really special.”

Weiser says that the next round of students will begin preseminary classes in July 2016.

For the first time, All Saints Lutheran Church of Nigeria will run its own preseminary, allowing All Saints students to be closer to home for the first two years of their training. A grant from WELS World Missions allowed All Saints to construct a building to use for these classes as well as for an administrative office for the synod. All the students then will complete their studies at Christ the King Lutheran Seminary. “By joining theological students for seminary training, the two synods enhance their fellowship in God’s Word and a sense of unity among their pastors,” says Weiser.

Weiser serves part-time as a non-resident missionary to WELS’ two sister synods in Nigeria. He works closely with 26 national pastors who serve 56 congregations/preaching stations and 5,203 members.

Learn more about the graduation, including the trials the students went through over the years, in a recent blog by Missionary Holtz. Learn more about our sister synods in Nigeria at www.wels.net/missions.

Congregation Mission offerings rise

Congregation Mission Offerings for March totaled $1,729,000 or $261,000 (17.8%) more than last March. Year to date, offerings have totaled $4,229,000 or $219,000 (5.5%) more than the same period last year. These offerings represent 103.7% of subscriptions, meaning that for the first quarter of the year offerings are 3.7% above what was projected. We are thankful to our congregations for this generous support, and we thank God for his blessings.

Synod statistics for 2014

The synod statistics for 2014 show some mixed results. Total baptized membership fell slightly from 376,177 to 373,022, a decline of 0.8%.  Communicant membership also dropped slightly from 298,899 to 296,080, a decline of 0.9%. There were slightly fewer infant baptisms (5,980 in 2014 compared to 6,074 in 2013), but there was a small increase in adult baptisms, adult confirmations, and members received by profession of faith. Fewer members were lost due to death and departures for other churches. There was a small decrease in church attendance (42.4% to 42.1%). Giving for all purposes increased synodwide from $331,704,402 to $338,534,947 (an increase of just over 2%). Per communicant, giving for all purposes increased from $1,110 to $1,143.

Many factors produce statistics in a church. We know, of course, that God remains in control of his church and that the faithful proclamation of God’s Word remains the only thing on which the life and health of God’s church depend. At best, a statistical report can be one more reminder for us to examine our faithfulness in being stewards of the blessings God gives—blessings of time, resources, his Word, and the opportunities to proclaim the saving gospel to as many people as possible.

You can see the complete statistics here.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder