Tag Archive for: Together06042024

Vacancies remain after pastoral assignments

Students and their wives at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis., learned where they will be serving as vicars, teachers, and pastors in two special services held May 22 and May 23 in the auditorium on campus. The Conference of Presidents announced a total of 79 assignments in all 12 districts of WELS.

On the evening of May 22, 40 second-year pastoral ministry students received vicarage assignments, and seven of their wives received teaching assignments in WELS schools either connected to the congregations where their husbands were assigned or in the area. While most of these assignments are to WELS congregations, one man will vicar in Medellin, Colombia, through the WELS World Mission office. Through careful planning with the WELS Home Mission office, 29 of the men were assigned to serve as Vicars in a Mission Setting.

Pastoral formation, including the year of vicarship, is the heart of what WLS does. This formation happens because of self-supporting congregations and missions around the country that partner with WLS in this work. We thank God for the supervising pastors in the field who are willing to give so much time to each vicar, for the supportive people of WELS, and for these men who have offered themselves for service in Christ’s church.

On the morning of May 23, 26 men received their first calls into pastoral ministry, one man returned to the Assignment Committee to receive his first parish call, and five recent WLS graduates were reassigned to their present fields of labor. Six of the graduates were assigned to serve Home Mission congregations. Four of the candidates were assigned to congregations that had been vacant for more than two years.

There had been 97 requests for candidates. With the 27 candidates available, 70 of those requests went unfilled. After the Assignment Committee did its work, there are still 146 vacancies for pastor-trained parish men synodwide, an 11 percent vacancy rate. Although 45 men graduated in the preseminary program at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this year with plans to enroll at WLS next year, they will not be available to serve as pastors for four more years.

Because of the high vacancy rate, two floor committees at the 2023 synod convention asked Pres. Schroeder to appoint a Ministry Recruitment Task Force. This task force is presenting its first report to the districts in convention this summer. That report predicts that the pastoral vacancy rate will return to five percent in ten years as larger WLS classes matriculate, WELS congregations close and merge, and current pastors retire at age 70.

The task force is also suggesting 20 more immediate remedies for the synod’s current pastor and teacher shortages. We ask the Lord’s blessing on the district conventions discussing the remedies. We pray that the Lord of the harvest will send more workers into his harvest field.

Read the Ministry Recruitment Task Force’s report in the Report to the Twelve Districts.

Rev. Paul Prange, administrator of WELS Board for Ministerial Education


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2024 humanitarian aid grants approved

In May, WELS Christian Aid and Relief announced humanitarian aid grants totaling $490,154 for Fiscal Year 2024-25. WELS Home Missions will receive $64,258 in assistance, and WELS World Missions will receive $425,896.

WELS home and world missionaries develop humanitarian aid projects to reflect Christ’s compassion to the people of their communities and to build relationships that lead to opportunities to share the gospel.

Each year home and world missionaries, in conjunction with their mission boards and administrative teams, submit applications for grants to help them carry out humanitarian aid projects in their mission fields. These grants help to supply basic needs like water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, medical care for the sick and dying, mosquito netting for people who live in areas where malaria is a problem, school supplies for underprivileged children, and many other needs. At a spring meeting, WELS Christian Aid and Relief meets with representatives of WELS Home and World Missions to review these requests and designate funding for approved projects.

While many of the humanitarian aid efforts are ongoing, new projects are approved too. This year, Christian Aid and Relief is providing funding to Cross of Life, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Cross of Life is located across from a motel used by the Canadian government as a shelter for international refugees. Though the government provides some basic supplies, the refugees still need more assistance. This grant will help Cross of Life supply basic needs like clothes, cases of water, and baby supplies like formula and diapers.

Intown, Atlanta, Ga., is also receiving funding for a new effort to provide transportation assistance. One of the greatest needs for low-income families in Atlanta is transportation. Many low-income families struggle to attend worship, Bible study, and other church events. This grant supplies Uber or Lyft rides for these families so they can come to church to worship their Savior and study God’s Word.

Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, says “Most of us in America are spoiled. We flip a switch, and the light comes on. We turn the handle, and the water flows. Many in our world lack the basic needs that we tend to take for granted. Our humanitarian aid grant program allows our home and world missionaries to supply basic needs to people who are struggling and show them the compassion of Christ. This, of course, leads to many conversations about our Savior.”

The following Home Mission congregations are receiving grants:

  • Hope, Ontario, Canada
  • Living Hope, Commerce City, Colo.
  • Christ, Denver, Colo.
  • Christ the Rock, Farmington, N.M.
  • Cross of Life, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
  • Intown, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • New Mission, Bentonville, Ark.
  • Amazing Grace, Amarillo, Texas
  • Christ Our Refuge, Hewitt, Texas
  • Christ the Rock, Hutto, Texas
  • Abiding Savior, Killeen, Texas
  • Divine Peace, Rockwall, Texas
  • Our Savior, West San Antonio, Texas
  • St. Peter, Milwaukee, Wis.
  • Hope, Deerfield, Wis.
  • Bethlehem, Richland Center, Wis.

The following World Mission fields are receiving grants:

  • Africa—Malawi, Zambia, Nigeria, and Uganda
  • Asia—Indonesia, Nepal, and Pakistan
  • Europe—Albania and England
  • Latin America

To learn more about the work of WELS Christian and Relief or to support its ministry, visit wels.net/relief.



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Everyone Outreach gets a refresh 

WELS Congregational Services has recently revised Everyone Outreach, a popular program designed to help congregations discover their thought habits and develop new thinking and behaviors that build a culture of outreach. While maintaining its original elements, the revised program will now be a five-hour event instead of the original eight hours.

Rev. Eric Roecker, director of WELS Evangelism and co-developer of the program, says the goal of this revision is to encourage more participation. “Not only might this allow more congregations to participate, but we also hope a larger percentage of each congregation’s members will get involved,” he says. “This is important because the more people who participate, the better chance an outreach culture will be built in each congregation.”

More than 125 congregations have already hosted Everyone Outreach workshops since the program debuted in 2021.

Saving Grace, Mobile, Ala., was one of those congregations. “[Everyone Outreach] challenged deep-seated ideas about how we go about reaching those in our neighborhoods and looked at principles that held us back in our outreach and attacked those thoughts and changed those ideas,” says Rev. Thomas Spiegelberg, pastor at Saving Grace. “I do think it changed a lot of people and how they think about their church and their connection with how they share the gospel.”

Since the workshop, the congregation is focusing more on its children’s ministry and being more intentional with its community outreach events. It also is working on creating a welcoming environment at church for visitors and nonmembers, including extending its Sunday morning experience and encouraging its members to be friendly and open. “We have heavy food and snacks after church,” explains Don Baldwin, a member at Saving Grace and participant in the Everyone Outreach workshop. “When we have food, people stay and visit. And for the new folks, they really enjoy visiting and having conversations and fellowship. That fellowship is important for evangelism.”

He continues, “Everyone Outreach made us talk more about these and get organized.”

Saving Grace has had between 15–20 adult confirmations in the last year, and its new members are also sharing the message they discovered.

“You just want others to have what you have,” says Baldwin.

Learn more about Everyone Outreach and how your congregation can participate at everyoneoutreach.com. Read a story about how Don and Ammie Baldwin plant gospel seeds in their neighborhood in this month’s Forward in Christ magazine.



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Join us at Taste of Missions on June 15

Taste of Missions is less than two weeks away! Join us on Sat., June 15, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., for a fun day of food, fellowship, and learning about WELS mission work. The event kicks off with a special worship service at 11 a.m. (Central) when we will commission nine new home and world missionaries:

  • Nathan Wagenknecht—Native Christians Network missionary
  • Peter Janke—Missionary to Australia
  • Jake Vilhauer—One Africa Team missionary
  • Matthias Borgwardt—Peridot-Our Savior’s Lutheran School, San Carlos Apache Reservation, Ariz.
  • Ben Bitter—Peace, Trinity, Fla.
  • Clayton Fury—New mission start: Conway, Ark.
  • Tristan Pankow—Living Shepherd, Laramie, Wyo.
  • Eli Steinbrenner—Good Shepherd, Plymouth, Wis.
  • Jacob Ungemach—New mission start: Cincinnati/Oakley, Ohio

All WELS members are invited to attend the commissioning worship service whether you register for the event or not! Doors open at 10 a.m. It will also be livestreamed at tasteofmissions.com/commissioning-service-2024.

By registering for the entire event, attendees will receive tasting tickets to three ethnic food trucks. Mingle with home and world missionaries and enjoy live music by a Latin American trio under the large outdoor tent. A kids’ activity station will feature a bounce house, passport scavenger hunt, mission-themed activity booklets, and more. Enjoy Home and World Missions headlines, Moments with Missionaries presentations, and a Q&A with the newly commissioned missionaries during the afternoon presentations from 2-4:15 p.m. There’s something for the entire family to enjoy! Find all the details at tasteofmissions.com/event-details.

Can’t be there in person? Register as a virtual attendee to watch the events via livestream, view new on-demand video updates from other home and world missionaries, and try one of the new recipes posted on the website on June 15.

Registration is $15 per person, with children 13 and under attending for free. Or attend virtually for free! Learn more and register at tasteofmissions.com today.



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