Tag Archive for: Together10212014

Pastor partners training held

On Sept. 23-24, 37 pastors participated in mentor training. Through Pastor Partners – a program offered by Grow in Grace, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s institute for continuing education – seminary graduates are voluntarily paired with a mentor to help them through the first three years of ministry.

Pastors from Alaska to Arizona attended in person, and others joined via Google hangouts from New York, South Carolina, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, and even Southeast Asia. These mentors are a sounding board, providing a listening ear for new pastors to discuss troubling, difficult, or new situations and ask for prayer and advice. By the third year, mentors can talk about bigger picture items such as a church’s—or pastor’s personal—five- and ten-year plan and helping strengthen the ties to other pastors in the circuit.

Rev. Richard Gurgel, Grow in Grace director and seminary professor, discussed how Pastors Partners can work hand-in-hand with circuit pastors. “A mentor works himself out of a job,” he says, as the mentor guides a mentee through only the first three years of ministry. A circuit pastor cares for every pastor and congregation through their whole time in the circuit.

Rev. Jon Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling, reminded mentors how important it is for new pastors to have a home life and remember that his wife and family are part of his support system. He also highlighted how Pastor Partners provides support for pastors’ wives so they do not feel left out or forgotten at a new call.

Rev. Tyler Schinnick, who was assigned to Martin Luther, Neenah, Wis., in May, is thankful for the program. “Being a first-time pastor can feel a bit overwhelming at times, since it seems like there are so many things that you could and should be doing. My conversations with John [Qualmann] have helped me take a step back and think clearly about how I can use my time to put myself in the best position to serve God’s people. This fresh perspective has been a blessing to me as I’ve moved into this new role,” he says.

OWLS meet for 30th annual convention

The Organization of WELS Seniors (OWLS) met for its 30th annual convention Oct. 6-10 in Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Nearly 200 members from around the United States came together under the theme “Share the Living Water.”

The convention theme was echoed by keynote speaker, Rev. Wayne Mueller, who urged OWLS never to retire from sharing their Savior. Rev. Jim Aderman acquainted the group with the work of China Partners, and WELS Chief Technology Officer Mr. Martin Spriggs spoke about using technology for spiritual growth and outreach. Other workshops offered opportunities to learn about improving health, leader dogs for the blind, and sharing your faith in a conversation.

Continuing its tradition of supporting the WELS European Civilian Chaplaincy program, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe, OWLS raised $56,045.31 for the program. This year, they were privileged to hear from Mr. and Mrs. Mike Tracy, who experienced WELS ministry to the military firsthand while stationed around the United States and in Europe.

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of the Commission on Special Ministries, says, “The OWLS demonstrates that retirement is not the end of your Christian service, that there’s a lot of ways in which we serve the Lord all our lives. Their caring for each other, their continuous support of ministry, their act of working in their churches—these are all ways they demonstrate that seniors have a lot to contribute to the church.”

Learn more about OWLS at www.wels.net/owls.

Hymnal project survey

The WELS Hymnal Project team is asking for your input. Be a part of the development process by filling out a survey about the current WELS Christian Worship and Christian Worship: Supplement hymn books and how WELS members use them in worship and personally. It will take about 20 minutes.

During 2014, the WELS Hymnal Project has conducted three previous surveys to solicit input about how the current hymnal is being used and how the new hymnal can best serve our church body. The first was for pastors, the second for teachers, and the third for musicians. This fourth survey, intended for all WELS members, will ask for feedback on things like chanting psalms, instruments that accompany worship, wording for the songs and prayers of worship, and singing hymns and songs of the liturgy in four-part harmony.

The survey results will help the WELS Hymnal Project committee analyze the issues that have already been identified and make decisions about the next hymnal. Rev. Jonathan Bauer, communications committee chairman of the WELS Hymnal Project, says, “While the survey isn’t by any means a vote, it will help the subcommittees make various decisions. Just as an example, question 22 asks about several items that Christian Worship doesn’t currently include that we are considering including in the next book. So we want to know which ones people would find valuable.”

The WELS Hymnal Project is a collaboration between the Conference of Presidents, Northwestern Publishing House, and the Commission on Worship.

The deadline to submit your input is Tues., Nov. 25, 2014. Learn more about the hymnal project at www.welshymnal.com.

Benefiting our workers

Starting Nov. 1, WELS VEBA is offering limited open enrollment into its health care plan. Eligible workers at WELS/Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) organizations that have at least one worker already using WELS VEBA can enroll through Nov. 30.

WELS established the WELS VEBA health care plan more than 30 years ago to provide for its workers’ health care needs. About 80 percent of WELS and ELS calling bodies provide this nationwide, long-term health coverage to their pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and lay workers.

“WELS VEBA’s strength lies in the large number of workers and calling bodies across the country that join together and participate in our synod’s health plan,” says Mr. Joshua Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans. “In this way, WELS VEBA has been able to provide consistent, comprehensive benefits to our workers and their families for generations.”

Knowing that coverage will remain intact offers peace of mind to called workers when they receive calls to different ministries or congregations, making health care coverage not a factor in the decision-making process.

Through WELS VEBA, health care costs of covered workers are shared across all participating calling bodies throughout the synod. Churches and schools don’t have to worry about the cost of benefits when making a call, since the plan’s premium costs are the same across all age groups. WELS VEBA also doesn’t charge higher premiums based on an individual’s medical care needs. It protects called workers and their calling bodies by ensuring comprehensive coverage for all participants in the plan.

“As the church’s plan, we understand the need to keep coverage costs stable from year to year and as low as reasonably possible, so that calling bodies can preserve valuable assets to fund ministry efforts,” says Peterman.

Congregations appreciate this effort to maintain reasonable costs as they look to provide health care for their workers. Mr. Stan Bothe, congregation president at Peace, Green Lake, Wis., says, “We’re not big and we don’t have unlimited funding, so to know we can offer our teachers and our pastor a good health plan that will meet their needs and that they can take with them if they should be called into a new ministry is a relief. It’s important to take care of the people who work in the ministry.”

Eligible workers will be mailed information about the limited open enrollment in late October. Learn more at www.welsbpo.net or by calling 414-256-3860.

Conference of Presidents hold its fall meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its fall meeting Oct. 13-16. In addition to the regular discussions regarding congregations and called workers, the COP took the following actions:

  • Adopted a timetable for the special offering to be held in the fall of 2015 intended to eliminate the synod’s capital debt.
  • Made changes to clarify and strengthen the process that determines whether former called workers will be restored for eligibility to be called into the public ministry.
  • Extended for another year the call to Rev. Jon Hein as the director of the Commission for Congregational Counseling (CCC). The COP recognized that good progress is being made and that the CCC is providing significant benefits to congregations as they address challenges and opportunities in their ministry.
  • Called Mr. Bradley Price to serve as the director of WELS Prison Ministry.
  • Approved a proposal to gather additional statistical information from congregations, specifically in the areas of the overall age of members.
  • Reviewed plans presented by the Reformation 500 committee. One significant project will be the development of a documentary of the life and work of Martin Luther.
  • Continued work on the revision of the paper, “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage.” The revision attempts to clarify the proper application of biblical principles, especially as they relate to pornography and the Internet. The revision is nearing completion and will be available sometime in 2015.
  • Decided that, when in-depth study of matters of doctrine and practice become necessary, the COP will assign the study to specially appointed ad hoc committees. The COP prefers this approach to having a standing doctrinal commission that addresses all doctrinal studies.
  • Decided to list staff ministers in a separate category in the synod yearbook beginning in 2016. Currently staff ministers are listed with teachers.

The COP also received the following reports:

  • Michigan District President John Seifert provided a progress report on the Wartburg Project, a private and independent effort by WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod pastors to produce a new translation of the Bible by Lutherans.
  • Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Professor Richard Gurgel provided an update on Grow in Grace, the seminary’s institute for continuing education.
  • Representatives of the WELS Military Services Committee outlined the changes that have taken place in the policies and regulations dealing with military chaplains.
  • Martin Luther College Professor Jon Schaefer reviewed the progress in the New Teacher Induction program
  • Representatives of the WELS VEBA plan shared plans to provide information to congregations regarding the benefits of WELS VEBA to our congregations and workers.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder