Tag Archive for: youth and family ministries

New program for teen ministry

WELS Discipleship has released a new teen ministry program—WELS Youth Night, a series of youth-focused events for high school students and youth leaders from local WELS congregations.

“God created us to be in community with each other. We belong to him. We belong together. That is the idea of WELS Youth Night—to bring teens and youth leaders from area churches . . . together,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Discipleship.

The program was introduced for the first time at the WELS International Youth Rally earlier this summer. While the WELS International Youth Rally provides an opportunity for youth from all over the country to grow in their faith together, it happens only every other year and is difficult to replicate. WELS Youth Night is meant to create that community at a local level, offering area teens and youth leaders a way to encourage and support one another in their faith on a more consistent basis.

“[These events] are meant to supplement the youth ministry that is happening at the local level,” says Dobberstein. “It’s about building relationships, creating a community, experiencing faith together.”

WELS Discipleship provides all the resources for congregations to hold a series of three WELS Youth Nights, with suggested dates of mid-October, end of January, and post-Easter. At each event, teens from the area’s churches can experience an evening of games, music, prayer, a keynote address, small group discussion, and fun with other high school youth. Resources include a keynote address video presentation, small group discussion guides, training for youth leaders, a planning timeline and guide, a promotional media kit, as well as ideas for music and games.

Learn more about WELS Youth Night and download resources for the first event.

Sign up for youth leader resources updates.

Read about a Martin Luther College student who is part of the WELS Youth Night Committee and his commitment to reaching out to the next generation.



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WELS Family Devotions

New family devotions from WELS Discipleship

WELS Commission on Discipleship has started offering devotions developed for the entire family to use. The devotions will coincide with the previous Sunday’s Bible readings. Each devotion is complete with a set of questions for different age groups, a prayer, and hymn verses that can be sung or spoken. Downloadable printable versions are available as well.

You can subscribe to have the devotions e-mailed to you at wels.net/subscribe, find them on the WELS Facebook page fb.com/welslutherans, or visit wels.net/family-devotions.

“The foundation of the Christian family begins at home. What an opportunity in coming weeks for parents to commit to starting and sustaining a good and godly habit,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Commission on Discipleship.

These family devotions will be offered three times a week. Dobberstein says this should more likely set up families for success. “We didn’t want to set up families to feel like they are failing if they miss a devotion. The goal is to create a doable program to help families who may have no devotional life or who struggle to keep it going. With this model, families can use them as they have time throughout the week.”

He says the devotions have been developed to assist parents and children in the spiritual life at home, encourage people to follow God’s instructions for home devotional life, teach families how and when to have home devotions, and encourage congregations in their support of their member families.

“Just a few short weeks ago, family calendars were blissfully filled with future events, meetings, games, and activities,” says Dobberstein. “These devotions can help parents spend spiritual time with their children during this time of upheaval and uncertainty.”



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Celebrating the blessings of WELS youth ministry

As one decade comes to a close and another begins, WELS youth ministry programs have exciting milestones and events on the horizon.

First, the monthly video news magazine Kids Connection is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Created to complement the WELS Connection monthly video news magazine, Kids Connection encourages children and their families to “stay connected to Jesus” through Christ-centered stories and segments presented by two teenage hosts.

“We have an incredible number of passionate kids and adults in our church body,” says Mrs. Kris Snyder, producer. “God places each of us in spaces and situations and in different relationships to nurture our faith and provide us with opportunities to serve him by serving others. Kids Connection is our chance to share their stories and connect us through our common faith.”

Snyder recalls how the tagline “stay connected to Jesus” first came to be a signature element of the program.

“Early on, we used the line ‘stay connected to Jesus’ to close a few episodes, just encouraging kids to stay in their Bibles, to learn more about their Savior,” Snyder says. “Soon, kids began to quote that line when they wrote letters to us; it became a permanent tagline. I even heard it used during one of our WELS grade school graduations!”

Kids Connection is valuable in numerous settings, including grade schools, Sunday schools, preschools, early childhood education centers, and Christian homes. It can even be shown after worship for the whole congregation or during visits to elderly homebound church members.

Another way for young people to stay connected is the WELS International Youth Rally. The next rally will be held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, June 23–26, 2020, under the theme “Vision 2020: Seeing Christ Clearly, Serving Christ Boldly.”

“So much in our culture distracts, distorts, or outright denies the incredible love of God who sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for their sins,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Commission on Discipleship. “This rally will position Christ and his cross in front of them to encourage clarity of faith and motivate bold service to him in their lives.”

Youth rally attendees will join more than 2,000 others who share their faith, making this event the largest regular assembly of WELS members. Special speakers and workshops will further bring into focus the meaning of their Savior’s presence in their lives today and in the life to come. Christ-centered discussions of critical topics like evangelism, anxiety, and social media will guide and empower teens long after the event.

“We don’t want the rally to impact them for just four days,” says Dobberstein. “We want this to be transformational in their lives as they understand who they are and what their God has equipped them to do.”

Attendees also will be able to enjoy the Anakeesta Theme Park, river tubing, paintball, and other recreational activities around Knoxville for an additional fee, all the time growing through fellowship with their Christian brothers and sisters.

Churches and schools are encouraged to start promoting and planning for the youth rally by announcing the dates of the event to church teens and youth leaders and by connecting with the event on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Registration booklets will be available at churches and online in January. Early-bird registration begins March 2.

To learn more about and subscribe to Kids Connection, visit wels.net/kidsconnection. To learn more about the 2020 WELS International Youth Rally, visit wels.net/youthrally.



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Transforming Youth Ministry

WELS youth ministers are recognizing the importance of Christian mentoring and working to create meaningful relationships with young adults.

Alicia A. Neumann

It all started two years ago at a conference at St. Croix Lutheran High School, West St. Paul, Minn. Approximately 40 WELS youth workers from around the country met to talk about their ministries. “We spent a weekend talking about what’s going on with our youth,” says Kory Henkel, member at Rock of Ages, Madison, Tenn., and one of the presenters for the new WELS School of Youth and Family. “We found out that regardless of where we are in the country, we are all having the same issues and the same challenges with youth ministry.”

Reaching the youth

Those challenges include youth members becoming disconnected with the church after they are confirmed, particularly in high school and college. “We’re living in a post-truth society, and we see how all of this is impacting youth ministry as well,” says Henkel. “Faith priorities are made by the time you’re 18. If you’re not actively involved in a church, the chances of you becoming involved are very slim. It’s a very important, formative time. As a church, we have a great opportunity to reach people who are forming their opinions and their entire lives.”

According to Henkel, one of the biggest thing kids are looking for is affinity. “With social media, we’ve never been more connected, but they’re not real relationships,” he says. “Relationships with their friends, classmates, and peers are oftentimes fragmented and shallow. So we have the amazing opportunity to show the youth of our congregations what real, genuine relationships look like by showing them the love of their Savior Jesus—not just in Bible study, but in everyday life.”

He says the best youth ministry happens when adults grow in faith and live authentic lives with teenagers. “Do normal things; live your life with kids and show them Christ through that,” he says. “Mentor-based relationships are important, and they are missing in the lives of kids today. By equipping families, lay leaders, and pastors to mentor kids through their formative years, we can transform that head knowledge into heart knowledge.”

Practicing Christian mentoring

Tad Schubring, director of youth education at St. Mark, De Pere, Wis., is doing just that. Schubring has been involved with Christian mentoring for the past five years. During that time, he has started a program to provide training and encouragement for other adults who want to start mentoring.

When he first started looking at Christian mentoring, Schubring went to a youth ministry conference that spent a lot of time explaining what it meant to be a mentor. “In Mark 3:14, it says that Jesus appointed 12 that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach,” says Schubring. “Jesus could have had 5,000 people with him all of the time, but he chose not to. He wanted to go deeper with a few. So Christian mentoring is modeled after that—spending quality time with youth and having an intentional relationship with them.”

Schubring says that motivated him to get involved with mentoring, but he didn’t know where to start. “I remember sitting down when I first heard about this, thinking, How am I going to do this? Where do I start? I don’t feel qualified. I don’t have enough time in the day. How is this going to work?” he says. “But thankfully the Holy Spirit doesn’t give up.”

He said a book called The Be-With Factor helped clarify some things for him. “I looked at all of the people God had already put in my life; I needed to be intentional with those people and share the gospel with my actions,” says Schubring. “It’s very clear in James and throughout the Bible that that’s what you’re supposed to do and that is how we love God—by obeying his commands, by being intentional and being held accountable to those people God has put in your life.”

He talked to families in his congregation about the ministry and began looking for young people who were interested in being mentored. One of them was Macario Sierra. “I was up for it,” says Sierra. “I thought that it would be good for me to be mentored by someone like Tad because I looked up to him and I saw how happy he was with his life. I wanted to be as happy as he was.”

Schubring and Sierra met each week after school for several months. “We’d go out to grab a bite to eat or hang out around the church and discuss what was going on with my life,” says Sierra. “Tad would often give me great advice on how to deal with things.”

According to Sierra, that was one of the best parts about being mentored. “It was great having someone to talk to, someone who went through what I was kind of going through in high school, and also just having a friend,” says Sierra. “Tad was able to lead me in the right directions in choices that I made. It gave me sort of an idea of what I wanted in life and what I should expect from myself.”

Sierra says he would definitely recommend mentoring to others. “It’s a great thing to be a part of, because it helps both people involved and it helps both of you grow,” he says. “It offers a chance to better yourself and to better someone else, creates a new bond, and gives you a friend you can rely on. Same thing for adults who have the opportunity to be a mentor—give it a chance and take the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Schubring says mentoring Sierra and others has made a big impact on him. “The biggest takeaway is remembering that mentoring is being about caught in the act of being a Christian,” he says. “Be yourself, have fun, and share the gospel through your actions when you’re with them.”

Schubring says mentoring has also changed the way he looks at youth ministry. “Jesus gave us the Great Commission and reassures that us that he’ll be with us always,” he says. “So knowing this, you look at things differently. When I started out doing youth ministry, the measure was the number of people. But now God has given me a new measuring stick. It’s not about the numbers anymore; it’s about depth with individuals. And what better way to create a deep, meaningful relationship than to be with them.”

Alicia Neumann is a member at Christ, Zumbrota, Minnesota.

This is the first article in a four-part series on youth ministry. Next month’s article will focus on games, mixers, and activities and youth-driven Bible studies.


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Author: Alicia A. Neumann
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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