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