Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) prepares men to serve in the pastoral ministry by providing them with spiritual, theological, and professional training. Students attend classes for two years, serve as full-time vicars during their third year, and then attend classes and write a thesis in their fourth year. Throughout their time at the seminary, students receive opportunities to serve in a variety of ministries and to experience other cultures to help prepare them for their future calls.
On May 26, 2023, 39 students graduated. The day before, the seminary held its assignment service, where nine of those graduates were assigned to home and world mission fields, including Caleb King (pictured middle in the inset photo), who was assigned to a mission start in North Collin County, Texas. After the service, graduates met with their district presidents and in King’s case, with representatives from WELS Home Missions, including Matthew Vogt (pictured right), a mission counselor.
Following graduation, the seminary provides pastors with opportunities for continued growth through its institute, Grow in Grace. Grow in Grace offers continuing education courses, a mentoring initiative for new graduates, a clearinghouse of resources for pastors, and an annual retreat for pastors who are celebrating milestones in their ministries.
The mentoring program in particular is a blessing to new graduates. Participation is optional but the program has proven so valuable in recent years that nearly every graduate chooses to have a mentor. Resignation from the ministry has significantly decreased since the mentoring program began in 2010.
For more information, visit wisluthsem.org.
In January, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary offers students a two-week learning opportunity known as Winterim. Classes range from special topics presented in the classroom to trips to important biblical locations (pictured left is a group in Turkey) to time working with home mission congregations.
In 2023, the seminary teamed up with WELS Home Missions to organize a church planting course during Winterim hosted at The Way, Fredericksburg, Va. The course was led by home missionaries Jared Oldenburg and Matt Rothe and mission counselor Mark Birkholz, each of whom came with a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. Eleven seminarians traveled to Virginia to learn more about starting new churches in places where WELS may not have an established presence.
“We want to offer students the opportunity to spend time with church-planting pastors who can open their eyes to the challenges and blessings of starting a congregation,” says Bill Tackmier, the WLS professor who organized the trip to Virginia.
During their time at The Way, seminarians studied core principles of confessional Lutheran mission work and were challenged to apply these concepts to actual WELS mission fields. The capstone project for the course was a presentation of each seminarian’s mission strategy.
“Mission planting is an enormous undertaking,” notes Justin Steinke, who is pictured right giving his capstone presentation. “From the early stages on it takes a community of believers who love to share the gospel and a whole synod’s support!”
Did you know?
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary is pursuing accreditation through the Association of Theological Schools. The school began the process by conducting an in-depth self-study that faculty members believe has already led to improvements in the school’s program.
Pastoral Studies Institute
When David, a member at Hope, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, expressed interest in attending a seminary in 2020, his pastor, Mark Henrich (pictured with David and his wife), encouraged him to study through WELS and contacted the Pastoral Studies Institute, a program coordinated by WELS Joint Missions and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, that guides and assists spiritual leaders around the globe through pre-seminary and seminary training.
Once he was accepted into the program, the Pastoral Studies Institute coordinated instructors—including Henrich—to take David through four levels of courses. Some classes are taught in Mandarin, David’s first language. Many classes are online. Most students take one or two classes at a time since they also work full time. David is taking four—and asking for more. He currently is in level three of the program.
David began to lead an online Bible study from his home in March 2022, which has led to 40 East Asians from 20 cities around the world being baptized.
To learn more about David’s story, visit forwardinchrist.net/delightful-trouble.
Mission and ministry
Each February, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary hosts a Mission and Ministry seminar for its students. The seminar teaches students about the resources available and the ministry taking place through the synod’s areas of ministry and affiliated ministries. The event includes displays, devotions, keynote presentations, and breakout presentations.
In his final year of study, each seminary student chooses a topic to explore in depth in a thesis, which is then presented to his classmates.