Working together to support congregations

WELS Congregational Services has put together a five-year plan to direct its work. The plan addresses current demographic challenges facing many WELS congregations. Plans include  

  • creating a present-day mission emphasis;
  • better capitalizing on WELS’ historic strengths;
  • focusing on closing the “back door”;
  • striving to strengthen the family;
  • helping aging, rural congregations prayerfully work through their options; and
  • assisting congregations with self-assessment and planning.

Each area of WELS Congregational Services is working on different aspects of the plan, but many times the groups are working together to develop resources to face these challenges. For example, the Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools teamed up to develop a tool that helps congregations with outreach and allows them to capitalize on one of WELS’ historic strengths—its schools.  

WELS maintains one of the largest private schools systems in the United States. The greatest growth in WELS’ school system over the past 20 years has been in early childhood ministries. Many congregations have started early childhood ministries to reach into their communities to share the gospel with nonmember families and create a gateway for new members to join the church. Research has shown, though, that while these ministries are doing a wonderful job sharing God’s Word with their young students, most are not reaching their students’ families. To help congregations create a harvest strategy that might better share God’s Word with these families, the Commissions on Evangelism and Lutheran Schools created Telling the Next Generation: Utilizing our Schools for Outreach.  

Telling the Next Generation is a daylong workshop that helps congregation and school leaders focus on their joint mission, build relationships within the church and with school families, and develop an organized program to connect school families with the Word. Since the program began in April 2016, 17 workshops have been held in 11 of WELS’ 12 districts. Almost 800 hundred people from 109 congregations have participated.  

“The Telling the Next Generation workshop has had an incredible impact on the early childhood ministry of Apostles,” says Jay Bickelhaupt, pastor at Apostles, Billings, Mont. “We walked away with a detailed ministry plan and a refreshed focus to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus to children and their families. Our meetings and future planning have become more streamlined as we go forward with our agreed upon outreach and evangelism goals.”  

Bickelhaupt also reports that within two weeks of the workshop, God blessed Apostles with two preschool families in the congregation’s Bible basics class. As he notes, “Telling the Next Generation has empowered our ministry team spiritually with the gospel and has provided the practical lessons we needed to position our early childhood ministry as an outreach arm to our community.”  

WELS Congregational Services will continue to work on other aspects of its five-year plan and release new tools and resources as they are developed.  


Learn about the ministries supported by Congregational Services at wels.net/congregational-services. Discover more about the current demographic challenges facing WELS and Congregational Services’ plans in the November edition of WELS Connection. 


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Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

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