Welcome to WELS Congregational Services Resource Center. I’d like to explain why we spent time building this site, and why we’re going to spend a lot more time populating it with all sorts of resources.
Our mission statement: “WELS Congregational Services exists to encourage and equip congregations for faithful and fruitful gospel ministry.” Congregational Services has done this for decades through things like: the School of Outreach; the National Conference on Worship, Music and the Arts; the School of Strategic Planning; the International Youth Rally; the Forward with Lutheran Schools program; the Self-Assessment and Adjustment program.
All of those have something in common. They are all done face-to-face. Either you come to an event offered by Congregational Services (like the rally or conference), or an agent of Congregational Services comes to you (like a “school of” or one of the self-assessment programs).
There is always going to be a need for boots-on-the-ground type assistance. However, “encouraging and equipping congregations” in this way also poses some major challenges.
Challenge #1—There is a limit to how much help can be offered. Most of the boots-on-the-ground type help comes from pastors or teachers who have full-time calls. They donate their time to help with these synod-wide efforts. There is only so much they can do without neglecting their responsibilities to their calling body.
Challenge #2—Congregations might have to wait a long time to receive desired help. For example, a congregation knows they need to improve their evangelism efforts. It might be two years before a School of Outreach is offered in their area.
Challenge #3—There are cost constraints for some. Airfare. Rental car. Hotels. If a church sends multiple participants to a school or conference, or if it has consultant(s) come work with the congregation over multiple visits, the costs can be substantial. While these are worthwhile expenditures, the reality is that for many WELS congregations, even with subsidization, the cost can be prohibitive.
In 2017, as part of a strategic planning process, the directors and chairmen of every commission in Congregational Services concluded that we could make much better use of technology to provide the encouragement, assistance, and resources in the fulfillment of our mission. We believe this online resource center provides solutions for those challenges.
Solution #1—Training and assistance is not done just face-to-face. Instead, there are online, video-based resources. For example, all Congregational Service’s “schools of” will eventually be broken into video components with printable PDF resources. There is some drawback to this. It can be beneficial to have periods of question and answers with a live presenter. We believe, however, that this type of give-and-take can still happen through e-mail or video-conferences.
Moreover, we believe there are some pedagogical benefits of operating this way. In a “school of” weekend, congregations get a lot of information pushed at them over a very short amount of time. It is like drinking water out of a fire hose. By having a school broken into multiple components, a congregation could complete the school over multiple weeks, letting them absorb concepts at the speed that works well for them. This is the concept behind training sites like Lynda.com or Udemy.
Most importantly, there will be no limit to how much help can be offered at one time. You could have five-hundred congregations receiving assistance at the same time, since that assistance is video based.
Note that the option to have a presenter come to your area and conduct a face-to-face “school of” live will always be available. The resource center provides another way to receive that assistance.
Solution #2—Help is immediate and asynchronous. I gave the example of a congregation needing to wait years to attend a School of Outreach. When it is converted for online use, a congregation could receive the training and assistance offered in that school immediately. They do not even need to go online at any scheduled time. Because the presentations are video-based, they can access resources anytime. Have insomnia? You could be receiving elder training at 3 a.m. while sitting in your pajamas.
Solution #3—Almost everything is free. There will be no access fee to utilize the resource center. There will be hundreds of resources you can download. Those will all be free. At times, we will provide links to recommended resources that Congregational Services does not own, such as a Bible study produced by Northwestern Publishing House, a piece of music, and so on. We do not own the rights to those. But we do own everything on this resource center. That is free.
If we have something on this site, it is because we believe it satisfies an oft-identified need. There is a challenge that we have seen many of our congregations face. So, we will create resources that we hope help meet those challenges. They will always be free.
When I think about it, that isn’t entirely accurate. You support the work of our synod through your generous congregational mission offerings! A portion of that supports Congregational Services. Thank you for that! My prayer is we can support you, by “encouraging and equipping” your congregation for gospel ministry.
We need your help.
One final, but important, point to make. In our recent strategic planning process, the directors and chairmen vowed to make Congregational Services’ efforts more driven by grassroots input. This resource center is in Beta stage. The structure is built, but it will take two years to add the resources. As you peruse the resource center, you’ll find what we hope to produce, and when we hope those resources will “launch” on the site. There will be new materials almost every week for years.
But we need your help. What are we missing? What needs to be a higher priority? Is there something that we have scheduled to be produced in 2020 that you think our church body needs ASAP? What would help your congregation the most? What would take work off the plate of the pastor and lay-leaders, so that they might spend more time sharing the gospel with the lost and the straying?
To borrow a Scriptural metaphor—You are the shepherds, serving under the Good Shepherd, on the front line, standing between the wolf and the sheep. In Congregational Services, we help make the staff and sling—whatever you need to help you keep the wolf away—whatever you need to help you guide your sheep into green pastures.
What do you need? What would help? We are here to serve your congregation.
Written by Jonathan Hein
You can make a difference. Your prayers and gifts can help WELS ministries carry out their missions.