Stewardship Program Options – Encouraging Word – July 2018

Stewardship Program Options

WELS Congregational Services is producing a new stewardship program for 2019. Meanwhile, congregations can find stewardship resources and quality programs at wels.net/stewardship. If you haven’t already tried them, here are a couple of recent programs with good reviews.

Joyful Generosity guides followers of Christ through the Bible’s clear teachings on the management of our possessions. The program includes six weeks of worship and Bible study materials as well as 21 personal devotions. Dave Fleischmann, pastor at Trinity, Kaukauna, Wis., was happy with the gospel approach of the series, saying, “I pray that it affects the hearts of my members as much as it affected my heart.”

364 Days of Thanksgiving focuses on how we can be thankful every day for the blessings God gives us. The emphasis includes three weeks of worship and Bible study resources. Churches can bulk order a devotional journal at a discount for members to use to record their blessings. Ray Schumacher is a member at St. Peter’s, Helenville. His congregation decided to hand out the book to encourage members to count God’s blessings. Members liked the idea so much that each time an announcement was made about the program, a member would step forward to cover the cost of books. In the end many people could take a book for free. “The other thing that caught my attention,” Ray shared, “was that people were following through. They would talk about how the process helped them see how many blessings they had received.”

Resources for Processing IRA Charitable Distributions – Encouraging Word – July 2018

Resources for Processing IRA Charitable Distributions

WELS members looking to authorize a gift to the Lord’s work through their IRAs, and congregations needing a template to acknowledge an IRA qualified charitable distribution, can find these resources at wels.net/qcd. The page also shares articles for promoting this giving opportunity.

Anybody 70.5 years or older can transfer up to $100,000 per year to charity free from federal and potentially state income tax. Those who don’t need the required minimum distributions from their IRA might consider directing those to ministry to save on taxes, then using the cash that would have gone to charity for other needs.

Contact your local WELS Christian giving counselor for free assistance.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – July 2018

Teaching Stewardship to Children

Share this month’s planned giving article, “Ideas for Teaching Stewardship to Children” via your church newsletter, e-mail, or web site. The article contains practical ideas for teaching stewardship to children including modeling a generous lifestyle, managing money, donating, and volunteering. Most important, though, is regular time in God’s Word with our kids so that we have God’s power to redirect our focus from ourselves to others.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – July 2018

Stewardship Deals with Issues Much Bigger than Money

“I once saw a plaque with the following inscription: ‘What you have is God’s gift to you. What you do with what you have is your gift to God.’ ‘What I do with what God has given to me’—those words are a good working definition of stewardship . . . My stewardship, then, is my management of what God in heaven has given to me on earth. Stewardship is a personal, practical matter. It involves God and me. It involves what I did with my life yesterday, as well as my plans for tomorrow. It involves the way I am spending my time right now. Stewardship is an especially practical matter for the Christian . . . We know the Savior who bought us with his blood . . . we have a desire to serve our Lord and Savior with all that we have.”

Wolfgramm, Arno J. Stewardship: What I Do with What God Gave Me. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2001.

Your Gifts, God’s Blessings 2018 – Encouraging Word – May 2018

Your Gifts, God’s Blessings 2018

“Your gifts, God’s blessings: An annual report to our members” highlights the blessings that God has showered on WELS through the gifts of its members. Learn more about

  • Russell Scoggins, a seminary student from Texas who served in the Washington, D.C., area, during his vicar year;
  • Carl Boeder, a Martin Luther College student who began studying secondary instrumental music and elementary education but transitioned to pastor studies and is now busy studying three different languages;
  • Jackson, a new Lutheran living in Venezuela, who has opened his home for weekly worship;
  • Santo Tomas, one of WELS’ first Spanish-speaking congregations, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017; and
  • Mike Indest, a member of Crown of Life, New Orleans, La., who recently completed Martin Luther College’s Chaplain Certification Program.

The report includes photos of Christian brothers and sisters around the world, stories of faith, updates on WELS’ ministry, and a summary of WELS’ financial picture.

To view the report online, visit wels.net/annualreport. Print versions are available for free from Northwestern Publishing House. Visit nph.net or call 800-662-6022.

Want to learn even more about how God is blessing your gifts to him for his work through WELS? Schedule a Christian giving counselor to present a PowerPoint presentation to your congregation that summarizes the information in the annual report. Contact the Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482 for more information.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – May 2018

Add an “Electronic Giving” Checkbox to Offering Envelopes

Electronic giving can be a win-win as members enjoy the convenience of a pre-determined amount being automatically deducted from their bank accounts each month while congregations are better able to plan ministry knowing how much funding is available. (If your church doesn’t offer electronic giving but would like to get started, one possibility is Vanco’s Give+ program, formerly known as Thrivent’s Simply Giving.)

Members, however, might hesitate at not being able to place an envelope in the offering plate at worship. A possible solution is to add a checkbox on the bottom of offering envelopes that says, “I’m giving electronically,” possibly with the link to your online giving page. Members who give electronically could write their names on their envelope, check this box, and put the empty envelope in the plate at worship. Members not giving electronically would weekly be reminded that electronic giving is an option.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – May 2018

A Grateful Attitude Makes a Gift Precious to God

“God is pleased when I worship and honor him with all my heart. Abel’s offering (Genesis 4:4) was pleasing and acceptable because he offered it in the fear of God and in faith and because he strove to show his grateful heart by his gift. For when the heart is offered, this is a gift that is very gratifying indeed to God.”

Plass, Ewald M. (Ed.). (1959) What Luther Says: An Anthology (Vol. 1). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Positive Response to Stewardship Program – Encouraging Word – November 2017

Positive Response to Stewardship Program

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving published the new stewardship program, Joyful Generosity, earlier this year for congregations to use in 2017 and 2018 (due to the expected heavy focus on the Reformation’s 500th anniversary this year). The program includes six weeks of worship and Bible study materials as well as 21 personal devotions.

Pastor Dave Fleischmann, who serves God’s people at Trinity Lutheran Church in Kaukauna, Wis., says he hesitated at first to undertake a six-week program. “That is a fairly long stewardship program. I was worried about ‘stewardship burnout’ by the end. However, that did not occur. In fact, the average attendance during the series was actually up a little bit from our normal attendance.”

Overall, he was very happy with how gospel-based the series was, saying the series is even visitor-friendly. “I pray that it affects the hearts of my members as much as it affected my heart.” He says, “Next year I certainly plan on doing another stewardship series, though probably not one as long as this one. I pray that many pastors will use this series to help lead their people to ‘Joyful Generosity.’”

Congregations can find Joyful Generosity, the three-week 364 Days of Thanksgiving program, and other stewardship programs and resources online at wels.net/stewardship.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – November 2017

Purposefully Promote Planned Giving

The purpose of a congregational planned giving program is to promote planned giving in the congregation—to educate, encourage, enlist, and excite members about using planned giving instruments to support the Lord’s work in their congregation, their synod, and other WELS organizations.

  • Educating means sharing the mission and vision of the congregation—and how members can support the mission and vision—through all available means of communication (printed, online, presentations).
  • Encouraging means providing ongoing communication, events, and programs to assist each member with realizing his/her charitable goals.
  • Enlisting means asking individuals to participate in helping support the mission of the congregation through current and deferred gifts.
  • Exciting means celebrating the “gift of giving” within the congregation.

The purpose of this manual is to help your congregation jump-start a program of promoting planned giving opportunities to members . . . May God bless your use of this resource for the benefit of the people you serve as they praise Jesus with offerings that help to spread his Word throughout the world!

Congregational Planned Giving Program. Waukesha: WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, 2015. Page 3.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – November 2017

Gratitude for Earthly and Spiritual Blessings

“To begin with, we must rejoice at the less important good things which we enjoy according to the Second Table of the Law in that our bodies and possessions are protected. For these gifts are of minor importance when compared with those which we enjoy according to the First Table: that God has revealed himself, has made known what he intends to do with us, gives his Word, grants faith and the Holy Spirit, hears prayers, daily increases his church, etc. These things are so great that no tongue is able to amplify and praise them as they deserve . . . Only those are truly thankful who receive the gifts of God joyfully and rejoice in the Giver.”

Plass, Ewald M. (Ed.). (1959) What Luther Says: An Anthology (Vol. 3). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

WELS Members Give Generously for Hurricane Relief – Encouraging Word – September 2017

Members Give Generously for Hurricane Relief

Since the media began reporting on Hurricane Harvey just before Labor Day weekend through Hurricane Irma—as of yesterday—WELS Christian Aid and Relief has received 1,408 gifts totaling $291,957 from WELS members motivated by the love of Christ.

According to Rev. Rich Warnecke, a member of the board of WELS Christian Aid and Relief, assistance has begun in parts of Texas and Florida, but further assessment is still needed in both states of how to best work with local congregations to reach out to their communities with Christian love and support. You can read the latest updates regarding Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma and give to help those affected at wels.net.

CMO Setting Begins for 2018 – Encouraging Word – September 2017

CMO Setting Begins for 2018

The web form for gathering Congregation Mission Offering (CMO) subscriptions for 2018 opened Tues., Sept. 5, and will remain open through noon (Central) on Fri., Feb. 2, 2018. Instructions were mailed and e-mailed to congregations.

The CMO setting materials include a link to a video by the district president sharing updates on how the Lord is blessing efforts to spread the gospel. Kurt Lueneburg, director of WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, says, “It is great to see the districts so unified behind our synodical efforts to encourage offerings for the training and sending of gospel workers. I pray for a joyful response to support the many opportunities God is providing to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasing number of places.” Congregational leaders are encouraged to share the video with their congregations.

WELS Endowments Distribute Funds – Encouraging Word – September 2017

WELS Endowments Distribute Funds

This past July WELS Foundation distributed $832,338 for synod ministry from the WELS endowment funds—$372,667 to Ministerial Education and $459,670 to Missions. The WELS endowments are permanent funds that hold $23.5 million at this point and distribute about three to four percent each year depending on investment performance.

Peace in Jesus Vietnamese Lutheran Church, located in Boise, Idaho, is directly funded by the Missions Endowment grant. This congregation has an active Vietnamese ministry that is in the early stages of reaching the lost in their home country of Vietnam. “We pray for the Lord’s continued blessings on this growing mission field,” says Sean Young, WELS director of Missions Operations, “and thank WELS members for their financial support in sharing the gospel with the world.”

Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education, says of the grant, “When it comes to reducing the educational debt of Martin Luther College graduates, we appreciate the reliable annual distributions from the WELS endowment funds. The gifts there help students every year, which is helpful to the whole synod for the long-term.”

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – September 2017

Hold a Mission and Ministry Sunday

As we work together in Christ to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all people, there is value to increasing awareness, ownership, and participation in the kingdom endeavors Jesus gives to us. WELS is offering resources for holding a Mission and Ministry Sunday, modeled after the traditional mission festival. This is intended to be a celebration of God’s blessings on his church and a chance to renew our commitment to the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). Visit mcg.welsrc.net/mission-festival to learn more.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – September 2017

We Should Not Glory in Our Possessions

“Even if riches were to come to you in a rightful way, from God, do not rely on them and make mammon your God; for possessions are not given that we may rely on them and glory in them, which is futile and foolish, but that we may use and enjoy them and share them with others . . . Our possessions should be in our hands, not in our hearts. Thus St. Paul tells the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:31) that we should use the world as though we used it not.”

Plass, Ewald M. (Ed.). (1959) What Luther Says: An Anthology (Vol. 3). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

Online Tools Personalize Gift Benefits – Encouraging Word – July 2017

Online Tools Personalize Gift Benefits

With the help of planned giving vendor PG Calc, WELS Foundation has updated its website with online tools to help users personalize the benefits of different giving options:

  • The Explore Gift Options tool walks the user through several questions to help them find the best gift for their personal situation.
  • The user can Run a Personalized Gift Illustration for a tailored diagram of any gift.
  • As a person navigates the WELS Foundation site and reads about certain gifts (for example, the charitable gift annuity) they can click to view a specific illustration for that type of gift and personalize the illustration to their situation.

As always, if somebody is interested in learning more or would like assistance with making a gift, WELS provides Christian giving counselors at no cost or obligation to help WELS members carry out their charitable goals.

WELS Foundation executive director Jim Holm hopes prospective donors find the tools useful. He says, “We want to make it as easy as possible for those supporting WELS ministry—their church, synod, or another WELS organization—to explore the options available.”

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – July 2017

Practical Ways to Encourage Giving

“If you want to counter the trend of donors giving less, do two things when your donor gives:

  1. Thank them, and thank them again and again.
  2. Provide proof that their gift made a difference.

Believe me, donors who are appreciated and shown that they are making a difference will be around for a long time. And that is good for them, for you, and the organization you serve.”

Perry, Richard. “Why Donors Are Giving Less.” Passionate Giving Blog. Veritus Group. March 1, 2017.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – July 2017

Let’s Not Play at Stewardship

“‘Appreciation for divine mercy cannot take the price of redemption for granted; neither can it regard the purpose of redemption as a hobby. That heart will not play at stewardship’ (Robert Hochmuth, Initiated into the Secret of Enduring Prosperity [1965 essay], p. 4). If we really believe this, our commitment to raising up godly givers will be intensified, not marginalized.

“I am also more convinced today than I was 35 years ago that to teach money management is the kind of privilege that we must approach confidently, passionately, straightforwardly, and not at all apologetically or reluctantly. I tell students that there are certain subjects that they simply must ponder exhaustively, master thoroughly, and share winsomely – or they will ‘die a thousand deaths’ in contemporary pastoral ministry. Assaults on subjects like infant baptism and baptismal regeneration, church fellowship principles, gender roles and relationships in God’s world, and amillennial eschatology will surface frequently and often antagonistically. If we have not done our homework and allowed the Spirit to do his heart work in us, we will pay a big price and so will the people we are supposed to serve. But if we are thoroughly convinced that we are sharing divine truth and that God gave it in love, we see opportunities to serve rather than threats to be endured. And the subject of acquiring, managing, and giving money should be on this list of messages to be mastered and shared with eagerness. We are about the Lord’s business, using the Lord’s law and gospel with the Lord’s purposes in mind. When this reality is relished, our tone and attitude toward stewardship will improve and so will our ministry to souls in this vital area.”

Forrest L. Bivens. Seizing the Opportunities: Ways to Encourage Godly Giving. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File. Page 2.

WELS Publishes 2016 Statistical Report – Encouraging Word – May 2017

WELS Publishes 2016 Statistical Report

WELS’ 2016 Statistical Report is available online, and in print through Northwestern Publishing House. The report provides membership, ministry, education, and offerings data on congregations as well as reports on institutional ministry, ordinations and installations of pastors and teachers, and world missions statistics.

Some highlights of the report include:

  • 1,207 out of 1,275 congregations (95 percent) submitted information for the report, which is the highest participation in 14 years.
  • Baptized membership continues its slow decline since peaking in 1990, averaging a decrease of 0.6 percent each year for the past 26 years.
  • Early childhood ministry continues to be a huge evangelism opportunity with 70 percent of the children coming from non-WELS families. (Consider the new program, Telling the Next Generation, for help with outreach strategies.)

WELS Director of Christian Giving Kurt Lueneburg, whose area compiles the report, says, “‘In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others’ (Romans 12:5). As you review the contents of this report, I hope you will join me in praising our loving Lord for his faithful love to us and his gospel ministry among and through us during 2016.”

New Stewardship Program – Encouraging Word – May 2017

New Stewardship Program

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving has published a new stewardship program, Joyful Generosity, for congregations to use in 2017 and 2018 (due to the expected heavy focus on the Reformation’s 500th anniversary this year). The program includes six weeks of worship and Bible study materials as well as 21 personal devotions. “The goal of Joyful Generosity,” according to Rev. Kurt Lueneburg, “is to grow our appreciation of this truth: ‘From the fullness of [Christ’s] grace we have all received one blessing after another’ (John 1:16). Our Savior abundantly blesses us and enables us to use those blessings to his glory and the benefit of precious souls at home and abroad. As we grow in our understanding of God’s generosity, our daily lives—and the atmosphere in our churches and synod—will reflect our Lord’s generosity. To that end, we pray that the Spirit will bless the use of these materials.”

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – May 2017

Giving Opportunity Continues in 2017 and Beyond

The “qualified charitable distribution” was made permanent by the U.S. government as of 2016. This means the giving opportunity remains a beneficial option for WELS members in 2017 and beyond. Anyone 70.5 or older can make qualified charitable distributions from their IRA of up to $100,000 per year to their church, synod, and other WELS organizations without counting the distributions as income for federal tax purposes. If a member does not itemize income tax deductions, they might consider giving to their church via this method. Due to the tax savings, they could free up money for personal needs or to expand their giving.

Interested members can learn more from your congregation’s local WELS Christian giving counselor by calling him at 800-827-5482.

You can share this information by copying and pasting this article, or find other articles at our planned giving articles archive on WELS Cloud (login required) and sort by the topic “Qualified Charitable Distribution.”

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – May 2017

Christian Stewardship is about Our Relationship with God

“Money management and godly giving are integral parts of sanctified living, not at all optional or even peripheral. The focus is squarely on the relationship of Christ’s people to their Lord and his revealed will—not only or even primarily their relationship to their money, their church, or their neighbor. To ignore this facet of the Christian’s continued existence on earth or to address this subject only occasionally is to fail to minister properly to the needs of our people. Christians need to know that they have been saved and how they have been saved. They also need to know they are called and enabled to serve God. God expects faithful stewardship, dedicated serving. What a tragedy it is if the person who has learned the way of salvation either has never grasped or has been sidetracked from his mission of living for God in a conscientious and competent way!”

Forrest L. Bivens. Seizing the Opportunities: Ways to Encourage Godly Giving. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File. Page 2.

WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday – Encouraging Word – November 2016

Coming Next Fall: WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday

As we work together in Christ to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all people, we realize the value of promoting ownership of and celebrating these kingdom endeavors. To accomplish this as well as to encourage growth in Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) and special unrestricted gifts from individuals, WELS Conference of Presidents has proposed an annual WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday.

How would this work?

  • Starting in mid-2017, WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday resources will be available for use during the fall of the year so it will coincide with CMO encouragement for calendar year congregations or in the winter (e.g., Epiphany) for fiscal year congregations.
  • Congregations may choose to observe their own WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday or they may gather with other WELS congregations for a traditional-style mission festival.
  • In addition to contemplating God’s grace on us and the privilege of proclaiming Jesus in our communities, individuals and congregations will have the opportunity to learn about and enhance synod mission efforts through CMO growth and special individual offerings to WELS Mission and Ministry or their favorite area of WELS ministry.
  • By God’s gracious blessing, we will better understand the gospel ministry we perform together, our prayers will be more specific, and we will find joyous satisfaction in increasing our support for WELS ministries that share the eternal good news of Jesus with souls around the world.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – November 2016

Submitting Offerings and Statistics

The end of the calendar year means preparing for submitting to WELS your 2016 Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) and statistics as well as your 2017 CMO subscription. Here are several items to keep in mind.

  • Please remit any final 2016 offerings by Jan. 9.
  • In early January you will receive coupons for remitting your 2017 offerings.
  • Your congregation’s CMO subscription for 2017 (the amount you pledge to give) is due no later than the first Friday in Feb. – Feb. 3 at noon (Central). Fiscal year congregations may report their 2017 CMO subscription now by using the estimated amount in their budget. The submission process uses a new web form that we hope gives you an improved experience.
  • In early January, congregations will receive a letter and e-mail with instructions for submitting 2016 statistics for the next WELS Statistical Report. The deadline for submitting statistics is also Friday, Feb. 3 at noon (Central). This process uses the web form we introduced last year with some improvements. Please note these data collection changes for the 2016 report, including the fact that the Conference of Presidents has approved the collection of member ages for a second consecutive year.)

Contact us if you have questions by calling 800-827-5482 or e-mailing mcg@wels.net. Thank you, in advance, for your cooperation!

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – November 2016

The Secret to Being Overwhelmingly Grateful, Part One

“As sinful human beings, we tend to take God’s blessings for granted. We often don’t notice the amazing gift of air conditioning until it breaks down in the middle of summer. We aren’t aware of how much we depend on electricity until the power goes out and we stare at one another, wondering what to do without our TVs, cell phones, and computers. A wise, old pastor once told me, ‘The secret to happiness is not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.’ We spend so much time focusing on what we don’t have, on what other people have, on what we want to have, that we lose sight of what we do have. The secret to being overwhelmingly grateful is to recognize what you have.”

Schroer, Andrew C. 364 Days of Thanksgiving. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2015.