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.

WELS Endowments Distribute Funds to Missions, Ministerial Education – Encouraging Word – September 2016

WELS Endowments Distribute Funds to Missions, Ministerial Education

The 2005 synod convention resolved that WELS establish and build up endowment funds for the support of WELS Missions and Ministerial Education. An endowment fund is a donor restricted gift that is not spent immediately but invested in a diversified investment portfolio. Annual distributions from the endowment funds are used to provide a source of ongoing financial support.

So far God’s people have given $21.3 million to these endowment funds—$11.8 million to the Missions endowments and $9.5 million to the Ministerial Education endowments. Annual distributions are made each year in July. This year’s distribution totaled $787,444—$435,175 to Missions and $352,269 to Ministerial Education.

According to Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education, the funds are providing much-needed financial assistance to students. “One third of all of our graduates from Martin Luther College graduate debt-free. And the MLC graduates who continue at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary never add any education debt. We give thanks to God for these remarkable statistics, due in part to the distributions from WELS endowment funds.”

The Missions endowments are also helping our synod take advantage of the outreach opportunities God is giving us at home and abroad. “Along with Congregation Mission Offerings and special gifts to Home Missions, these endowment funds are allowing Home Missions to start and enhance missions in North America,” says Keith Free, administrator of Home Missions. Larry Schlomer, administrator for World Missions, says, “These gifts allow us to respond to new opportunities that are developing right now through immigrant contact in WELS congregations and new leads online. Thanks to the gifts, several outreach opportunities are possible in places like Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Guatemala, and Venezuela.”

In addition to the $21.3 million already given to the WELS endowment funds, another $50.4 million is expected from planned gifts. The convention set a goal of gathering $300 million for the WELS endowments, which would ultimately distribute about $6 million each year to both Missions and Ministerial Education.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – September 2016

Overwhelming Gratitude

“The point of the story of the ten lepers in Luke chapter 17 is not that the other nine were ungrateful. The point is how overwhelmingly grateful the Samaritan was. He put off the one thing that he had desired for so long—to be told by the priest he could go home—and put off being reunited with his family and friends to first return and thank the person who had healed him. The Samaritan understood that thankfulness is not some nebulous, vague feeling. Gratitude cannot exist where there is no giver. You can’t be thankful without having someone to thank. The Samaritan realized it was God who deserve the credit. He recognized it was Jesus who he healed him. So he ran. He cried. He fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him with overwhelming gratitude.”

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

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – July 2016

Congregational Guiding Principles

Set up Scriptural guiding principles for members of your congregation to reflect upon at regular intervals in the ministry planning process. The principles can remind of our high privilege to serve as redeemed children of God under Christ, our Head. Below are the five guiding principles of St. John’s, Wauwatosa, Wis., which you can either adopt or use as a starting point in developing your own:

  1. Jesus Christ is worthy of our best efforts.
  2. God is honored through excellence and deserves nothing less.
  3. To whom much is given, much is required.
  4. True fulfillment comes not through personal gain, but through service and contribution to God.
  5. In the kingdom of God on earth, there are no insignificant people. Everyone can make a difference. Working together, we can make a big difference.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – July 2016

The Secret to Happiness

“Are you depressed? Are you frustrated by the problems and struggles in your life? The secret to happiness isn’t to rid your life of problems. The secret to happiness isn’t getting what you want. The secret to happiness is recognizing what you have in Christ.”

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

WELS Annual Report Summarizes God’s Blessings – Encouraging Word – March 2016

WELS Annual Report Summarizes God’s Blessings

WELS Annual Report 2015 summarizes God’s amazing blessings on our church body across all areas of ministry in 2015. We thank our Lord and commend you for your prayers and Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) that aid these worldwide gospel endeavors. Please consider sharing this report with others at your church so they know how God is blessing their partnership in Christ’s work. There are a variety of formats available online at wels.net/annualreport:

  • Order free copies of the annual report through Northwestern Publishing House. (Note that an annual report went out in late January with each giving statement to individuals who made direct gifts to WELS in 2015.)
  • Download a PowerPoint of the annual report for sharing this information with God’s people. Someone at your church may give the presentation or invite a WELS Christian giving counselor to do it. Find your local Christian giving counselors at wels.net/givingcounselors or call WELS Ministry of Christian Giving at 800-827-5482.
  • Share the link to the annual report page or online flipbook through your church’s e-newsletter or website.

If your congregation, moved by Christ’s love and the opportunities he gives us for gospel outreach, would like to further support these efforts, here are three ways to help:

  • Pray for the Lord’s blessing on our joint ministry efforts using the “Mission Prayers” in this newsletters.
  • Maintain and, Lord-willing, increase your Congregation Mission Offerings. Consider working incrementally toward (or beyond) a goal of 10 percent of offerings toward synodical ministry.

If you haven’t done so yet, hold a special “One in Christ” offering collection to help eliminate the synod’s $4.7 million debt by the end of June. This will place our synod in a better financial position to move forward in ministry. Thanks be to God, at this point we have received over $1.6 million in “One in Christ” gifts with just over a quarter of our congregations participating.

Congregation Mission Offerings Update – Encouraging Word – March 2016

Congregation Mission Offerings Update

Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) for calendar year 2015 ended the year 1.1 percent higher than 2014 gifts and 2.9 percent higher than subscriptions. Total CMO for the year was $21.5 million, an increase of $234,000 over the previous year. This is the highest CMO total in the synod’s history and the fourth consecutive year that congregations have exceeded their subscriptions. “We praise Jesus for providing such generous offerings through his people’s congregations!” says Kurt Lueneburg, director of the Ministry of Christian Giving.

Recently, 95 percent of WELS congregations reported their plans for 2016 CMO. While CMO subscriptions for 2016 show a decrease of 1.8 percent from 2015 actual receipts, no reductions in ministry are necessary because of the higher than anticipated offerings in 2015.

“We thank God for the high percentage of congregations that reported subscriptions for CMO for 2016,” says Lueneburg. “We are confident that Jesus will enable our churches to exceed their subscriptions for the fifth consecutive year.”

Lueneburg says that a stable—not declining—CMO makes it possible to maintain the present level of ministry as long as there are also many substantial special gifts from churches and individuals. While CMO has increased about 1 percent annually over the last ten years, that increase provides only one-third of the 3 percent annual increase in gifts needed for maintaining WELS’ present level of worldwide gospel outreach for Jesus. “We ask our heavenly Father to help us keep growing in the grace of giving for our local and global ministries,” he says. “This is an opportunity for each of us to dedicate to the Lord an increased level of financial support through our congregations and special gifts. To that end, God help us.”

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – March 2016

Celebrate Gifts!

“Some of the best publicity [encouragement] for planned giving is . . . actual gifts! Share when gifts are received or endowment distributions made—how much is going to help which ministries. Share joyful testimonials of members who have made gifts. Hold and share coverage of a ‘thank you’ event for those remembering your congregation in their estate plans or with planned gifts. Mention in an after-service announcement the ministry goals that could be achieved through a certain amount of gifts (this may tie in particularly well to certain church year seasons, e.g. End Times). ‘The service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God’ (2 Corinthians 9:12).”

Congregational Planned Giving Program. Waukesha: WELS Ministry of Christian Giving, 2015. Page 9.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – March 2016

The Sacrifice of Christ Encourages Our Offerings

“Why will [the Corinthians] want to ‘excel in the grace of giving’ just as the Macedonians are doing? ‘For,’ says Paul, and then he gives the reason why the Corinthians will want to do this. They have personally experienced the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . ‘For your sakes,’ says Paul, Christ, though he was in a continuous state of being rich from all eternity, became poor. Paul uses a form of the same word he had used to describe the abject poverty of the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:2). But it was a much deeper poverty than that. With these words all of Christ’s state of humiliation is projected before our eyes, culminating in his suffering and death. Its purpose? ‘So that you through his poverty might become rich.’ ‘We are rich, for he was poor. Is not this a wonder!’ Christ, who traded unparalleled riches for abject poverty so that we might become rich, is a wonderful example of giving for the Corinthians; but he is much more than that! He is first of all Savior. We love, because he first loved us. We give, in fact, we cannot help but give, because he gave first.”

David J. Valleskey. Laying the Foundation: The Scriptural Basis for Godly Giving. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Essay File. Pages 6-7.

New Manual Helps Churches Promote Planned Giving – Encouraging Word – November 2015

New Manual Helps Churches Promote Planned Giving

The Lord is the planned Giver. From eternity he planned the creation of this world, the gift of our lives, and—most importantly—the gift of his Son, Jesus the Christ. How loving, intentional, and beneficial God’s planned giving has been!

We thankfully respond to God’s grace by planning our offerings to him. Our weekly offering at worship is not the only opportunity we have for giving. We honor the Lord when planning for the transition of our accumulated wealth at life’s end. And there are a variety of other opportunities to support the Lord’s work now (while at the same time receiving tax benefits). The Bible encourages planned giving to care for family and to return a portion of our possessions to God.

There is much room for growth in the area of planned giving. Only 3 out of 10 Americans (Lutherans, too) have developed an orderly plan for the transfer of their estates. Of these, only one out of the three has remembered a charity/ministry in their plans. People of faith, for whom giving is an act of grateful stewardship, need to know the options available to them.

That is why WELS has developed a new congregational planned giving manual. The purpose of the manual is to help congregations jump-start a program of promoting planned giving opportunities to members. The manual also shares how to set up a planned giving committee for encouraging this work, and how to establish and administer an endowment fund.

Interested congregations can get started as soon as today using the “Quick Start” guide in Part I. Local WELS Christian giving counselors are available for assistance.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – November 2015

Illustrate Planned Giving with WELS Foundation’s Gift Guide

As you encourage stewardship among members, don’t forget to let them know about planned giving opportunities including estate planning and other options for supporting the Lord’s work and family while receiving tax benefits.

Direct people to WELS Foundation’s online Gift Guide either by providing the URL (http://giftguide.wels.net) or linking to it from your website. The gift guide provides an overview of options for supporting your church, regional WELS ministries, or the synod through a planned gift—and even lets people calculate benefits according to their personal situations.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – November 2015

Discuss Giving in the Context of Stewardship

“The theme of stewardship keeps the subject of giving in the proper perspective. People see giving as it relates to God rather than merely to the church or me, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 8:5, ‘They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us.’ When people know why God gave them their money and possessions, what God has called our church to do, and why God has placed them in our congregation, they are highly motivated givers rather than reluctant payers of dues.”

Pohl, Wayne. Mastering Church Finances. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1992. Page 45.

CMO Setting Begins – Encouraging Word – September 2015

CMO Setting Begins for 2016

WELS Ministry of Christian Giving initiated the Congregation Mission Offering (CMO) subscription setting process for 2016 in August by sending an instructional packet to every congregation. Congregations can use an online form to submit their subscriptions. The deadline is Friday, February 6, 2015 at noon (Central).

This year’s packet includes a letter and DVD video message from your congregation’s district president sharing how the Lord is blessing our mission offerings.

Congregations are encouraged to set a goal for CMO of 10 percent of the general fund offerings they receive during the year. Some congregations will be working toward that goal. Congregations that are already at or have surpassed that goal are encouraged to strive toward a higher goal and increase their percentage year by year, as the Lord enables.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – September 2015

Drafting an Appeal Letter

According to Bruce Eberle in his book “Charitable Direct Mail Fund Raising,” the outline of an appeal should be:

1. Grab attention.
2. Spell out the problem.
3. Spell out the solution.
4. Ask.

A congregational communication following this outline might looks as follows:

Dear member,

Paragraph 1 – Grab attention with a moving, real-life story of how the gospel, shared through your church, has affected a person or people.

Paragraph 2 – Spell out the problem: “but we’re limited in reaching more people with the gospel because . . .” Problems usually include lack of support with time, talents, and treasure.

Paragraph 3 – Spell out the solution: “We know that, trusting in God, we can achieve the goal” (point to Scripture passages such as Matthew 6:33 and Malachi 3:10). “Let’s test God in his promises and see if we don’t grow spiritually.”

Paragraph 4 – Ask: “Would you prayerfully consider helping?” Be clear about what you are asking for. People want to know so they can help!

Close the letter by bring it back to the opening and reminding how, when we trust in God, we will see more of the gospel’s impact (Isaiah 55:11).

Sincerely,
[Signature]
[Name]
[Title]

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – September 2015

Anticipate Designated Giving

“With increased designated giving (due to cultural changes since the 1950’s), church leaders are wise to anticipate these gifts. During the budget process, the leaders can try to estimate the amount and nature of designated gifts in the coming year. Several key people can often tell church leaders what special ministries and problems interest people.

“This can be done in two ways. You can observe what causes and needs are being publicized and promoted in the community…The leaders can also recall the causes the pastor has mentioned in his sermons.

“If the church’s leaders can discuss the implications of such ministries ahead of actually receiving the gifts, they are in a better position to either turn down the gift or to expedite its use, depending on how the leaders feel about the ministry or program that the giver wants to underwrite.”

Fenton, Gary. Mastering Church Finances. Portland: Multnomah Press, 1992. Page 81.

“One in Christ” Offering – Encouraging Word – July 2015

“One in Christ” Offering

Delegates of the 2013 synod convention resolved to launch a campaign at this year’s convention in late July to collect a special offering through June, 2016, to eliminate the remaining $4.7 million in synod debt. The debt resulted years ago from ministerial education school amalgamations and capital projects as well as internal borrowing. If successful, the “One in Christ” campaign will put our synod in a better financial position to continue the ministry of training and sending gospel proclaimers to the world.

Delegates will receive an overview of how congregations and schools can participate using materials posted online and shipped to congregations in mid-August. The offering can be held any time before June, 2016, but fits well in November, particularly on Christ the King Sunday, November 22nd.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – July 2015

Develop a Ministry Plan, Then the Budget

Develop a ministry plan and then determine what forms and levels of support are needed to fund it. Many look at what they think support will be and then craft a ministry plan around that level of support, thus never giving the congregation the opportunity to pray for and respond to the plan with their offerings.

Todd Poppe, WELS Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – July 2015

Joy Is a Fruit of Faith

“Joy may be thought of as an emotion, but for the Christian it is something more concrete. Christians will not be plunged into despair by the adversities of life when they cling to the joy they have in Christ. Paul rejoiced in what the Lord had done for his salvation while he was sitting in a jail cell at Rome (see his letter to the Philippians). Joy is what Peter offered the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor when, in his first epistle, he spoke to them of the inheritance we have guaranteed for us through Christ (1:6). Joy is what Christians have as they stand with tears in their eyes by the grave of a Christian loved one. They have their Savior’s promise of the resurrection of the body and eternal life with him in heaven. The Christian’s joy is not like the morning fog, soon dispersed by the heat of the sun. Our joy is lasting, enduring, undimmed by the trials of this life.”

Lange, Lyle W. Sanctification: Alive in Christ. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1999. Pages 133-134.

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – March 2015

How Electronic Givers Can Actively Participate in the Weekly Offering

Despite electronic giving (e.g., electronic funds transfer arranged through the congregation’s bank or Thrivent’s Simply Giving program) providing predictable support for congregational ministry, some members hesitate to sign up because it feels strange to pass the offering plate on Sunday morning without putting anything into it. These people feel like their children and fellow members might notice and be discouraged by their seemingly not participating.

Your congregation can overcome this obstacle by continuing to provide offering envelopes to members who are giving electronically. These members can write “EFT” on the offering line and drop the empty envelope in the plate. In a similar fashion some churches provide members with stickers that have the electronic giving program name printed on them so that they can use these on their envelopes. These possibilities allow members to physically place their offerings in the plate as an act of worship each week.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – March 2015

Stewardship Is an Extremely Important Subject

I am assuming we all agree that stewardship is an important subject and that “the shepherd trains Christian stewards” is to be a statement of fact, not a pious but somewhat empty wish. But to say it plainly, I am now convinced that it is more important and merits a higher priority in pastoral work than I once thought. This is an urgent, crucial, or extremely important task. Fifty years ago WELS President O.J. Naumann wrote, “The subject of Christian stewardship is one that may never be dismissed from the believer’s mind. For in the service of our Lord and Savior we are first and foremost stewards.” We know very well that our Lord Jesus continually says, “Dedicate for my use all that you are and all that you have. I don’t merely want so much of your time, money, or energy. I want you. You are my full-time manager, and half-measures or half-hearted efforts are no good.”

Bivens, Forrest L. “Seizing the Opportunities: Ways to Encourage Godly Giving.” A Symposium on Christian Stewardship: Raising up a Generation of Godly Givers. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 17-18 Sept. 2007.

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – Month DD, YYYY – TEMPLATE

Provide an Ongoing Flow of Information about the Congregation’s Work

“In a communication-saturated age, churches need to find and utilize multiple avenues for getting their message across.

“As an ongoing follow-up to a new member informational packet, the congregation would do well to publish a monthly newsletter, as well as written quarterly reports from all the boards, committees, and organizations of the congregation. Since every member shares in the mission of the congregation, it is vital that every member be kept informed about that mission and what the congregation is doing to fulfill it. Communication—from the voters’ assembly, from the church council, from organizations, from the pastor, from the Lutheran elementary school principal, from boards and committees—helps to keep the work of the church before the eyes and in the hearts of the members of the congregation.”

Valleskey, David J. We Believe – Therefore We Speak. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1995.

Deadlines for Offerings and Statistics – Encouraging Word – January 2015

Deadlines for Offerings and Statistics

The turn of the year means deadlines for submitting congregational offerings and statistics to WELS:

  • Remittances of 2014 offerings are due by Jan. 8. Meanwhile you should receive in early January your coupons for remitting 2015 congregation mission offerings (CMO).
  • Your congregation’s CMO subscription for 2015 (the amount you pledge to give) is due Friday, Feb. 6.
  • In early January congregations will also receive a letter with instructions for submitting your 2014 statistics online for the latest WELS Statistical Report. The deadline for submitting statistics is also Friday, Feb. 6.

Thank you as always for your cooperation!

Helpful Hint – Encouraging Word – January 2015

Share WELS’ 2014 Annual Report

WELS recently published its 2014 annual report, which summarizes key developments across all areas of synod ministry. This report is a great way to inform WELS members of the Lord’s work we are doing together as a synod. It’s also a helpful reference as the congregation begins planning their support for worldwide gospel endeavors during the coming year.

There are several ways to access and share the report through WELS Communication Services’ Resource Center:
  • Download the report in PowerPoint format. Someone at your church may give the presentation or you can invite your local WELS Christian giving counselor to do it.
  • Share the link to the annual report in “flip book” format through your church’s e-newsletter or Web site.
  • Five copies of the report are being mailed to each congregation mid-January for distribution to leaders with the option to order additional copies (free besides shipping) through Northwestern Publishing House. (Note that an annual report is also going out with each giving statement to individuals who made direct gifts to WELS in 2014.)

Words of Wisdom – Encouraging Word – January 2015

Looking at Life as Jesus’ Redeemed Servants

We are Jesus’ hands and feet and mouth during this time of grace before he comes again. He served us and gave his all to redeem us for himself. So we live to move and act in his name and for the benefit of the rest of his mystical body on earth. That is a high honor indeed, to serve him in serving his mystical body for the short time that we have here. Looking at life that way is a mark of having found the middle road between excessive love for the world and ungrateful contempt for it. With such an attitude, we do not imagine that the goal of life is just to get more for my own indulgence; nor do we look at life with sour and grumpy ingratitude for God’s blessings to us in the world and the good reasons he has for being so generous to us.”

Deutschlander, Daniel M. The Narrow Lutheran Middle. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2011.

Stewardship Sundays – Encouraging Word – November 2014

Possible Stewardship Sundays/Emphases for December through April

While our “Stewardship by the Lectionary” resource offers stewardship-themed devotions for all weekly lectionary readings, some weeks are particularly strong for a stewardship-themed Sunday. Following are some ideas for a stewardship Sunday or emphasis in Advent/Christmas, 2014, and Epiphany/Lent, 2015. Refer to “Stewardship by the Lectionary” for further development of these themes.

Advent 1 (November 30) – Serve Jesus Faithfully in Your Life’s Tasks (1 Corinthians 1:3-9 or Mark 13:32-37)

Advent 3 (December 14) – Proclaim Christ through your Words, Prayers, and Gifts (Isaiah 61)

Epiphany (January 6) – Devote your Lives to the Light of the World (Matthew 2)

Epiphany 3 (January 25) – Freely Share Christ’s Love with Everyone (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

Lent 2 (March 1) – The Lord’s Promises Compel our Commitment (Genesis 28:10-22)

Lent 4 (March 15) – Power and Purpose for our Service (Ephesians 2:4-10)

Palm Sunday (March 29) – Praise the King of Salvation (Mark 11 or Philippians 2)

Easter (April 5) – Our Labor in the Living Lord Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15)