More than 1,300 WELS members gathered in Chicago in January for the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. For three days they dedicated themselves to learning about leading in the congregation and community as well as enjoying worship and fellowship. The conference was for all WELS members, both called workers and laypeople, men and women of all ages, current leaders and future leaders. About 47 percent of attendees were called workers, 44 percent were lay members, and 9 percent were students.
The conference offered four keynote presentations on overarching topics regarding Lutheran leadership as well as four TED-talk-style presentations on what Lutheran leadership is and why it’s important in today’s world. Participants also attended five breakout sessions out of 47 offered on topics more specific to their local ministry needs or personal interests. Worship was a highlight of the conference, with a full Communion service as well as opening and closing devotions.
Breakout sessions offered insights on topics such as personal evangelism, outreach, issues facing WELS schools, discipleship, congregational governance, church culture, worship, and more. Some trends emerged based on breakout requests that revealed common challenges in WELS congregations. “Looking at the top 20 [requested breakouts], I’d say how to develop and equip lay leadership was a massive goal,” says Jonathan Hein, conference coordinator and coordinator of WELS Congregational Services. “Another one seems to be the challenge of doing outreach and the challenges presented by the shifting American culture that is hardening against the church.”
Dr. Glen Hansen, a radiologist and elder at Bethlehem, Germantown, Wis., attended the conference to bring ideas back to his congregation to help members become more comfortable with evangelism. “Our overall goal is not only to equip ourselves but to equip our members too,” says Hansen. “There are a lot of likeminded people [here] who care about the work of the Lord, which helps me feel empowered to continue and go do that work.”
Attendees left the conference edified in their faith and inspired for their ministry. “I really like how not only did we have the keynote speakers but we got to choose breakout sessions that we think will line up with something we are really interested in or something that will help with our ministry,” says Hailey Russ, a student at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. “Not only am I getting personal information that will help me grow my faith and is firing me up a little bit, but also I have things that I want to take back to our campus ministry to implement.”
The ideas and inspiration could be overwhelming for WELS congregational leaders. Hein suggests, “Attendees don’t need to do everything all at once. There was a LOT there. But I’d love if those leaders would debrief about what they learned and pick a top priority or two to try and incorporate into their next annual plan.”
Volume: 110, Number 03
Issue: March 2023
- Psalms for the seasons of life: March - 2023/03/01
- Leadership conference equips members to serve - 2023/02/28
- Training the next generation of leaders - 2023/02/28