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New director for WELS Special Ministries

Joel Gaertner has started his work as director of the Commission on Special Ministries, taking over for James Behringer who retired in June.

“I want to give thanks to Jim Behringer for all that he’s done in the last 11 years to advance Special Ministries. I am grateful and humbled for the opportunity to serve in this role,” says Gaertner.

James Behringer and Joel Gaertner
James Behringer (left) and Joel Gaertner

The Commission on Special Ministries, part of WELS Congregational Services, offers spiritual care and other services to people whose needs are not typically met by the regular ministries of WELS congregations and schools. This includes ministry to members in the military; outreach to those in prison; resources for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or visually impaired; support for parents with children who have special needs; resources for mental health needs; and more.

Gaertner is not new to this work. He has spent many years on the commission and served for the last 10 years as director of Jesus Cares Ministries, which shares the gospel with those with special needs.

“One of the exciting things for me in taking this call is to grow awareness,” says Gaertner. “Look at all the various things Special Ministries does. It gives us the opportunity to share Jesus with a whole lot of people who, sadly, a lot of times get left out, are marginalized, or just aren’t taken care of.”

In his retirement, Behringer offers the following advice: “Love the people who struggle. Love the prodigals. Love people so much that you can’t stand the thought that they are unable to hear a sermon or read a Christian devotion. Love them so much that you ask the Lord how he wants us to overcome the obstacles that loom large. Love them so much that you see the gifts God gave them. And love those who serve with you.”

Behringer concludes, “In addition to being in the Word, sharing the faith, and worshiping the Lord, how we love one another is an essential part of Christian and congregational life.”

Learn more about WELS Special Ministries at

Author: FIC
Volume: 110, Number 08
Issue: August 2023

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