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Online services extend gospel reach

Jesus Cares Ministries is offering a way to reach out with the gospel to more individuals with special needs—through monthly livestreamed and online simplified worship services.

Jesus Cares Ministries designed Worship at the Cross, simplified worship for those with special needs, about 20 years ago. While this service includes everything you would find in Sunday morning worship—songs, confession and absolution, a devotion, offering, and prayers—“it offers ways to involve and engage people in the service that work for them,” says Joel Gaertner, director of Jesus Cares Ministries, a ministry of The Lutheran Home Association. “It’s very visual and very simple.” More than 70 WELS congregations currently offer these services in person.

But a large part of the special-needs community still was being neglected. “We recognize that in-person gatherings are always best, but there are a lot of our friends with special needs who can’t easily get out of the house,” says Gaertner.

In November 2019 Jesus Cares Ministries partnered with St. Mark Ministries, Green Bay, Wis., to develop a monthly Worship at the Cross service to stream online. By the time COVID-19 hit in 2020, Jesus Cares was ready to launch its first service live on Easter, providing congregations a way to continue ministering to members with special needs and their families at a time when in-person worship was declining. “God always knows what he’s doing; we just get to be the tool,” says Gaertner.

The services had an average of 400 to 500 views a month. That number grew when Jesus Cares Ministries ran ads on Facebook highlighting this worship opportunity. Gaertner reports that from Oct. 1, 2021, to April 1, 2022, the Jesus Cares Ministries YouTube channel had nearly 90,000 views and 2,300 hours of digital content viewed in 30 countries around the world.

manger and 3 crosses

Jesus Cares Ministries now has been focusing on helping congregations resume in-person worship and Bible study opportunities for those with special needs. But it continues to offer both live and recorded services to serve those who don’t have access to an in-person ministry, can’t attend in person due to extreme medical situations or labor shortages in group homes, or just want more opportunities to worship. Services are streamed live at 6 P.M. Central the third Tuesday of each month on Facebook,

Learn more about Jesus Cares Ministries at There you can also access Worship at the Cross recorded services on-demand. 

Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 110, Number 02
Issue: February 2023

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