Approximately 70 percent of WELS congregations participated in the synodwide Christmas outreach program known as C18. WELS Congregational Services created a myriad of materials for congregations to use to encourage members to reach out to the unchurched and to promote the theme “A Light in the darkness.”
“When we began C18,” says Jon Hein, director of Congregational Services, “we said our goal was ‘to reach’ one million souls prior to and on Christmas Eve. I realize ‘reach’ is a nebulous term. That was intentional. It is impossible for congregations to track how many people a member invites to Christmas Eve. So it is hard to quantify. What I can report is that at least 1.2 million ‘A Light in the darkness’ Christmas Eve postcards were shared.”
Hein also notes that through follow-up surveys, he has discovered ancillary benefits to this Christmas outreach effort. One of those benefits is a renewed focus on evangelism in some congregations.
One survey respondent commented, “I have prayed for years for God to make me bold enough to share the gospel. I have now done this . . . several weeks in a row for C18 and have had very positive results. I plan to continue this method of inviting neighbors to my church year-round for different events.”
Another said, “Our congregation did more evangelism in the past 3 months than we have done in the 20 years I have been a member here.”
In addition to evangelism materials, Congregational Services offered worship resources to congregations. Hein believes these resources helped congregations see the potential for worship in two ways. “First, they illustrated the potential for liturgical variety. Liturgical worship has been proven for centuries to let the gospel predominate. When done properly, it also demonstrates a rootedness, illustrating that the Church deals with ancient threats and universal problems. However, the liturgy also allows for appropriate flexibility, opportunities ‘to bring out . . . new treasures as well as old’ (Matthew 13:52). It seems people appreciated that. Second, C18 illustrated the potential to use worship as a part of your congregational evangelism efforts. Worship folders make it extremely easy for someone who has never been to church in their life to follow along and not get lost.”
This was borne out by one survey respondent who commented, “I have at times been afraid to invite friends to church because I was not sure if they would get how it works. The worship folders take away that fear. It was the first time my church has used them. I hope we use them more often.”
Congregational Services also used this Christmas program as an opportunity to promote family Advent devotions. Thousands of families used the materials developed by WELS Discipleship and WELS Evangelism, based on the popular WELS Daily Devotions.
As one WELS member wrote, “I loved that C18 focused on reaching unbelievers. But I also love that it stressed feeding our children with God’s Word.”
After hearing from WELS members about the blessings that this Christmas program offered, Congregational Services is now planning resources for C19.
To read Jon Hein’s full report about C18, visit welscongregationalservices.net/c18-our-christmas-efforts.
Author: Gabriella Moline
Volume 106, Number 3
Issue: March 2019