Monday, September 17, 2007

Are there "ring-knockers" in WELS?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Are there "ring-knockers" in WELS?

WELSians boast about their pedigree . . .

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

WELSians boast about their pedigree . . .

Friday, September 14, 2007

Should called workers recuse themselves from votes which could affect them financially?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Should called workers recuse themselves from votes which could affect them financially?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Should WELS develop curriculum standards (preK-12) for Religion?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Should WELS develop curriculum standards (preK-12) for Religion?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is enrollment at your WELS LES up or down this year?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Is enrollment at your WELS LES up or down this year?

It makes good sense to extend divine teaching calls to wives of pastors ahead of other candidates. Agree or disagree?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

It makes good sense to extend divine teaching calls to wives of pastors ahead of other candidates. Agree or disagree?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lutheran children are entitled to a free Lutheran education at congregation (or Synod) expense. Agree or disagree?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Lutheran children are entitled to a free Lutheran education at congregation (or Synod) expense. Agree or disagree?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

At your WELS Lutheran Elementary School (LES), decisionmaking preference is usually based on . . . what?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

At your WELS Lutheran Elementary School (LES), decisionmaking preference is usually based on . . . what?

Should MLC, LPS, and MLS require art training for WELS pastor & teacher candidates?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Should MLC, LPS, and MLS require art training for WELS pastor & teacher candidates?

Friday, August 17, 2007

The last time you (or a loved one) were in the hospital, did your WELS pastor visit you?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

The last time you (or a loved one) were in the hospital, did your WELS pastor visit you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Should WELS Synodical Council (SC) outsource "Ministry Support" to cut costs and balance the budget?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

Should WELS Synodical Council (SC) outsource "Ministry Support" to cut costs and balance the budget?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What action will your congregation take to help the Synod's financial situation?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

What action will your congregation take to help the Synod's financial situation?

Should WELS add "church financial management" to seminary training for pastors?

This discussion thread ties to poll at right by same name.

The Practical Theology and Pastoral Theology (PT) areas of instruction at WELS' Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) cover down-to-earth topics. Since every pastor participates in church council meetings and/or other business meetings (e.g., ALHS, Thrivent, LWMS, Circuit, Conference, District, & Synod), why not use a few PT classes to train pastors to read financial reports presented at meetings that pastors attend regularly for their entire career?

The purpose of "church financial management" training would not be to train pastors to become bookkeepers, CPAs, tax attorneys, or Christian planned giving counselors. There is no need to train pastors to know the difference between debits and credits.

1. Financial reports. Pastors should know what reports to expect from a congregation treasurer. Is the treasurer doing his job? Pastors should know how different reports link together and what purpose they serve in a non-profit organization.
Time: 1 or 2 sessions

2. Financial controls. Pastors need to hear from law enforcement, auditors, and/or insurance companies (e.g., Church Mutual) about embezzlement that happens every day in churches and other non-profit organizations. Pastors need to hear suggestions for measures to control money and to "keep honest people honest."
Time: 1 session

3. Financial case studies. Pastors should break out into small groups for case study workshops to assess the financial reports and prognosis of financially strong, mediocre, and weak congregations.
Time: 2 or 3 sessions (including presentations)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Predictors for success in pastoral training?

WELS could learn something about recruiting future pastors by observing methods used since 9-11 to recruit U.S. Special Forces.

After 9-11 the U.S. switched to offense in the Global War On Terror and needed to increase the number of U.S. Special Forces without dropping training standards. Training attrition being over 70% the military focused on research and strategies aimed at reducing this attrition by improving selection methods and processes for identifying viable training candidates.

Military research found a few predictors of training success and adjusted recruiting strategies accordingly.

Predictors with positive correlations included:
-- Candidates who grew up in the coldest states
-- Candidates who participated in several contact or aerobic sports
-- Candidates with certain psychological traits involving hardiness, flexibility, and leadership

What would be predictors for success in pastoral training?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lutheran Elementary School & Outreach

My observation in my own congregation, my previous congregations, and in neighboring congregations leads me to the conclusion that there are different attitudes and procedures for LESs in WELS. Each of the attitudes is represented in every congregation; however, local dynamics between the attitudes determines the procedure for each independent WELS LES. Further, these dynamics are not static, therefore LES procedures may change from year to year, depending on which attitude prevails in a given year. Some of these attitudes affect using the LES for outreach.

Does an LES charge tuition? One attitude is that every Lutheran child is entitled to a free elementary education at congregation expense. The opposite attitude is that charging tuition is necessary for an LES to carry its weight. Some individuals who believe that education should be free, do pay tuition begrudgingly then zero their offerings.

Which committee decides tuition rate? Is it the Budget Committee or the Board of Education? Does the congregation set tuition at a voters' meeting? What factors do they consider in setting tuition? Which factors do they follow? One attitude leans on market price, and another attitude leans on cost of operating school. How does highest tuition rate compare with cost of operating school?

Does the LES enroll non-members? Some do, and some don't. What are admission requirements for non-members? One attitude is that an LES should enroll every child who walks in off the street. Other attitudes impose admission requirements. Will the family pay tuition? What is the family's past record for paying tuition at previous schools? Does the LES administer a pre-enrollment exam? Who administers the exam? Does the LES consult the child's previous school for recommendation? Does the LES allow teachers to participate in decision of admitting non-member children, or is it a decision by the principal and pastor? Who reviews the cumulative folder before a child is admitted? Does the cumulative folder contain a psychiatric file? Does the LES enroll families who are solid members of non-WELS churches as well as families who are unchurched prospects? Who has admission priority? Does the LES enroll non-member transfer students mid-year? Does principal conduct home visits before admitting non-member students?
Does the LES enroll every member child who wishes to attend, or does the LES tell some member families that the needs of some children would be served better by a school with more resources?

Does the LES grant members a tuition discount? How much is the discount? Which committee decides the amount of discount? What is the stated reason for granting a tuition discount to members? Does the sum of all general fund offerings by all member school families cover the sum of all member tuition discounts?

Do children from sister WELS congregations attend the LES? Do they pay member or non-member rate?

Do the pastor and principal pay tuition, or does the LES "comp" tuition for clergy? Does the pastor from a sister congregation pay tuition?

Does the LES grant tuition assistance? Which committee approves tuition assistance? If the pastor and principal pay tuition, do they receive tuition assistance?

Does the congregation integrate the school budget with church budget, or are they separate? If they are integrated, does someone compute school subsidy? Has the subsidy changed over the past few years? Is subsidy growing or shrinking?

Do some classrooms have full enrollment and others have empty seats? Is it the same every year, or does it change as a bubble moves through the school?

How often does one parent join church (to enjoy member discount and tuition assistance) but other parent does not?

Does the LES begin the school year before or after Labor Day? How many days are in the school year? How does this compare to other schools in the area? How long is Christmas vacation? Does school resume on Jan 2 or mid-January? Does school year end in time for male teachers to attend district convention? Does school year end in time for teachers to take summer on-line courses from MLC? Is school air conditioned? Does climatology for your region affect school year decisions? Does LES allow families to take vacations during school year, or are missing days treated as truancy?

How long is the school day? How does this compare to other schools in the area? Do teachers want a longer or shorter day? Do parents want a longer or shorter day?

Does the LES operate before & after school child care? Does child care revenue cover cost of child care operation? (Don't forget cost of flushing water, playground water, heat, a/c, liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, and building & playground maintenance.)

Are there schools in the area with waiting lists? Why are people fighting to get into some schools but not others? Do schools with waiting lists advertise, or do they rely on word-of-mouth only?
Looking more specifically at outreach, how many years has the school operated? When did school begin to admit non-members? Looking at LES graduates who are 10 or more years past Grade 8 graduation (that is, age 24 and above [giving 4 years for high school, 4 years for college, and 2 years for transition]), how many of those students or their families are current members of the congregation? How does this retention rate compare with neighboring WELS congregations who do not have a school?

In recent years has the school subsidy grown or shrunk? Has the evangelism budget grown or shrunk?

Does the congregation's Sunday School program operate with same health as the LES? Do non-member children (enrolled in LES or not) attend Sunday School? What fraction of LES-enrolled students attend Sunday School? If LES has X number of students, are there X number of students in Sunday School?

Some of the attitudes and procedures listed above affect the way we run Lutheran high schools, as well. For example, some WELS high schools admit non-members, while others are for members only.

Charis Institute is a research arm of Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) in Milwaukee. Charis has studied information contained in WELS Statistical Reports and has drawn conclusions regarding WELS LESs in congregations. Our Synod publishes annually the source of Charis' data, the Statistical Report. The Statistical Report is a simple spreadsheet of numbers submitted by all 1,000+ WELS congregations. Each row represents a congregation, and each column represents a statistic, such as the number baptized members.

Two Charis studies on WELS LESs are:


Charis' conclusions resonate with WELS homeschoolers because homeschoolers have a unique perspective in congregations and can see what others cannot.

If you are a statistician you could reproduce Charis' analysis or generate a different analysis using the same data from WELS Statistical Reports found at:

Friday, July 6, 2007

HR perspective on pastor occupation

Missing from our discussion is a good HR review of Ministerial Education and pastors. It may be that BME has produced such a study and I haven't seen it. A good HR analysis would provide a framework for aligning Ministerial Education with the job that pastors actually perform on a day-to-day basis in a parish setting. A good HR analysis would prioritize skills (e.g., must have vs. nice to have) and would tell us where in the Ministerial Education pipeline a man would learn certain skills. A good HR analysis might also identify twists and turns in Ministerial Education that could be considered for straightening. Certainly Scripture lays out some requirements for pastors and other church leaders; however, church tradition has added more job requirements for pastors.

Skill example #1: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable of chairing or participating in meetings using Robert's Rules of Order. Do we teach Robert's Rules of Order? Should Rules of Order be taught in elementary school, high school, college, or seminary?

Skill example #2: By tradition we expect pastors to be capable counselors. How many courses and how much field experience do pastors have in counseling? Are WELS pastors (both young and old) good at counseling families? Do pastors routinely detect and refer to treatment fellow pastors, teachers, and called-worker spouses exhibiting symptoms of depression or other mental illness?

Skill example #3: By tradition pastors are intimately involved with parish treasuries. How much training do pastors receive in preparing or interpreting financial reports? Does Seminary use parish financial case studies? Although the word "embezzlement" does not appear in Scripture, do we train pastors how to identify and maintain ethical financial practices? If your pastor signs your photocopier service contract, has he been trained in contract law? Does he know which terms are enforceable by statute in your state?

Skill example #4: By tradition pastors supervise paid employees and volunteers in the church office. When do we train pastors how to manage people and supervise subordinates? Do we teach pastors about legal employment (hiring & firing) practices? Is there opportunity for every pastor candidate to lead a student-run organization in high school, college, and seminary?

Skill example #5: When churches build or remodel it's the pastor who is on site every day so it's common for the pastor to be the lead contact with the contractor. When do we train pastors how to select and manage architects and general contractors?

Skill example #6: Pastors may not be racists, but are they comfortable in multi-ethnic settings or do they tense up? MLC being 97% white, do all pastor candidates experience years where they live and work surrounded by non-whites?

Once we have a framework for discussion, it's easy to stand back to see what fits in Ministerial Education and what does not. It's OK to retain traditions for the sake of traditions, as long as all realize certain traditions might help esprit de corps at a school but have little relevance to pastoral ministry. For example, how does evening chapel for high school students help them become better pastors? Last I heard, MLC chapel was still optional. I'm not aware of any WELS congregation holding evening chapel services every day, so is the benefit that high school and college students lead the chapel service and practice public speaking?

The framework might help in other ways by identifying skills that need refreshing over time. For example, do pastors need a German refresher after a few decades in the pulpit? Should pastors take a Hebrew requalification exam every 10 years?

An HR framework might also identify situations where we need to unload monkeys from the pastor's back. For example, maybe every Circuit needs a Staff Minister who has a background as a General Contractor.

Are we, as a Synod, capable of agreeing on a job description for a pastor?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

MLS down years

According to PSSC-2 data, MLS produced only 2 pastors in WLS Class of 2002 and only 2 pastors in WLS Class of 2003.

What went wrong? Could this happen again?

MLS as self-funded school?

WELS Synodical Council has offered to sell MLS to any group for $1 to operate MLS as a self-funded school. Is any group forming to do so?

What would it cost to operate MLS?

There are 34,000 communicant members in Michigan District. Let's say that translates to 10,000 Michigan families who are potential donors.

If we assume that cost of operating MLS is same as Synod subsidy ($2,000,000), then cost would be $200 per Michigan family to keep MLS doors open as self-funded school. Since most MLS graduates never serve in public ministry, most probably remain in Michigan, benefit local congregations as lay members, and would be prone to support their alma mater financially.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

ACT test scores for MLC

Our LES system is proud of test scores and publishes summaries of nation-wide Achievement Tests (Terra Nova Fall Testing). However, to my knowledge, our high school system (LPS, MLS, ALHS) is silent on test results (ACT, SAT). Why?

Likewise, PSSC-2 did not compare test scores (ACT or SAT) of MLC accession programs (LPS, MLS, ALHS, public). Why not? Don't test scores assess caliber of incoming students?

Minimum ACT for admission to MLC is 20, and minimum for WLC is 21. National average ACT score for 2006 was 21. Why does our ministerial training school have lower standard?

According to MLC had 214 applicants, accepted 207 (97%), and enrolled 149. (Year not stated.)
According to MLC had 235 applicants, accepted 230 (98%), and enrolled 166. (Year not stated.)
Why does MLC have a high acceptance rate (97%, 98%)?

Monday, July 2, 2007

Language, culture, and identity

Pastoral ministry is about relationships, and that includes relationships with fellow pastors. At Martin Luther College, a person has the opportunity to build relationships that last a lifetime. Besides this, students at MLC have the opportunity not simply to learn subject matter, but to study with professors who are modelers and confessors of the faith they are teaching. Studying at a confessional residential college provides an opportunity to be imprinted by the character of godly men.


If you play a note on a trumpet pointing the trumpet at the strings of a piano with the piano's damper pedal pressed, the piano's strings will resonate sympathetically with the same note as the trumpet. The only strings that resonate in the piano are the strings that match the note played on the trumpet. The other strings remain silent. After the trumpet stops, the piano continues to emanate softly the note of the trumpet.

Likewise, a pastor's ability to communicate the Gospel message to a congregation is better when he is tuned to his congregation. There are three factors affecting how well a pastor is tuned to his congregation: language, culture, and identity. We can assess the tuning of each factor using an Apgar-like score ranging from 0 to 5 (5 is the best).

Language: We would not send a missionary to a foreign country unless he spoke the language. If he speaks the language fluently, he scores 4. If he has the same accent as the people he serves and understands their jokes then he scores 5. An upper Midwest accent spoken to a congregation in a district that borders an ocean scores only 4.

Culture: Does the pastor impose cultural celebrations (such as Oktoberfest) on a congregation in an outlying district? Score 0. Does he tell farm stories in every sermon to a city congregation? Score 0. In the Midwest, if he can list cultural events (such as hunting & fishing season dates) he scores 3. If he hunts and fishes he scores 4. If he cleans his own fish he scores 5. If he performs a Lutheran Quinceanera when requested he scores 5. If he wears a necktie in Hawaii he scores 0.

Identity: Does the pastor identify with the congregation, or is he just passing through? Does he care about his flock in a practical way or in a lofty theological way? Quick measures are if he owns the parsonage, if he is a fan of the local sports teams, and if he bought a burial plot in the community. Laypeople are intuitive and can sense when a pastor is not sincere. If he is not sincere in all matters, how do we know he's sincere with the Gospel?

Should a pastor care more about relationships with parishioners or with fellow pastors? Is it the purpose of ministerial education to build lasting bonds between pastors because pastors are set apart from laypeople and pastors should not get too close to laypeople? Can pastors really trust only other pastors? Is this why WELS needs prep schools?

Digital native or digital immigrant?

Digital native or digital immigrant? Same terminology applies to teachers.

"At meeting of college librarians, experts tell them they need to start thinking the way video game producers think and provide library services that will make sense to those who play computer games. 'In an era when most students would have to go to a museum to see an old-fashioned card catalog, there's no doubt that libraries have embraced technology. But speakers said that there was a larger split between students -- who are "digital natives," in one popular way of classifying people based on their experience with technology -- and librarians, who are more likely to be "digital immigrants." They may have learned the language, but it's a second language.'"


Satan active

Despite outwardly unremarkable appearance and seemingly good behavior, members of God's church may in fact work for Satan.
Satan can enter men.

Luke 22:3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.

The line between God and Satan can be crossed in a heartbeat, evidenced by two spectacular contrasting Scriptural phrases separated by only 5 verses.

18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
23Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan!

I watched in horror as Satan drummed a church worker out of a congregation. The worker had nearly perfect Religion grades from MLC, but the worker had not graduated from MLC, so Satan entered and used "WELS Purists" to castigate the worker as an outsider and to create a hostile and abusive work environment. After years and many attempts to correct the situation, the "A" student resigned leaving "B" and "C" students to run the asylum. Satan does not want "A" students working in the church.

Intern program for LESs

To encourage young people to consider teaching or pastoral ministry, LES principals could send motivated boys & girls (Grade 3-8) to lower grades as classroom assistants and send mature boys (Grade 5-8) on ride-alongs with pastor to hospitals (as allowed), nursing homes, and private homes. LES principals should attempt to include public school students as well as LES students in this intern program. Involving young people at an early age may identify those with aptitude, spark passion for teaching and preaching, and cultivate abilities.

In 2005 our Commission on Youth Discipleship chartered a study of WELS pastors and youth to determine why our youth were leaving the church. What struck me as most important in the study was the observation that pastors and youth reported different reasons for youth leaving the church. They did not agree. There was a disconnect.

In our 2007 review of ministerial training, we should learn from the 2005 study and not assume that we know why young people do/do not enroll at MLC. I'm reluctant to push all young people to MLC because (as Adam and Troy mentioned) we've all seen examples of people who dropped out of MLC or public ministry after giving it a try. As a Synod all of our youth are a precious gift -- not just those in ministerial training -- and we should be mindful of the effect of our actions on all youth. If we push them to attend MLC, and they don't, or if they drop out, have they disappointed us? Are they failures? I think consensus in this thread is that all vocations can be God-pleasing.

If we make opportunities for youth to experience teaching and preaching ministries at a young age, and as a result they are self-motivated to pursue those professions, our Synod will have a healthy, confident team of workers to help with the harvest.

Bruce Eberle's blog

Divisions in WELS

Honest WELSians admit that there are divisions, rivalries, and class hierarchies in the Synod. Depending on where you sit in the pecking order, your attitude might be to accept these differences as the natural order of WELS society and sanctification, or your attitude might be bitter as if you were the victim of subtle racism. Neither side sees the point of view of the other.

Examples of division, rivalries, and class hierarchies in WELS (in no particular order):

#1. Prep schools vs. ALHSs
#2. MLC vs. WLC
#3. Lutheran schools (LES to college) vs. public schools
#4. Board at school vs. commuters
#5. PK vs. not PK

#6. Pastors vs. teachers
#7. First-career called workers vs. second-career called workers
#8. Heartland districts vs. outlying districts
#9. German surnames vs. not
#10. Jocks vs. book worms

#11. Organists vs. other instruments
#12. Musicians vs. not
#13. Born WELS vs. not
#14. Passionate pastors & teachers vs. exhausted, "retired on active list" pastors & teachers
#15. Lord's prayer on left vs. Lord's prayer on right

#16. Ladder-climbing clergy vs. pastoral ministers
#17. External funding advocates vs. not
#18. COP vs. SC
#19. CW hymns only vs. other hymns allowed
#20. Packers vs. Vikings

#21. World missionaries vs. happy in heartland clergy
#22. NPH only vs. CPH tolerated
#23. Christ-Light wonderful vs. try something else
#24. Born AAL vs. born LB
#25. Thrivent vs. secular insurance

#26. Evangelism is someone's job vs. evangelism is my job
#27. Staff ministers vs. 'real' called workers
#28. Large congregations vs. small congregations
#29. City churches vs. country churches
#30. PowerPoint churches vs. not

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Charis found that schools stunted congregation growth

Before WELS' COP emasculated WLC's Charis, a Charis research study announced the discovery of a few large, growing WELS congregations. The study did not name those congregations publicly. Perhaps anonymity was supposed to preserve their virgin condition. Charis hoped for follow-on study of the pastors involved. The new, reconstituted Charis may loath opening old wounds, so we may never know their names or stories.

The problem with the old Charis was they used WELS' Statistical Reports to arrive at unpopular conclusions. When Charis analyzed all 1000+ WELS congregations and concluded that LES and ECE programs stunted congregation growth, Charis had to go.

Synods are job programs, and the mission of the COP is to make sure that every MLC grad who wants to work has employment for life. WELS rationalizes overspending on schools (schools are jobs) by insisting that schools are outreach. Charis challenged that pillar of faith.

Show me a good WELS Youth Group

The majority of WELS teens attend public high school and might have some connection to their home congregation through Youth Group and Young Adult programs (if they exist). Conversely, the majority of WELS leaders left home at age 14 for 12 years of seclusion boarding until age 26 at prep school, MLC/NWC, and MLS, therefore they never participated on a regular basis as active members of a normal WELS Youth Group or Young Adult program. They don't know what a good program looks like. Further, if they touch a good program, it dies.
Show me a good WELS Youth Group or Young Adult program that keeps young people active in the church, and I'll show you a program shepherded by a layperson.

Each prep school pastor candidate costs over $100,000

Using rough numbers, WELS prep schools graduate about 10 (MLS) and 20 (LPS) pastor candidates per year. Each prep school subsidy is about $2,000,000 per year (according to 2007 Convention materials). Therefore, prep school subsidies compute to about $200,000 per year (MLS) and $100,000 per year (LPS) for each prep school graduate who enters MLC pastor track.

No difference between prep students and ALHS students

WELS Prep School Study Committee reported that MLC faculty “could not tell a difference in academics between prep students and area Lutheran high school students.” So why subsidize prep schools?