Keynote Speakers

Dr. Joan Prince

Dr. Joan Prince

Layperson, St. Philip’s, Milwaukee, Wis.

A Courageous Conversation on Modeling Gospel-Centered Unity

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Fisher

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Fisher

Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Milwaukee, Wis.

A Courageous Conversation on Modeling Gospel-Centered Unity

Kurt Nitz

Kurt Nitz

Layperson, Christ Our Savior, Rockford, Mich.

Culture Is Critical: Shaping a God-Pleasing Congregational Culture

Rev. Eric Roecker

Rev. Eric Roecker

Director of WELS Commission on Evangelism

Culture Is Critical: Shaping a God-Pleasing Congregational Culture

Rev. Mark Zarling

Rev. Mark Zarling

President Emeritus, Martin Luther College

Lutheran Leadership – What It Is and Why It’s Important

Dr. Donald R. Kudek

Dr. Donald R. Kudek

Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis.

Lutheran Leadership – What It Is and Why It’s Important

Rev. Luis Acosta

Rev. Luis Acosta

Missonary, 1 Latin America

Lutheran Leadership – What It Is and Why It’s Important

Rev. Jonathan Bauer

Rev. Jonathan Bauer

Good News, Mount Horeb, Wis.

Our Lutheran Moment: Why Now Is a Good Time for Us to Be Doing What We Do Best

Prof. Luke Thompson

Prof. Luke Thompson

Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.

Thinking Differently: On How the Next Generation Thinks, and On How to Help Them Think

Prof. David Scharf

Prof. David Scharf

Martin Luther College

Lutheran Leadership – What It Is and Why It’s Important

2023 Breakout Presentations

Who in the congregation is responsible for youth ministry? In this session, Rev. Kyle Bitter and Dana Leyrer describe a congregational approach to youth ministry developed at St. John’s in Wauwatosa and discuss the impact a vibrant youth ministry can have on other areas of congregational life.

A fair number of younger members drop out of church not too long after confirmation. This breakout brings together a panel of younger WELS members who serve as leaders in their schools and among their young peers. We will hear their thoughts about life, church, and ministry.

For many Christian leaders, asking for money is among the least favorite aspects of their work. In this dynamic session, Josh Birkholz, international fundraising leader and author, will try to make it easier.

Church leaders and their spouses have a unique challenge as they serve their own families and the greater people of God. Mary and Don will discuss the core values every church leader must follow in order to be a blessing in both family and church.

As we seek to reach more people in our ministries, many opportunities present themselves to aid our earthly efforts. Dana Kirchoff will help participants gain an understanding of how  to build a strong foundation for reaching their communities.

God’s gifted people, motivated by Christ’s love, overflow in generous giving. This presentation gives pastors and church leaders options and resources for helping WELS members with their regular, special, and legacy gifts.

Everyone knows that overall church membership has been in decline for a half-century. Many churches are contracting to a size which challenges their existence. In this session, Rev. Jon Hein will walk through five questions challenged congregations need to prayerfully consider.

Many challenges congregations face—from a lack of volunteerism to a general apathy about ministry—stem from poor communication. Wendy Kuschel will help participants understand how they can create a system for effective communication within their congregation.

What is a Christian to make of our current culture? It seems like the world has gone crazy! This breakout session will explore some of the philosophical underpinnings of our current culture, especially critical theory.

What can we do to share the Gospel with the ethnic minorities growing in number around our congregations? This presentation will share questions to ask to find the answers that will best suit your ministry.

Your congregation has a culture that can either help or hurt your ministry. Kurt Nitz will explain culture-shaping principles to help plan and start a culture-shifting journey.

Mental health challenges are on the rise. Being a church leader doesn’t mean you are immune. Dan Nommensen and Pastor Italiano will describe important resources available for leaders who want to help others with depression or struggle with it themselves.

Preach the Word. How does showing compassion to those in need serve this mission of the church? Rev. Dan Sims and Rev. Ryan Kolander will discuss the theology of compassion ministry and share examples and best practices for an active ministry of compassion in a local community.

How long do your church meetings last? Do you leave feeling you accomplished anything substantial? Rev. Justin Cloute and Sean Young will discuss general principles for running effective meetings that help a congregation fulfill its mission.

Many churches rely on pastors, staff ministers, and teachers to do ministry. In this workshop, Lori Lorig lays out a system where church leaders are responsible for engaging, equipping, and empowering members for ministry.

Today, the majority of Americans have no affiliation with any church. Yet, they are still interested in exploring spiritual matters with people they know and trust. Pastor Roecker will discuss the importance personal witnessing and simple ways congregations can prepare their people to be the salt and light Christ has said we are.

Expanding your ministry efforts doesn’t necessarily mean you need to expand the number of called workers at your church. Mr. Chuck Ulland and Prof. E. Allen Sorum will discuss how the current shortage of pastoral leadership allows for the development and platforming of lay leadership in a way that directly expands efforts to share the gospel.

64% of Generation Z are leaving the church. Millennial stats historically show the same. What will this mean for the future? Intergenerational ministry is key. So, what does intergenerational ministry look like? Learn the answers to these questions and more.

In a world that is openly hostile to Jesus and his followers, how are we to be effective leaders in our vocation, that station in life the Lord has assigned to us? How do we have confidence to lead in our world when so many openly criticize what we stand for? Steve Hanson will share thoughts and experiences which will provide some leadership guidance in approaching such situations.

Prof. Scharf will lead participants to look at the importance, not just of identifying potential leaders, but providing the organizational and spiritual training needed to lead in Christ’s church.

Chip Woods will dive into leadership skills and abilities developed in industry that can also be used for Christ’s glory in gospel ministry.

In an increasingly secular world, how do we establish relationships and build bridges with the unchurched in our communities? Rev. Vogt will talk about innovative ways to do just that.

In this presentation Naomi Schmidt helps women think through how to maintain a Christ-centered balance in a world that is screaming, “You can have it all! You should do it all!”

In this keynote follow-up, Dr. Joan Prince and Pastor Ken Fisher continue the conversation around modeling gospel-centered unity with intentional strategies for moving from concepts to reality.

Many of us are trying to figure out what to do for the individuals we care about who are struggling with LGBTQIA+ issues. Pastor Lyon will discuss foundational biblical truths and tips for how to share them in love.

Few topics are more important to Lutheran leaders than congregational health. Learn and discuss what ministry and forms of ministry are worth our focus and attention, and which others amount to little more than pious activism.

The challenge facing our churches may no longer be the question, “Is Christianity true?” but “Is Christianity good?” This breakout session will offer analysis of significant cultural challenges facing Lutheran churches as well as a roadmap and toolkit for leaders.

In previous generations WELS Lutheran elementary schools operated with low (or even no) tuition. Today, that has become challenging, for multiple reasons. In this presentation we will explore some best practices for addressing the financial sustainability of your WELS school.

Many congregations have questions about the new Christian Worship and the volume of resources that are available. In this presentation, you will have the opportunity to bring those questions to a panel consisting of leaders of the Hymnal Project.

We want our congregations would reach more people for Christ. But it rarely happens naturally. What can we do? Pastor Schroeder will lead a discussion on how to develop and execute plan that builds a culture of outreach in your congregation, that encourages personal evangelism, and that implements harvest strategies across your congregational ministries.

How should the presence of visitors impact a pastor’s sermon preparation and proclamation? The reality is that sermons will have two audiences—church members and non-members. Prof. Russow will discuss the importance of preaching with the non-member audience in mind, while edifying members too.

COVID-19 has changed American Christianity forever. Churches leaned heavily into technology to share the gospel. Now congregations have members who prefer to worship at home when they want. Pastor Dobberstein will explore ways to lovingly and evangelically communicate expectations for church members and their connection to the means of grace.

Many WELS congregations have consistent trouble filling elected positions. Also, WELS women often feel they have no way to share thoughts about congregational ministry. For these reasons, many congregations are rethinking the organizational structure and governance model of their church.

Churches often approach ministry by dividing the genders. There are instances where this is necessary to uphold scriptural principles. However, there are also many gospel ministry efforts where those complimentary gifts are best used together. This practical presentation talks about how to better align the unique gifts of men and women within gospel ministry.

It’s not if you get sued; it’s when you’ll get sued. In our changing world, it’s critical to position our schools for success while minimizing potential lawsuits. This panel discussion will cover many topics that challenge our schools today.

Has changing careers crossed your mind? If so, have you considered full-time ministry? Pastor David Rosenau, whose first career was in law enforcement but now serves as a parish pastor, will walk you through the considerations.

The Lord’s work is far too important to let something like inadequate teamwork stand in the way. Pastor Sutton will explore ways to enhance teamwork through The Five Essentials of a Ministry Team.

A principled approach to worship comes with a significant possible pitfall: That our worship becomes stayed or stagnant. In this workshop, Professor Christie will encourage your congregation to spot that which is stagnant and then stretch your worship life.

Most Christian churches and schools lack child protection policies and training or, if they have training and policies, it falls well below what child abuse experts recommend. Victor Vieth provides an overview of best practices for implementing training and policies for called workers, volunteers, children, and parents.

Every single WELS church has small groups—smaller segments of members that come together outside of worship. How can these groups be organized for gospel ministry? This session will include practical discussion on how to start up a vibrant small group ministry program.

Lay Leader. Called Worker. It’s fascinating how we describe the people who serve side-by-side in God’s kingdom. Mr. John Fowler and Rev. Charles Westra will share thoughts and tools for strengthening the vital ministry partnership between these two groups.

This presentation will discuss how to organize and prepare a congregation for a successful building program while avoiding some potential pitfalls.

In recent years, many of our Lutheran schools and early childhood ministries (ECMs) have welcomed a significant number of new families. Cindi Holman will discuss strategies that help build relationships with prospect families, relationships that can lead to opportunities to share the gospel with both the children and their parents.

WELS schools and early childhood ministries continue to operate, and many are enjoying growth at a time of high school leader and teacher vacancies. This sectional will provide both tools and guidance for dealing with teacher and leader vacancies.

What if we could guide every Christian towards his or her purpose and mission inside their Great Commission calling? This breakout session will introduce the concepts of transformational discipleship to help orient better discipleship efforts within your congregation.

In the parable of the sower, our Savior warned us about the six specific threats to great faith. This presentation will help you identify the specific threats to your faith and, with the Spirit’s help, protect God’s Word until it grows into the harvest that our Sower in heaven always intended.

The pressures, challenges, and real-life problems that teens experience today could not have been foreseen by previous generations. The presentation will offer real life counseling suggestions to those who work with, teach, pastor, or lead teens.

Why Should I Attend this Conference in 2023?


  1. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. It alone has the power to create and sustain faith in Jesus Christ. There is no way to God except through Christ. Therefore, the mission of the Church is to proclaim the gospel, carrying it to every corner of the world.
  2. God expects the Christian to use his reason and intellect, gifts God himself gives as part of his image, to formulate how to best proclaim the gospel in his corner of the world.

Questions? Contact Us.

Please use the WELS contact form to submit any questions you have about the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership.