The WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership
is founded upon twin convictions.
- The gospel is the power of God for salvation. It alone has the capacity 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.
- 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.
Lutheran leadership is at the nexus of those convictions. The Lutheran leader trusts firmly in the efficacy and sufficiency of God’s Word. However, he also understands that he has the responsibility to assess and plan ministry so that the congregation might do all it possibly can with God’s Word to disciple the faithful, seek the lost, and pursue the straying.
Thus, Scripture says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17 EHV).
WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership seeks to encourage congregational members and leaders in those twin convictions. In the plenary sessions, we will discuss larger strategic issues that are relevant for all congregations. The breakout sessions are more tactical in nature. Some share “best practices” for various types of ministries. Others address challenges that are applicable only to some congregations. Still others are more devotional in nature, providing the gospel motivation to do all we can with the gospel.
The National Conference on Lutheran Leadership will also provide the opportunity to network with leaders from other congregations: for encouragement, for the sharing of wisdom, and for Christian fellowship.
Who Should Attend the Conference?
A pastor leads God’s people into the Word and helps them understand the mission Christ has given us. A church president helps the congregation produce an annual ministry plan and budget. A principal oversees the academic and religious curricula and encourages ongoing teacher development. A woman frequently brings her unchurched neighbors with her to church and encourages her fellow members to do the same. All four of those individuals are exercising leadership. Some do so with the authority that comes with a divine call or an election. That woman exercises leadership in the sense of exerting a positive influence on others by her words and actions.
Thus, WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership is open to all. The conference content will benefit congregational leaders. However, it would also benefit and edify those who do not serve in any official leadership capacity, yet still care about the mission of the church. This conference is for called workers and laity. It is for men and women. (There will be family friendly activities planned.) The conference is for the young (there will high-school and college students present) and the retired (who are often some of our congregation’s most active volunteers). This leadership conference is for those who are life-long Lutherans and for those who have recently joined. Your congregation may send an “official delegation” to the conference. However, you are more than welcome to attend on your own.
With any conference, it can be helpful for an organization to have multiple people in attendance, for a number of reasons.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
First, it is impossible for one person to attend everything at a conference of this size. There are over forty breakout sessions at the National Conference on Lutheran Leadership. One person can attend five of those. Having multiple attendees lets your congregation cover more ground.
DISCUSS AND DEBATE
Second, having multiple people attend is conducive to better application. When it is just one person in attendance, what is brought back to the congregation is just one perspective. But when there are multiple individuals from a congregation in attendance, those individuals can discuss how what was shared in relates to that congregation’s situation.
Third, having multiple people attend can be beneficial in the implementation of learned strategies or tactics. There is something of a “critical mass” achieved. Having that buy in from multiple individuals can create momentum.
One possibility: bring a pastor, a councilman, a woman of influence, and a young future leader.
While registration for the conference must be done individually, those individuals list their home congregation on the registration form. Thus, there is a record of how many are coming from each congregation. Congregations that send three or more individuals to the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership will receive a travel rebate of $40 per attendee. (Note that only paid attendees count toward the congregational travel rebate. The maximum travel rebate is $200 per congregation.)
The Need for Lutheran Leadership
The Preacher says, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Mankind’s greatest problem will never change. The solution to that problem is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That does not mean that the challenges before Christian churches are completely identical in every time and every place. Far from it.
American Christianity is at a crossroads. Postmodernism has destroyed the notion of truth. Secular humanism has convinced two generations that they can obtain purpose and satisfaction apart from religion. Atheism has doubled in the last generation. In 2020, for the first time, the majority of Americans declared that they are religiously unaffiliated. COVID-19 convinced many Americans who were interested in church that they could be spiritually edified from the comfort of their couch forever.
There is consensus among those that study American Christianity that the vast majority of citizens simply are not interested in attending or belonging to church any longer. In 1980, approximately one-third of unchurched American households were “church shopping.”
Today, it is only about five-percent of unchurched households that are looking for a church to join. This means efforts at corporate outreach—“getting the church’s name out there”—are going to be decreasingly impactful. If the Church is going to reach the lost with the gospel, it is going to require leaders to encourage Christians to function as the nation of priests Christ has made us to be.
Man’s biggest problem and the solution to that problem will always be the same. However, the cultural and strategic challenges before Christian churches are not identical in every time and place. That is why Lutheran leadership is necessary. Leaders have the responsibility to think through how to apply God’s unchanging Word to a culture that is radically different than even just one generation ago.
The WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership exists to help your congregation do just that. May God grant us the faith to trust all his promises and the wisdom to apply them well to our time and place!