New Start: A group of 27 WELS members living in the Buffalo area have been worshiping weekly in the local civic center since March 2020, led by the pastor from Lord of Lords in Casper, Wyo. Core group members have started three different Bible study/book study opportunities outside of Sunday worship and Bible study and are actively inviting friends to join.

Fast Facts:

  • Eight prospects are awaiting membership classes, and several other prospects have expressed interest in joining.
  • Core group members lead a women’s book study, men’s coffee group, and Saturday night Bible study each week.
  • The pastor in Casper drives almost two hours one way to lead worship and Bible study each Sunday.
  • Average attendance at Sunday services and Saturday evening Bible studies is in the high 20s.


Rev. Fred Schurman, Lord of Lords, Casper, Wyo.
[email protected]

New Start: Bentonville, the headquarters of Walmart, is anticipated to see 35% population growth in the next three years. There are only two churches of any denomination in the target area of southwest Bentonville/Centerton. The 12-person core group (pictured) has been active in the community and looks forward to planting a new church in an area with no current WELS presence.

Fast Facts:

  • Bentonville is the headquarters of Walmart, J.B. Hunt Logistics is located in neighboring Lowell, and Tyson Foods has a plant in Rogers and headquarters in Springdale to the south.
  • Bentonville itself has a population of 62,000. By 2026, its population is expected to be 83,000 (35% growth).
  • Walmart has invested quite a bit into the Bentonville community, making it a very desirable place to live with good schools and over 140 miles of bike trails for families. The Ozark National Forest to the southeast makes Bentonville a hub for outdoor activity.
  • The four families in the core group have been meeting every two weeks for Bible study and fellowship since May 2022.
  • The nearest WELS churches to the Bentonville/Centerton target area are Beautiful Savior in Bella Vista and Grace in Lowell.

Rev. Nathan Nass, District Mission Board member
[email protected]


New Start: Boston, a city with 4.3 million souls, is known as “America’s College Town” with 53 colleges and universities. The closest WELS church to the urban center is a 90-minute or more drive to the south. This unique urban mission will be modeled after church plants in Atlanta and New York City and could have potential for college and cross-cultural ministry.

Fast Facts:

  • Joshua Koelpin was assigned from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., in May 2023 to serve this new mission start. He was installed on August 6, 2023.
  • There are eight energetic and gifted WELS members currently residing in Boston who will be assisting in the mission effort.
  • A group of students from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary worked with the North Atlantic district mission board to prepare a strategy for how to mobilize a core group, reach the community, and use limited resources to maximize reach in Boston as part of a church planting course held in January 2023. Read more in this article from Forward in Christ magazine.
  • The closest WELS church is Good Shepherd in South Attleboro, Massachusetts, a 90-minute (or more!) drive to the south. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), WELS sister church, has a church in a far northwestern suburb.

Rev. Joshua Koelpin, Home Missionary
[email protected]

New Start: Beautiful Savior in Cincinnati, Ohio, is starting a second site in the Oakley and Hyde Park neighborhoods, just northeast of downtown. A core group of 20 members have been meeting regularly for fellowship, Bible study, and outreach since Fall 2022. This new location would put Beautiful Savior closer to three colleges in the area, opening opportunities for Campus Ministry growth.

Fast Facts:

  • The Oakley and Hyde Park neighborhoods have a growing population of young people and families. Part of their ministry plan includes providing a variety of service and fellowship opportunities to help connect these young professionals and families who have recently moved to the area.
  • This area would target college students at the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, and North Kentucky University. It is the prayer that service and fellowship events also draw in college students looking to make connections.
  • The Michigan district mission board has considered doing some kind of work in the southeast corner of Cincinnati since 1990. With three corners of the area served by current WELS congregations, the Oakley/Hyde Park area would be the fourth.

Rev. Alex Groth, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
[email protected]

New Start: The greater Idaho Falls area is experiencing tremendous growth due to jobs, quality of life, and cost of living. The Mormon church has a strong historical presence in the area, and the 11-person core group has been working with Truth in Love Ministries to understand how to best reach out into this demographic.

Fast Facts:

  • The Idaho Falls area is estimated to have a population of 145,216 by the year 2032, an increase of over 28,000 people (nearly 25% growth).
  • The Mormon population has dropped to around 59% due to the influx of people, whereas this number was as high as 75% at one point.
  • The core group has Tuesday evening Zoom Bible studies with Pastor Mark Parsons from Truth in Love Ministries.
  • The next nearest WELS churches are in Layton, Utah, (three hours) or Boise, Idaho (four hours).

Rev. Mark Parsons, Truth in Love Ministries
[email protected]

New Start: Kalispell, Montana, is considered the fastest growing micropolitan city (10,000-50,000 population) in the United States and is 100 miles away from the nearest WELS church. The dedicated core group has been gathering for worship on a regular basis for years, first in private homes and currently in a motel conference room. The pastor at Living Savior in Missoula, the closest WELS church over 100 miles away, leads onsite worship twice a month while lay leaders organize other weekly Bible studies and outreach events.

Fast Facts:

  • Kalispell is the county seat of Flathead County, which includes the communities of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls.
  • Flathead County, the real target area of the mission, has a population of 104,357.
  • The core group has been worshipping for over 10 years and participating in regular Bible studies for over eight years.
  • The group has started calling themselves “North Valley Lutheran Church”.
  • The core group hosted a Backpacks and Burgers event in July 2022 to help get their name out into the Kalispell community. Read more in this Missions Blog from August 2022:

Mr. Lloyd Fager, Core Group member
[email protected]

New Start: Five WELS churches in the greater Wausau, WI, area are on board to support a new mission in Kronenwetter. This growing community south of Wausau is home to Northland Lutheran High School, which will house this new church and provide mission-minded staff and students to support the outreach effort. The 22-member core group has been meeting monthly since December 2021 for Bible study and mission planning.

Fast Facts:

  • Read more about the exploratory work in Kronenwetter in this Missions Blog from August 2023: Brats and building bridges for Jesus!
  • Nearly 60% of homes in Kronenwetter don’t have connections to churches or faith groups.
  • The core group has visited other home mission churches in the Western Wisconsin district, participated in an “Everyone Outreach” seminar at a nearby WELS church, and hosted a highly successful live nativity event at Northland Lutheran High School in December 2022.
  • In the 1990s, the district mission board saw potential to plant a church in either Rib Mountain or Kronenwetter. They chose Rib Mountain, which is now a healthy, self-supporting congregation and one of the five churches from the area supporting the new effort.
  • Northland Lutheran High School’s student body will play a large role in assisting this new church, helping students become confident witnesses for Christ and providing the new mission church with support.

Rev. Jeff Mahnke, District Mission Board chairman
[email protected]

New Start: Marquette serves as the hub of the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan, and 52% of the people in and around Marquette do not have a home church or attend a church. It is also home to 7,000 students at Northern Michigan University, a ripe opportunity for a Campus Ministry program. There is currently a group of WELS members residing in town, and many students remain in the area after graduation.

Fast Facts:

  • Rev. Joe Lindloff has accepted the call to serve as church planter in Marquette and will be installed in Fall 2023.
  • Marquette has a population of about 21,000, and is the seat of a county with 66,000 people.
  • Many graduates from Northern Michigan University Marquette choose to live in, come back to, raise a family, and embrace Marquette.
  • Read more about the exploratory work in Marquette in these Missions Blogs:

Rev. Ben Enstad, District Mission Board chairman
[email protected]

New Start: A core group of 15 members from Atonement in Plano, Tex., are starting a new church in North Collin County, a northern suburb of Dallas. Two of the top five fastest growing communities in the United States are in this target area. Divine Savior Ministries has committed to providing guidance and resources to the new mission and are planning build a Divine Savior Academy by year five of the mission start.

Fast Facts:

  • Caleb King was assigned from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis., in May 2023 to serve this new mission start. He was commissioned at Taste of Missions on June 10, and installed on July 23, 2023, at Atonement Lutheran Church in Plano, Tex. Watch his commissioning and the Q&A panel with new missionaries from Taste of Missions at
  • There isn’t a single Lutheran congregation of any denomination in the proposed mission area.
  • The town of Prosper and the city of Celina are currently being targeted as potential church plant locations. The core group will work with their district mission board and Divine Savior Ministries to determine the optimal location for a church and school now that they’ve been approved.
  • The core group has been meeting every other week since 2021 for planning meetings and Bible studies. They’ve also participated in community outreach opportunities, including volunteering at a food pantry, cleaning up litter as part of the Adopt-A-Street program, and attending community events while representing Divine Savior Church.
  • Family ministry and Christian education will be this mission’s focus.
  • The goal is that once the Academy is built by year five of the mission, the church will worship in the school building and no church funds will be needed for land or building costs.

Rev. Caleb King, Home Missionary
[email protected]

New Start: Amazing Grace in Panama City is looking to expand west and start a second site in the greater Panama City Beach area. The core group of about 12 members has been meeting regularly for over two years as they make plans to reach a growing retirement population and the young families that serve the aging population and tourists.

Fast Facts:

  • Panama City Beach is seeing a new surge in housing growth that is anticipated well into the future. While no formal population estimates have been released, upwards of 225,000 people are expected to move into the target area.
  • Amazing Grace has a base of strong members in the Panama City Beach area. They currently drive between 30-75 minutes “over the bridge” to attend Amazing Grace, and the closest other WELS church is in Navarre, 90 minutes away.
  • Amazing Grace has started new opportunities for outreach in the Panama City Beach area, including a summer soccer camp, winter car show, and mentoring students in local schools.
  • This mission church is presently envisioned to become part of a multi-site type of ministry (Amazing Grace – Beachside) by incorporating shared resources, ministry personnel, and administration with Amazing Grace in Panama City.

Rev. David Kehl, Amazing Grace Lutheran Church
[email protected]