New Start: Bend was identified in 2020 as the second-fastest growing city in the U.S. A core group of eight families has been gathering twice a month for Bible study and planning as they plant a church in an area where 62 percent of people are not involved with any religious community.

Fast Facts:

  • No WELS churches are located on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon. The closest WELS church is 2.5 hours away.
  • The population in Bend is expected to grow by more than 16,000 people by 2032.
  • Work on this mission effort started in July 2021
  • In addition to regular Bible studies and planning meetings, the core group has done door-to-door canvassing and food drive canvassing with support from short-term volunteer teams and its district mission board.

Prayer:

Lord God, as in everything, the task begins with you. As the core group in Bend, Oregon, looks forward to the arrival of their new missionary, be with them, Lord. As they continue to reach out to and into their community, be with them, Lord. As they seek to build a church for your name, be with them, Lord. As they go about their work, be with them, Lord. Help them always to see you and allow the city of Bend to see you through all that they do. Be with them, Lord, strengthen them, and teach them that as they remain in you, they will bear much fruit!

Contact:

Rev. Paul Bourman, District Mission Board member
[email protected]
971-533-3120

New Start: Members from Trinity and Zion in Crete, Ill., have formed a core group to plant a new mission in nearby Cedar Lake. This area of northwest Indiana is growing rapidly as Chicago commuters look for cheaper alternatives to living in Illinois.

Fast Facts:

  • The population of Cedar Lake saw a 58.3 percent increase since 2000.
  • A new train line is expected to be up and running in nearby Dyer, Ind., by 2025, which will make the commute to Chicago even more accessible and the area more desirable to live in.
  • Nine individuals currently make up the core group; an additional 17 families have expressed interest in learning about and being a part of a new mission start.
  • The core group has partnered with local non-profits to deliver holiday meals to those in need in the community.

Prayer:

Lord of the Church, we thank you for the efforts of the core group in Cedar Lake, Ind. We also thank you for the blessing of granting a new start mission in this growing town in western Indiana. Though there is no church building or worship services yet, bless the core group of members in their study of your Word and in the work of their hands with this brand-new mission. We ask you to bless them with a pastor to serve them with the Means of Grace and serve the community with the knowledge of your Son as their Savior. Amen.

Contact:

Rev. Kendall Cook, Trinity Lutheran Church
[email protected]
979-220-4699

New Start: Conway is a growing college town in the northwest of Little Rock with no WELS presence. A group of 19 WELS members has been gathering at a local hotel on Sundays for worship and Bible study with a part-time retired pastor and getting involved in the community as it prepares to launch a brand-new church.

Fast Facts:

  • The Conway population is projected to grow by 24.9 percent (19,827 individuals) in the next 10 years.
  • Conway is called “The City of Colleges” because it is home to three colleges: the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College, and Central Baptist College.
  • Conway’s population of younger families and college students, many of whom stay in the area following graduation, provides the opportunity for longevity and growth as families move to the area and grow the community.

Contact:

Travis Faske, Core group member
[email protected]
501-266-3657

New Start: Since 2016 Abiding Peace in Simpsonville, S.C., has been exploring the option of starting a second site in the greater Greenville area that includes Easley and Powdersville. Abiding Peace is currently offering worship and Bible study and getting involved in community events from a leased “homebase” in Easley as it evaluates where a future, permanent site might be established with a new missionary at the helm.

Fast Facts:

  • The population of Greenville and the smaller communities that surround it total more than 500,000 people and continue to grow thanks to large international companies such as BMW, GE, Michelin, Lockheed Martin, Prisma Health, and Tesla having a presence in the area.
  • After leasing the storefront in Easley in June 2023, volunteers renovated the building in preparation for periodic worship to begin in September 2023. Easter 2024 marked the start of weekly worship at this location.
  • The core group of 42 Abiding Peace members have participated in community holiday events such as Treats in the Street and the local Parade of Lights and have hosted Advent devotionals/socials from their new site.
  • A potential campus ministry program at nearby Clemson and Furman Universities is also being explored as part of ministry at this new site.

Prayer:

Lord of the Church, you call us to see the darkness of the world around us as an opportunity to shine the light of your Gospel to those in need. We are grateful for this opportunity, especially to have a new base from which to do so in the city of Easley, South Carolina. We ask your blessings for the beginning of this new mission, for the ongoing efforts of the core group, for the calling process and for the planned ministry. Use it, gracious Lord, to reach the people of Easley and the surrounding communities that souls might be reached, lives might be transformed, and eternities might be changed. We are bold to ask this for Jesus’s sake, Amen.

Contact:

Rev. Duane Rodewald, Abiding Peace Lutheran Church
[email protected]
864-354-6381

New Start: The core group in Williston has been gathering for 15 years, now under the name Lamb of God Lutheran Church. It rents a full-time ministry center where members worship weekly online with the WELS church in Bismarck, N.D., and conduct outreach. Members look forward to reaching out with the gospel with a full-time missionary at the helm.

Fast Facts:

  • Williston is in the heart of the Bakken oil field in the northwest corner of North Dakota. The population has tripled since 2000.
  • The core group of 33 members is served regularly with the gospel by worshiping weekly online with Our Saviour’s in Bismarck and meeting every-other-week for Zoom Bible studies with Apostles in Billings, Mont.
  • The core group is committed to developing children’s ministries as part of its ministry plan, which is one of Williston’s biggest needs.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who is gathering your people in Williston, North Dakota, through the good news of your forgiveness. These believers have been praying to start a mission for more than 15 years. Through this period of waiting, you have developed a family of believers who are persistent in ministry and steadfast in your promise that you will not leave them. Use this group to proclaim your light into the darkness where unbelief and ignorance has blinded souls to your truth. Provide a pastor to shepherd them with your Word. Thank you for your love and the goodness that you have lavished upon these fellow believers through the work of WELS Home Missions. We look forward to the blessings to come as you carry out your kingdom work through your beloved people in Williston, and throughout the world. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Contact:

Kent Jarcik, Core group member
[email protected]
701-570-7226

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:

  • Rev. Fred Schurman recently accepted the call to serve this new mission start in Buffalo.
  • 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.

Contact:

Rev. Fred Schurman
[email protected]
605-830-0735

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:

  • Rev. Ross Chartrand recently accepted the call to serve as home missionary in Bentonville.
  • 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.

Contact:
Rev. Ross Chartrand, Home Missionary
[email protected]
989-522-5111

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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:

  • Read more about the exploratory work in Boston in these Missions Blogs:
  • 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.

Contact:
Rev. Joshua Koelpin, Home Missionary
[email protected]
507-766-0674

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.

Contact:
Rev. Alex Groth, Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church
[email protected]
414-403-9339

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:

  • Rev. Paul Krueger was installed as the home missionary to Idaho Falls, Ida., on February 10, 2024. Members of the core group traveled to Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Boise to participate in the installation service.
  • The core group has chosen the name Christ Alone for their new church.
  • 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).

Contact:
Rev. Paul Krueger, Home Missionary
[email protected]
208-607-9697