Brand new church planters gather together with experienced home missionaries for a Church Planter Intensive at Eternal Rock in Castle Rock, Colo. Experienced church planter Jared Oldenburg, home missionary at Eternal Rock, developed the program and leads the training. This extended weekend seminar encourages and equips pastors who are called to plant brand new home mission churches. After the weekend, new church planters are paired with a coach from an established mission church to guide them along the way.
WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), a valuable partner of WELS Home Missions, supports the spread of the gospel by providing loans and grants to WELS home mission congregations. They provide home mission churches a 4-to-1 matching grant for initial land purchase based on their 10% down payment as well as a 2-to-1 matching grant on a home mission congregation’s 10% down payment for their facility construction project. Learn more at wels.net/cef.
District mission boards (DMBs) and home mission churches are supported by three home mission counselors, a Hispanic outreach consultant, an Asian ministry coordinator, and a Campus Ministry counselor. These six mission counselors work with the DMBs to find, evaluate, and develop new home mission locations. They also provide onsite assistance to home mission congregations and counseling and training to the new missionaries who are called to serve them. This support is crucial in guiding mission congregations on the way to becoming self-supporting congregations.
Meet the Mission Counselors
Rev. Mark Birkholz - Mission Counselor
Rev. Mark Birkholz has served as a WELS Mission Counselor since 2007. Since then, he’s spent time with mission efforts connected to all fourteen district mission boards. Currently he supports the efforts of the Dakota/Montana, Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, Michigan, North Atlantic, and the eastern half of WELS Canada district mission boards. For most of the past fifteen years he lived in Denver, Colo. In 2022 he and his wife relocated to Sioux Falls, S.D.
Rev. Birkholz graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 1983 and was assigned to begin a mission in Northeast Denver. Over the course of 23 years, that mission grew to the extent that it was able to open an elementary and preschool, be a key player in forming a federation of congregations that eventually opened Rocky Mountain Lutheran High School, and partner with Home Missions in opening three nearby daughter congregations. In 2006/2007, Rev. Birkholz served at Grace Lutheran Church in Grenada before accepting the call to be Mission Counselor.
Rev. Birkholz and his wife Lin have been married since May 1981. They have four children (three of whom are married) and seven grandchildren. Those respective families live in San Diego, Denver, Sioux Falls, and Indianapolis.
Rev. Matt Vogt - Mission Counselor
Rev. Matt Vogt has served in Home Missions his entire ministry. Called to plant a new church (Water of Life) in Las Vegas in 1997, he served there for over 20 years. His ministry in Las Vegas also included daughtering a second congregation in northwest Las Vegas (Shepherd of the Hills), training pastors for and assisting in starting both a Korean ministry and an African immigrant/refugee ministry, starting a preschool/Kindergarten ministry, and exploring a new world mission field in Liberia. He served for a number of years as chairman of the Arizona-California district mission board and as a member of the WELS Board for Home Missions and its Executive Committee.
He currently serves as a Mission Counselor for WELS Home Missions. He works with five districts—South Central, Nebraska, Colorado, Pacific Northwest, and the western half of WELS Canada—and around 70 mission fields/congregations.
His wife, Kelli, and their two boys, Noah and Caleb, still call Las Vegas home. Kelli serves as the office manager at Water of Life Lutheran School. Noah attends Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, studying to be a pastor. Caleb attends the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studying construction management.
Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn - Mission Counselor
As one of WELS Mission Counselors, Rev. Wayne Uhlhorn was called by Home Missions to serve four districts: Arizona-California, Northern Wisconsin, Southeastern Wisconsin, and South Atlantic. He works with the four district mission boards to research, help launch, and counsel new mission churches.
He has served the following congregations in his 32 years of ministry: St. Paul’s, Valley City, N.D.; Atonement in Baltimore, Md.; Fount of Life in Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Beautiful Saviour in Carlsbad, Calif. He also previously served as chairman of the Colorado district mission board and chairman of the Board for Home Missions.
He and his wife, Daneen, have four adult children and three grandchildren. Their two daughters are married, and two sons are single and living on their own.
Rev. Tim Flunker - Hispanic Outreach Consultant
Rev. Tim Flunker was born in Iowa but grew up in Puerto Rico, where his father served as a missionary. It was there where he learned Spanish. After high school in Nebraska and college in Watertown, Wis., Rev. Flunker began his seminary training at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He took a year sabbatical during his training to teach for a year at a local WELS high school, where he met his future wife, Terri. They married after he spent his vicar year in Tomah, Wis.
Upon graduation, Rev. Flunker served in Flower Mound, Tex., for six years; Mexico City, Mexico, for three years and Green Bay, Wis., for six years. In Green Bay he began work as a consultant in ethnic minority ministries, serving the districts in the state of Wisconsin and focusing on Spanish ministry. In 2009, WELS Home Missions called Flunker to be the Hispanic Outreach Consultant. Since then, he has helped congregation throughout the United States that are already doing Hispanic outreach, as well as new congregations who are looking for advice and counsel as to how to begin Hispanic outreach. By God’s grace, 18 locations have weekly worship services in Spanish and another five locations offer Bible classes in Spanish.
Rev. Flunker and his wife Terri have been blessed with three children: Charles, Amelia and Michael; and three precious grandchildren, Zooey, Isaak, and Ava.
Rev. Dan Lindner - Campus Ministry Mission Counselor
Rev. Dan Lindner serves as the WELS Campus Ministry Mission Counselor. He partners with a variety of individuals, groups, and institutions to serve college-age students. He works to strengthen and support existing campus ministries, encourages high school students (both domestic and international) to connect with a campus ministry, works with congregations to start and maintain active campus ministry programs, and equips domestic and international students to share their faith with family and friends wherever they call home. He also partners with district mission boards as they explore planting new churches where colleges would be part of the mission field.
Rev. Lindner spent his vicar year at Cristo Glorificado in Puebla, Mexico. Prior to his current call, he served as a tutor at Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School, a parish pastor at St. John’s in Minneapolis, Minn., and the campus pastor for True North Campus Ministry in the Twin Cities.
He and his wife live in Minneapolis, Minn. She is a teacher at a Hmong Charter School in St. Paul, Minn. In their free time, they enjoy traveling together, spending time in National and State Parks, kayaking, and enjoying various activities and events in Minneapolis.
Rev. Neil Birkholz - Asian Ministry Coordinator
Rev. Neil Birkholz was called by the WELS Joint Mission Council in 2020 to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator under the WELS Joint Mission Council. He supports WELS outreach efforts that take place in Asian cross-cultural situations and coordinates the WELS Diaspora Ministry Facilitator (DMF) program that helps build connections between home and world mission efforts. This relativity new program assigns a stateside pastor to every World Mission team overseas. This stateside pastor, or DMF, helps facilitate connections and outreach between people-groups in North America and their home country. Rev. Birkholz also works with the Pastoral Studies Institute (PSI) as they train non-traditional students who are uniquely equipped to serve in Asian outreach situations. He encourages them through their studies while also helping identify their local mission fields where they can serve while taking classes.
Before graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Rev. Birkholz served with Kingdom Workers in Brazil (6 months) and with Friends of China (2 years). Upon graduating in 2014, he was assigned to the WELS World Mission field in East Asia where he served until the summer of 2020. He then accepted the call to serve as Asian Ministry Coordinator (75%) and quarter-time parish pastor (25%) at Reformation Lutheran Church in San Diego, Calif. In summer 2022 his current position as Asian Ministry Coordinator became full-time.
Rev. Birkholz, his wife Becky, and children Caleb, Malachi, Noah, and Kaia are blessed to be supported by their home congregation, Reformation, as they transitioned from living in Asia back to the United States. Becky teaches part-time at Reformation in the 7-8 grade classroom and their four children are all attending the school. Because of their location in San Diego and the outreach efforts of Reformation, the Birkholz family continues to have opportunities to connect with many Asian people in the local setting.
Download and share PDFs of all Mission Counselor biographies at wels.net/missioncounselorbios.
District mission boards (DMB) are the heart and core of Home Missions comprised of 2-4 pastors and 2-4 laymen volunteers. They are the “boots on the ground” as they support existing missions and work with area congregations to identify new locations for home missions in cities, communities, and among various people groups. District mission boards help to build a solid foundation for each new mission start in various ways, including a two-year coaching program for home missionaries and identifying and developing solid core groups of members.