Confidently Serving in His Local Congregation
I am an adult confirmand who was led to the Lord through an evangelist knocking on doors in my college dorm at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. He gave me a basic law and gospel presentation I will never forget, and since then I’ve used a similar presentation myself.
I married my high school sweetheart, Sharon Wilkens, a life-long WELS member from Newburg, Wisconsin, after graduation. We’ll be celebrating 40 years of God’s grace in our marriage next year. We have one son, Ben, and he and his wife, Ashley, are also devoted to the Lord. We give thanks to God for that daily.
My profession is that of a photojournalist. I’m also an author, having published my first book, a memoir titled The Last Hummingbird, earlier this year. Because of how the Lord led me to him, I’ve always been interested in evangelism work. At one time the synod had an evangelist training program, and I wanted to study that. But then I learned that had been rolled into the Congregational Assistant Program (CAP), so I went that route instead. It was a great thing, as now I’m trained to do much more than just evangelism.
I studied with my pastor and my vicar, and with two other CAP students in my congregation (Laurie Behrens and Erick Larsen), and I also attended several local seminars. We completed our courses in about three and a half years, finishing up in the summer of 2015 with the two-week CAPstone session, which is held on campus at MLC and at the synod offices in Waukesha.
The education I received through the Congregational Assistant Program has helped me to better serve my congregation and community.
First and foremost, the instruction in solid doctrine—courses in Old and New Testament, the life of Christ, the Small Catechism, and law and gospel—laid the foundation. Then, courses on topics like teaching, evangelism, Christian leadership, and the Christian family filled in the rest to prepare me for my Congregational Assistant role. The course on other churches and religions is very helpful in doing evangelism work with unchurched and non-Christian people.
I highly recommend the CAP course of study to anyone who has a love for the Lord and wants to learn more about how to serve him in a congregation most effectively. Even mature Christians have much to gain. The staff at MLC is excellent to work with, and I will never forget my brief time there a couple summers ago.
I am called to my local congregation as an unpaid volunteer. I do many small things that would probably add up to a lot of extra work for our pastor and others in the church:
- Starting and overseeing a church newsletter with the excellent help of a volunteer editor, Connie Siebenrock.
- Maintaining a database of visitors and prospects that the electronic newsletter is sent to each month.
- Starting and maintaining the congregation’s Facebook page.
- Setting up electronic phone and text messaging to members.
- Coordinating the video recording of our sermons for the website and Facebook. Particularly in outdoorsy Colorado, where people flock to the mountains on weekends, this is a popular offering. Our snowbird members like it too.
- Creating a “New Member Handbook” and working with new members to integrate them into the congregation. This is particularly helpful to people who don’t have a WELS background.
- Hosting new member welcome dinners.
- Creating a DIY photo directory of members.
- Serving as a mentor to the evangelism board. I’m particularly interested in helping with outreach projects that involve the community.
- Creating a short promotional video that plays on the church’s website and that we hand out to visitors on memory sticks. (This is something I could do for other congregations in my work as a professional photographer/videographer.)
- Coordinating church greeters and training them for their role as representatives of the church to visitors.
- Organizing volunteers to do personal visits with church visitors.
- Our congregation is working on a multi-site outreach program to a rapidly growing neighborhoods nearby. Erick and Laurie, our other congregational assistants, and I will be very active in working in that community, helping with Bible classes and other events to reach the thousands of new move-ins who are expected in the coming years.
- Any other help that our pastor may call upon me to do. A recent example was serving as a lay delegate to our district convention.