Carrying on the Mission of the Savior's Heart in the Heartland: Mission and Outreach in Milwaukee County
It is no secret that the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) in general has faced decline in membership over the past twenty-five years. For evidence of this decline, one need look no further than Milwaukee, the synod’s birthplace and a metropolitan area with the most churches in the whole synod. The frustration is often heard, “Where did all the people go? We used to have full pews!” This thesis will track the changing dynamics of Milwaukee County and how this change has affected the congregations within the county limits. While there certainly are some factors beyond human control, it is critical to identify what is happening and what can be done from a human standpoint to faithfully carry out the mission of the Savior’s heart in the synod’s heartland, Milwaukee. This thesis will provide an examination of statistical data relevant to both the county and WELS congregations within it, along with a study of Milwaukee’s history. It will examine the mission theology of Scripture and make specific applications to Milwaukee County, while also consulting and comparing current literature on congregational mission and health. Finally, it will draw insights from interviews with WELS pastors with first-hand experience in different contexts around Milwaukee County.