Demographic studies

The Commission on Congregational Counseling has pastors working carefully with congregations to help the congregation assess their ministry and community.   It puts the CCC in a unique position to identify challenges that seem to be shared by many WELS congregations.   These challenges beg for prayer and further study.

Currently, the two studies the CCC is conducting relate to demographics.    To help with these studies, the WELS Conference of Presidents decided in October 2014 to expand the statistical report that congregations fill out every year.   Beginning with the report for 2015, every five years congregations will be asked to share how many members they have in each of the following brackets.

  • 0 – 5 / birth though kindergarten
  • 6 – 11 / elementary school
  • 12 – 17 / middle & high-school
  • 18 – 24 / college & grad school
  • 25 – 34 / young adults
  • 35 to 44 / adults
  • 45 to 54 / middle-aged adults
  • 55 to 64 / senior adults
  • 65 to 74 / retirement-aged adults
  • 75 – 84 / elderly adults
  • 85+ / aged adults

The information collected in those statistical reports will aid in the following two studies.

Aging Congregation Study

You have probably heard someone say, “The WELS is getting older.”   Anecdotally you hear about congregations where there are very few young families.     In 2014 the CCC conducted an informal study to try to determine how many congregations WELS has where a) the average age is 60 or older and b) the congregation worships 50 or fewer members in an average week.  The study revealed that probably been 100 and 120 congregations meet those two criteria.    Many of these are located in rural areas with a very low population density.   The demographic portion of the 2015 statistical report will allow us to be more precise.

The ultimate purpose of this study is to formulate a strategic plan to help those aging congregations address the challenge before them, so that gospel ministry might continue in some fashion in their area, God-willing.

The CCC will issue at least a preliminary report before the 2016 district conventions.

Millennials Study

The Millennial Generation is typically thought of as all those born between 1980 and the early 2000’s.    Again, anecdotally there are reports of WELS congregations struggling to reach and/or retain this group.   Our congregational counselors have identified this as a trend within our congregations.    The CCC will analyze the data from the demographic portion of the 2015 statistical report in an attempt to quantify the issue somewhat.

However, a big thrust of this study includes looking at some “best practices” among our sister congregations.   God has blessed the efforts of some congregations to reach this group with the gospel.   We want to share these efforts.

Reports looking at some best practices will be released on an ongoing basis.  A fuller report, including demographical analyses of the WELS, will be published before the 2016 district conventions.

We need your help.

We understand that the expanded statistical report places a bit more work upon your already busy staff.   However, the information gained from that demographic information will be extremely helpful to our joint ministry efforts.   So when you fill out the 2015 statistical report at the end of this year, please include that information.   Thank you!


The SAA program is used to evaluate a congregation’s ministry and community.   The congregation does self-analysis to determine health in key areas of ministry.


The School of Strategic Planning is a day and a half event that enables participants to examine and analyze the tools used for strategic planning within the church.