- “This retreat was very informative, spiritually uplifting, and encouraging.”
- “I thoroughly enjoyed the retreat. The information was very helpful and made me start thinking of more and better ways to reach out to people.”
(Comments from participants of the “Engage Others with Jesus” retreats)
In keeping with our synod’s strategy to “Engage Others with Jesus,” in late 2012 the ELS Board for Home Outreach embarked on an aggressive plan to conduct retreats throughout the synod to help congregations and pastors in their outreach and evangelism efforts. Over the course of a year, the board held retreats for nine of the synod’s circuits. Most of the retreats were conducted over a Friday night through Saturday afternoon timeframe at a local hotel conference center. Some of the retreats took place at a local church on a Saturday. All of the retreats were packed with much useful material.
Each retreat started with a devotion and introduction by Pres. John Moldstad. The first main portion of the retreat addressed the topic of our motivation for evangelism and our love for souls. The second portion covered how we can reach out with the Gospel within our various vocations. In the following section, various fears about evangelism were addressed, including ways in which we can work around such fears. The fourth portion of the retreat gave practical information regarding what to say when engaging someone with Jesus. The fifth section addressed the area of how a congregation can identify and nurture prospective members. After a brief section regarding a demographic tool available to congregations, the retreat concluded with a round table discussion for each congregation to determine how best to move forward with their own plans for outreach and evangelism once they returned home.
How were the retreats received by the participants? Overall, fairly well. At the end of each retreat, participants filled out feedback forms. Some of the comments from these forms were listed above. Here are a few more.
- “Becoming more aware of the need to reach souls for the kingdom of heaven motivated all who attended from our church to adopt and implement new ideas to reach our community. Outreach, follow-up, ideas, are becoming reality.”
- “The retreat was a good starting point and stepping stone for us. The information provided was good and can be used by the congregations. It is now up to the congregations to use the information to their benefit.”
- “Good focus on how we already have the right tools. They are God-given tools of Word and Sacrament. Maybe mention that it is important that we not compromise on doctrine for the sake of sharing Jesus.”
The board is currently making plans for another synod-wide retreat, which will address particular aspects of outreach and evangelism.
The entire “Engage Others with Jesus” retreat is available on DVD with the accompanying workbook material. Every congregation that participated in one of the retreats received these materials. If your congregation still needs a copy of these materials, please contact the synod’s Communication Director, the Rev. Paul Fries (paul.fries@ blc.edu). May God continue to bless our synod in our efforts to engage others with Jesus.
Michael K. Smith serves as a professor at Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary and as chairman of the ELS Board for Home Outreach.