Information gathering for starting a new Home Mission – by Mark Birkholz

Six Questions

Through the years the Executive Committee and its forerunners (Mission Expansion Committee, Priority Committee, BHM Team) have at times put a premium on brevity, while at other times appreciated extra documentation in connection with a request.  When you submit a new start request, find the middle ground between those two extremes.  I recall one request that addressed the Eight Questions (Six Questions now being proposed) with ten pages of single-spaced verbosity. Conversely, another group thought it sufficient to answer the Six Questions with one declarative statement per question. They were mistaken. Find the middle ground. The five men on the Executive Committee need indications of thorough research and planning. They need proof of the core group’s personal familiarity with the location under discussion. They need help in understanding what is unique about this opportunity as well as what parallels it may have with previous WELS ventures. So be thorough. But also strive to be succinct.

We are operating within a culture that increasingly values local ownership and decision-making as opposed to franchising and centralized bureaucracy. The BHM has somewhat accommodated that shifting cultural preference by stressing “guidelines” rather than “policies” where possible. “Adaptability” and “flexibility” are much more in vogue, even in our slow-to-change circles. The men on the Executive Committee are serving in that capacity, in part, because their peers recognize that they recognize that we no longer operate with a “one size fits all” vision and process.

What really stands behind the Six Questions is an understanding of how we as a core group and mission board intend under God to mesh a suitable missionary with the collective talents of a core group in order to build  relationships as forums for sharing truth within a community. Keep in mind several sub-points for the core group, the missionary, and the community

Core Group

  • Does there appear to be a long term commitment to this area?
  • What collective religious experiences and God-given talents are present
  • Do all understand that this is a major commitment of time and energy?


  • Are we committed to calling a missionary with 5 key characteristics?
  • Doctrinally sound and expositional preaching/teaching
  • Ability to initiate and foster conversations and relationships
  • Entrepreneurial, including the ability to “fail” and yet try again
    • If married, a wife who participates and zealous to reach the lost
    • Always working toward spiritual growth and leadership among laity         
  • Does he recognize 3 unique strengths of the Lutheran approach today?
    • Doctrinally sound and expositional preaching
    • Thorough course of basic instruction prior to church membership
    • Willingness to make house calls and/or meet face-to-face
  • Is he committed to making this community “home”


  • What has been the religious/spiritual history of this particular area?
  • What has been done by others in the realm of childhood education/care?
  • What is acceptable, customary or permitted as far as publicity, advertising,  inviting, engaging, etc.?

1. Provide a brief description of the field and demographics of the target area

  • The “target area” should be a geographical area that a church would normally draw from.  Avoid using counties or larger regions.  Including a map of the area is always appreciated.
  • Provide a summary of the key demographics from Mission Insite or in rare cases  another demographic service if Mission Insite is not available.  If you need access to Mission Insite, contact the missions office.  When answering question one, you should share an executive summary and not the actual report of Mission Insite.  Items of interest include population growth and turnover, racial-ethnic trends, age trends, education attainment, employment types (white/blue collar), top mosaic segments, and ministry preferences.  These items can be found in the Mission Insite reports.
  • Availability of 3-4 bedroom housing and estimated cost to rent.  Housing booms or escalating housing prices in desirable areas often mean both adults in the average household are employed full time.  That economic and social reality have implications for the ministry program.  
  • Availability of land and existing buildings for purchase and estimated cost.
  • Presence and description of other Christian congregations in the target area.  Interviews with pastors, lay leaders and administrative assistants of these congregations can provide insight into their demographics, activity, target groups and effectiveness of activity.
  • Share pertinent information obtained from interviews with realtors, business leaders,  community servants and elementary administrative sorts.  Pay close attention to what is being done in the area as far as early childhood education, childcare, projected kindergarten enrollments and public/private education overall.  
  • Describe if this is a satellite, mother/daughter, multi-site or cooperative effort of several WELS congregations.
  • Make a case for planting/supporting a confessional but appropriately flexible Lutheran congregation in this setting.  All locations have a large unchurched population.  Why here and why now are good points to make.  


2. What “research” has been done and by whom and when?

  • The persons responsible for the research (mission counselors, pastors, laity).  In general if there has been localized laity participation in doing the research or sifting through the collective data, we get a better perspective on what the research means now and how we should then approach this field.  
  • Sources of the demographic information described in question one including Christian church leaders, realtors and community leaders.  Pay close attention to what other Protestant church are or are not doing.  
  • The date of the research.  A general rule of thumb is that most research /data needs to be updated regularly.  Information can become outdated in the space of 12-18 months.  
  • With every request, cross cultural realities and opportunities deserve attention.  


3. Describe the activity of the requesting group in the target area.

  • Describe planning meetings or fellowship events (bible studies, meals) by the core group.  Please include the approximate dates of these events.
  • Describe outreach events and results.  The more specific the information all the better.  It is good for the EC to read what is being tried in outreach, publicity and community engagement.  


4. Provide a description of the core group members, launch team members and any other key drivers of the effort.

  • A paragraph on each core group member or family is helpful.
  • Suggested items to include:
    • approximate age(s), 
    • church service, 
    • profession, 
    • hobbies, 
    • residence location relative  to the target area,
    • length of time living at their residence,
    • frequency of moving
    • level of commitment to the mission (full-time, part-time, a few years) 
Photo by Pixabay on

5. Describe the basic plan of action/ ministry plan.  If a multi-site, include how it fits in the other site(s) plans.

  • Describe the activities of the core group prior to the missionary arriving.  This could include:
    • Events such as outreach, fellowship, bible studies, and planning meetings,
    • Formation of teams to assist the missionary with housing options and office space,
    • Identify church leaders such as the president, treasurer, financial secretary, educators, worship participants, administrative assistant…..
    • Establish a social media presence 
  • Determine how the core group can be encouraged and trained to become better for the challenges inherent in starting a new congregation. 
  • Once the missionary arrives, describe the anticipated activities and timing.  Realizing this can change once the missionary arrives, suggested items to include:
    • Missionary familiarized himself with the target area and attends non-WELS church services to understand the styles of worship and demographics,
    • Missionary has every member visits with the core group,
    • Missionary begins to network with community events/meetings,
    • Develop a mission statement and core values,
    • Select a church name and create a logo,
    • Incorporate and establish a checking and savings account,
    • Setup online giving,
    • Adopt a charter or constitution,
    • Agree on worship style, preview services, and grand opening (usually 9 months or 18 months),
    • Adopt a charter or constitution,
    • Praise and Proclaim (or similar) evangelism training,
    • Schedule of outreach events, fellowship events and bible studies.
  • If this is a multi-site, describe how the two churches will operate.


6. How long is subsidy projected to be needed and what are the key assumptions?  

  • Utilize the “Subsidy Projection” spreadsheet to provide a forecast of future subsidy needs.  This will require numerous assumptions and will be less accurate in the future years, however, it is a tool the DMB’s utilize and is helpful to begin thinking about upcoming growth and expenses such as land and building cost. Typical new missions require subsidy for 8 – 12 years.  Summarize the results and attach the spreadsheet.
  • Describe the major assumptions used in the Subsidy Projection spreadsheet such as offerings and special gifts.
  • If external sources of funding are anticipated, describe these sources and comment on the certainty of them.
  • When doing the budget:
    • The Missions Office will provide the compensation figures
    • There aren’t unlimited resources, but don’t take the bare bones approach either
    • Provide a narrative outlining special expenditures so it is clear what is being done:
      • Examples – Equipment fund; what equipment will be purchase? Promotions; what is being planned 

Click the link to download a document version of the Six Questions: