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WELS increases online presence

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) has a newly designed Web site: “This is part of a larger focus, what we’re calling an ‘identity initiative,’” said Joel Hochmuth, the WELS director of communication.
The identity initiative centers around how the WELS church body communicates with the wider world. “Recently we came up with the message, ‘Christ’s love, our calling,” Hochmuth said. “That message really crystallizes what we’re about. In fact, it can communicate much more to the outside world than WELS. Every letter may need an explanation to some people,” Hochmuth said with a laugh.
The Web site is a tool WELS is using to communicate that message to the wider world. “We don’t consider this an online ministry. Instead it is about meeting a person at their needs and beginning the conversation,” Hochmuth said.

This screen grab of the new Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Web site shows a fresher look, designed to keep visitors engaged. Graphic provided by Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

We don’t consider this an online ministry. Instead it is about meeting a person at their needs and beginning the conversation

In one section of the Web site, called “In Our Own Words,” members describe why they are part of the WELS. Another new section, “My Life Issues,” provides a list of “life issues,” with aWeb page devoted to biblical perspectives on each one.
The Web site has retained the popular question and answer page. People are able to post questions on-line, and a seminary professor will provide a response. “That was a page we knew we had to keep,” Hochmuth said. Part of the redesign, though, is specifically responding to questions that appeal to a universal audience. This page receives more than 5,000 hits per month.
“This is really remarkable for us,” Hochmuth said. “For so long we’ve been accused of focusing inward, and this Web site is really symbolic of our desire to connect with the outside world.”
He said the Web site has been well-received internally, and a Facebook group has been created to gather reception of the Web site from those who are not WELS members. One goal is to increase the amount of time people spend at the Web site, which is up 10 percent since December.
The Web site has been up for about a year. It launched in July 2009 during the last synod convention. Since then it has been in continual development. Hochmuth said the process has been good, although there have been fits and starts as well.

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