It can be hard to go to a church for the first time. There are so many questions that aren’t answered in mailings and newspaper ads. For example, "Will I know how to get into the building for the service, or will I pick the wrong door?" "What do I do with my children?" "What should I wear?" "What will the service be like?" Unknown factors like these can make church intimidating.
With this section we hope to answer some of the questions you might have about our church before you visit. We'd like to make your visit with us relaxed and enriching. Please let us know if there are questions not answered by these pages. We want to add whatever will be helpful to you to this visitor's guide. Our deepest wish is that when you visit St. Paul, you will hear about your Savior, Jesus, and come to know the grace and love of God more and more.
About our church body
St. Paul Lutheran Church is a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). This church body got its name because it was formed in Wisconsin in the 1850's. Our membership in this Synod unites us with Christians across our country and the world. It allows us to pool our resources for mission work as well as for writing hymnals, Bible classes, and other materials. But above all, we can be comforted by the fact that we know there are Christians throughout the world who share a common faith with us.
Our congregation and Synod are solidly based in the Bible. We believe that Jesus is our Savior and the only way to heaven. Through faith in Jesus we are united to him and each other. For more on what we believe, click here.
The name "Lutheran" comes from the great reformer Martin Luther. In a period in history when the Church had lost sight of its Savior and the truth of his Word, Martin Luther boldly challenged these errors and preached Jesus Christ as Savior. We are proud to remember his work and bring to light the truth of God’s Word by using his name to identify ourselves.
Our Core Beliefs
St. Paul is a Christian Church
We believe and teach the three historic statements of the Christian faith – the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, which clarify that God is Triune: three equal yet distinct persons that are one deity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe and teach that Jesus Christ is God the Son from all eternity who took on human nature in his birth at Bethlehem, and that human beings are saved solely by faith in him and his perfect life and atoning death for sin.
St. Paul is a Lutheran Church
We emphasize the three great truths of the Reformation. . .
BY GRACE ALONE. We are forgiven and saved solely as a result of God’s undeserved love, for the sake of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for us. There is nothing human beings can or must do to contribute to their salvation.
THROUGH FAITH ALONE. All that Jesus did to restore us to a right relationship with God is ours personally through faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit creates and confirms in us this faith or trust in Jesus solely through the Gospel, in Scripture and in the Sacraments.
ON THE BASIS OF SCRIPTURE ALONE. Christian truth and life are established solely by the 66 books of the Bible, God’s word-for-word revelation, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error.
St. Paul is an Evangelical Church
That word “evangelical” means that we are all about the Gospel – the “good news” that God’s love, forgiveness, and everlasting life are his free gift to sinners for the sake of Jesus Christ. The Gospel shapes our message, our mission, and the character of our life together in Christ’s Church.
St. Paul is a Confessional Church
Because they are a correct presentation of God’s Word, we consistently and without compromise teach the doctrines set forth in the catechism and confessions of the Lutheran Church – the Book of Concord.
When you visit us
Our Sunday services begin at 9am and last about one hour. After the worship service, we gather for some cookies, coffee (or other refreshments) and conversation in the narthex. An adult Bible study held in the church begins around 10:15am and lasts about 45 minutes. We also offer Sunday School classes starting at 10am in the lower level of the church for children (K-8).
What should I wear?
Sometimes people wonder how they are expected to dress at a church they’ve never visited before. Since the Bible presents no dress code, aside from simple decency and Christian humility, St. Paul doesn’t make any rules either.
Like most people, our members try to make their worship time at church a special time. This is often reflected in the way they dress. However, dress is a personal matter of worship before God. One may dress casually and rejoice that we have a God who accepts us as we are. Another may dress to reflect the awe and reverence we have for our Savior King. At any worship service you may see running shoes and high heels, jeans and suits, or open collars and ties. When a person dresses out of love for God, the choice of dress (casual or more formal) is acceptable to God . . . and us.
Questions about worship
St. Paul is a liturgical church, meaning that our worship follows a basic pattern from week to week. Liturgical worship ensures that our worship is focused on Christ throughout the church year, with readings from both God’s Law and also from His Gospel.
Form of Worship
Our weekly worship services contain the following parts each week, though different liturgies may be used each week.
Invocation: We begin our worship by calling on the name of our Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Confession/Absolution: We confess to God that we have not followed his law. The Lord, through his called messenger, forgives our sins because of his Son Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Bible Readings: Readings from both the Old and New Testaments are a part of each week’s worship.
Sermon: Our pastor provides guidance and encouragement for Christian faith and life based on one of our Bible readings, reminding us of our sinfulness but also of our forgiveness in Christ.
Response to the Word: We respond to God’s amazing gift of forgiveness and salvation with offerings and prayers of thanks.
Benediction: We end the service and begin our week with God’s promise to bless and keep us.
How to Participate
Our services follow an order of service from our hymnal, Christian Worship, which you will find in our pews. The service is usually printed in the service folder and also projected onto a screen at the front of the church.
St. Paul is a singing church, and the congregation participates in worship with hymns and spiritual songs also found in Christian Worship. Hymn numbers are posted at the front of the church and are also printed in the weekly service folder.
St. Paul is a sacramental church. Through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, God comes to us with forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. We believe that in Baptism, God really does pour out his Spirit in, with, and under the water for the creation and sustaining of faith. In the same way, we believe that God truly does give his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine to strengthen our faith and assure us of our forgiveness.
The Lord’s Supper is celebrated during services on the first and third Sundays of each month.
On the basis of Scripture, St. Paul and the larger church body of the WELS practice “close” Communion. As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we confess our unity of faith in the teachings of the Bible. Since we do not want to put our guests in the uncomfortable position of stating their agreement with us before we’ve had a chance to explain it to them, we kindly ask that only members of WELS or ELS congregations receive the Lord’s Supper until they’ve spoken with Pastor Buelow.
What if my child gets restless?
St. Paul encourages young children to worship with their parents in the Sanctuary. Though children can be restless, God’s Word is intended for them as well as adults. If your young one should become too restless during worship, parents can take their children out into the narthex and/or into the parent room (to the left of the doors into the sanctuary). In both places there is a speaker system available so that parents can continue to participate in worship if they wish.
Am I expected to give an offering?
It is customary for our members, during worship, to bring offerings to God out of thanks for his gifts to us. Our ushers will pass a plate for offering following the sermon. Please do not feel as though you are expected to give. Many visitors prefer to learn more about our beliefs and ministries before bringing offerings.
Other Questions or Concerns you might have
"I would just die if they made me stand up and say something." We assure you, we won’t embarrass you in this or any other way. We want you to feel comfortable and at home with us. Worship should be an enjoyable and uplifting experience. We promise to do all we can so you can learn about your Savior.
"I know I will feel out of place." We hope that this visitor's guide will ease your mind, but if you have a question, please ask someone for help. Don’t hesitate to say, "I am new. What is this about?"
"I am afraid I will say or do something wrong." All of us have felt this way when in a new situation, but we hope you see the people of St. Paul to be ordinary people like yourself. We want to accept you as you are and help you become what Christ wants you to be.
"I just want to watch at first and I know that they will try to involve me or sign me up." It is unpleasant to be pressured or to be part of a "membership drive" as though we were heads of cattle, isn’t it? We believe that membership should be a voluntary thing, and that the most important thing is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation. It takes time for this to be cultivated. People need time to evaluate and decide if they wish further involvement. We believe we should respect that need.
"I don’t know that much about the Bible." Worship services and Bible Study are opportunities to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and faith in Jesus. You won’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to answer. And remember, sometimes the wisest words we say are, "I don’t know."
St. Paul welcomes you to come and worship with us, and we’ll never embarrass you or pressure you to join. We are here to share God’s message of forgiveness with anyone in our community who is not being served spiritually. Our goals as a congregation are quite simple: we want to grow in faith and share that faith with people like you. Everything we do is meant to accomplish these two goals. We pray that there is nothing that stands in your way from learning more about your Savior.
Pastor Buelow is also available for Christian counseling, for couples considering marriage, for parents seeking baptism for their children, or to answer any questions you might have.
Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions or if there is anything we can do for you. God’s blessings to you, and we look forward to seeing you at St. Paul to worship our Living God together!