The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is seeking nominations of people who are qualified and willing to serve on the Network’s Board of Directors.
The Network’s Board is responsible for the setting the vision and goals for the Network, and works with the Executive Director to live in to that vision. The Board meets face-to-face three times during the year, once in the fall, again just prior to the Extravaganza and then again in the Spring.
To carry out its work, the board of directors seeks members who are visionary, possess solid communication skills, are willing to support the mission of the network, employ critical and creative thinking, display personal humility, and model a servant’s heart.
The term of a board member lasts three years and could be renewed for one additional term. This year, there are three board “seats” that are up for election. Both Rev. Regina Goodrich and Becky Cole, who each hold one of those seats, are eligible for a second term if willing and selected. Erik Ullestad has served two full terms and is not eligible for renewal.
Nominations for the Board this year are due September 15, 2017. This year, the term for new board members will begin at the conclusion of Extravaganza 2018 in Houston.
More detailed information on the Board nomination process can be found here. Both self-nominations and nominations of others are welcomed and encouraged.
The nomination form for the Board of Directors can be found here.
Ok, I’m just going to put it out there and say it: I think every ELCA congregation should participate in the ELCA Youth Gathering.
Every three years, the conversation kicks back up: “How can we justify spending (pick a number here…$1000…$1300…even $1600) to send kids to stay in a hotel for a week? What if we could spend that money on mission instead?”
I get that. I understand that we all need to make decisions about what we will and won’t participate in. I get calls every week from some group that wants us to bring people to their event…or wants to send us their material to ‘trial’ so that we can use it in our congregation.
I also get, and respect, that every context is different than every other, and blanket statements like the one I made at the top of this post might not be helpful. But here are my random thoughts, in no particular order:
- First, let’s get our data right. $1300? $1600? Sure, it’s possible to spend that much per person to get a group to the Gathering. But it’s also possible to spend much less. But it’s all about choices. If you choose to fly there, you might spend more. If you want to stay at hotels on the way driving there and back, yes that’s going to cost money. But it is possible to do this for way less than $1300. Maybe take a bus rather than fly. Not as quick or convenient, but probably less money. Partner with another congregation to share transportation expenses. If driving, sleep in churches rather than hotels. Bring your own food.
I’d also strongly encourage you to watch the Network 3rdTuesday Conversation webinar on fundraising by Mike Ward. It’s really good.
I’ve never spent more than $800-$900 per person to send a group to the Gathering. Still a lot of money. But it’s easier to come up with than $1300 or $1600.
- I’ve heard people compare the value of the Gathering to the value of a mission trip. I think we need to let that go. They are two totally different kinds of experiences and it’s apples and oranges; impossible to compare. While mission trips have a service and accompaniment focus (with a lot of other stuff too), the Gathering has a faith formation and accompaniment focus (with a lot of other stuff too). They both are extremely important, and should not be set in opposition with each other.
- The scope of the Gathering means that things can be experienced there that cannot be experienced elsewhere…like in our congregations. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to bring Maya Angelou, or Bishop Desmond Tutu, or Rob Bell, or Audio Adrenaline, or Switchfoot, or Peter Mayer, or Nadia Bolz-Weber to my congregation. But that’s going to be a big budget “no” for my church. I’m guessing the same for yours.
Likewise, to experience the gift of Word and Sacrament with 30,000 other people? I can’t explain why…but it’s one of the most amazing experiences out there. And it’s something we can only experience at the Gathering.
I’ve taken hundreds of kids on mission trips. I’ve taken hundreds of young people to the ELCA Youth Gathering. Years later, the same number of people tell me that the Gathering had a huge impact on their life and faith as those who tell me the same thing about our mission trips.
- The impact of the Gathering on the city we visit is immense. Financially it has been estimated at around $30 million dollars. Sure, some of that goes to hotel corporations, etc…but how many jobs are provided to people who need them? How many restaurants are buoyed? How many shops are filled? It’s ok to recognize that we can make a difference in ways other than swinging hammers. Oh….and by the way…even more importantly, the public witness of the church being present in the city we visit has an even larger impact. Look up the newspaper and blog articles in the city of Detroit while we were there in 2015.
- It’s an opportunity to partner. There are under-resourced congregations that struggle to get to the event. There are also congregations that have resources that they could share to assist those in need. What if they did? What if the Network helped to set that up? What if we could match churches in need with churches who would be willing to share?
Maybe it’s financial assistance? Or what if one church offered the empty seats on their bus to a church that can’t afford transportation? What if we made sure that we could all get there? If we put our minds to it, we can!
Here’s the thing: If we approach the Gathering like we’re the consumers and it’s the product, of course it’s going to seem outrageously expensive.
But we’re not consumers. We are the church. And the Gathering is not a product. It is a ministry. And we have the opportunity to participate…and I think we should.
The ministry of the gathering is a ministry of young people…not a ministry to them. In Houston this summer they will be the body of Christ, living out God’s mission in a unique way. And it is a ministry that will draw your young people together for at least a full year before the actual event, to prepare. And by preparing, I don’t mean fundraising. I’m talking about Bible study, community building, etc…
So I stand by my original statement: I think all of our congregations should participate in the Gathering, because we are stronger together. I know you won’t all agree with this…and that’s fine. But there is one thing I firmly believe:
We are stronger together.
So let’s be together.
I’ll be in Houston. I hope you will too!
Trinity had partnered with Living Waters in Chicago a couple of years ago and had a great experience. This year, I didn’t expect a text that I received.
The day after our group arrived, my phone beeped and a photo appeared in my inbox. It was a photo of Sam, sent to me by Lisa Jeffreys. Lisa works in the Southeast Michigan Synod. We’d worked together, and become friends, working on the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. I had no idea that Lisa was working with the Living Waters program this summer.
I saw the text, and I smiled.
And a couple of days later, Lisa sent me another photo, this time it was Sam, standing arm in arm with a good friend and mentor, Pastor Kelly Chatman, from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, who was also in Detroit with Living Waters this week.
I found myself moved emotionally, by seeing these photos. I mean of course, it’s alwaysgood to see the smiling face of your son. But beyond that, I loved the fact that Sam was there with his friends from Trinity…with our adult volunteer leaders…and now with my friends from ministry; from the Network.
It is powerful because when Sam ran into Lisa…into Kelly…when Sam was present with the youth group, and its amazing adult leaders, he is experiencing the promises that God made to him in the waters of his baptism. This week, Sam is experiencing what it is to live among God’s faithful people.
When Sam met Lisa…when Sam met Kelly, he was experiencing the family of God. My friends became his friends. The son whom I love met the friends whom I love.
Thank you Lisa, for being a friend. Even though we only chat occasionally, and I really only get to see you at the Extravaganza, I am so glad that Sam gets to experience you this week. Thank you Kelly, as much as you’ve been a fantastic powerful influence on my life, I’m so glad that Sam has had the opportunity to spend some time with you as well.
I’m reminded this week of what it is to be church. We are all interconnected. We all share a mission. We are all, whether we’ve met or not, connected in a relationship that is centered in Christ. I’m reminded of what it is to be Network.
I’m reminded what it is to be the people of God.
Thank you for being who God called you to be. Thank you for being people who I want my kids to get to know, and spend time with.
And thanks be to God, for creating the church, this place where we are all connected, in the name of Christ.
- You click on “bleeding” and it tells you what to do, including a helpful video, right on your phone.
- Someone gets a burn? There are well laid-out instructions including a helpful video.
- Concerned about heat stroke? The app tells you what to do, including a (you guessed it) video. At the bottom of each scenario are links to other related and helpful information. Under heat stroke you can link to
- What’s the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
- What are heat cramps?
- How do you treat heat cramps?
- How can I immerse someone in cold water if I’m not near a tub or pool?
Every one of us who work with young people and who take them on road trips should be certified in both CPR (including infant CPR if you work with the very young) and advanced first aid. That is just common sense. But sometimes, in the midst of a chaotic moment when someone is sick or injured, and we’re in the midst of managing a group, our minds can go blank. Having this information literally in the palm of our hand can be a great resource for us, and can help mitigate injury and even save lives.
The app can even give you quizzes to help keep you up to date and fresh on your skills.
A best practice? You should have this app on your phone. I’d even recommend having all of your volunteer leaders download the app to their phone. Go to where you download your apps and look for “Red Cross First Aid.”
It’s a great resource.
Most ELCA congregations work on their budgets in the fall. Program budgets…salaries…benefits…all get worked out in the fall. So we’ve got a “great deal” for you. Invest a little bit of time right now…probably no more than 5-15 minutes, and you’ll be better equipped for these important conversations in the fall.
Your friends and colleagues in ministry need your help!
The Network does an annual salary survey that provides data on salaries, insurance, pension, vacation time, reimbursement and more. There’s even a section for volunteers to report how they are reimbursed for their expense and time.
And we take the data and we slice and dice it so you can compare by
- Geographic region
- Education level
- Size of congregation
- Years of experience
- ELCA roster status
- Gender and other categories
The salary survey is an incredibly helpful tool…it is consistently the most downloaded resource from the Network web site. Every fall, congregations and Network members use this information to help them in their budget and salary conversations.
Right now, we are collecting the data. We’ll be collecting it through April 20, 2017. And quite simply, the more people who fill it out, the more helpful the data will be. We hope to publish the data in mid May.
So please take a few minutes and help out your sisters and brothers in ministry! Share your data. And next fall, you’ll be better equipped. Facts are your friends!
The Network’s Salary Survey is now open and we are receiving survey forms!
The salary survey has, since 2001, been a great tool for individuals and congregations as they work together to ensure fair and appropriate salary compensation.
Once complete, the salary survey will slice and dice the data by geographic region, years of experience, size of congregation, education level, average worship attendance and more. In addition, data about benefits, including insurance, pension, vacation and reimbursement will also be available.
The survey will take 5-10 minutes to complete, and that small investment in time will bring a tremendous amount of very helpful data when the project is complete.
The salary survey will be open until midnight (central time) on April 10, 2017. The results of the survey should be available in May.
Special guest blog by: Rev. Paul Amlin
Today is Paul Amlin’s last day in his role as Program Director for Youth Ministry in our ELCA Churchwide Offices. Over the last four years, Paul has worked tirelessly to support adults working with youth, and leadership development for young people. Paul begins a new call March 1 as the pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Dubuque, Iowa. We’re grateful for Paul’s work and his support. And we’re grateful that he’s sharing these final thoughts with us as he leaves his position. You can continue to follow Paul’s ministry on Twitter: @lordoflifedbq and http://www.facebook.com/lordoflifedbq.
I’ve spent the last four years traveling across this church. As I prepare to take my leave from service at the churchwide expression of the ELCA, I want to take a moment to share with you why I have hope for the church (and why I think you should too!). This won’t be one of those “9 reasons” or “10 ways” kind of blog posts, rather, just some observations and takeaways after spending a LOT of quality time with folks from the Carolinas to California, from Oregon to Florida and a lot in between. So here we go…
I’ll start with a moment I shared with Lyle Griner in Detroit as we watched the ballroom from the doors during the Extravaganza. The room was literally pulsing as music blasted and a thousand+ ministry friends jumped and danced and high fived each other. Lyle and I couldn’t help but smile and I don’t remember if it was Lyle or me who said, “I wish people who think the church is dying could be here now!” Detroit was the high point for attendance at the E, the high point for membership in the Network, and a major high point for the board of directors as we realized the goals set forth in a strategic plan years before.
Speaking of Detroit… The ELCA Youth Gathering was a major high point for me. I had the unique opportunity to split time between the convention center team I served and traveling around working the ELCA Youth Twitter and Facebook accounts. I have been blessed to be a part of four Gathering planning teams and I have attended every Gathering since 1997 (River of Hope, woot-woot). Detroit felt different. The young people I engaged were fired up to be there, that’s normal for this event after all, but they were also engaged in the theme, in service, in wanting to make a difference, in caring about how their church was present in Detroit and what that might look like back at home. I am more and more convinced that the Gathering has become the “Lutheran Big Tent” revival the church needs every three years to inspire and empower young leaders to rise up and model radical faith in Jesus Christ that inspires loving our neighbors wherever we are planted.
I have been blessed to sit with planners for events like Invitation to Service, Leadership Lab, AFFIRM, The Disciple Project and Camp Hope Training, multiple synod youth events and to spend time being present on behalf of the ELCA to learn about and share the amazing work that is happening across this church. The young people I meet at these events are there because they love Jesus and the church, and because they want to make a difference. The leaders who give selflessly and tirelessly of themselves to make these events happen are there because they, too, believe in the transformative power of Jesus’ love and that we are stronger and more effective together than we are apart.
I have been blessed to work with some of the best people the church has to offer. A few of those people have shared my same passion for equipping and empowering young leaders through the Youth Core Leadership Team. Lisa, Chris, Darcy, Rachel, Erik, and now a new Eric have spent time and energy to equip high school youth through this program of leadership development and faith formation. I’m proud of our work and of the young people whom have passed through our lives in the past four years. I look forward to hearing the stories of their lives as instruments of hope and love in Jesus Christ through our church and as they lean into God’s calling for them as leaders in the world through vocation and service.
Speaking of amazing events… The ELCA Youth Leadership Summit will happen for the fourth time this November in Houston, Texas. I have been blown away by the young leaders and their adult travel companions from the majority of the synods of our church. These people show up in love with Jesus, excited by how the Spirit will move in and through them as they learn what it means to be a part of the ELCA and be a church that speaks and acts out in love for the world and our neighbor. I have told this story several times, but I will always be moved by a story from our inaugural event in Detroit. Tia Upchurch-Freelove had finished speaking about ELCA Advocacy and we asked youth to share what they were thinking. A young lady stood up and said, “I never knew our church did this, I didn’t know what it was called, but this is what I want to do with my life.” (See, I just got goosebumps again!).
I am also proud of all the people who work so hard in congregations, synods and here at churchwide to live into what it means to be the church for the world. I wish that you could have just a glimpse of what I’ve seen! Too often we are all detached from each other, not understanding how incredibly important we all are to each other. Together we feed the hungry, give clean water to the thirsty, give hope to the hopeless, give care and respite to those who suffer, teach and evangelize around the globe, welcome the stranger and humbly serve the other without telling each other how God has worked through us to be Good News. Perhaps we can get better at this? I encourage you to bring your youth groups for a tour of the Lutheran Center in Chicago, take your synod staff to lunch, make a phone call to tell someone you are praying for them, write a note of encouragement for the hard days in ministry we all have. You would be amazed at how powerful these things can be! I keep a file folder filled with cards and notes.
Our church is still becoming what it needs to be. Remember that. We are once and always reforming, being made new as the slogan says, and being the hands of God at work in our world, together. Together. Together. None of us is alone and none of us is stronger in the absence of the other. I have hope for this church because I have met enough of you to know that Jesus is not dead, but very much alive in God’s people. I have hope for this church because I know enough young leaders who love Jesus and this church that I am sure God is at work in all of this. I have hope because I cannot do anything else, thanks be to God! Now it’s time for all of us to name and claim how God is at work and on the loose around us bringing Good News to the world.
So there you have it. Thanks for reading along. Thanks for your ministry and for your passion for the Good News we share. Remember that you are God’s beloved child and nothing can separate you from God’s love.
For years, the Network has made available to Network members a database of congregations that are willing to host traveling youth groups who are on their way to a camp, mission trip, youth gathering or other experience.
We are making two significant changes in this database:
First, we are wiping that database out and starting from scratch!
There are two reasons for this:
- We are changing to a different database provider that is much more cost effective. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to “bulk export” the data into our new database provider. It uses a different programming language and it’s not transferrable.
- Even more importantly, as we’ve looked at the data we’ve collected we’ve realized that much of the information, especially with contact info, is out of date.
The best (and simplest) solution is going to be to wipe out the database and start over, so our information is as current as possible.
Second, we are making the database available to everyone.
At least for awhile, we want to make this tool available to anyone who needs it. So beginning today, it will not be limited to Network members. We think this is an important enough tool that we want everyone to have access to it.
Please go to http://www.elcaymnet.org/congregationshosting to add your congregation’s info, if you’re willing to host.
Thanks for being a part of the Network!
Executive Director, ELCA Youth Ministry Network
Rev. Scott Maxwell-Doherty, who has done amazing work over the last 12 years giving leadership to the Extravaganza Team, has chosen to step down from his position, following Extravaganza 2017 in Louisville.
In a note to the Extravaganza team leaders, Scott wrote that:
“As you all know I take great delight in several ‘extra-curricular’ church related activities. These events tap into my creativity, my delight in gathering folks from far and wide to deploy their skill sets, and the joy of being around people who I trust, heart and soul.This past year I had to come to terms with the lament, “how much O Lord?”
And the answer… it is time to lay this one down.
Is this a hard decision? OMG Yep, quite difficult…
…My departure from my role will commence following the Louisville event. The days that follow will be thoughtful and even sassy days of transition evaluating the next leadership design for The E Team, a process which will capably tended by Todd. Between now and then…there is much work to be done…so let our focus be on the efficacy and essence of the E.” Scott’s leadership has taken the E to a whole new level of depth and quality. He leads from both the “heart” and the “head.” To say we are thankful for Scott, is an incredible understatement.
Anytime there is a personnel shift, it gives an organization the opportunity to evaluate and to think differently about its leadership. Since Scott let me know about this transition, we’ve been working to develop a leadership model for the event.
- Tending to the administrative end of the E. This would include:
- The planning schedule
- Team communications
- Publicity and promotion
- The Extravaganza is a large event, and there is much work in this area. I am excited to announce that this area of Extravaganza leadership will be handled by Catherine Anderson. Catherine, for those who don’t know her, works in the Northeast Minnesota Synod Office. She has worked in the Youth Gathering, and was the primary leader who developed the Practice Discipleship Initiative. Catherine has the gifts and skills for this vital role. We are grateful for Catherine’s willingness to take this on.
The other side of the equation is what I’m calling “Participant Experience.” It’s all of the programmatic and experiential elements of the E. It includes:
- Main Stage
- Exhibit Hall
- There are other areas as well, and obviously there is a lot of cross-over between “participant experience” and “administration.” (After all, their experience really begins with publicity and registration, doesn’t it?) So there will be a lot of teamwork in these areas. I’m excited that Charlie Roberts has agreed to provide leadership to this aspect of the E. Charlie, for those who don’t know, works in the Lower Susquehanna Synod office. He also has served as a team leader for the Gathering, and has done a lot of work to equip, develop and support leadership for children, youth and family ministry in his region. Charlie has also served in Extravaganza leadership for a few years, helping to coordinate the exhibit hall area.
- The last area of E leadership revolves around the hotel negotiation and contract work. This is work that I will continue to do. Many of the other areas that I have worked in however, primarily in communications, will be handed off into the new administrative area, freeing me up to work on other projects.
The Network is about leadership. We are blessed to be gifted with great leaders for the sake of God’s mission. You are all among those people. Thank you for your ministry.
And today, I’m especially grateful for these three: Scott, Catherine and Charlie. Let’s keep them in our prayers as they step into new roles, and as the Network continues to grow and move forward.