A few years ago, the Network introduced our first set of “Standards and Guidelines” for professionals who work in children, youth and family ministry. The idea was that there should be some kind of standards for how we grow and develop in our ministry, and for how we practice our ministry on a day-to-day basis.
Developing a document like this is a challenge, because everyone’s experiences are different, and our thoughts and opinions are always based on our experience. But finally, after a year’s work, in 2011 the Network Board approved our first set of “Standards and Guidelines.” We posted them, and made them widely available.
About 18 months ago, the Board took on the task of reviewing this document to see if it needed to be updated. Our basic concern was that while the first version was good, and well-intended, the document was long…and it was detailed…and it was intimidating…and even though it was intended for those who did this work professionally, volunteers would look at it and say “what have I gotten myself into?”
So work began on rewriting the document with the intent of simplifying it.
That work is complete.
The document has been retitled. It is now called Leadership Competencies. Our sense was that “Standards and Guidelines” felt more like limitations and barriers than something that we want to work towards. Leadership Competencies moves it to a positive angle, and focuses on what God is calling us to become in ministry rather than what we shouldn’t be in ministry.
The new document is shorter than the old, trimmed by more than half. But the basic concepts and the things we value are all still there.
We want these Leadership Competencies to become part of our vocabularies. I’d love it if someday, when asked by an interview committee, a person could say, “Yes, I am a member of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network,” and the committee would know what that means…they would know that these values, these competencies, are already a part of this person’s ministry; that by being a member of the Network, this person is committed to growing in their skills, their vocation and their own faith.
I invite you to take a look a the new document, and post or send any feedback. It is a document that will continue to grow and adapt as the world around us changes.
“We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” – Romans 14:7-9
Last weekend, the community lost a good friend. Donna Wiegel, who has served as the registrar, and the primary liaison to hotel properties for the ELCA Youth Gathering died unexpectedly.
First and foremost, Donna loved her family. Deeply. With all her heart. Molly Beck Dean, the Director of the Gathering described Donna’s love for her family as “fierce.” It’s a good word. Whenever I would see Donna, she loved to tell me about her family. She was proud and passionate.
Donna’s life was well-described in her obituary:
“Donna found joy in the simplicities in life. She adored her dogs, reading her library books, drinking coffee (black only), bicycling, gardening, and relaxing in the sun on the beaches in the Caribbean. Donna was passionate about her daughter, her granddaughters, life, and happiness. She did not preach her moral and religious beliefs, she lived them. She was the angel. Donna was loving and kind to every person she encountered. She was the best, most loyal friend a person could ever have. Donna was a fierce lover of justice and champion of the marginalized. She was a justice seeker, and a positive peacemaker.”
Donna was a friend to all those who worked with young people in the church. She had a difficult, complicated job, but she handled it with grace and skill. She was concerned that congregations and young people had good experiences through the ministry of the gathering. When someone called her seeking help or assistance, she would go out of her way to assist them. Every time. I know, because Donna helped me and my group out, many times.
On Monday, the Network’s Board of Directors was in Chicago at The Lutheran Center for its regularly scheduled spring meeting. We were blessed to be present for a prayer service for ELCA staff, led by Rev. Stephen Bouman and Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.
One of the scripture readings Stephen shared was from Romans 14: “whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”
At times like this, we cling. We cannot begin to understand why things like this happen. But they do. And so we cling to the promises of the resurrected Christ. We cling to the words of wisdom that remind us that Donna belongs to God. No matter what happens…no matter the circumstances, Donna was a child of God, loved completely.
Because Jesus lives, Donna lives. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live.
As a community, a Network, and as a church, we give thanks for the life of Donna Wiegel. And we give thanks for how God worked through her.
And today we give thanks for the gift of the resurrection. For Donna, the promises of God are fulfilled.
Thanks be to God.
Networked in Christ,
If you’ve attended the Extravaganza in the last…probably ten years, there is a pretty good chance that you were welcomed and greeted at the registration table by Debbie Zaic.
Debbie and I worked together at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove. She was hired there in 2001, and provided administrative support and served as the registrar for the children, youth and family team. We worked together until I left Lord of Life in 2014.
It was the end of the work day, early last week, and Debbie suffered a stroke. The stroke was massive, and she had no chance of survival. She was moved to hospice care and died a couple of days later, surrounded by her family. She was married to Mike and they have 3 beautiful daughters: Ally and Megan have graduated from college. Hattie is a student at Minnesota State University at Mankato.
When we worked together, Deb, Lynn (another of my wonderful colleagues) and I would often sit first thing in the morning, and catch up. Topics could be anything from “what was on TV last night” to “what’s going on in our ministry” to more of Deb’s bragging on her daughters. (To Debbie, it was never bragging…merely stating fact!) . Inevitably, there was a lot of laughter.
When something didn’t go Debbie’s way, there would be a massive eye-roll, and exasperated, she would exclaim “Oh, for the love…”
When she and I would talk about ministry, I would try and remind her how important her role was. Deb would say things like “nah…I just work at the desk.” Yet when our building was full of young people, it was not at all uncommon for young people (often those who needed to talk) to pop into the office, or stop at the “youth booth” to talk to her. She had a way of making whoever she was talking with feel like at that moment, they were the most important person in the world.
Deb loved the Network, and loved coming to the Extravaganza. She liked to come down a day early, just to help out Laurie Hoium, our registrar, and Debbie Clipson, our financial person, with getting everyone checked in for the event and answering questions. (I think she also just loved hanging out with Debbie and Laurie). She also loved to provide hospitality…and welcome people.
I’m going to miss Debbie.
Her life and her work reminded me that God’s vision of what it is to do ministry is broad and bold.
Deb knew who she was. She understood her identity as a child of God. She loved to do Bible journaling, and had this big white board in her office near her desk that she would draw Scripture verses, or other faith-related images. She loved to sing, and was motivated by being a part of the faith formation of young people.
Debbie was a friend to many of us. She had confidence in Christ’s claim on her as a child of God, and she lived her faith every day. She loved working at the church. She was excited to be a member of our Network, and to be a part of the community that gathers every year at the E.
Debbie’s life was celebrated in a beautiful worship service this afternoon at Lord of Life. Please keep Debbie’s family, in your prayers: Debbie’s husband, Mike, her daughters, Ally, Megan and Hattie, her father, Pastor Bernie Johnson and all of her extended family and friends.
Please also keep my friends on the staff at Lord of Life in your prayers. This is the second member of their staff who has died in the last two months.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:37-39
And the promises made to Debbie Zaic in the waters of her baptism…the same promises made to each of us…have been fulfilled. Thanks be to God.
The Network is a community that prays for each other. And I suspect we can all agree that we’re in favor of prayer.
And using the “Prayer Request” feature in the Network app is a great way for us to keep in touch and to pray for each other. After Extravaganza 2018 in Houston, there was a big jump in usage for this feature of the app.
But I’ve also received a bunch of questions about how to limit the email notifications that we receive when someone posts a prayer request…and when someone responds to a prayer request.
Yes, there is a solution!
Here it is, step by step:
First, Open the Network app. (If you don’t have it yet…you should get it! You can get information on the app at http://www.elcaymnet.org/app and/or search for it in your Apple or Android app store.)
Second, from the main menu, click on “My Profile.” That will take you to the page that has your personal information stored.
Third, at the top of your profile screen (above the space for your profile photo) click on the “Edit my Profile” button. If the edit option doesn’t show up, try quitting the app and re-loading it.
Fourth, when your profile editor opens up, scroll to the bottom of the screen and you can select if you’e like to receive notifications within the app (push notifications) or by e-mail or text message…or any combination of those you would like to use.
That’s it! It’s that simple.
So yes, let’s commit to praying for each other. And, let’s commit to getting the notifications about those prayer requests in whatever way works best for each of us!
Extravaganza 2018 in Houston will host a special screening of the documentary film, “Behold the Earth.” The screening will take place on Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm.
“Behold the Earth” is a music-rich documentary film that explores America’s divorce from the outdoors – through conversations with legendary scientists E.O. Wilson, Cal DeWill, and Theo Colborn, as well as a new generation of environmental activitists within America’s largest religious group: evangelicals.
Behold the Earth was selected by:
- The American Conservation Film Festival
- The Camden International Film Festival; and
- Justice Film Festival of New York
A member of the film’s production team, and/or one of the individuals who appear in the film will be present for the screening, and will participate in a discussion after the film is shown.
View the trailer for “Behold the Earth”:
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Board of Directors has completed a one-year process to revise and update its “Standards and Guidelines for Professionals” document.
The original version of our Standards and Guidelines was created and released in 2011, It helped to give shape to the professional development of those who are called to serve with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations. It also gave shape to many of the programs and ministries that the Network has continued or launched since then.
Tom Schwolert, who serves as the chairperson of the Board of Directors, said that: “Our goal in redeveloping the Standards and Guidelines was to simplify it a bit. We wanted to make it shorter and more approachable. I think this new version has done that.”
Renewal, education and connection have always been a part of the Network’s DNA. Our hope is that when a congregation calls someone to serve in faith formation, if that person is a member of the Network, the congregation will understand that person’s commitment to growing in their calling.
Schwolert went on to say that: “Our hope is that this helps to give direction to personal, spiritual and professional development. The Network’s programs, and those of our partners, can provide the resources for our members to grow in these ways.”
The Network’s Standards and Guidelines can be found at elcaymnet.org/standards.
Special Guest Blogger: Ian McConnell; Student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.
It was in a hotel ballroom in Anaheim maybe a decade ago that I heard for the first time, “Use this time however you need it. For renewal. For networking. For napping. For being away from a hectic work environment. For fun, for Pete’s sake!” I was in my early 20s, just recently “back in church” after a period of spiritual drifting—a statistical “none,” I suppose—and at the Extravaganza as a youth ministry volunteer from my home church. And I was hooked; while laying concrete blocks with the high school kids I had come to love for a trip to Ciudád Juárez in Mexico later that year, I decided to say “yes” to become the interim youth director for that congregation.
And in the dead of winter every year until this past winter, I have loved coming to the Extravaganza. Some years, I’ve come for networking, finding new ideas for Sunday School curriculums and games to fill time with notoriously bored teenagers. Other years, it’s felt like a warm family reunion filled with trips to restaurants and bars within walking distance. And at least once, the E has been a place to escape from a seriously, seriously dark work environment to be with people who could hear my pain. I will forever be grateful for who this network is, and what the Extravaganza continues to be.
Last winter, during my pastoral internship at Grace Lutheran in Wenatchee, Washington, the tasks were piling up. Funerals, meetings, limited budget and vacation days, and honestly, there was a bit of exhaustion. And for the first time in 10 years, I didn’t come to the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. I had plenty of excuses, commitments, and reasons to justify missing out on the most helpful and encouraging network of ministry professionals I have come to know and love.
And let me tell you: I missed you all terribly.
This year is a big one, because like every third year, the E and the ELCA Youth Gathering are in the same city, and we find ourselves with the opportunity to take the edge off of our nerves about things like learning the best walking routes from hotel-to-dome-to-convention-center or finding relatively inexpensive places to eat with a group of young people (including that kid who “forgot” that he had a budget and blew his money on WHAT?!).
This year is a big one, because while we all know that young people are in a particularly exciting and haunted time in life anyways, there have been conversations continuing and amplifying on the news, in schools, on social media, and at dinner tables about serious and seriously difficult topics: sexual assault and violence against women, systemic racism and violence against our brothers and sisters of color, how to be a part of a society that would oftentimes rather put its head in the sand than learn how to best accompany young people learning about their own gender and sexual identities… Whether we like it or not, these are real issues for the families we have been called to serve. These are real issues for many of you already. I can’t speak for you, but I know that I need to work this stuff out in community. And the Extravaganza has always been a place where it’s been safe for me to do so.
If ever there were a time to commit to Finding Forward, this seems to be it, friends. We are living in this reality, and so we ask: now what? Where do we go from here? What does it mean to be disciples in this particular time and this particular reality?
You may be in the same boat as I have been in, wondering if you’ll be able to make it work to come to the E this year. And I sincerely hope to see you in Houston this upcoming January. I need to gather with you to worship and sing and pray. I need your help finding a way forward, seeking for ways to participate in what, exactly, God is calling us to be in year 501 and beyond of the Reformation. We need time to rest, to rejuvenate, to learn, to dream, to laugh, to cry, to share our stories for the sake of materializing God’s kingdom here on earth.
But first, a brief confession: I have not yet registered. So, I’ll wrap this up, open a new tab in my browser, and secure my spot at this year’s Extravaganza! Don’t tell the early bird folks, I don’t want to catch too much flack.
See y’all in Houston, I hope!
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Board of Directors affirmed the slate of board
candidates presented by the Nominating Committee at its fall meeting in Houston, September 28-30.
The recommendation of the Nominating Committee was to renew the terms of two of its current board members, Becky Cole and Rev. Regina Goodrich. The NominatingCommittee also recommended Rev. Daniel Fugate to fill the third open position. This position has been held by Erik Ullestad, who served two full terms and is not eligible for renewal.
Dan Fugate currently serves as the Assistant to the Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the ELCA. Dan has served in congregational and synodical ministry for over 19 years.
Rev. Regina Goodrich serves as the pastor of Mediator Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And Becky Cole serves as the Director of Children’s Ministry at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, Washington.
The Network Board is responsible for creating and tending to the mission, values and goals of the Network. They meet face-to-face three times each year.
The terms for these three individuals will begin at the conclusion of the Extravaganza in Houston, Texas, held from January 26-29 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
If you ask anyone who has been doing ministry with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations for awhile, they will be able to tell you that there has been a significant change in the culture of our community over the last 20 years.
Children, youth and family ministers share resources, give mutual support and share ideas more than ever before.
- Part of that is because new technology has allowed it. Watching conversations on our Facebook group, paying attention to the traffic on MartinsList and looking at participation in things like 3rdTuesday Conversations are just an indicator.
- It’s also at least partially due to the understanding that as congregational resources have continued to shrink, and we are all being asked to do more with less, we have to be “in this together” to do this ministry.
Today, the Network is launching our new initiative to help all of us in this work together: The Discipling Cohorts Initiative will draw together people into cohorts, organized by synod, for a year of skill development, vocational conversation and spiritual growth. This one-year journey that these groups of 8-10 will take together will culminate in the development and presentation of a personal development plan for the next 3-5 years, which will further individual growth in ministry.
The cohort process will begin with the groups meeting first face-to-face at Extravaganza 2018 in Houston. While meeting there, the groups will determine their calendar for meeting monthly over the next year for conversation, guided by a trained peer coach.
If geographic restrictions make it impossible to meet face-to-face during the year, groups can meet online to facilitate the conversations.
It is our hope that those who do this vital work with children, youth and families will continue to grow in their skill, faith and commitment to their work. It is when we stop developing that we begin to fade in our ministry. The people we are called to work with deserve the best the church can give them.
We are now recruiting two groups:
- People to be a part of the first set of cohorts. We are looking for up to 8-10 people from every synod. We are looking for people who want to grow and develop their ministry.
- People who are interested in serving in the first batch of Discipling Cohorts coaches. Coaches will be trained the day prior to Extravaganza 2018 in Houston.
More information on both of these roles can be found at disiplingcohorts.org.
Please prayerfully consider your involvement in this project. We’re looking forward to the future church; the one who steps boldly into a broken world with God’s Word of hope; the one whose leaders are fully equipped and prepared to navigate a change world, and the one whose young people’s faith is deeply and richly engaged with the mission of God.
Thanks for being a part of this ministry!
Executive Director; ELCA Youth Ministry Network
Every time an image of the flooding comes across my newsfeed, or my TV screen, my heart breaks a little bit. The images of the interstates completely submerged…of homes deep in water…and of people awaiting rescue takes my breath away.
And like many of you, my mind turns immediately to friends who live and work along the gulf coast: Peggy, Jessica, Michael, David, Rozella, Beth, Karen and others. And there are those people I’ve gotten to know who work at the Hyatt in Houston, where the Extravaganza will be held from January 26-29, 2018: Elizabeth, Michelle and David. And I worry, and I pray. I’m certain that you are praying too.
Disasters like floods, tornados and hurricanes are always awful experiences. But when you attach names to them, names of colleagues, friends and loved ones, the anxiety just continues to go up.
I’ve received messages from people wondering about the status of Extravaganza 2018 in Houston. And I’ve seen posts on Facebook with people wondering how these floods will affect the ELCA Youth Gathering next summer. The answer is: “of course the floods will have an effect.” It’s too early to know or understand that effect yet.
We will remain in contact with the Hyatt. I’m confident that they will be working to restore their property quickly. As Houston begins its clean up after the storms, the E-Team will be talking about how the events in Houston might affect the program in January.
And while I cannot speak for the Gathering, I’m certain that they too are already thinking, praying and wondering about how these events will give shape to how our young people will walk alongside the residents of Houston next summer.
In the meantime, please continue to pray.
- Pray for the people.
- Pray for their homes.
- Pray for the congregations there.
- Pray for safety.
- Pray for patience.
- Pray for the physical and emotional security of our friends in Houston.
And give. And encourage our congregations to give. As congregational leaders, we are in positions of influence within our communities. Please influence your people to give. Giving to Hurricane Harvey Relief through Lutheran Disaster Response is a great way to give. 100% of funds donated go straight to relief efforts.
And I’d encourage you to follow along with what is happening. Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod has been great about posting updates on social media. I encourage you to follow his blog.
To be church together means that we hold each other in times of joy and in times of pain. This is one of those times when we are called to surround a city with prayer, compassion and love.
Let’s be church together.