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March 9, 2013

We Have a Plan…

by tbuegler

architectLast week, the Network’s Board of Directors had a final, online discussion, and voted to approve the new strategic plan for the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.  This vote comes after a year of development that included prayer and conversation, writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, release of drafts, feedback, rewriting, writing, and so on and so on…

We received great feedback at the Extravaganza in Anaheim from regional meetings and other groups that were meeting during the event.  All of this feedback has been looked at and considered.  Much of it influenced the editing of the plan.

We are very excited about the direction this plan is going to take the Network as it grows and develops over the next 3-5 years.  You can take a look at the completed plan here.

As I said, we received great feedback.  Most of the questions and critique of the plan can be put into just a few categories.  I thought it might be helpful to respond to a few of these as best as I’m able:

  • “This plan is all about numbers.  It feels cold.  It doesn’t feel mission driven.” Please note that the piece we distributed last fall on the web site, and in paper at the Extravaganza is only the “strategic plan” portion of a much larger vision, which we have already worked on and adopted.  So it makes total sense to me that when you just look at the “plan” portion it would not look missional.  I think we didn’t make that clear when we distributed it.  When this plan is seen nested inside the larger mission and vision, then I think it makes total sense, and it becomes more clear how it all ties together.  No, the piece that we have been collecting feedback on, and approved last week is our new strategic plan.  It is the “how” of how we’ll fuflill our mission and vision.  And to be honest, for the last couple of years, we really haven’t had enough of a detailed plan.  The approved document shows how the plan is nested within the Network’s mission and vision. 
  • 1000 is it?  That seems low for a big goal!  That was my initial reaction too.  But then we remembered, while the goal is only 250-350 more than our current level of membership, it is also a goal that we have never hit.  For the last few years we’ve kind of “plateaued” and “hovered” at our current level.  To push through to a new level is going to take some additional effort and energy.  Here’s hoping we hit it quickly!  Then we can set a new goal!
  • “There aren’t details.  How are you going to do this?”  Well first, let me be clear.  “There is no “you” and “us.”  To put this plan into reality is going to take all of us. The Network’s members are its owners.  The members’ investment is their energy, passion and time, along with their membership dues.  To build this Network into what we believe God is calling it to be will require all of us to be a part of the process.  Second…you’re right.  We’re lacking some of the details right now.  This plan is the broad strokes of the areas in which we want to grow.  Now we’ll drill down into each of the seven priorities and work the details.  Now is where the work begins!  This will be the agenda of the board when we meet at the end of April.  More info on the details will be forthcoming!
  • “The details of the various discounts and incentives for membership are a little confusing.”   This was really helpful feedback.   We’ve simplified and clarified in the final draft.  Thank you!
  • “In our congregations, we are being asked to do more and more with less and less.  Can the Network expand to support those of us who are also working in children’s ministry, or young adult ministry?”  Yes, we can.  In the last couple of years, at the behest of our members, we have been doing more to support those who also work in children’s ministry.  We will continue to explore other ways we can support folks in ministry as responsibilities continue to expand.  We’ve added Extravaganza workshops in children’s ministry, and have a growing library of children’s ministry resources in MartinsList.  Of course, this depends on our members submitting workshop topics and online resources.  Please do!
  • Some of the language around “professional,” “volunteer,” “lay” and “rostered” needs to be cleaned up and made consistent.  Great feedback!  We tried to do that.  Please read through it and see if there were areas we missed.  Thank you!
  • The plan talks about diversity, but then only really digs into ethnic and geographic.  What about other kinds of diversity?  That’s a fantastic question, and one that we spent a lot of time talking about.  There are lots of kinds of diversity that we need to pay attention to.  While we worked up a long list, we didn’t want to list them all in the plan for fear of leaving one out.  However, both ethnic and geographic diversity are ones that rose to the top as we talked about felt needs within the Network.  Ethnic and cultural diversity has been one of our goals for a long time and while we’ve made some incremental progress, we need to continue to grow in this area.  Geographically, there are whole parts of the country, entire synods, that are unaware of the Network and the resources it provides.  These tend to be the regions that we think might benefit the most.  So we listed these to lift them up as areas that we want to include special focus upon in the next couple of years.  But the other forms of diversity are important and will not be ignored as well.
  • Can volunteers have a different (lower) membership rate?  I wish that we could.  As it is, we run on a budget where our membership rates don’t even completely cover our costs.  We fundraise for the difference.  And the reality is, it doesn’t cost the Network less to be the Network for a volunteer than it does for a professional.  We did introduce on March 1, as a part of our plan, both 3 year (discounted) memberships, and congregational team (bulk discount) memberships.  Hopefully those options provide ways to continue to make membership accessible.

Those are some of the questions we heard more consistently through the process.  Really, really helpful questions.  Thank you very much!  If you continue to have questions, please contact me.

I want to thank the members of our board, in particular, Rev. Mike Ward of Lutheridge+Lutherock Ministries in North Carolina, who walked the board through the strategic planning process.  He did a fantastic job.

Networked in Christ,
Todd

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