The Practice Discipleship (PD) Initiative has been one of the most powerful and influential faith formation ministries to take hold in the ELCA in the last 30 years. This is not exaggeration, nor is it hyperbole. It’s just real.
Literally tens of thousands of people have participated in training and education for leadership in congregational faith formation since the program began as a part of the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering.
The original intent, as envisioned by Catherine Anderson, was to prepare adult leaders to bring young people to the Youth Gathering by training them in basic youth ministry and faith formation skills. The the bar on preparation and training was to go up, groups would have a better Gathering experience, and at the end of the day, leaders would serve in their congregations more effectively. New curriculum was developed, coaches in just about every synod were trained and hundreds of in-person and on-line training events took place.
Through all this work, the PD Initiative helped to foster a culture of faith formation throughout the church.
The ELCA Churchwide Organization saw the value of the PD Initiative, and funded the program generously for 3 years. The PD leadership team actually stretched that grant to cover the program for 4 years, and now we find ourselves in the position of discernment.
There are several different elements that put us in the position of discernment:
- The funding from the Churchwide has run out
- Tammy Jones West, who has done a fantastic job directing the initiative, is stepping back to assume a team leadership role with the ELCA Youth Gathering. (We’re so grateful to Tammy for her leadership that there are barely words to adequately say ‘thank you.’ More on that another day.)
- The Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network is in the process of creating a new strategic plan, which will be “unveiled” at the Extravaganza this year. It will guide our growth and development over the next 3-5 years. While we’re not in a position to release details, I can say that we believe that this has the potential to directly reach and strengthen the ministry of every member of the Network.
So then, what’s the PD plan?
We believe Practice Discipleship is going to be a crucial element in the life of the ELCA into the future. And we feel like God is giving us an opportunity to think and dream about new ways to effectively strengthen your ministry, and we want to get that right. We don’t want to just find funding and continue what we’ ve been doing when we think there might be a whole new “thing” that PD can grow into.
We are going to take the upcoming year as a “hiatus” year…an opportunity to pray, think and talk. Our goal is to pull together some funding to hold a couple of meetings to talk about how PD and the Network’s new strategic plan can effectively interconnect with each other.
There will not be a coach’s training event at the Extravaganza this year, as we’re not totally sure yet what they would be being trained in. However, we are planning on a training event at the 2018 E in Houston. We do want to thank our current coaches for their great work and keep them connected. So we will be offering them a discount for the 2017 E in Louisville. (We also may invite those who are there into a meeting to help us think and plan for the PD future while we’re in Louisville. As much as we’d love to fly them all in for the E, that funding doesn’t exist right now. So we’ll just have to settle for inviting those who are able to be there.)
Details on the coach’s discount to the E will be coming in a separate e-mail.
I think it’s good that we occasionally stop what we’re doing, to talk, think and prays. Too much in the life of the church we find ourselves in the position of trying to change the car tires while the car is in motion. We feel strongly that God is calling us to “pause,” and to work through our options, and to discover what God is calling this thing called “Practice Discipleship” to become.
We’ll release updates here as we know them.
Thanks for your support, your prayers and your partnership!