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Posts from the ‘Ministry’ Category


With Deep Sorrow…

RachelDear friends,

It is with deep sorrow that I write to let you know about the death of one of our network members, and a friend and colleague to many.  Rachel Coen-Tuff died on Saturday while with her family at their cabin.  The family has communicated that it was the result of a pulmonary embolism.

Rachel served as the Minister of Faith Formation at Faith+Journey Lutheran Church in West Fargo, North Dakota.  She has served in faith formation ministry for 10 years, the last two of which were at Faith+Journey.  Rachel was a graduate of Luther Seminary in St. Paul.

Looking at the comments that have been made on social media since Rachel’s death, it is easy to see that she is deeply loved and will be missed by her community.

A seminary classmate wrote that: “…her energy, her smile, and her deep sense of goodwill for the world and her passion for youth ministry will be deeply missed.”

Another person wrote that: “…she always had time to listen, and share in joyful conversation.  She shone with Christ’s joy and light.”

Another person commented: “Rachel was one of the most purely nice, giving, thoughtful, joyful people I’ve ever met.  I don’t think I heard her say anything negative.  The loss of her amazing spirit will be felt massively.  It doesn’t feel fair to lose someone so giving and good.”

Rachel was a member of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network and was with us in Houston last January for the Extravaganza there.  She also just returned home from Houston where she brought a group to the ELCA Youth Gathering.  In fact, in one of her most recent posts on Facebook, Rachel wrote: “Home.  My heart is full, my feet are tired, and my mind is amazed with the way God works through us to change everything!”


Rachel (third from left) and her crew with Dave and Joe at the Youth Gathering

Today, we pray for Rachel’s family and friends.  We pray for the people of Faith+Journey Lutheran Church, especially their young people.  And we cling to the promises of Jesus.

Today, Rachel is experiencing those promises fulfilled.  She walks in the presence of God.  For Rachel, Jesus has indeed changed everything.

We do not yet know the plans for funeral services and the celebration of Rachel’s life.  When we know, we will post that information on the Network’s Facebook page.

God’s Peace,




Loading Vans & Heading Out? Be Prepared

IMG_2368This summer, hundreds of our congregations, maybe even thousands, will load up planes, trains and automobiles and head out on summer trips.  Destinations will include Bible camps, work camps, mission trip sites, national parks, music festivals and more.  And almost all of us will remember to pack a trip first-aid kit prior to departing to deal with cuts, bruises, scrapes, bumps and the occasional more significant injuries.
But are you confident in how to use the kit?  Are you confident making a determination as to how to treat an injury?  I had a kid on a trip once with increasingly more serious abdominal pain.  We found ourselves in the position (with the consultation of the parents) of trying to decide how much pain to let her live with before we took her to an ER in the middle of the night.
The American Red Cross has developed a mobile app that will literally walk you through the initial responses to medical situations.
  • 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.

God’s peace!


Congregations Hosting Groups Database: We’re Starting Over!

groupsleepingchurch_newFor 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 to add your congregation’s info, if you’re willing to host.

Thanks for being a part of the Network!

Todd Buegler
Executive Director, ELCA Youth Ministry Network


Connect Journal Seeking Writer on Mental Health

Connect_2016_Spring_Human_Sexuality.inddThe Editorial Team for the Connect Journal is looking for your assistance. The Winter 2017 issue will focus on mental health issues in children, youth, families, and those in the church who serve them.

We know that many of you have experience working with young people and families who face mental health issues.Some of you, or members of your families, have been diagnosed with mental illness.

The team is looking for someone to write a Bible study session that connects mental health and faith.

The Bible study end users would be young people at the high school (or older middle school) age groups.

If you’re interested in writing this Bible study session for publication in Connect, please contact our managing editor, Erin Gibbons. (

When you contact her, include a sample of your writing.

You would be compensated for writing this Bible study and would retain all rights to the content.

Thanks for considering writing this important piece.


Finishing Well

YouthEncounterI was shocked, but not surprised, when the news of the closing of Youth Encounter was released a couple of weeks ago.  Youth Encounter is an organization with a rich history in the Lutheran church, and its closing is an event of seismic proportions in the world of ministry with young people.
  • I can only imagine the number of people who discovered their sense of call while serving on a Youth Encounter team.
  • Hundreds of thousands of young people have participated in Youth Encounter Congresses, Quakes, Spoke Folk and other events.
  • YE Teams have traveled the globe for decades, sharing the Gospel and building relationships in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • The musicians who came out of the Youth Encounter world, or who received significant stage time at Youth Encounter events helped shape worship with young people literally for generations.  Think of bands like Sojourn, Echelon, Lost and Found, Peder Eide, Celia Whitler, Tangled Blue and many more.
  • At its peak, Youth Encounter was on the front end of creativity and innovation in doing large events.  And the rest of the church learned from Youth Encounter.  Their fingerprints are all over synod youth gatherings.
  • Youth Encounter was one of the Network’s partner organizations, and we appreciated their ongoing friendship and support.

I was never a part of a Youth Encounter Team, or worked for YE. And while I’d brought young people to their events in the past, really my connection with them has diminished over the last 15 years.   But I had many good friends who did serve with them, and I am very aware of the positive impact on the faith of those who were connected with them.

I was not surprised, however, to hear the news.  Youth Encounter has been going through significant leadership transition recently and the number of programs, ministry teams and events has been decreasing every year.  Even their recent attempts at added new elements to their events, like service elements, were already being done elsewhere.

There has already been speculation as to why Youth Encounter closed.  Some speculate that the root cause goes back to when Youth Encounter dropped “Lutheran” from its name.  (To be clear, they always remained a Lutheran organization, their constitution and bylaws always pointed to the Lutheran confessions as their theological plumb line.) Others point to the general decline in event ministry.  Still others think that the shift Youth Encounter made to the theological right in the last decade was a part of the problem.

While “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” may be instructive as other ministries look to the future, I’m not sure that it’s helpful.  Rather, I think there is still at least one more thing that Youth Encounter can teach us:  How to end well.

The church is great at beginning things.  We are pretty terrible at ending things.  In congregations and other settings, we tend to let programs or ministries continue, long after their effectiveness has faded.  We don’t know how to end things.

Youth Encounter is ending well.  Their leadership was able to look at the facts (facts are our friends!), pray, discern the future, pray more, and make the determination that it was time for an organization with a great history to come to a close.  They are closing on their terms, they are paying their bills and fulfilling their immediate contracts.  And, they are celebrating.  They are bringing together an amazing roster of people who have shared in their ministry for a celebration event on March 31 in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.  (More information here)

There will be worship, celebration, memories and I’d assume, lots of laughter and tears.

Whatever your perspective of Youth Encounter’s ministry, there is no question that God’s Holy Spirit has worked through this organization.  Jesus has been proclaimed and lives have been changed.  The church has learned from Youth Encounter and is stronger today because of it.

Thanks be to God for the ministry of Lutheran Youth Encounter.  (I’m reinserting the word Lutheran, because that is their history, and because I want to be able to ‘claim them’ as one of our own.) and thanks be to God for the integrity and meaning with which they are closing out their ministry.



Youth Encounter Closes its Doors

YouthEncounterFrom the Youth Encounter web site:

After 51 years of successful and fruitful ministry, Youth Encounter is shutting down operations and closing its doors at the end of April. Youth Encounter will finish its current event season on April 3, 2016 and then host two Feed the Need programs before ceasing operations.

Several factors have contributed to this situation, including declining numbers of youth in the church, an increasingly competitive market for the attention of youth, and a challenging fundraising landscape. Youth Encounter has seen participation numbers and overall support decline for the past 10-15 years, creating debt and an unsustainable business model.

The Governing Board of Directors and Youth Encounter staff has made significant efforts to reverse these trends. In 2014, Thomas O’Neill was hired as the new president and was tasked with turning the organization around. Despite making significant headway in monthly giving, creating new programs to engage new markets, and making structural changes to cut overhead, there was not enough time to let these programs take effect and turn the organization around.

Over the past several months, the Governing Board of Directors and O’Neill have looked into every available option, including partnerships with other youth ministry organizations. Although alternative ministry models were explored, the current financial situation and available resources made closing down operations the only viable option.

While we will all mourn the end of Youth Encounter, we also need to rejoice and celebrate all that Youth Encounter has done. Since 1965, Youth Encounter has shared the Gospel with young people in 32 different countries, has worked in and with thousands of churches across the United States, and has engaged over 8,000,000 people. Of greater impact are the 2,500 alumni who have served on traveling ministry teams. Not only did they serve as the “face” of Youth Encounter, but 72% have gone on to work in full or part-time ministry. Whether currently serving in the church or not, all alumni have worked hard to further multiply the number of people who are impacted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Youth Encounter was founded in 1965, with the idea of sending college students in a team format to bring contemporary music to the church at large. These teams traveled the United States and later to many countries around the world. As the ministry grew, large events called Congress’s (later called Quakes and Zones) were added to further impact youth ministry in the United States. Along with these two legacy programs, Youth Encounter has also spawned dozens of other ministries and music groups, including Spoke Folk, Side-by-Side, and Youth Create.

The Governing Board of Directors and the staff at Youth Encounter are incredibly thankful for the many supporters, volunteers, host families and partner churches that have made this ministry so impactful throughout the years. God has wonderful plans for the future, and He will continue to use the Youth Encounter family to His Glory. We have faithfully served and fulfilled His mission!

We will be hosting a celebration of ministry on March 31st, from 7:00-10:00pm at Discover Church – 1400 81st Ave N, Brooklyn Park, MN 55444. Echelon, Lost and Found, Bill Yonker, and many other speakers and bands will be joining us to praise God for all that he has done through Youth Encounter. All donors, alumni, staff, and friends are welcome and invited.

If you have any questions please contact President Thomas O’Neill or Board Chairman Brian Brooks.

Thomas O’Neill

Brian Brooks
Board Chairman


Updated Network App Released!

IMG_1638A major update to the Network’s mobile app has been released for both the Apple iOS and for Android.  The iPad version of the app will be released next week.

Click here to download the app.

In addition to making the app a little quicker and squashing some “bugs,” the new app adds several different features that we are very excited about.

  • In the events section, the app now has the capacity of “RSVPing” for the event, as well as adding it into your personal calendar with the click of a single button.
  • The Network blog will continue to be connected and feed directly into the Network app, so that you can stay updated with the latest news from the Network.
  • The app adds a directory, of those who have also createdIMG_1639 profiles within the app, so you can network with each other quickly and easily.
  • Perhaps the most remarkable addition to the app is the addition of the “Prayer Requests” page, where you can post your own prayer requests for the community to
    gather around.  This allows us to continue to support each other, wherever we are!
  • We now have the ability to post documents directly into the app!  We can post ministry tools and updates there for you to access!
  • We’ve added links to MartinsList and the Network site directly into the app menu.

Our goal is to make it even easier to network with each other!

Note:  When setting the app up for the first time, it will ask you to create a profile.  This allows you then to access and add to the prayer wall.  This is not the same as your network web site log in.  You will need to create a new username and password (though you’re welcome to use the same one as for the Network web site to keep things easy!)

Put the Network in your pocket!  Download the Network app today!



Guest Blog Post: Youth Ministry Links

Paul Amline, the Program Director for Youth Ministries in the ELCA Churchwide Offices in Chicago, and a great friend of the Network, is our guest blogger today, and is writing about “Youth Ministry Links”

YMLinksYouth Ministry Links – Crowd Sourced and Curated

by Paul Amlin

For those of us who’ve been around long enough to remember Help Sheets from the ELCA or to have perused those thick, paperback books full of youth group ideas, you probably really appreciate how easy it is to find information online. For those who are new to ministry alongside children, youth and families, navigating the vastness of the inter-webs and the myriad sites of material can be downright scary.

The Internet is an amazing world of billions of links and resources, articles and blogs, cat videos and videos of stupid human tricks. It can be overwhelming if what you really need is a link to learn about adolescent faith formation. What if there was a website dedicated to providing curated links to tools for ministry with children, youth and families? A site that included some easy-to-access videos and a place to go to find collections of topics from games to serious topics like mental health? A website that does it all with a Lutheran lens? That’s the impulse that led to Youth Ministry Links

What does it mean to be crowd-sourced? I’m glad you asked! I’ve built the website and filled it with lots of helpful links, but in order for it to reach maximum impact we’ll need to continue to add and curate links. Do you have ‘go to’ sites you use? Are there ministry tools you’d like your friends to know about? Great! Follow this simple format for submitting them to be added to the site.

Name of Resource/Website Name if the Same – (include the URL here) This website features tools for identifying space aliens in your youth group.

That’s it! Then e-mail the link to me through the website or share it with me via Twitter (@YMLinks) or perhaps most simply via the Facebook page. The next step is to share Youth Ministry Links with your colleagues and friends. Think of it as “Martin’s List” for links! 

Finally, let me say how much I appreciate your ministry. Thanks for showing up for children, youth and families and for being authentic, affirming and available in the lives of those you’ve been blessed to encounter where you are planted. 

I’ll see you online!


@PaulAmlin @ELCAYouth @YMLinks


Children’s Ministry: A Note from Rev. Stephen Bouman

039138472 multicultural hands

Special Guest Blog:  We invited Rev. Stephen Bouman, the Executive Director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational and Synodical Mission in the ELCA offices in Chicago to address the needs of children within the church, and to talk about a new position being created at the churchwide offices.  Thank you Stephen for sharing with the Network!

When you walk the streets in Arusha, Tanzania, you hear a certain greeting as ubiquitously as “how are you doing?” in our society. They greet each other with this Masai phrase: “Kisserian Injera,” which means, “how are the children?” And the answer in Masai translates as: “it is well with the children.”

It is in this “kisserian Injera” spirit that I am very excited to announce that we in CSM will be posting a new position: Program Director, Ministry With Children. With this position we will now be able to accompany the networks across the church and our society which support the spiritual life and well-being of the first third of life. We will be able to connect to leaders called by the church to support ministry to, and with, youth and young adults. I am very grateful to all of the advocates, supporters, and long distance runners in ministry with children and families. Your faithful service, witness, and holy agitation have helped to make this happen.

I want to thank the Network for lending me the platform of the Network blog. I have been thinking of this question a lot lately: “what do children need in our world today?” These are some which have involved my thinking, prayer and action. You can add your own to the list.

Spiritual Identity: At a day care center for unaccompanied minors (refugee children) who crossed two borders from Central America to flee violence, poverty and reunite with family I had a conversation with a couple who have provided foster care for over thirty of these vulnerable children of God. “They come here so strong in their faith. We pray before meals and at bedtime. They are like little evangelists sharing their faith every day because of their gratitude for being welcomed and support for their spiritual lives.” We all need to know: “you are my beloved child.”

Safety: children are growing up in a world of bullies, gun violence in our schools, malls and neighborhoods, pernicious messages and predators coming at them through the internet, and domestic violence. At the border I spoke with a thirteen year old girl from Honduras whose family was being extorted, whose brother had been killed and she was next.

Advocates\Justice: When we baptize our babies of whatever age we do not leave them at the font. It is baptismal ministry to follow them into the world, to struggle for the quality of their schools, opportunities, mentors, communities.

Strong Communities and Churches: Children need the ballast of strong and durable connections, human solidarity to accompany their lives.

Noble Vision: They need help growing into their agency to make a difference in the world as a way to follow Jesus.

The Hope of Resurrection:

God bless you all as you play your part in an apostolate to, and with, the children of our church and our world.

Rev.  Stephen Paul Bouman
Executive Director
Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission – ELCA
Chicago, Illinois




Trinity in Owatonna

Life has been pretty much a whirlwind in the last few weeks.  As has been noted on the Network’s Facebook page, Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota has extended a call for me to come and serve as a pastor.  After a lot of conversations, thought and prayer, I have decided to accept this call.  My final day at Lord of Life Lutheran Church will be July 14.  I will begin at Trinity on August 4.

The decision to accept a new call, to move our family, to sell a home, buy a home and start something totally new was a big decision.  But we believe that this is the right thing for our family, and that the Holy Spirit put this opportunity directly in my path.  It’s hard to ignore the Holy Spirit sometimes.

So we’re excited…sad…nervous and full of anticipation, all at the same time.

One of the questions I’ve been asked quite a bit was “what does this mean for your work with the Network?”  Good question.

At the beginning of the process, I had to spend time explaining to the call committee what the Network was, what my role within it is, and what we do together.  I explained that while I’m sensing a call to something new, I don’t necessarily feel called out of my Network role yet.

Later in the call process, one of the committee members explained that “as we spoke with your references, and they explained the Network and its impact, we began to realize what an important role it plays in the life of the church.  People told us that the Network is on the front end of change in the church.  We want to be a part of that.  We’ve always supported the broader church…so we think that it’s important for you to maintain this role.  We’d like to write it into your call papers.”

I was floored.  And I’m reminded of how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of congregations who understand what it is to be church together.  And so the short answer to the question is: I will continue in my role.  My work with the Network has been in a constant state of evolution; every year the nature of my role with the Network has changed, as my role has changed, my family grown, as technology has shifted and as the Network has grown.  So I anticipate that this will continue.  As my congregation and role changes, the way the work happens will shift, we’ll rely more on our incredible volunteers, and the Network will continue to evolve.  And that is a good thing.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!  And please pray for me and my family in the transition.

Networked in Christ,