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Posts from the ‘Practice Discipleship Initiative’ Category


Because Everybody Needs a Plan

Discipling_Cohorts_Inititiative_Logo_Horizontal_COLORIf 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

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!

Todd Buegler
Executive Director; ELCA Youth Ministry Network



What’s the Plan with Practice Discipleship?


PD Coach Training last February in Anaheim

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:

  1. The funding from the Churchwide has run out
  2. 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.)
  3. 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!

God bless,



Being Made New

New-Direction-580x435There is change happening in the church.  Maybe it’s a new awareness…perhaps it’s a new reformation…I’m not sure what to call it.  But something is different.  There are new conversations taking place.  There are new questions being asked.  When I enter into conversations with those who do ministry alongside young people and their families, the first question I hear is no longer “what should I do at youth group on Sunday?”  or “How do I do fundraising?”

The questions that I hearing now are more along the lines of:

  • “I’m wondering where God is calling us to go?”
  • “We’re trying to figure out what’s working?”
  • “How do we understand God’s mission in this place?”
  • “What is faith formation?”

While these may not seem like they should be new questions, in the world of faith-formation with the young, they kind of are.  The primary concern used to be with technique…strategy…programs.  The assumption was that faith language was not foreign to young people.  My sense is that the landscape has shifted and that folks are now taking a 10,000 foot view, and are wondering much more fundamental questions.  This because the world in which we live is changing, and the landscape the church occupies is so radically different than it was even 10 years ago.  The old assumptions clearly don’t apply anymore.

These are the issues the Extravaganza tackled this year (Form: Faith Formation in a Missional Age).  These are the issues that the Practice Discipleship Initiative are tackling.  These are the issues that are being talked about on the Network’s Facebook group, in the webinars and other resources from Vibrant Faith Ministries and our other partners.  This is what the SYMBOL Network (Synod staff people who work in children’s or youth ministry) is talking about.  Outdoor ministries is looking for new directions.  Our seminaries are stepping directly into the path of these conversations and are offering much research and wisdom.  And our churchwide organization is figuring out how to re-invent itself, that it might serve well in this new, missional age.

Are any one of these things either the “cause” or the “cure” for figuring this out?  No.

But my sense is that really for the first time in a long time, all of these different organizations are beginning to “paddle in the same direction” in terms of figuring this stuff out.

Some people look at the indicators of these changes in our culture and speak of the end of the church.  I don’t think so.  I have a much more hopeful view.  I don’t believe God is done with the church yet.  Though it doesn’t come naturally to the institutional church, I believe that we will change.  I believe we will adapt to a shifting world.  And I think the key for these changes lies right in our own sandbox.  It is, I think, the world of faith formation with the young that is going to lead the change.  The culture we inhabit together realizes that the old must pass away.  We cannot be afraid to continue asking the questions and seeking God’s call for our ministry.  As faith formation reinvents itself, I believe the rest of the church will follow.  Really I do.

I believe that someday we’re all going to be able to say “we were there when…” and describe how God’s Holy Spirit moved within the world and within the church.

I am hopeful and excited for the future.  And I am grateful to God for what God is up to, and for this community in which questions can be asked, and new directions discovered.  Thanks to you, for being a part of it!

Networked in Christ,


Introducing: The Network App!

iphone5_large_NewWe’re really excited about this!

Today, the Network introduces our new mobile app!  For both the Android and Apple (iOS) platforms, this app is awesome!

Features include!

  • A “live” events calendar
  • Direct feed of the Network blog
  • A directory of Network leadership
  • A media library
  • Network News
  • A “prayer wall.”  Post prayer requests, and respond!
  • Direct links to contact us
  • Feeds from our Facebook and Twitter feeds
  • Streaming media of past Extravaganza keynote speakers…3rdTuesday Conversation webinars and Practice Discipleship webinars
  • An online Bible (adding more version to it soon!)
  • A function to send the Network new ideas
  • Quick easy ways to make donations to the Network, or to other ministries we support
  • A GPS powered “Local Network Finder” (coming in March)
  • A Programs function, with more content from our programs (coming in March)

This is going to be great!  Carry the Network with you wherever you go!

What is the key to effectiveness in a national network?  Communication.  This opens up whole new ways for us to connect with each other.   We’re very excited abou the possibilities.  Lots of hours have gone into this project, and we are grateful to the team who put it together:  Michael Sladek, Andy Arnold and Rachel Claseman.  And we’re grateful to our Network partner, iGivings, for working with us on it to put it all together!

Please note that when you log in, you will be asked if you want to register.  We strongly recommend registering.  It will allow you to participate in some of the stuff that you otherwise would not be able to participate in.

Visit the Network App home page for more detailed information!



Network Board Gathers Today

If you’ve got to meet somewhere in the fall, it might as well be Denver!

Today, members of the Network’s Board of Directors are traveling to Denver, Colorado for their annual fall meeting.  The vision, direction and policies of the Network are overseen by this Board. Seven individuals are called to serve in this role, and meet  for prayer, discernment, visioning and policy setting three times a year.

The Network is an adventure.  As both our culture and our change are changing, and as the needs of those who do ministry with those in the first third of life shift, a dynamic board is more essential than ever.   We’ve all been to meetings of committees, boards or congregations where there is a certain level of…shall we say…micromanagement.  As in “why did we spend $123 more in paper napkins for fellowship between services this year than last year?”

This isn’t that kind of Board.  Yes, monitoring of our state and condition are important.  And our board manages to have, but not focus its energy on these conversations, choosing instead to focus on asking good questions:

  • Where is ministry with young people headed?
  • Where is God calling this Network to go?
  • What kind of support do adults who work with children and youth need?
  • How do we create the infrastructure to move forward with this ministry?
  • What should our goals for the next 1 year, 3 years and 5 years be?

The Network is blessed to have a good Board of Directors.  They are gifted and passionate people.  And at our meeting over the next three days, we are going to be working on (and hopefully coming close to completing) a new strategic plan, on thinking about the new Practice Discipleship Project, and on looking at strategies for growing our Network.  Details of these items will come out in upcoming weeks and months.

Please pray for those who serve Christ and the Network through its Board of Directors.  They will need your prayers as we delve into these important conversations.

Your Board members are:

  • Julie Miller; Denver, Colorado
  • Rev. Ben Morris; Detroit, Michigan
  • Yvonne Steindal (AiM); Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Valerie Taylor Samuel; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Erik Ullestad; West Des Moines, Iowa
  • Rev. Larry Wagner; Thousand Oaks, California
  • Rev. Mike Ward; Asheville, North Carolina
  • Rev. Todd Buegler; Maple Grove, Minnesota (Network Exec. Dir/non-voting member)
  • Mark Burkhart (AiM); Chicago, Illionois (ELCA Staff/non-voting member)

You can get more information about the Network’s board, including looking at minute of their meetings, by going to their web page.

Networked in Christ,


The 800 Pound Gorilla

I was talking with a friend who serves in a different congregation in a different state earlier in the week.  He said that he was looking

In the Dome at the Gathering

forward to the next couple of weeks with a sense of dread.  “Why is that?” I asked.  “Because it’s all going to be about the ELCA Youth Gathering.  The Facebook posts, the Twitter feed…it seems like I’ve heard a ton already this spring and it’s just going to get worse.”

He had made the decision (for his own reasons…I disagreed with him, but they are his own reasons…) not to bring young people to the Gathering this year.  That’s fine.  That is his and his congregation’s choice.

“But the whole world seems to revolve around the gathering as it gets closer.”  he said.

I reached deep down into my bag of pastoral care tricks:

“Suck it up, buttercup.”

On one level, I get his complaints.  The Gathering is a big deal.  A really, really big deal.  There will be 35,000 people gathered there this year.  And it’s almost all done by volunteers (with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit).  That’s huge.  And he’s right:  it’s been active on the twitter feeds…active on the facebook pages…it’s what a lot of our congregations have poured time and resources into.  So for those who are choosing not to go, I totally understand your frustration if this is what you’re hearing about right now more than anything else.

But here’s the deal:  I can’t do much to make you feel any better.

For whatever reason (again, let’s give some credit to the Holy Spirit) the Gathering has, going back to the 1950’s, crossed a tipping point in the life of the church.  This event has traction.  This event has legs.  I find it remarkable that the Gathering doesn’t even have to promote who the speakers or musicians are.  They don’t do that until a couple of months before the young people board buses.  But without knowing the program, without knowing what’s going to happen, people come.  It’s breathtaking, when you think about it.

People become because as an event, the Gathering is life-changing.  People come because as an event, the Gathering is community-changing.  People come because as an event, a relationship between a community of pilgrims and an entire city is formed.  People come because faith is formed throughout the event.

But there is a challenge ahead of us:  How do we make this less of an event, and more of an ongoing ministry that continues to form faith, form relationships and transform lives?

We’re doing some thinking about that.  In upcoming months you are going to hear more about “Practice Discipleship Phase 2” which will hopefully build on the infrastructure that has been built for this Gathering.  I think it’s going to be really exciting.

And in a couple of ways, it is going to answer the objections of my friend.  If the Gathering becomes a catalyst for a renewal of faith formation for young people, families and congregations, then it is less about event, and more about long-term ministry.  Hopefully the buzz around the Gathering doesn’t fade, and the energy is chanelled in new directions.  I really believe that this year, there is the potential for a whole new thing to come out of the Gathering.

Please join me in praying for the Gathering.  Please join me in praying for the Gathering, for the young people and their leaders who travel there, for the teams, and for the city of New Orleans.  And pray for these new directions that might arise out of this experience.

And in the worst case, my friend will have about 2.5 years ahead of him before the Twitter and Facebook streams really heat up again for the next Gathering!

See most of you in New Orleans!


PS – On Twitter, follow the hashtag #cwts12 for an up to the minute feed on the event!


It’s Not About Us

There is a new webinar that has been added to the catalog of webinars that are a part of the “Practice Discipleship Project” done

Serving in 2009

cooperatively by the Network and the ELCA Youth Gathering.

I’m really excited about the webinar.  It is titled “Compassionate Justice and Service Learning.”

I’d like to give you the description, and then tell you the ‘backstory’ behind it:

This webinar will explore the concept of compassionate justice as part of “Practicing Justice,” one of the ELCA Youth Gathering’s central themes. The language of compassion, justice, and accompaniment will be introduced, along with a biblical overview of justice and what it means to serve in Christ’s name. In addition, leaders will learn a practical, four-step service learning model that can be used in preparing their groups for service and mission experiences, including how to adequately prepare a group, guide meaningful reflection, and share stories and experiences with others.  We will end this session with an important conversation about what comes next – the Gathering is not a destination event, it is a preparation for ministry in your own neighborhood and the world around us! 

The webinar will be led by Dr. Dave Ellingson and Mark Jackson, both of Trinity Lutheran College, and Peggy Hahn of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.

So here’s the deal:  As a church, Christ calls us to serve.  We all know this.  Often, however (and I have been guilty of this…I think all of us have at some point) those with whom we serve become objects of service instead of subjects.

Don’t get me wrong…I love short-term mission trips.  I love taking the young people in our congregation into different geographic and cultural settings, embedding ourselves in a community for 10 or 12 days, and getting deep into a service project.  There is, however, a risk involved in this:  without intention, the focus of what we’re doing can shift and we can start to serve not because of the needs of those in the community in which we work, but because of our need to serve…our need to feel good about ourselves…our need to swing a hammer/build a house/feed a homeless person/feel good about our faith…

To be really honest, sometimes these experiences can even reinforce a class system that we all talk about wanting to break down.  We can approach service like an us/them, with “us” being the benevolent ones.

When we approach service this way, even unintentionally, real relationships of integrity do not form.  The relationships are unequal.

I heard many, many great stories of powerful, relational service and accompaniment in New Orleans after the 2009 event.  I also heard a few stories of folks who were upset because their kids were assigned to service that was more about listening or learning than it was about building/cleaning/working/etc…  “So our kids didn’t get to serve!” they cried.

Sure, that’s true…if you have a narrow vision of service.  But the service Christ calls us to is one that draws us into relationships of integrity.  It calls us to listen first and to act later.  It calls us to do whatever needs to be done, whether that’s swinging a hammer or sitting on a porch listening to a story.

It’s shouldn’t be about our need to serve.  It shouldn’t be about us.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  John 12: 23-25.

I think we need to be willing to take the expectations and hopes of what we think service is going to be this summer, and let it fall and die, and open ourselves up to how God’s Holy Spirit might just work in the lives of both the people we encounter in New Orleans, and into the lives of the young people that we will shepherd there.  We all need to remember, it’s not about us.  It’s about this new community that the Holy Spirit is going to create this summer of us and them…together.

Our challenge is going to be teaching this understanding of service and service learning to the young people we bring, so that they can come with open minds and open hearts.  That is what the webinar will tend to.  I strongly recommend that you watch and participate in it.  It’s going to be really good, and really helpful!

If they are open to the work of the Spirit, I believe it will produce many, many good seeds.



I Didn’t Know That Was On There!

I hear it actually all of the time.  Somebody will send me a question about a ministry topic, or perhaps about a resource, and I’ll drop back a quick note to them and say “you should check out _______________’s talk from the Extravaganza a couple of years ago…there was some stuff said there that I think would really be helpful.”  I’d send them the weblink, and then go on to something else.  But a day or two later, I almost always get an e-mail back.  “Wow…I had no idea that all of that stuff was on there!”

We forget the resources that are available to us all of the time.

The Network web site has a ton of video resources that are available to Network members to access and use.  There’s some great stuff here!  I think we often just straignt-up forget what’s available to us.  So I thought it might be helpful to get a reminder.

(Note: To access the video resources, go to the video home page.  To access the webinars, go to the Practice Discipleship Home Page. For 3rdTuesday Conversation (3TC) recordings and webinars, go to the 3TC home page.)

Here are Some of the titles we’ve got online:

  1. Dr. Terri Elton; Opportunity or Despair – The Landscape of Youth Ministry
  2. Shivon Miller; Events as Ministry Part 1
  3. Heather Hansen; Events as Ministry Part 2
  4. Dr. Jeremy Myers; Lutheran Theology – How God Works in the World
  5. The Network: Come and See
  6. The Network: Vision
  7. Video Essay: “Are You Indespensible?”
  8. State of the Network 2009
  9. State of the Network 2010
  10. State of the Network 2011
  11. Rev. Dave Daubert; Extravaganza Keynote 2005
  12. Doug Fields; Extravaganza Keynote 2005
  13. Rev. Kirk Jones; Extravaganza Keynote 2005
  14. Kusuma Paul; Extravaganza Keynote 2005
  15. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean; Extravaganza Keynote 2006
  16. Dr. Rollie Martinson; Extravaganza Keynote 2006
  17. Dr. Rollie Martinson; Preaching 2006
  18. Dr. Rodger Nishioka; Extravaganza Keynote 2006
  19. Michael Pritchard; Extravaganza Keynote 2006
  20. Dr. Leonard Sweet; Extravaganza Keynote 2006
  21. Dr. Reggie Blount; Extravaganza Keynote 2007
  22. Rev. Michael Breen; Extravaganza Keynote 2007
  23. Bishop Mark hanson; Preaching 2007
  24. Rev. Carol Scott; Extravaganza Keynote 2007
  25. Rev. Karen Ward; Extravaganza Keynote 2007
  26. Rev. Tania Haber; Extravaganza Keynote 2008
  27. Dr. Patrick Kiefert; Extravaganza Keynote 2008
  28. Rev. James Lobdell; Extravaganza Keynote 2008
  29. Rev. Jose Valenzuela; Extravaganza Keynote 2008
  30. Jason Wilkinson; Interview 2009
  31. Rev. Kelly Fryer; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  32. Leslie Hunter; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  33. Dr. Adina Nack; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  34. John “Nelllie” Nelson; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  35. Dr. Mindy Pupolo; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  36. Dr. Christian Scharen; Extravaganza Keynote 2009
  37. Rev. Ann Svennungsen; Preaching 2009
  38. Rev. Bill Bixby; Preaching 2009
  39. Rev. Patrick Keen; Preaching 2009
  40. Dave “Agape” Scherer; Interview 2009
  41. Father Greg Boyle; Extravaganza Keynote 2010
  42. Rev. Becca Stevens; Extravaganza Keynote 2010
  43. Rev. Julio Cruz; Preaching 2010
  44. Rev. Kelly Chatman; Preaching 2010
  45. Rev. Dr. Dick Hardel; Interview 2010
  46. Tic Long; Extravaganza Keynote 2011
  47. Mark Yaconelli; Extravaganza Keynote Part 1 2011
  48. Mark Yaconelli Extravagnaza Keynote Part 2 2011
  49. Nancy Feniuk Nelson; Extravaganza Keynote 2011
  50. Enuma Okoro; Extravaganza Keynote 2011
  51. Bishop Paul Blom; Interview 2011
  52. Recorded Webinar; Dr. Jeremy Myers – “Lutheran Theology; How God Works in the World”
  53. Recorded Webinar; Dr. Jeremy Myers – “Lutheran Theology; How Lutherans Read the Scriptures”
  54. Recorded Webinar; Dr. Terri Elton – “Your Role as a Leader”
  55. Recorded Webinar; Dennis “Tiger” McLuen – “Strategic Planning”
  56. Recorded Webinar; Dennis “Tiger” McLuen – “Leading a Small Group”
  57. Recorded Webinar; Dennis “Tiger” McLuen – “Faith Conversations”
  58. Recorded Webinar; Dennis “Tiger” McLuen – “Preparing for the Unexpected” (being released this coming Sunday)
  59. 3TC: Dr. Andy Root – “The Promise of Despair” (Audio Only)
  60. 3TC:  Dr. David Anderson – “The Role of the Family” (Audio Only)
  61. 3TC:  Dr. Terri Elton – “Rethinking Mission Trips” (Audio Only)
  62. 3TC:  Dr. Elizabeth Marquart – “Working with Children of Divorce” (Audio Only)
  63. 3TC:  Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean – “Almost Christian” (Audio Only)
  64. 3TC:  The Extravaganza Team “Prepping for Extravaganza 2011”
  65. 3TC:  Enuma Okoro – “The Reluctant Pilgrim”
  66. 3TC:  Dr. Rollie Martinson – “New from the Exemplar Youth Ministry Study”
  67. 3TC:  Celia Whitler – “Ministry with Young Women”
  68. 3TC:  Mark Matlock – “Working with Parents”
  69. 3TC:  Dr. Dave Ellingson and Mark Jackson – “Framing Mission Experiences”
  70. 3TC:  Heidi Hagstrom – “The ELCA Youth Gathering: What You Need to Know”
  71. 3TC:  Rev. Karen Stevenson – “Talking with Young People about Sexuality”
  72. 3TC:  Bishop Mark Hanson – “Young People and the State of the Church”
  73. 3TC:  Health, Wellness and Ministry
  74. 3TC: Michael Sladek; “How to Make Your Stuff Look Good”
That should keep you busy for awhile.


The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts

There are moments when you suddenly realize that you are in the middle of an organizational “sweet spot.”  Things click.  Visions are realized.  Goals are achieved.  And you look around and say to yourself “I can’t believe that I’m here, in this spot at this time.  I will always remember this time.”

I’ve experienced that a bit this past week as I’ve been blessed to have a front-row seat at the launching of a really cool new initiative.  The “Practice Discipleship Project” is a joint venture between the ELCA Youth Gathering and the Network.  The Gathering has always been a wide river, uniquely capable of bearing the width and breadth of the church.  It’s the largest single gathering of young people in the church…make that, almost any church.  And it’s the largest single gathering of adults in the church as well.

I’ve noticed that for the last 4 or 5 cycles of the Gathering, in addition to being a wide river, it has gotten progressively deeper.   It has become more informed by our theology.  It has become more intentional in its design as a method of faith formation.  It has become more committed to supporting the work of the congregations who bring young people.  It has become more dedicated on the gifts of young people being focused upon issues of justice and reconciliation in a broken world.  It is becoming more.

That’s why I love to be a part of the Gathering.  That “more”?  It is God’s Holy Spirit at work.

There are huge implications in this.  The adults who bring young people to the Gathering from congregations across the church have to be better prepared to tend young people as they struggle to interpret their experiences.  My greatest fear is that a young person walk away from the Gathering and when asked how it was they say “it was cool.”  I want it to be so much more than cool.  And young people need the presence of caring adults as they give language and voice to their experiences.

So the “Practice Discipleship Project” was born.

It is about the “Practice Discipleship” Day that all congregations will participate in at the Gathering, together with their neighbors from their synods.

But it’s also what is happening right now in synods and congregations.  It is really good training for adult leaders of all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels.

  • It is 3 live training sessions with synod coaches
  • It is 7 webinars
  • It is the webinar topics being presented live at the Extravaganza.
  • And it is a whole lot more.
I’ve sat live through the first two of the webinars and I’ve got to tell you, they were really good.  Dr. Jeremy Myers of Augsburg College rocked Lutheran theology.  The questions he was addressing were “How does God work in the world” and “How do Lutherans read the scriptures.”
And there are 5 more webinars available, being led by Dr. Terri Elton and Dennis “Tiger” McLuen.  They are going to be awesome.
But back to my original thought.  As I sat on my couch and listened and watched Jeremy teaching about the different ways people read and interpret the scriptures on Sunday, I realized that I was in my sweet spot.  Things are coming together.  The full year of planning was being realized, and people were engaged, listening and asking questions.  It doesn’t get any better than this.    (and the best part is that the recordings of the webinars are out there…available to all and free for the taking.)  And there are still 5 more “live” weeks to go.  For more information, go to
Thank you to the Practice Discipleship Team.  Thank you to my friend and colleague, Catherine Anderson, and thank you to all who participated.
The resources being provided for the church (the whole church, whether or not you are participating in the ELCA Youth Gathering) will be a gift for the church.  It’s a sweet spot gift.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in children, youth and family ministry in the ELCA.  Someday, I know I’ll look back and say  “That was so amazing…I’m so glad I got to be there…”  I hope you will say the same.
Thanks be to God!