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Posts from the ‘The Church’ Category

4
Apr

Give Good Data Now = Get Good Data Later

NegotiationMost ELCA congregations work on their budgets in the fall.  Program budgets…salaries…benefits…all get worked out in the fall.  So we’ve got a “great deal” for you.  Invest a little bit of time right now…probably no more than 5-15 minutes, and you’ll be better equipped for these important conversations in the fall.

Your friends and colleagues in ministry need your help!

The Network does an annual salary survey that provides data on salaries, insurance, pension, vacation time, reimbursement and more.  There’s even a section for volunteers to report how they are reimbursed for their expense and time.

And we take the data and we slice and dice it so you can compare by

  • Geographic region
  • Education level
  • Size of congregation
  • Years of experience
  • ELCA roster status
  • Gender and other categories

The salary survey is an incredibly helpful tool…it is consistently the most downloaded resource from the Network web site.  Every fall, congregations and Network members use this information to help them in their budget and salary conversations.

Right now, we are collecting the data.  We’ll be collecting it through April 20, 2017.  And quite simply, the more people who fill it out, the more helpful the data will be.  We hope to publish the data in mid May.

So please take a few minutes and help out your sisters and brothers in ministry!  Share your data.  And next fall, you’ll be better equipped.  Facts are your friends!

Take the survey now!

 

21
Feb

The Hope I Have for the Church

Special guest blog by: Rev. Paul Amlin

Today is Paul Amlin’s last day in his role as Program Director for Youth Ministry in our ELCA Churchwide Offices.  Over the last four years, Paul has worked tirelessly to support adults working with youth, and leadership development for young people.  Paul begins a new call March 1 as the pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Dubuque, Iowa.  We’re grateful for Paul’s work and his support.  And we’re grateful that he’s sharing these final thoughts with us as he leaves his position.  You can continue to follow Paul’s ministry on Twitter:  @lordoflifedbq and http://www.facebook.com/lordoflifedbq.

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PaulAmlin

Paul Amlin

I’ve spent the last four years traveling across this church. As I prepare to take my leave from service at the churchwide expression of the ELCA, I want to take a moment to share with you why I have hope for the church (and why I think you should too!). This won’t be one of those “9 reasons” or “10 ways” kind of blog posts, rather, just some observations and takeaways after spending a LOT of quality time with folks from the Carolinas to California, from Oregon to Florida and a lot in between. So here we go…

I’ll start with a moment I shared with Lyle Griner in Detroit as we watched the ballroom from the doors during the Extravaganza. The room was literally pulsing as music blasted and a thousand+ ministry friends jumped and danced and high fived each other. Lyle and I couldn’t help but smile and I don’t remember if it was Lyle or me who said, “I wish people who think the church is dying could be here now!” Detroit was the high point for attendance at the E, the high point for membership in the Network, and a major high point for the board of directors as we realized the goals set forth in a strategic plan years before.

Speaking of Detroit… The ELCA Youth Gathering was a major high point for me. I had the unique opportunity to split time between the convention center team I served and traveling around working the ELCA Youth Twitter and Facebook accounts. I have been blessed to be a part of four Gathering planning teams and I have attended every Gathering since 1997 (River of Hope, woot-woot). Detroit felt different. The young people I engaged were fired up to be there, that’s normal for this event after all, but they were also engaged in the theme, in service, in wanting to make a difference, in caring about how their church was present in Detroit and what that might look like back at home. I am more and more convinced that the Gathering has become the “Lutheran Big Tent” revival the church needs every three years to inspire and empower young leaders to rise up and model radical faith in Jesus Christ that inspires loving our neighbors wherever we are planted.

I have been blessed to sit with planners for events like Invitation to Service, Leadership Lab, AFFIRM, The Disciple Project and Camp Hope Training, multiple synod youth events and to spend time being present on behalf of the ELCA to learn about and share the amazing work that is happening across this church. The young people I meet at these events are there because they love Jesus and the church, and because they want to make a difference. The leaders who give selflessly and tirelessly of themselves to make these events happen are there because they, too, believe in the transformative power of Jesus’ love and that we are stronger and more effective together than we are apart.

I have been blessed to work with some of the best people the church has to offer. A few of those people have shared my same passion for equipping and empowering young leaders through the Youth Core Leadership Team. Lisa, Chris, Darcy, Rachel, Erik, and now a new Eric have spent time and energy to equip high school youth through this program of leadership development and faith formation. I’m proud of our work and of the young people whom have passed through our lives in the past four years. I look forward to hearing the stories of their lives as instruments of hope and love in Jesus Christ through our church and as they lean into God’s calling for them as leaders in the world through vocation and service. 

Speaking of amazing events… The ELCA Youth Leadership Summit will happen for the fourth time this November in Houston, Texas. I have been blown away by the young leaders and their adult travel companions from the majority of the synods of our church. These people show up in love with Jesus, excited by how the Spirit will move in and through them as they learn what it means to be a part of the ELCA and be a church that speaks and acts out in love for the world and our neighbor. I have told this story several times, but I will always be moved by a story from our inaugural event in Detroit. Tia Upchurch-Freelove had finished speaking about ELCA Advocacy and we asked youth to share what they were thinking. A young lady stood up and said, “I never knew our church did this, I didn’t know what it was called, but this is what I want to do with my life.” (See, I just got goosebumps again!).

I am also proud of all the people who work so hard in congregations, synods and here at churchwide to live into what it means to be the church for the world. I wish that you could have just a glimpse of what I’ve seen! Too often we are all detached from each other, not understanding how incredibly important we all are to each other. Together we feed the hungry, give clean water to the thirsty, give hope to the hopeless, give care and respite to those who suffer, teach and evangelize around the globe, welcome the stranger and humbly serve the other without telling each other how God has worked through us to be Good News. Perhaps we can get better at this? I encourage you to bring your youth groups for a tour of the Lutheran Center in Chicago, take your synod staff to lunch, make a phone call to tell someone you are praying for them, write a note of encouragement for the hard days in ministry we all have. You would be amazed at how powerful these things can be! I keep a file folder filled with cards and notes.

Our church is still becoming what it needs to be. Remember that. We are once and always reforming, being made new as the slogan says, and being the hands of God at work in our world, together. Together. Together. None of us is alone and none of us is stronger in the absence of the other. I have hope for this church because I have met enough of you to know that Jesus is not dead, but very much alive in God’s people. I have hope for this church because I know enough young leaders who love Jesus and this church that I am sure God is at work in all of this. I have hope because I cannot do anything else, thanks be to God! Now it’s time for all of us to name and claim how God is at work and on the loose around us bringing Good News to the world. 

So there you have it. Thanks for reading along. Thanks for your ministry and for your passion for the Good News we share. Remember that you are God’s beloved child and nothing can separate you from God’s love.

peace,
Paul

23
Mar

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.

Peace,
Todd

1
Mar

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
President
651-287-8487
thomas.oneill@youthencounter.org

Brian Brooks
Board Chairman
501-733-3457
bgbrooks1@me.com

1
Jul

10 Tips for a Great ELCA Youth Gathering

Gathering3In just a few weeks, in journeys that make the Exodus out of Egypt pale in logistical comparison, 30,000 people are going to load buses, planes and vans and head to Detroit for the ELCA Youth Gathering.  It’s going to be 5 days (plus travel, plus side trips) of amazing opportunities for all involved to grow in their faith.

This will be my tenth time to the ELCA Youth Gathering, and I’ve always found it to be an incredible ministry opportunity.  I’ve participated as a youth minister bringing a group, as a volunteer and as a team leader, so I’ve seen it from a lot of different angles.  Having said that, let me be crystal clear:  I am not an expert.  Not at all.  (And I’m not writing this in any kind of an official Gathering capacity.)  But over the years, I have learned some things that might be helpful in making this an amazing experience for your group.  I’d like to share those things with you:

  1. Plan on 3 things going wrong for every person you bring to the Gathering.
    That means, if you are bringing 15 people from your congregation, plan on your group having 45 problems during the trip.  These could be everything from your flight being delayed, to a traffic jam in Chicago that will slow you down (likely), to the hotel losing part of your reservation, to there being no restaurants open at the time you decide to eat dinner.  Tell your group to plan on 3 problems for every person.  And then talk about how you’ll deal with the problems when they come up.  (calmly…logically…looking for solutions…no whining…etc…)  The reality is, you probably won’t have this many group problems.  But if you do, you’re emotionally ready for them.  And if you don’t, you’ve ‘beaten’ your expectations.
  2. Be kind to the volunteers.  
    The folks in Gathering team shirts?  The odds are 99.9% that they are a volunteer who is as excited as you are to be there.  It’s not their fault that the floor of Ford Field has been closed off…it’s not their fault that it’s hot out and that there aren’t water fountains nearby…it’s not their fault that your bus was late and that you missed your launch time.  They are there out of the goodness of their heart and they want to help.  I’ve seen adult group leaders treat volunteers horribly.  And when you’re tired, hot, sweaty and impatient, please remember that it’s not their fault.  They’re following instructions.  So treat them (and everybody for that matter) kindly. And your group will be watching you.  If you’re patient, they’ll be patient (perhaps even with you).  You’ll have a better week, I promise!
  3. Be prepared to interpret.
    Here’s something that folks don’t always understand.  The Gathering is not a stand alone event.  It’s a huge event, with tons of resources poured into it, but if you just show up, plan on participating and expecting that the power of the event will somehow create a transformational event in the lives of your young people, you quite possibly will be disappointed.  The Gathering isn’t intended to just be everything to everybody.  The Gathering depends on the congregational adult group leaders to interpret the experience with the young people.  You’ll need to talk through everything that you have done with them.  Asking and processing the different “day” experiences, and helping young people figure out how to put these things into the context of their own lives.  Groups that do this have a great experience.  Groups that don’t sometimes walk away and say “meh.”
  4. Don’t miss stuff.
    Sometimes I’ve seen groups walking away from the Gathering during a time of great programming to go do something on their own.  A baseball game…a tour…whatever…  Here’s my advice:  Don’t do that.  There is so much at the Gathering to do and experience, that I’d really encourage you to jump in 1000% and experience as much as you can.  Look for gaps in the schedule to do some of the other stuff.  But don’t miss the Gathering.
  5. Water.
    Make sure your group and you drink a lot of it.  I know, I sound like your Mom.  But I’ve seen lots of people go down from dehydration at these things.  And that will ruin someone’s day.
  6. There’s no such thing as down time.
    I’ve walked past the crowds of people sitting outside the general sessions awaiting admission.  I’ve seen some groups sitting there…flopped down…bored…waiting.  Then I’ve walked by groups where group leaders have their group sitting in a circle on the sidewalk.  They’re playing “Full Contact Spoons,” or answering questions from a “Would You Rather?” book, or are doing impromptu skits and drawing people from other groups into it.  And the young people are engaged, and laughing, and having fun.  That’s a group I’d want to be a part of.  Carry props and games in your backpack and have a list of possibilities ready to go.  (I know one guy who carried around a small bullhorn…yes, a bullhorn…just for these moments.  Do you know how much fun you can have with a bullhorm?  “Hello Domino’s…this is the Gathering Commander…please bring me a pizza!”  But not inside Ford Field, please.)
  7. It’s not about you.
    Once I walked through a hotel lobby in the late afternoon.  It was a “gap time” when the afternoon programming was wrapping up and well before dinner.  As I walked through the hotel lobby I looked over and saw 3 adult group leaders sitting in the hotel bar having a beer.  I literally stopped in my tracks.  Really?  I get the desire to take a break and enjoy a cold beverage.  But that was just plain wrong.  I had to work hard to keep from going over and shouting at them.  And it reminded me that sometimes we forget that when we bring a group, as leaders we are there for the group.  We’re “all in.”  And to step away from the group for a moment like that 1) breaks the covenant we all agree to by being a part of the Gathering; 2) pulls us away from our group when we are supposed to be there for them, and; 3) is stupid.  When we’re at the Gathering, we’re there for the group; totally and completely.  Wait and have your beer when you get home.  Have two.  I don’t care.
  8. Don’t yell stuff in Ford Field.
    Ok, this is a personal pet peeve.  And it’s been better in recent years.  But occasionally someone somewhere will yell something out in the general sessions.  Like their state name, or something like that, trying to elicit a reaction.  And then people cheer, and it totally throws off the direction and mood that the Dome Teams are trying to create.  And it’s dumb.  I’m sure that Vermont is a nice place…but at that moment, we don’t care that you’re from there.  I always told my group that the person who did something like that would have to ride home from the Gathering in the bathroom of the bus.  That threat, by the way, works for a lot of things.
  9. Be kind to the volunteers.
    Oh…did I already mention this one?
  10. Plan on eating at odd times.
    Most people try to eat at…well, meal times.  That’s when the lines are long and you’ll waste a lot of time.  Pick some odd times.  Bring snacky breakfast stuff (fruit…toaster pasteries…etc…) for breakfast, granola bars for late morning snack and then eat lunch and dinner at an “off-time.”  You’ll be much happier not waiting in a 55 minute line for Freaky Fast Jimmy John’s.
There you go.  Just some ideas.  Use some…ignore some…it’s totally up to you.  Just remember to remain focused on the young people and their experience with Jesus.  Because Jesus is already there, waiting for you and your group.
Have a great journey and an amazing Gathering!
See you in Detroit!
Todd
25
Jun

Why You Should Watch the Live Stream from Detroit (and ideas for doing so)

Paul Amlin

Paul Amlin

Guest blog post by Rev. Paul Amlin, Program Director for Youth Ministry; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Chicago, Illinois

I was texting back and forth with a seminary friend this morning and the topic of the ELCA Youth Gathering, Detroit, and how the Gathering will address issues like the Charleston killings and racism during our time together. This got me thinking. If someone has never experienced a youth gathering, or hasn’t been to one in recent years, they would have no way of knowing how deep and wide we go to deal with current issues, key issues, issues that get to what it means to love our neighbor and to learn from them. I’m convinced that the bold choice to go to Detroit is affirmed in the subject matter we’ll address (equity, racism, justice to name a short list), the city where racism has played a major part in history, and recent events in our country. 

This led me to think about ways to engage the material, the real examples and teaching from Detroit in our local communities. We have been blessed, the last two cycles at least, to have live streaming available for anyone with a laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone and access to the Internet. Through the stream you will be able to watch a live morning program hosted by youth at COBO (convention center) and grab a seat at Ford Field to hear the music, the praise and worship, and to hear powerful speakers address contemporary issues in light of and in response to faith in Jesus Christ. Young people and the adults who accompany them to Detroit will likely leave the city inspired (and tired!) but also wired to do big things back at home. What better way to engage this energy than to have your congregation participate through watching the live stream?

So here are a few ideas for streaming parties for all ages.

1) Open the church each evening of the Gathering, put up a screen and a projector and order some pizza or have a world-Gathering1famous Lutheran potluck dinner. You could pray for those in Detroit before the stream begins, watch the stream, take notes, then discuss what you heard in small groups afterward. 

2) Since not everyone will make it to the church each evening, make sure you share the link to the live stream via e-mail, text, semaphore, etc. Post questions on your church Facebook page, on Twitter, Instagram, etc. to engage folks in conversation about what they’ve heard.

3) Be sure to invite the youth to watch! For those who couldn’t make it to Detroit, this is a chance for them to feel like they’ve participated in some way. When their friends get back, they can engage in conversation about the event in a meaningful way. Of course, it’s okay to make this an inter-generational activity.

4) Give shut-ins the information, too! If you’re really edgy, set up a viewing party at a nursing home where you have members or have volunteers visit shut-ins to watch with them.

5) Have a Sunday closing worship viewing party! Live stream the service in your sanctuary while you are worshiping, occasionally turn up the volume to share the experience, OR set up a projector in the fellowship hall for anyone who wants to follow along. What if on that day your church includes the Gathering, the people of Detroit, participants AND you community in the prayers as closing worship is happening?

6) Download and share the “Getting Ready” materials. They give insight into the things we’ll discuss in Detroit, but also include things like teaching what a Theology of the Cross means for Lutherans. You could use these materials for adult education, inter-generational times, or for confirmation or youth group (even if nobody from your church is going to Detroit!).

I’m convinced that the Gathering serves as our Lutheran version of a big tent revival. Imagine what could happen if the enthusiasm, energy and teaching from this revival caught on at home! It will take some extra work and require a commitment of time and resources to make it happen, but I believe the rewards will be magnificent. 

p.s.

I’d love to hear your ideas, your stories of how your congregation follows along and interacts with events like the Gathering. Remember to post to social media using #RiseUpELCA and share some photos of your viewing parties for others to see.

10
Jun

Innovation Grants for Youth and Young Adult Ministry

webhomes-thinking-plus-innovation-innovation-plus-emerging-thoughtIf you’ve been following social media for youth and young adult ministries in the ELCA you’ve been seeing a lot about an informational webinar about something called “innovation grants” for youth and young adult ministry. The webinar will be recorded and you can watch it later if you’re not available to follow live. What I really want you to know is that we are genuinely interested in your ideas for investing in young leaders in the church and for innovative ways of nurturing the gift of faith in youth and young adults. Included in this blog post (see below) are the basic goals and guidelines for these grants.

The combination of creative and innovative ministry ideas and the goal for partnership between congregations/synods/outdoor ministries/campus ministries and the many ways the ELCA engages leadership development and faith formation, virtually guarantees a wider reach for your new ideas. Think outside of the box. I often ask people, “What would you do if money were not a factor?” Ask that of yourself, then see if your idea fits the grant opportunities we are offering. Remember, you can’t receive a grant if you don’t apply!!

These grants are made possible through the Always Being Made New Campaign for the ELCA and are being offered because youth and young adult voting members at the last churchwide assembly noted a problem and then took the initiative to ask for funding to fix the problem. These are the kinds of leaders we need for this church!

I continue to believe that this is an exciting time to be the church. I also believe that our investment in youth and young adult leaders will directly impact our capacity for reaching others with the Good News of Jesus Christ and help create communities of faith that can make a difference in the world. You can be a part of making these things happen.

Peace,
Paul Amlin, Program Director for Youth Ministry

Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA gives us the opportunity to expand our ministries among youth and young adults to cultivate young leaders, embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion, and build a robust network of support.

Through the Youth and Young Adults ministry of The Campaign for the ELCA, we will focus on the following Core Values:

  • Form faith in youth and young adults
  • Develop and multiply youth and young adult leaders
  • Start new ministries or enhancing current efforts
  • Promote collaboration and creativity
  • Engage youth and young adults of color
  • Accompany communities and persons living in poverty

GRANT GUIDELINES

  • Applications must be submitted on behalf of a partnership of two or more ELCA-related ministries, one of which must be a congregation or synod.
  • Grants are one time, lump sum grant amounts.
  • Grants will range from $5,000 to $40,000.
  • Initial applications will be received June 10 – September 1, 2015. Applicants will be notified and funds dispersed by the end of September 2015.
  • Funds will be directed through an established ELCA ministry.
  • Grant recipients are expected to establish measurable outcomes, provide two updates on their project, one six months after the start date and a final report. Recipients also agree to participate in at least one online gathering of grant recipients.

Grants will be awarded via application. The application questions are included in this form. All areas must be completed and you must be prepared to demonstrate hoped for outcomes, budget and a willingness to communicate progress toward goals. Once submitted, applications will be considered at a predetermined time by representatives of youth, young adults and churchwide staff.

9
Oct

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

3
Sep

ELCA is Seeking a Director for the Youth Gathering

RiseUpHeidi Hagstrom has announced her intent to leave her position as the Director of the ELCA Youth Gathering following the 2015 event next summer.  Heidi has been studying in the M.Div program at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque and intends to pursue rostered ministry as an ordained pastor within the ELCA.  The ELCA has posted the Gathering Director’s position and will be accepting applications for this vital leadership position through the month of September.

The Gathering is one of the most powerful ministries of the church.  It gathers somewhere in the vicinity of 39,000 young people, adult leaders, volunteers and staff together for a amazing faith formation experience.  It presents and lives out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that quite simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else within the church.  It is transformational for the faith lives of the participants, for the community that hosts the Gathering and for the ELCA.  It is a masterpiece of deployed leadership.  Everywhere you look within the Gathering, it speaks the name of Jesus.

I believe that the Gathering creates a culture of leadership that respects the gifts of both individuals and the community.  It listens, learns and then acts.  It is full of joy and laughter, from the stages of the initial planning, all the way through to the last closing worship.  Clearly the Holy Spirit is alive and well through the ministry of the Gathering.

This culture has been carefully tended over years.  And while there will be opportunity later on (it’s a long time until next July!) to thank Heidi, I’d be remiss if I didn’t name that much of the reason this culture exists is because of Heidi and the team with whom she works.  As someone who has brought groups, and been in different levels of leadership within the Gathering, I’m grateful for this culture.

Now, the ELCA will be seeking a new Director for this vibrant ministry.  The hope is to bring someone onboard soon, to join the leadership team and to walk through this last year of the planning cycle with them.  

Might you be someone who would consider this call?  Or perhaps you know someone who has the gifts for this ministry?  Please give this thought and prayer.  More information including a link to an online application can be found on the ELCA’s web site here.

Thanks be to God for the Gathering and its leadership.  Thanks be to God for the person out there somewhere who will be called to this ministry.

Networked in Christ,
Todd

 

9
Jun

An Invitation to Sign an Open Letter to the ELCA…

Dear Network friends,

The Network’s Board of Directors has drafted the following letter, to be sent to Rev. Stephen Bouman, Executive Director of Congregational and Synodical Mission at the ELCA.  It requests that staffing in the area of children’s ministry at the churchwide offices be considered.

The Network Board invites you to co-sign the letter.  If you would like to do so, please make a “comment” below the letter and in that comment, put your name, your role/title, your congregation or organization and your city and state.  Please sign on or before June 17th to have your name included in the version being sent to Rev. Bouman.

Thank you!

Networked in Christ,
Todd

yay-3164803June 9, 2014

Rev. Stephen Bouman
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631

Dear Rev. Bouman,

Greetings, in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We are grateful that the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit of the churchwide organization added two program director staff positions for youth and young adult ministry in 2013. Thanks for your vision and commitment to forming and nurturing faith in youth and emerging adults. Paul Amlin and Rozella White have been marvelous partners with the ELCA Youth Ministry Network and great representatives of the churchwide expression.

We remain concerned however, about the lack of resources and support for those engaged in children’s ministry at the congregational, synodical, and churchwide level. As congregations have cut budgets and staffing, we are aware that a large number of youth and children’s ministry positions are being combined in our congregations. In our effort to identify and connect our members to training, resources, and support to those who do ministry with children we have recognized that there is no staff person on ELCA churchwide staff in the area of children’s ministry. We believe this is a gap that needs to be filled as quickly as possible.

We are aware of the importance of excellent faith formation beginning as early as possible in the life of a young person. Based on James Fowler’s Stages of Faith, and our own experiences, it is clear that our children from birth to age twelve require intentional shepherding and guidance in their faith development. If we take seriously that faith formation is a process of development, and that the baptismal journey is indeed a journey that begins at the font and continues throughout our life, then our church must provide guidance to parents, pastors, teachers, and lay ministers who are working with our infants, toddlers, and children at the beginning of this important journey.

We believe it is crucial that there be a person at the churchwide office, partnering with Paul and Rozella along with the rest of the CSM staff, working to make congregations aware of the best resources, to build partnerships around children’s ministry and to be a voice for those who work with the youngest within our church. We believe that it is essential that a person in this role

  • Has experience and expertise in the area of children’s ministry
  • Understands the full spectrum of faith formation as it spans all the ages
  • Has skills in working in large systems to affect change and to grow ministries

We hope that you will consider providing resources for a churchwide staff position in the area of children’s ministry. This is a vital ministry for the present and future of our church.

Respectfully,

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network Board of Directors
Erik Ullestad (chairperson)
Julie Miller
Rev. Ben Morris
Valerie Taylor-Samuel
Sue Megrund
Jeremy Myers
Tom Schwolert
Rev. Todd Buegler

And the following members of the Network: