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Posts from the ‘The Church’ Category

8
Jul

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!”

Rachel2

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,
Todd

 

 

3
Jul

3 Words on the Youth Gathering

TeamLeads

Gathering Team Leaders & Staff (Not pictured, Kinda Makini, Sarah Mayer-Flatt, Vanessa Young & Donna Wiegel)

Wow.  Just wow.

There are only 3 thoughts I can share right now.

  1. Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you:  Gifted, talented and beloved.  For your time and energy, we are grateful.  On behalf of all of us, thank you.
  2. Thanks be to God.
  3. Jesus changes everything.

Peace,
Todd

26
Apr

We Are the Lord’s

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  – Romans 14:7-9

donna

Donna

Last weekend, the community lost a good friend.  Donna Wiegel, who has served as the registrar, and the primary liaison to hotel properties for the ELCA Youth Gathering died unexpectedly.

First and foremost, Donna loved her family.  Deeply.  With all her heart.  Molly Beck Dean, the Director of the Gathering described Donna’s love for her family as “fierce.”  It’s a good word.  Whenever I would see Donna, she loved to tell me about her family.  She was proud and passionate.

Donna’s life was well-described in her obituary:

“Donna found joy in the simplicities in life. She adored her dogs, reading her library books, drinking coffee (black only), bicycling, gardening, and relaxing in the sun on the beaches in the Caribbean. Donna was passionate about her daughter, her granddaughters, life, and happiness. She did not preach her moral and religious beliefs, she lived them. She was the angel. Donna was loving and kind to every person she encountered. She was the best, most loyal friend a person could ever have. Donna was a fierce lover of justice and champion of the marginalized. She was a justice seeker, and a positive peacemaker.”

Donna was a friend to all those who worked with young people in the church.  She had a difficult, complicated job, but she handled it with grace and skill.  She was concerned that congregations and young people had good experiences through the ministry of the gathering.  When someone called her seeking help or assistance, she would go out of her way to assist them.  Every time.  I know, because Donna helped me and my group out, many times.

On Monday, the Network’s Board of Directors was in Chicago at The Lutheran Center for its regularly scheduled spring meeting.  We were blessed to be present for a prayer service for ELCA staff, led by Rev. Stephen Bouman and Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

One of the scripture readings Stephen shared was from Romans 14:  whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”  

At times like this, we cling.  We cannot begin to understand why things like this happen.  But they do.  And so we cling to the promises of the resurrected Christ.  We cling to the words of wisdom that remind us that Donna belongs to God.  No matter what happens…no matter the circumstances, Donna was a child of God, loved completely.

Because Jesus lives, Donna lives.  Because Jesus lives, we too shall live.

As a community, a Network, and as a church, we give thanks for the life of Donna Wiegel.  And we give thanks for how God worked through her.

And today we give thanks for the gift of the resurrection.  For Donna, the promises of God are fulfilled.

Thanks be to God.
Networked in Christ,

Todd

5
Mar

In Memory of Debbie Zaic

DebZaic

Debbie Zaic

If you’ve attended the Extravaganza in the last…probably ten years, there is a pretty good chance that you were welcomed and greeted at the registration table by Debbie Zaic.

Debbie and I worked together at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Maple Grove.  She was hired there in 2001, and provided administrative support and served as the registrar for the children, youth and family team. We worked together until I left Lord of Life in 2014.

It was the end of the work day, early last week, and Debbie suffered a stroke.  The stroke was massive, and she had no chance of survival.  She was moved to hospice care and died a couple of days later, surrounded by her family.  She was married to Mike and they have 3 beautiful daughters:  Ally and Megan have graduated from college.  Hattie is a student at Minnesota State University at Mankato.

When we worked together, Deb, Lynn (another of my wonderful colleagues) and I would often sit first thing in the morning, and catch up.  Topics could be anything from “what was on TV last night” to “what’s going on in our ministry” to more of Deb’s bragging on her daughters.  (To Debbie, it was never bragging…merely stating fact!) . Inevitably, there was a lot of laughter.

When something didn’t go Debbie’s way, there would be a massive eye-roll, and exasperated, she would exclaim “Oh, for the love…”

When she and I would talk about ministry, I would try and remind her how important her role was.  Deb would say things like “nah…I just work at the desk.”  Yet when our building was full of young people, it was not at all uncommon for young people (often those who needed to talk) to pop into the office, or stop at the “youth booth” to talk to her.  She had a way of making whoever she was talking with feel like at that moment, they were the most important person in the world.

Deb loved the Network, and loved coming to the Extravaganza.  She liked to come down a day early, just to help out Laurie Hoium, our registrar, and Debbie Clipson, our financial person, with getting everyone checked in for the event and answering questions.  (I think she also just loved hanging out with Debbie and Laurie).  She also loved to provide hospitality…and welcome people.

DebZaic2I’m going to miss Debbie.

Her life and her work reminded me that God’s vision of what it is to do ministry is broad and bold.

Deb knew who she was.  She understood her identity as a child of God.  She loved to do Bible journaling, and had this big white board in her office near her desk that she would draw Scripture verses, or other faith-related images.  She loved to sing, and was motivated by being a part of the faith formation of young people.

Debbie was a friend to many of us.  She had confidence in Christ’s claim on her as a child of God, and she lived her faith every day.  She loved working at the church.  She was excited to be a member of our Network, and to be a part of the community that gathers every year at the E.

Debbie’s life was celebrated in a beautiful worship service this afternoon at Lord of Life.  Please keep Debbie’s family, in your prayers:  Debbie’s husband, Mike, her daughters, Ally, Megan and Hattie, her father, Pastor Bernie Johnson and all of her extended family and friends.

Please also keep my friends on the staff at Lord of Life in your prayers.  This is the second member of their staff who has died in the last two months.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”         – Romans 8:37-39

And the promises made to Debbie Zaic in the waters of her baptism…the same promises made to each of us…have been fulfilled.  Thanks be to God.

Peace,
Todd

28
Aug

Our Hearts Break for Houston

Flood
Every time an image of the flooding comes across my newsfeed, or my TV screen, my heart breaks a little bit.  The images of the interstates completely submerged…of homes deep in water…and of people awaiting rescue takes my breath away.

And like many of you, my mind turns immediately to friends who live and work along the gulf coast:  Peggy, Jessica, Michael, David, Rozella, Beth, Karen and others. And there are those people I’ve gotten to know who work at the Hyatt in Houston, where the Extravaganza will be held from January 26-29, 2018:  Elizabeth, Michelle and David. And I worry, and I pray.  I’m certain that you are praying too.

Disasters like floods, tornados and hurricanes are always awful experiences.  But when you attach names to them, names of colleagues, friends and loved ones, the anxiety just continues to go up.

I’ve received messages from people wondering about the status of Extravaganza 2018 in Houston.  And I’ve seen posts on Facebook with people wondering how these floods will affect the ELCA Youth Gathering next summer.  The answer is: “of course the floods will have an effect.”  It’s too early to know or understand that effect yet.

We will remain in contact with the Hyatt.  I’m confident that they will be working to restore their property quickly.  As Houston begins its clean up after the storms, the E-Team will be talking about how the events in Houston might affect the program in January.

And while I cannot speak for the Gathering, I’m certain that they too are already thinking, praying and wondering about how these events will give shape to how our young people will walk alongside the residents of Houston next summer.

In the meantime, please continue to pray.

  • Pray for the people.
  • Pray for their homes.
  • Pray for the congregations there.
  • Pray for safety.
  • Pray for patience.
  • Pray for the physical and emotional security of our friends in Houston.

And give.  And encourage our congregations to give.  As congregational leaders, we are in positions of influence within our communities.  Please influence your people to give.  Giving to Hurricane Harvey Relief through Lutheran Disaster Response is a great way to give.  100% of funds donated go straight to relief efforts.

And I’d encourage you to follow along with what is happening.  Bishop Michael Rinehart of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod has been great about posting updates on social media.  I encourage you to follow his blog.

To be church together means that we hold each other in times of joy and in times of pain.  This is one of those times when we are called to surround a city with prayer, compassion and love.

Let’s be church together.
Peace,
Todd

 

10
Aug

Why the ELCA Youth Gathering is Worth the Cost

Gathering2Ok, I’m just going to put it out there and say it:  I think every ELCA congregation should participate in the ELCA Youth Gathering.

Every three years, the conversation kicks back up:  “How can we justify spending (pick a number here…$1000…$1300…even $1600) to send kids to stay in a hotel for a week? What if we could spend that money on mission instead?”

I get that.  I understand that we all need to make decisions about what we will and won’t participate in.  I get calls every week from some group that wants us to bring people to their event…or wants to send us their material to ‘trial’ so that we can use it in our congregation.

I also get, and respect, that every context is different than every other, and blanket statements like the one I made at the top of this post might not be helpful.  But here are my random thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. First, let’s get our data right.  $1300?  $1600?  Sure, it’s possible to spend that much per person to get a group to the Gathering.  But it’s also possible to spend much less. But it’s all about choices.  If you choose to fly there, you might spend more.  If you want to stay at hotels on the way driving there and back, yes that’s going to cost money.  But it is possible to do this for way less than $1300. Maybe take a bus rather than fly.  Not as quick or convenient, but probably less money.  Partner with another congregation to share transportation expenses.  If driving, sleep in churches rather than hotels.  Bring your own food. 

    I’d also strongly encourage you to watch the Network 3rdTuesday Conversation webinar on fundraising by Mike Ward.  It’s really good.

    I’ve never spent more than $800-$900 per person to send a group to the Gathering. Still a lot of money.  But it’s easier to come up with than $1300 or $1600.

  2. I’ve heard people compare the value of the Gathering to the value of a mission trip.  I think we need to let that go.  They are two totally different kinds of experiences and it’s apples and oranges; impossible to compare.  While mission trips have a service and accompaniment focus (with a lot of other stuff too), the Gathering has a faith formation and accompaniment focus (with a lot of other stuff too). They both are extremely important, and should not be set in opposition with each other.
  3. The scope of the Gathering means that things can be experienced there that cannot be experienced elsewhere…like in our congregations.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to bring Maya Angelou, or Bishop Desmond Tutu, or Rob Bell, or Audio Adrenaline, or Switchfoot, or Peter Mayer, or Nadia Bolz-Weber to my congregation. But that’s going to be a big budget “no” for my church.  I’m guessing the same for yours.

    Likewise, to experience the gift of Word and Sacrament with 30,000 other people?  I can’t explain why…but it’s one of the most amazing experiences out there.  And it’s something we can only experience at the Gathering.

    I’ve taken hundreds of kids on mission trips.  I’ve taken hundreds of young people to the ELCA Youth Gathering.  Years later, the same number of people tell me that the Gathering had a huge impact on their life and faith as those who tell me the same thing about our mission trips.

  4. The impact of the Gathering on the city we visit is immense.  Financially it hasGathering been estimated at around $30 million dollars.  Sure, some of that goes to hotel corporations, etc…but how many jobs are provided to people who need them? How many restaurants are buoyed?  How many shops are filled?  It’s ok to recognize that we can make a difference in ways other than swinging hammers. Oh….and by the way…even more importantly, the public witness of the church being present in the city we visit has an even larger impact.  Look up the newspaper and blog articles in the city of Detroit while we were there in 2015.
  5. It’s an opportunity to partner.  There are under-resourced congregations that struggle to get to the event.  There are also congregations that have resources that they could share to assist those in need.  What if they did?  What if the Network helped to set that up?  What if we could match churches in need with churches who would be willing to share?

    Maybe it’s financial assistance?  Or what if one church offered the empty seats on their bus to a church that can’t afford transportation?  What if we made sure that we could all get there?  If we put our minds to it, we can!

Here’s the thing:  If we approach the Gathering like we’re the consumers and it’s the product, of course it’s going to seem outrageously expensive.

But we’re not consumers.  We are the church.  And the Gathering is not a product.  It is a ministry.  And we have the opportunity to participate…and I think we should.

Gathering3The ministry of the gathering is a ministry of young people…not a ministry to them.  In Houston this summer they will be the body of Christ, living out God’s mission in a unique way.  And it is a ministry that will draw your young people together for at least a full year before the actual event, to prepare.  And by preparing, I don’t mean fundraising.  I’m talking about Bible study, community building, etc…

So I stand by my original statement:  I think all of our congregations should participate in the Gathering, because we are stronger together.  I know you won’t all agree with this…and that’s fine.  But there is one thing I firmly believe:

We are stronger together.

So let’s be together.

I’ll be in Houston.  I hope you will too!

Peace,
Todd

26
Jul

That One Time When Your Kid Met Your Friends

SamAndLisa

Sam and Lisa

Six days ago, our 14 year old son, Samuel, climbed aboard a 12-passenger van with other members of the youth group from our congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota and the group began its journey to Detroit, Michigan.  The groups is spending the week working with Living Waters Ministries, one of the ELCA‘s amazing outdoor ministries.

Trinity had partnered with Living Waters in Chicago a couple of years ago and had a great experience.  This year, I didn’t expect a text that I received.

The day after our group arrived, my phone beeped and a photo appeared in my inbox.  It was a photo of Sam, sent to me by Lisa Jeffreys.  Lisa works in the Southeast Michigan Synod.  We’d worked together, and become friends, working on the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit.  I had no idea that Lisa was working with the Living Waters program this summer.

I saw the text, and I smiled.

And a couple of days later, Lisa sent me another photo, this time it was Sam, standing arm in arm with a good friend and mentor, Pastor Kelly Chatman, from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, who was also in Detroit with Living Waters this week. 

I found myself  moved emotionally, by seeing these photos.  I mean of course, it’s always

Kelly and Sam

Kelly and Sam

good to see the smiling face of your son.  But beyond that, I loved the fact that Sam was there with his friends from Trinity…with our adult volunteer leaders…and now with my friends from ministry; from the Network.

It is powerful because when Sam ran into Lisa…into Kelly…when Sam was present with the youth group, and its amazing adult leaders, he is experiencing the promises that God made to him in the waters of his baptism.  This week, Sam is experiencing what it is to live among God’s faithful people.

When Sam met Lisa…when Sam met Kelly, he was experiencing the family of God.  My friends became his friends.  The son whom I love met the friends whom I love.

Thank you Lisa, for being a friend.  Even though we only chat occasionally, and I really only get to see you at the Extravaganza, I am so glad that Sam gets to experience you this week.  Thank you Kelly, as much as you’ve been a fantastic powerful influence on my life, I’m so glad that Sam has had the opportunity to spend some time with you as well.

I’m reminded this week of what it is to be church.  We are all interconnected.  We all share a mission.  We are all, whether we’ve met or not, connected in a relationship that is centered in Christ.  I’m reminded of what it is to be Network.

I’m reminded what it is to be the people of God.

Thank you for being who God called you to be.  Thank you for being people who I want my kids to get to know, and spend time with.

And thanks be to God, for creating the church, this place where we are all connected, in the name of Christ.

God’s peace,
Todd

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.

________________________________

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