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Posts from the ‘The Network’ Category


With Deep Sorrow…

RachelDear friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

God’s Peace,




The History of the Youth Gathering

StadiumThe ELCA Youth Gathering has a long history, and an even longer lineage, going back to 1902.  Do you think that the Youth Gathering will be coming to Minneapolis in 2021 for the first time?  Think again.  This will be the 14th time that this event will be held in the City of Lakes.

Thanks to John Hulden, who sent us this information.  Thanks to David Halaas for requesting the information from the ELCA Archivist.  And thanks to Joel Thoreson, the ELCA’s Archivist for Management, Reference, and Technology for keeping track of this great information!

Here’s the history of the Gathering in the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies, including the themes (when available) and any special, notable facts:

ELCA Youth Gatherings (1988-Present)

  • 1988 – San Antonio, Texas – “Rejoice in the Lord Always”
  • 1991 – Dallas, Texas – “Called to Freedom”
  • 1994 – Atlanta, Ga. – “2 Be Alive”
  • 1997 – New Orleans, La. – “River of Hope”
  • 2000 – St. Louis, Mo. – “Dancing at the Crossroads”
  • 2003 – Atlanta, Ga. – “Ubuntu” (Do Life)
  • 2006 – San Antonio, Texas – “Cruzando” (Crossing)
  • 2009 – New Orleans, La. – “Jesus, Justice, Jazz”
  • 2012 – New Orleans, La. – “Citizens with the Saints”
  • 2015 – Detroit, Mich. – “Rise Up Together”
  • 2018 – Houston, Texas – “This Changes Everything”
  • 2021 – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Theme to be announced

The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987)


  • 1960 – Milwaukee, Wis. (constituting convention of the ALC Luther League)
  • 1961 – Miami Beach, Fla. – “Christ Is Living” – Speaker: Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • 1964 – Detroit, Mich. – “Jesus Is Lord”
  • 1967 – Seattle, Wash. / Dallas, Texas (split sites) – “We Are a Peculiar People”
  • 1970 – New York, N.Y. – “And We Say We Care”
  • 1973 – Houston, Texas – “With Eyes Wide Open” – 1st All-Lutheran Youth Gathering (with LCA & LCMS) – music: Johnny Cash, speaker: Fulton J. Sheen
  • 1976 – New Orleans, La. – “For All the Saints” – 2nd All-Lutheran Youth Gathering
  • 1979 – Kansas City, Mo. – “Called to be Servants” – ALC only
  • 1982 – San Antonio, Texas – “In Christ, a New Creation”
  • 1985 – Denver, Colo. – “Proclaim Him Lord of All” – speaker: Jimmy Carter
ALC Youth Gathering

The 1961 ALC Youth Gathering, with speaker: the Rev. Dr., Martin Luther King Jr.

American Lutheran Church (1930-1960)


  • 1930 – Lakeside, Ohio (constituting convention of the Luther League)
  • 1931 – Long Lake, Ill. – “The Luther League at Work”
  • 1933 – Madison, Wis. – “Builders with Christ. For Christ”
  • 1935 – Austin, Texas – “Christ Calls”
  • 1937 – St. Paul, Minn. – “Christ Our Life”
  • 1939 – College Park, Md. – “Under the Banners of the Church”
  • 1941 – Greeley, Colo. – “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto the Hills”
  • 1943 – Dubuque, Iowa – “Tell the Story”
  • 1946 – Ames, Iowa – “Now Is the Time”
  • 1949 – Pullman, Wash. – “Thy Kingdom Come”
  • 1951 – East Lansing, Mich. – “Thine Is the Power”
  • 1953 – West Lafayette, Ind. – “Live Christ”
  • 1955 – College Station, Texas – “God’s Love – My Life”
  • 1958 – Ithaca, N.Y. – “United in the Word”

Evangelical Lutheran Church (1917-1960)
(Was known as the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America to 1946)

  • 1919 – Red Wing, Minn.
  • 1922 – LaCrosse, Wis.
  • 1925 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1927 – Seattle, Wash.
  • 1929 – Duluth, Minn.
  • 1931 – Chicago, Ill.
  • 1933 – Fargo, N.D.
  • 1935 – Sioux Falls, S.D.
  • 1937 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1939 – Los Angeles, Calif.
  • 1941 – Billings, Mont.
  • 1947 – Milwaukee, Wis.
  • 1949 – Saskatoon, Sask.
  • 1951 – Seattle, Wash.
  • 1953 – Fargo, N.D.-Moorhead, Minn.
  • 1955 – San Francisco, Calif.
  • 1957 – Missoula, Mont.

Norwegian Synod (1850-1917)

  • Young People’s Association organized 1903

United Norwegian Lutheran Church (1890-1917)

  • Young People’s League organized 1908

Hauge Synod (1846-1917)

  • Young People’s Federation organized 1911

United (Danish) Evangelical Lutheran Church (1896-1960)

  • 1932 – Spencer, Iowa
  • 1935 – Medicine Lake, near Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1938 – Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • 1941 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1944 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1947 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1949 – Albert Lea, Minn.
  • 1951 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1953 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1955 – Blair, Neb.
  • 1957 – Fresno, Calif.
  • 1959 – Blair, Neb.


ALC Youth Gatherin 2

The 1955 Gathering at Texas A&M.  Think lines are a new thing?  Not so much.

Lutheran Free Church (1897-1963)

Known as the Young People’s Federation from 1920-1937 and the Luther League Federation from 1937-1963

  • 1920 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1921 – unknown
  • 1922 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1923 – Fargo, N.D.
  • 1924 – unknown
  • 1925 – Fargo, N.D.
  • 1926 – Rochester, Minn.
  • 1927 – Thief River Falls, Minn.
  • 1928 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1929 – LaCrosse, Wis.
  • 1930 – Northwood, N.D.
  • 1931 – Willmar, Minn.
  • 1932 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1933 – Fargo, N.D.
  • 1934 – Marinette, Wis.
  • 1935 – Rochester, Minn.
  • 1936 – Minot, N.D.
  • 1937 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1938 – Willmar, Minn.
  • 1939 – Northwood, N.D.
  • 1940 – Duluth, Minn.
  • 1941 – Minneapolis, Minn.
  • 1942 – New London, Minn.
  • 1943 – Fergus Falls, Minn.
  • 1944 – Morris, Minn.
  • 1947 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1948 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1949 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1950 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1951 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1952 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1953 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1954 – Medicine Lake (Near Minneapolis)
  • 1956 – Parkland, Wash. – “Witness to God’s Power”
  • 1958 – Green Lake, Wis. – “Let God’s Word Transform”
  • 1960 – Northfield, Minn. – “In This Sign Conquer”
  • 1962 – Green Lake, Wis. – “Christ’s Kingdom Shall Triumph”

Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987)
(known as the LCA Luther League from 1962-1968, then restructured into the Commission on Youth Ministry)

  • 1962 – San Francisco, Calif. (constituting convention of the LCA Luther League)
  • 1963 – Selinsgrove, Pa. – “The Fellowship of the Concerned”
  • 1964 – Waterloo, Ont. – “’Be My Spirit,’ Says the Lord”
  • 1965 – Miami Beach, Fla. – “Follow Me”
  • 1966 – Milwaukee, Wis. – “He Gives Peace”
  • 1969 – Detroit, Mich. – Youthexpo
  • 1973 – Houston, Texas – With Eyes Wide Open – 1st All-Lutheran Youth Gathering
  • 1976 – New Orleans, La. – For All the Saints – 2nd All-Lutheran Youth Gathering
  • 1981 – West Lafayette, Ind. – Joy for You and Me
  • 1985 – West Lafayette, Ind. – Power in the Cross

Augustana Synod (1860-1962)

  • 1921 – Rock Island, Ill.
  • 1926 – Rock Island, Ill.
  • 1929 – Lindsborg, Kan.
  • 1931 – St. Peter, Minn.
  • 1933 – East Orange, N.J.
  • 1935 – Rock Island, Ill. – “Victory Through Christ”
  • 1937 – Minneapolis, Minn. – “Christ Our Life”
  • 1939 – Omaha, Neb. – “The Open Door”
  • 1941 – Rockford, Ill. – “Built on a Rock”
  • 1943 – Minneapolis, Minn. – “All Out for Christ”
  • 1945 – Jamestown, N.Y. – “Jesus Calls Us”
  • 1947 – Los Angeles, Calif. – “Christ Is Able”
  • 1949 – Duluth, Minn. – “Christ Above All”
  • 1951 – Colorado Springs, Colo. – “Lift Up Your Eyes”
  • 1953 – Boston, Mass. – “Christ Makes Men Free”
  • 1955 – Calgary, Alb. – “Christ, the Lord of Life”
  • 1957 – Chicago, Ill. – “Know, Live, Share Christ”
  • 1959 – San Antonio, Texas – “Remember Jesus Christ”


ALC Youth Gathering 3

Most the participants came by train to Texas in 1955

United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) and predecessors General Synod (1820-1918), General Council (1867-1918) and United Synod in the South (1863-1918)

  • 1895 – Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • 1896 – Chicago, Ill.
  • 1898 – New York, N.Y.
  • 1900 – Cincinnati, Ohio
  • 1902 – St. Paul, Minn.
  • 1904 – Buffalo, N.Y.
  • 1906 – Canton, Ohio
  • 1908 – Chicago, Ill.
  • 1910 – Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • 1912 – Albany, N.Y.
  • 1914 – Baltimore, Md.
  • 1916 – Toledo, Ohio
  • 1918 – Buffalo, N.Y.
  • 1920 – Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • 1922 – York, Pa.
  • 1925 – Milwaukee, Wis.
  • 1927 – Salisbury, N.C.
  • 1929 – Omaha, Neb.
  • 1931 – Reading, Pa.
  • 1935 – Charleston, S.C.
  • 1937 – Springfield, Ohio
  • 1939 – Long Beach, Calif.
  • 1941 – Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.
  • 1946 – Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • 1949 – Roanoke, Va.
  • 1951 – Iowa City, Iowa – “Christians Answer Boldly”
  • 1953 – Oxford, Ohio – “Armed With His Word”
  • 1955 – Ann Arbor, Mich. – “Christ Is Lord”
  • 1957 – Lawrence, Kan. – “Here I Stand”
  • 1959 – Ithaca, N.Y. – “In This Sign Conquer”
  • 1961 – Urbana, Ill. – “Lord I Believe”

American Evangelical Lutheran Church (1894-1962)
(was known as the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church to 1953)

  • 1947 – Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • 1948 – Des Moines, Iowa
  • 1949 – Greenville, Mich.
  • 1950 – Des Moines, Iowa
  • 1951 – Chicago, Ill.
  • 1952 – Des Moines, Iowa
  • 1953 – Tyler, Minn.
  • 1954 – Des Moines, Iowa
  • 1955 – Tyler, Minn.
  • 1956 – Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and Fredsville, Iowa
  • 1957 – Newell, Iowa
  • 1958 – Detroit, Mich.
  • 1959 – Nysted, Neb.
  • 1960 – Withee, Wis.
  • 1961 – Indianola, Iowa

Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church
Known as the Suomi Synod from 1890-1962

  • 1947 – Camp Luther, Ashtabula, Ohio
  • 1949 – Camp Shaw, Chatham, Mich.
  • 1951 – Camp Sigel, Gilbert, Minn.
  • 1953 – Camp Luther, Ashtabula, Ohio
  • 1955 – Suomi College, Hancock, Mich.
  • 1957 – St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
  • 1959 – Camp Luther, N. Kingsville, Ohio
  • 1961 – Suomi College, Hancock, Mich.

Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (1976-1982)

  • 1982 – some attended the ALC convention in San Antonio, Texas




Leadership Competencies: A New Take


A few years ago, the Network introduced our first set of “Standards and Guidelines” for professionals who work in children, youth and family ministry.  The idea was that there should be some kind of standards for how we grow and develop in our ministry, and for how we practice our ministry on a day-to-day basis.

Developing a document like this is a challenge, because everyone’s experiences are different, and our thoughts and opinions are always based on our experience.  But finally, after a year’s work, in 2011 the Network Board approved our first set of “Standards and Guidelines.”  We posted them, and made them widely available.

About 18 months ago, the Board took on the task of reviewing this document to see if it needed to be updated.  Our basic concern was that while the first version was good, and well-intended, the document was long…and it was detailed…and it was intimidating…and even though it was intended for those who did this work professionally, volunteers would look at it and say “what have I gotten myself into?”

So work began on rewriting the document with the intent of simplifying it.

That work is complete.

The document has been retitled.  It is now called Leadership Competencies.  Our sense was that “Standards and Guidelines” felt more like limitations and barriers than something that we want to work towards.  Leadership Competencies moves it to a positive angle, and focuses on what God is calling us to become in ministry rather than what we shouldn’t be in ministry.

The new document is shorter than the old, trimmed by more than half.  But the basic concepts and the things we value are all still there.

We want these Leadership Competencies to become part of our vocabularies.  I’d love it if someday, when asked by an interview committee, a person could say, “Yes, I am a member of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network,” and the committee would know what that means…they would know that these values, these competencies, are already a part of this person’s ministry; that by being a member of the Network, this person is committed to growing in their skills, their vocation and their own faith.

I invite you to take a look a the new document, and post or send any feedback.  It is a document that will continue to grow and adapt as the world around us changes.



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



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,



In Memory of Debbie Zaic


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.



Prayer = Good…Over-Notifications? Maybe Not So Much

Mobile_Apps-3-562x309@2x-op-1The Network is a community that prays for each other.  And I suspect we can all agree that we’re in favor of prayer.

And using the “Prayer Request” feature in the Network app is a great way for us to keep in touch and to pray for each other.  After Extravaganza 2018 in Houston, there was a big jump in usage for this feature of the app.

But I’ve also received a bunch of questions about how to limit the email notifications that we receive when someone posts a prayer request…and when someone responds to a prayer request.

Yes, there is a solution!

Here it is, step by step:

IMG_B312954C5A56-1First, Open the Network app.  (If you don’t have it yet…you should get it!  You can get information on the app at and/or search for it in your Apple or Android app store.)


Second, from the main menu, click on “My Profile.”  That will take you to the page that has your personal information stored.











Third, at the top of your profile screen (above the space for your profile photo) click on the “Edit my Profile” button.  If the edit option doesn’t show up, try quitting the app and re-loading it.













Fourth, when your profile editor opens up, scroll to the bottom of the screen and you can select if you’e like to receive notifications within the app (push notifications) or by e-mail or text message…or any combination of those you would like to use.

That’s it!  It’s that simple.

So yes, let’s commit to praying for each other.  And, let’s commit to getting the notifications about those prayer requests in whatever way works best for each of us!







Network Revises Standards and Guidelines

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Board of Directors has completed a one-year process to revise and update its “Standards and Guidelines for Professionals” document.

The original version of our Standards and Guidelines was created and released in 2011,  It helped to give shape to the professional development of those who are called to serve with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations.  It also gave shape to many of the programs and ministries that the Network has continued or launched since then.

Tom Schwolert, who serves as the chairperson of the Board of Directors, said that: “Our goal in redeveloping the Standards and Guidelines was to simplify it a bit.  We wanted to make it shorter and more approachable.  I think this new version has done that.”

Renewal, education and connection have always been a part of the Network’s DNA.  Our hope is that when a congregation calls someone to serve in faith formation, if that person is a member of the Network, the congregation will understand that person’s commitment to growing in their calling.

Schwolert went on to say that: “Our hope is that this helps to give direction to personal, spiritual and professional development.  The Network’s programs, and those of our partners, can provide the resources for our members to grow in these ways.”

The Network’s Standards and Guidelines can be found at



New Network Board Members Selected

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Board of Directors affirmed the slate of board


Pastor Dan Fugate

candidates presented by the Nominating Committee at its fall meeting in Houston, September 28-30.

The recommendation of the Nominating Committee was to renew the terms of two of its current board members, Becky Cole and Rev. Regina Goodrich.  The NominatingCommittee also recommended Rev. Daniel Fugate to fill the third open position.  This position has been held by Erik Ullestad, who served two full terms and is not eligible for renewal.


Pastor Regina Goodrich

Dan Fugate currently serves as the Assistant to the Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod of the ELCA.  Dan has served in congregational and synodical ministry for over 19 years.

Rev. Regina Goodrich serves as the pastor of Mediator Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  And Becky Cole serves as the Director of Children’s Ministry at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, Washington.

The Network Board is responsible for creating and tending to the mission, values and goals of the Network.  They meet face-to-face three times each year.


Becky Cole

The terms for these three individuals will begin at the conclusion of the Extravaganza in Houston, Texas, held from January 26-29 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.


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



Our Hearts Break for Houston

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.