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20
Oct

#ext17 Film Screening: No Joke

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At Extravaganza 2017, we’ll have the opportunity to screen a brand new documentary called “No Joke.”  It’s a film about 3 religious leaders from Peoria, Illinois, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim Imam and a Christian pastor, who have all become close friends.  And it’s about how their understanding of each other’s faiths, and their approach to interfaith conversation has been shifted by their friendship.

It’s a powerful opportunity for us to rethink how we approach interfaith dialog…an area that the church has traditionally stepped into carefully.

The film will be screened in the Grand Ballroom of the hotel on Sunday afternoon at 1:30pm of the E, as one of several different options offered during that time.  One of the film’s producers will be with us, and we are hopeful that one, two or all three of the  religious leaders from Peoria will be with us as well, to participate in a Q&A following the screening.

More information on the event at the E, including a film trailer and links to the film’s web site can be found at www.elcaymnet.org/NoJoke

4
Oct

Now Accepting Nominations for 2 Board of Director Positions

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The Network’s Current Board of Directors at their recent meeting in Louisville

Dear friends,

The Network Board of Directors is the team tasked with creating the vision for, and stewarding the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.  The board is made up of seven individuals, who each serve a 3 year term.  The term can be renewed one time.

This year, there are two board positions are up for appointment.  Those positions are currently being served by Tom Schwolert and Sue Megrund.  Both Sue and Tom have indicated a willingness to serve again.

The Network operates a ‘gift based’ board.  In other words, the board, as it looks at its strategic plan and vision, determines what gifts are best needed on the board to serve the mission.  We then seek nominees who have those gifts.

Given the Network Board’s current work on a new strategic plan, they determined that gifts that are important for new board members would be an ability to do “vision work” and to think strategically, and experience in Network leadership.

Once someone is nominated (nominations by oneself are weighted equally with those nominated by another person) the nominating committee examines all of the nominations, and works to determine who has the gifts that best meet the needs of the Network.  Those finalists then have their references checked, and then in an online meeting, the committee makes a recommendation to the board, who either accepts or rejects the slate of nominees.

All nominees then receive a notification, and the new board members are made public, probably in mid-November.

We are hopeful for gifted candidates. If you are interested in serving on the board, or know someone who would serve well, please direct them to our Board Nomination Form.

Blessings!
Todd

2
Oct

What’s the Plan with Practice Discipleship?

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PD Coach Training last February in Anaheim

The Practice Discipleship (PD) Initiative has been one of the most powerful and influential faith formation ministries to take hold in the ELCA in the last 30 years.  This is not exaggeration, nor is it hyperbole.  It’s just real.

Literally tens of thousands of people have participated in training and education for leadership in congregational faith formation since the program began as a part of the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering.

The original intent, as envisioned by Catherine Anderson, was to prepare adult leaders to bring young people to the Youth Gathering by training them in basic youth ministry and faith formation skills.  The the bar on preparation and training was to go up, groups would have a better Gathering experience, and at the end of the day, leaders would serve in their congregations more effectively.  New curriculum was developed, coaches in just about every synod were trained and hundreds of in-person and on-line training events took place.

Through all this work, the PD Initiative helped to foster a culture of faith formation throughout the church.

The ELCA Churchwide Organization saw the value of the PD Initiative, and funded the program generously for 3 years.  The PD leadership team actually stretched that grant to cover the program for 4 years, and now we find ourselves in the position of discernment.

There are several different elements that put us in the position of discernment:

  1. The funding from the Churchwide has run out
  2. Tammy Jones West, who has done a fantastic job directing the initiative, is stepping back to assume a team leadership role with the ELCA Youth Gathering.  (We’re so grateful to Tammy for her leadership that there are barely words to adequately say ‘thank you.’  More on that another day.)
  3. The Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network is in the process of creating a new strategic plan, which will be “unveiled” at the Extravaganza this year.  It will guide our growth and development over the next 3-5 years.  While we’re not in a position to release details, I can say that we believe that this has the potential to directly reach and strengthen the ministry of every member of the Network.

So then, what’s the PD plan?

We believe Practice Discipleship is going to be a crucial element in the life of the ELCA into the future.  And we feel like God is giving us an opportunity to think and dream about new ways to effectively strengthen your ministry, and we want to get that right.  We don’t want to just find funding and continue what we’ ve been doing when we think there might be a whole new “thing” that PD can grow into.
We are going to take the upcoming year as a “hiatus” year…an opportunity to pray, think and talk.  Our goal is to pull together some funding to hold a couple of meetings to talk about how PD and the Network’s new strategic plan can effectively interconnect with each other.

There will not be a coach’s training event at the Extravaganza this year, as we’re not totally sure yet what they would be being trained in.  However, we are planning on a training event at the 2018 E in Houston.  We do want to thank our current coaches for their great work and keep them connected.  So we will be offering them a discount for the 2017 E in Louisville. (We also may invite those who are there into a meeting to help us think and plan for the PD future while we’re in Louisville.  As much as we’d love to fly them all in for the E, that funding doesn’t exist right now.  So we’ll just have to settle for inviting those who are able to be there.)

Details on the coach’s discount to the E will be coming in a separate e-mail.

I think it’s good that we occasionally stop what we’re doing, to talk, think and prays.  Too much in the life of the church we find ourselves in the position of trying to change the car tires while the car is in motion.  We feel strongly that God is calling us to “pause,” and to work through our options, and to discover what God is calling this thing called “Practice Discipleship” to become.

We’ll release updates here as we know them.

Thanks for your support, your prayers and your partnership!

God bless,

Todd

18
Aug

Connect Journal Seeking Writer on Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for considering writing this important piece.

2
Jun

Almost There!

DonationGoal

We’re only $295 away!

This year, the Network set a $4000 goal in fundraising from our network members and friends.  This does not include organizational or partnership gifts.  We’re talking about $4000 in donations from individuals whose ministry has been touched by the Network and who want to support its work.

With 28 days to go until the end of our fiscal year, we are only $295 short of our goal!  That’s great news!

The funds we raise is used in two ways:

  • It goes to support the general ministry and work of the Network.  Basically, that’s everything it takes to power the organization.
  • It goes to help support Extravaganza scholarships, making the event accessible even for those who cannot afford to be there on their own..

$295!  That’s all!

Would you consider making a gift and helping us to meet our goal?  You will be a part of the community that keeps the Network on its feet, focusing on renewal, education and connection to all who want and need to grow in their vocation.

Thanks for your willingness to give!

You can give by clicking here!  Or, you can donate directly through the Network mobile app.

God’s peace!
Todd

 

 

7
Apr

Wheat Ridge Seeking Nominations for Award

WheatRidge LogoThe Network received this information from our friends and partners at Wheat Ridge:

Wheat Ridge Ministries Seeking Submissions for the Richard E. Herman Emerging Leader Award

Do you know someone making a difference in lives and communities affected by poverty? Someone who, motivated by Christ, is responding to the needs of a community and confronting the systems that perpetuate the underlying problems?

Wheat Ridge Ministries is looking for these inspired Christian leaders

to apply for the Richard E. Herman Emerging Leader Award.

The award will recognize the commitment and service of one leader who is changing the systems that perpetuate poverty, whether through their professional work or as a volunteer. This focus is driven by an understanding that Jesus’ life, ministry and teachings involved deep engagement with and love for those on the margins of society. 

In recognition of the honoree’s service, he or she will receive:

  • $4,000 Cash Award
  • Invitation to The Summit, an annual conference hosted by Sojourners (registration, travel, and lodging covered by Wheat Ridge Ministries)
  • Invitation to our annual Emerging Leader Convening, a gathering of inspired emerging leaders to network, learn and reflect (hosted and paid for by Wheat Ridge Ministries)

Award Eligibility:
Emerging Leader must be…

  • 18-35 years old
  • Christian
  • Engaged in professional work or volunteerism that is changing the systems that perpetuate poverty

If you fit this description, apply today via the Wheat Ridge website, www.wheatridge.org/emergingleader. If you know someone who qualifies, nominate them on our website and we’ll invite them to apply. The application deadline is May 20, 2016.

To learn more explore our website, or contact us at 1 800-762-6748 emergingleader@wheatridge.org

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

10
Mar

Extravaganza Demographics

We’ve already written and shared thoughts about the evaluation data from Extravaganza 2016, and the E-Team is working on processing that information for future planning.
We also ran some of the demographic data from registrations, some of which is pretty interesting.  (I’m kind of a data nerd this way)  So I thought I’d post it.  I’m not sure the implications, though I was curious about how out of balance the participants gender was.
Thoughts?
Males:  33.2%
Females:  66.8%
Full Time:  63.5%
Part Time:  18%
Volunteers:  18.5%
People of Color:  11.2%
 
Your ministry portfolio and/or setting includes (please check all that apply):
Campus Ministry 48
Children’s Ministry 212
Christian Educator 150
Church Relations 54
Ethnic Multicultural 41
Higher Education 42
None 37
Outdoor Ministry 68
Pastor 80
Retired 8
Rural Ministry 29
Student 55
Synod Staff 38
Urban Ministry 60
3
Mar

Thoughts on #Ext16 Evaluations

Extravaganza2016_Logo_ColorDear friends,

The E-Team leaders have spent the past week or two going over the details of the evaluations from Extravaganza 2016 in Anaheim. I wanted to follow up with what we learned from this year’s evals.

First, thank you very much to those who took the time to fill out the evaluation forms. The full evaluation report is (10 point font, Ariel) 46 pages long. That’s a ton of data. And we’re grateful. We’ve gone over every numerical answer, and every comment.

225 of you filled out the evaluation form, which represents a 33% return rate, which is a fantastic rate of return for an event like ours. It reminds all of us that people who participate in the Extravaganza really care about this event. It is important, and people want to see it continue to get better and better. It reminds us that tending the E is a trust that we take very seriously.

Looking at the results, clearly we had a great event together in Anaheim. I’ll summarize some of the data:

  • One of the key questions we look at is the first question asked: Would you recommend the Extravaganza to a friend? There are two ways that we examine this data.
    • The answers to this question form what’s called a “Net Promoter Score,” (NPS) which is a way to evaluate how people feel about this event. A NPS can range from -100 to +100. Anything above zero is considered good. Above 50 is considered excellent and above 70 is unbelievable. The E this year scored 77. We’re very, very happy with this score!
    • The other way is to look at the average score on a scale of 1-10. Ext16’s average score on this question was 9.34, which is the highest score we’ve ever had.

Clearly, this was a great event! Thank you to all of you who were a part of it, and helped make it that way!

  • Another very important question for us is “Was this event worth the money spent?” We know that this is a big investment for many, and the E team works hard to make sure that there is good value. Again, in 2016, we scored the highest in our history on this question.  The average response was 9.45. We’re glad that people felt this event was financially “worth it.”
  • All of the other major program areas were also evaluated, and we were very grateful for very good scores across the board. Another score that really stood out was the score for how well the Hyatt in Anaheim worked. Here, we also received the highest score on this question in our history. The Hyatt scored 9.4. And we agree. Our experience there was very, very good. We’re actually in conversation with them about bringing the E back there again at some point in the future.
  • The last numerical question is also one that we look at. It is “I will be back next year.” 173 responded: “Count me in!” 48 said “I might take a year or two off” and 4 said “No chance.” Of those 4, 3 indicated it was because of scheduling conflicts, or “I’m having a baby right before that.” We’ll accept that excuse!

The comments are always the most interesting parts of the evaluations to read. And again, we’re grateful for the time people took to share their thoughts. Some general themes emerged that were very helpful for the planning team to be made aware of.

  • People generally loved our worship and general sessions. We live right in the middle of the “music” opinions. Some people really love hymns. Some like contemporary worship music, and some really love camp-type songs. Likewise, some people liked the various version of the creed, the prayers and the words of institution…other people, not so much. We tried for a variety this year and it appears that generally that was effective, though some people clearly wanted more of one of the other styles. We’ll keep working on balancing the desires for the familiar and the new, the contemporary and the traditional.
  • Workshops were well received. As always, we have some that were stronger than others. Some comments were made that some of the workshop descriptions really didn’t align with what actually happened in the workshops. We’ll continue to work at this to help workshop leaders accurately describe what participants will experience.Our philosophy of workshops is simple: We hope to present the best, cutting edge thinking on children, youth and family ministry as possible. We also hope to continue to raise up new leadership for the mission of the church. And so we are willing to give people, some of whom are doing workshops for the very first time, an opportunity to lead. And we pass along the evaluations and feedback for them so that they can grow in their leadership.
  • People loved Anna Madsen. That was clear. There were many positive comments on her presentation.
  • Some people didn’t like that the E fell over Super Bowl weekend.   I get that. When we negotiate, we give the hotels a “window” of weekend between Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, and President’s weekend (not including the weekends.) Then we work to find the weekend that gives the best prices and the most value. We too would prefer that it were not Super Bowl weekend, (it winds up being a 6 hour time-suck in our schedule) but sometimes it makes too much financial sense to do it then. Next year, we’re not over Super Bowl weekend.
  • The issue of race and ethnicity continues to come up in evaluations. Some people thought that we had made good progress in increasing the level of diversity in the event, and others thought we have a long way to go. 11.2% of Extravaganza registrants self-identified as people of color, which is a dramatic increase from previous years. And the Network is working to increase the diversity of its leadership among all of our teams. And we’ve made some progress in this.Please know that this is an area of growth that the Network is committed to, and that we continue to make progress.
  • It was mentioned, and we know, that the way the Exhibit space is laid out wasn’t ideal. But it’s the best we could do given the hotel’s space constraints. We’ve already made it clear with the Hyatt that if we’re back there, we’d need a different space configuration to make the exhibit space flow better.
  • Even though it’s not directly “E” related, lots of people were very excited about the new MartinsList.org. So are we!

Those were the general themes we heard. Of course, there was much, much more. And as I said, we will go over and learn from every comment.

Thanks again for your willingness to share your thoughts, feelings and ideas about the E. And thanks for caring about this event, and ultimately this community, gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ.

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