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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



“Why I’m Going to Extravaganza 2018”

Special Guest Blogger:  Ian McConnell; Student at Luther Seminary in St. Paul.


Ian McConnell

It was in a hotel ballroom in Anaheim maybe a decade ago that I heard for the first time, “Use this time however you need it. For renewal. For networking. For napping. For being away from a hectic work environment. For fun, for Pete’s sake!” I was in my early 20s, just recently “back in church” after a period of spiritual drifting—a statistical “none,” I suppose—and at the Extravaganza as a youth ministry volunteer from my home church. And I was hooked; while laying concrete blocks with the high school kids I had come to love for a trip to Ciudád Juárez in Mexico later that year, I decided to say “yes” to become the interim youth director for that congregation.

And in the dead of winter every year until this past winter, I have loved coming to the Extravaganza. Some years, I’ve come for networking, finding new ideas for Sunday School curriculums and games to fill time with notoriously bored teenagers. Other years, it’s felt like a warm family reunion filled with trips to restaurants and bars within walking distance. And at least once, the E has been a place to escape from a seriously, seriously dark work environment to be with people who could hear my pain. I will forever be grateful for who this network is, and what the Extravaganza continues to be.

Last winter, during my pastoral internship at Grace Lutheran in Wenatchee, Washington, the tasks were piling up. Funerals, meetings, limited budget and vacation days, and honestly, there was a bit of exhaustion. And for the first time in 10 years, I didn’t come to the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. I had plenty of excuses, commitments, and reasons to justify missing out on the most helpful and encouraging network of ministry professionals I have come to know and love.

And let me tell you: I missed you all terribly.

This year is a big one, because like every third year, the E and the ELCA Youth Gathering are in the same city, and we find ourselves with the opportunity to take the edge off of our nerves about things like learning the best walking routes from hotel-to-dome-to-convention-center or finding relatively inexpensive places to eat with a group of young people (including that kid who “forgot” that he had a budget and blew his money on WHAT?!).

This year is a big one, because while we all know that young people are in a particularly exciting and haunted time in life anyways, there have been conversations continuing and amplifying on the news, in schools, on social media, and at dinner tables about serious and seriously difficult topics: sexual assault and violence against women, systemic racism and violence against our brothers and sisters of color, how to be a part of a society that would oftentimes rather put its head in the sand than learn how to best accompany young people learning about their own gender and sexual identities… Whether we like it or not, these are real issues for the families we have been called to serve. These are real issues for many of you already. I can’t speak for you, but I know that I need to work this stuff out in community. And the Extravaganza has always been a place where it’s been safe for me to do so.

If ever there were a time to commit to Finding Forward, this seems to be it, friends. WeFindingForwardLogo are living in this reality, and so we ask: now what? Where do we go from here? What does it mean to be disciples in this particular time and this particular reality?

You may be in the same boat as I have been in, wondering if you’ll be able to make it work to come to the E this year. And I sincerely hope to see you in Houston this upcoming January. I need to gather with you to worship and sing and pray. I need your help finding a way forward, seeking for ways to participate in what, exactly, God is calling us to be in year 501 and beyond of the Reformation. We need time to rest, to rejuvenate, to learn, to dream, to laugh, to cry, to share our stories for the sake of materializing God’s kingdom here on earth.

But first, a brief confession: I have not yet registered. So, I’ll wrap this up, open a new tab in my browser, and secure my spot at this year’s Extravaganza! Don’t tell the early bird folks, I don’t want to catch too much flack.

See y’all in Houston, I hope!

-Ian McConnell


Want to go to Germany?

A3_BannerMichael and George, our good friends who together form the band Lost and Found, have been working for a few years on the Luther500 Project.  And they have an invitation for the Network.

Get more information on the special  invitation by clicking here.

Luther500 will bring folks to Germany to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation, and will bring pilgrims from the United States to Wittenberg in 2017 to experience and learn together.  I’ve spoken with George and Michael…I’ve read the materials about the experience…it sounds awesome.

In 2015, they are bringing two groups of congregational leaders to Wittenberg for a “Familiarization” trip.  It will prep people in what to expect, how the trip will go, and what will happen.  The Leader’s trips could be ‘stand alone’ events; fantastic continuing education for congregational leaders.  But they’re really designed to help you in discerning whether to bring a congregational group in 2017.

Luther500 wants to invite members of the Network to participate in these Leader Trips.  The dates are April 24-30, 2015 and October 9-15, 2015.  (The identical trip, repeated twice.)  I’m not sure, but I’m guessing because of the ELCA Youth Gathering happening in the summer, many more of the Network folks are going to want to go in October rather than April.  (That’s when I think I’m going to go.)

And here’s the cool part:  The Luther500 Festival wants to encourage Network members to go on the trip, and so if you register prior to November 1, 2014, they are going to give members of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network a 10% discount.  How cool is that?  That’ in the vicinity of $100 bucks off!

And, if you then bring a group from your congregation to the 2017 event, they will refund back to you at that time, 50% of the cost of your trip in 2015.

So I think I’m going to Germany.  I’ve never been there and I want to walk in the places Luther walked, and experience the places of the reformation.  It will help me understand.  It will help me teach.  It will help me communicate the transformational (reformational) nature of God’s grace with those in my congregation.

And hey, I want to invite you to come on the trip too! I know that Paul Amlin is going…and others.  Join us!  I think it’s going to be amazing.

Networked in Christ,


Why Join?


Honoring and blessing those in their first year of ministry at Extravaganza 2014

Amanda Schanze asks a great question on the Network Facebook page.  She asks:

Ok, people. I have enjoyed the information shared on this group, and the few things I have seen from the website. What is the advantage of actually joining “The Network.” What other benefits do I get with a membership that I don’t get for free?

Thanks for asking that, Amanda.  I think it’s important that we keep talking about this, and helping people understand the “what and why” of this whole thing.

Certainly there are lots of things that the Network gives away “for free.”  And many make use of some of the Network’s resources without ever joining.  We’ve got the Facebook group, the e-news, the Practice Discipleship Initiative resources, the placement listings; the Things That Matter podcast (co-sponsored), the Network App,, and various blogs and other resources.

But I think there are (at least) 3 really good reasons why people should join the Network.  Other folks may have other reasons, and I’d invite you to post them in the comments of this blog entry.  But here are my 3, in order from least important to most important

1.  Members of the Network get stuff.  Yes, there are resources that are limited to Network members, and accessing them is a benefit of membership in the organization.  These include:

So yes, there are benefits to membership that are quantifiable, and we hope that they alone would be worth the cost of membership.  However, there are two other reasons that I think are even more important:

2.  Belonging is what makes all of this possible.  Example:  I belong to Minnesota Public Radio.  Our family has joined, and I support it financially.  I support it because I believe in it and its mission; because there are things that I believe public radio provides that commercial radio can or will not, and I want to make sure that it continues into the future.  I could just listen, and not support it, but I want to be a part of making sure it continues to thrive.

We know that there are thousands of people who make use of the resources of the Network.  And about 750 (currently) are members.  These members (plus our partner organizations who share in financial support for the Network) make it possible for our free resources to be available for the whole church (including those who choose not to join).  And so I am a member of the Network at the “sponsoring” level, because I believe in what we’re trying to do.

The Network’s goal is 1000 members by the end of 2015.  When we reach that goal, our ability to support children, youth and family ministry across the church is going to grow exponentially.  And, can you imagine what it will be like, what kind of opportunities for renewal, education and connections will exist when we reach 1,500…or 2,000 members?  I get really excited thinking about it.

3.  If you’re a doctor, you belong to the American Medical Association.  It is their professional organization.  If you are a lawyer, you belong to the Bar Association.  It is their professional organization.  The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is the professional organization for those who work with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations.  And it is for those who are paid, and for those who are volunteer.  The Network has standards and guidelines that we adhere to; it represents us to the rest of the church and it provides resources for us to be the best we can be as we tend the faith journeys of the young and their families.

And there is no doubt that the work of the Network is moving the church.  Through its existence, the Network helps to shape a culture of those committed to faith formation, and that culture is changing the way that faith formation is viewed in congregations, synods and the churchwide organization.  Don’t you want to be a part of that?

I’ll put it simply:  If you do this work, you should belong to the Network.  We wish there didn’t have to be a cost to it.  But the resources we provide have a cost.  We do our best to keep that cost low.  And in all honesty, if someone contacts me and says “I’d love to be a member, but we cannot afford it” we can offer a scholarship.  We do this because we are a stronger, richer organization with you than without you.

So I’d reverse the question:  Knowing all this, why wouldn’t you join?


PS – And Amanda…because you asked…if you join, I’ll even throw in a t-shirt.  😉


Things That Matter Podcast Goes Network!

Things That Matter Photo

“Things That Matter” Recording Live at E2014

The Network is excited to launch a partnership that is going to put new resources right into the palm of your hand.  The “Things That Matter” podcast has been around for several years, and is a production of the Nebraska Synod of the ELCA, along with Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministries.

We discovered the podcast last summer and immediately, we fell in love with the idea.  The podcast is led by Pastor Adam White of Nebraska Lutheran Campus Ministries and Mitch McCartney

 and Lisa Kramme, both of the Nebraska Synod staff.  It typically consists of an interview with someone, “God Sightings” from Lisa and a “Question that Matters” from Pastor Adam.

There is a great vibe in the podcast.  It’s kind of like a Ministry Morning Show.  (I usually listen to it when I’m out walking in the morning…so that’s probably where the association came from.)  The focus has been largely (but not exclusively) on resources and issues taking place in the Nebraska Synod.  But as we started talking about it, we wondered if there was space for the podcast to grow, while still maintaining its local flavor.

The Network had talked from time to time about a podcast, but frankly, the time involved in setting something like that up seemed kind of daunting, and we didn’t really have any volunteers around for whom this would be a passion.  So we hadn’t done anything with it.  But here was something that already existed, and was good!

So we started a conversation:  “What would it be like if the Network began co-sponsoring ‘Things That Matter,’”  along with the synod and the campus ministries.

The existing podcast folks would bring the expertise and the passion…the Network would bring a potentially broader audience, and access to even more stories to tell, or resources to be shared.

Everyone involved got excited about the idea, so this past weekend at the Extravaganza, we launched the new partnership.  Mitch and Lisa were present in the Exhibit Hall, recording podcasts live with guests who came out of the event…speakers, workshop leaders, Network leadership, authors, exhibitors…It seemed like every time I walked past, I saw them recording another show.

So go to to get more info, or subscribe via iTunes.  You can also get there by going to the Network web site and clicking on “Things That Matter Podcast” under the “Resources” tab.  It’s an awesome show and another great way to stay in touch and to be a part of the community!

Networked in Christ


Practice Discipleship Launches!

PDIconThe second phase of the Practice Discipleship Initiative will launch in January of 2013.  This project is the result of a dynamic partnership between the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, the ELCA and its Youth Gathering, ELCA Lutheran seminaries and colleges and their faculty who teach children, youth and family ministry, and resource providers of the church.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative fosters faithful, thoughtful and intentional leaders in congregations who follow Jesus in their daily lives.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative will:

Train leadership to accompany young people on their faith journey.


Develop partnerships to strengthen faith formation opportunities for and with young people.

Gather leaders for mutual support and encouragement in ministry.

The project is made possible by funding provided by the ELCA, the North Carolina Synod, Luther Seminary and the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.

Training opportunities for adults who work with children and youth will take place in several different formats.  Seven webinars are being developed to be presented every two weeks beginning in January.  The team of educators developing these webinars is led by Dr. Jeremy Myers of Augsburg College.

These webinars will also be presented live as workshops at the 2013 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza, to be held January 25-28 in Anaheim, California.

One coach from each of the 65 ELCA synods will also receive specialized training at the Extravaganza, to return to their synods and present workshops to professionals and volunteers.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative will be directed by Catherine Anderson, the Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.  More information on the project, including all of the training resources from the first phase of the project, can be found at


I Didn’t Know That Was On There!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Welcome Trinity Lutheran College: Our Latest Partner & 3TC Sponsor!

The Network is excited to welcome Trinity Lutheran College as our latest gold partner organization.  Trinity Lutheran College, located in Everett, Washington, is a small, Lutheran college whose mission is to provide a biblically-centered education and develop  Christian leaders with a global perspective whose lives and ministry serve Jesus Christ in church and society.

Trinity Lutheran College’s programs are firmly rooted in the Christian scriptures, provide significant time in real-world internship settings, and require a no-cost international January Term experience.  The urban location, set between the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound in Everett, Wash., allows students to become an active part of the community in which they live and study.

One of the college’s more well-known programs is their Children, Youth and Family Center.  The program offers resources to individuals, congregations, and organizations in the areas of children’s and youth ministry, family ministry, Christian faith formation, and early childhood education.  Students benefit from personal attention with a low 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, including Children, Youth & Family Studies professors David Ellingson, Susan Houglum, Mark Jackson, and Liz Jenkins.

Network partner organizations enter into an intentional relationship with the Network that provides mutual support.  There are three levels of partnership: Basic, Silver and Gold.  More information on Network partnerships can be found on our partnership page.

In addition to a gold-level partnership, Trinity Lutheran College is also assuming the role of primary sponsor of the Network’s 3rdTuesday Conversations, our monthly webinars that bring training and support right into the offices of Network members.

Mark Jackson, professor of children, youth and family ministry writes that:   “Trinity Lutheran College is honored to sponsor the Third Tuesday Conversations.  Because our mission is to empower and equip servants for the Church and the world, it seemed fitting that we support the ELCA Youth Ministry Network in providing an environment for learning, dialogue, and mutual support among youth ministry leaders.”

The Network is grateful to God for all of its partners, and is honored to welcome Trinity Lutheran College into this new relationship!

Networked in Christ,