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.
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.
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:
- The funding from the Churchwide has run out
- 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.)
- 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!
In just a few weeks, in journeys that make the Exodus out of Egypt pale in logistical comparison, 30,000 people are going to load buses, planes and vans and head to Detroit for the ELCA Youth Gathering. It’s going to be 5 days (plus travel, plus side trips) of amazing opportunities for all involved to grow in their faith.
This will be my tenth time to the ELCA Youth Gathering, and I’ve always found it to be an incredible ministry opportunity. I’ve participated as a youth minister bringing a group, as a volunteer and as a team leader, so I’ve seen it from a lot of different angles. Having said that, let me be crystal clear: I am not an expert. Not at all. (And I’m not writing this in any kind of an official Gathering capacity.) But over the years, I have learned some things that might be helpful in making this an amazing experience for your group. I’d like to share those things with you:
- Plan on 3 things going wrong for every person you bring to the Gathering.
That means, if you are bringing 15 people from your congregation, plan on your group having 45 problems during the trip. These could be everything from your flight being delayed, to a traffic jam in Chicago that will slow you down (likely), to the hotel losing part of your reservation, to there being no restaurants open at the time you decide to eat dinner. Tell your group to plan on 3 problems for every person. And then talk about how you’ll deal with the problems when they come up. (calmly…logically…looking for solutions…no whining…etc…) The reality is, you probably won’t have this many group problems. But if you do, you’re emotionally ready for them. And if you don’t, you’ve ‘beaten’ your expectations.
- Be kind to the volunteers.
The folks in Gathering team shirts? The odds are 99.9% that they are a volunteer who is as excited as you are to be there. It’s not their fault that the floor of Ford Field has been closed off…it’s not their fault that it’s hot out and that there aren’t water fountains nearby…it’s not their fault that your bus was late and that you missed your launch time. They are there out of the goodness of their heart and they want to help. I’ve seen adult group leaders treat volunteers horribly. And when you’re tired, hot, sweaty and impatient, please remember that it’s not their fault. They’re following instructions. So treat them (and everybody for that matter) kindly. And your group will be watching you. If you’re patient, they’ll be patient (perhaps even with you). You’ll have a better week, I promise!
- Be prepared to interpret.
Here’s something that folks don’t always understand. The Gathering is not a stand alone event. It’s a huge event, with tons of resources poured into it, but if you just show up, plan on participating and expecting that the power of the event will somehow create a transformational event in the lives of your young people, you quite possibly will be disappointed. The Gathering isn’t intended to just be everything to everybody. The Gathering depends on the congregational adult group leaders to interpret the experience with the young people. You’ll need to talk through everything that you have done with them. Asking and processing the different “day” experiences, and helping young people figure out how to put these things into the context of their own lives. Groups that do this have a great experience. Groups that don’t sometimes walk away and say “meh.”
- Don’t miss stuff.
Sometimes I’ve seen groups walking away from the Gathering during a time of great programming to go do something on their own. A baseball game…a tour…whatever… Here’s my advice: Don’t do that. There is so much at the Gathering to do and experience, that I’d really encourage you to jump in 1000% and experience as much as you can. Look for gaps in the schedule to do some of the other stuff. But don’t miss the Gathering.
Make sure your group and you drink a lot of it. I know, I sound like your Mom. But I’ve seen lots of people go down from dehydration at these things. And that will ruin someone’s day.
- There’s no such thing as down time.
I’ve walked past the crowds of people sitting outside the general sessions awaiting admission. I’ve seen some groups sitting there…flopped down…bored…waiting. Then I’ve walked by groups where group leaders have their group sitting in a circle on the sidewalk. They’re playing “Full Contact Spoons,” or answering questions from a “Would You Rather?” book, or are doing impromptu skits and drawing people from other groups into it. And the young people are engaged, and laughing, and having fun. That’s a group I’d want to be a part of. Carry props and games in your backpack and have a list of possibilities ready to go. (I know one guy who carried around a small bullhorn…yes, a bullhorn…just for these moments. Do you know how much fun you can have with a bullhorm? “Hello Domino’s…this is the Gathering Commander…please bring me a pizza!” But not inside Ford Field, please.)
- It’s not about you.
Once I walked through a hotel lobby in the late afternoon. It was a “gap time” when the afternoon programming was wrapping up and well before dinner. As I walked through the hotel lobby I looked over and saw 3 adult group leaders sitting in the hotel bar having a beer. I literally stopped in my tracks. Really? I get the desire to take a break and enjoy a cold beverage. But that was just plain wrong. I had to work hard to keep from going over and shouting at them. And it reminded me that sometimes we forget that when we bring a group, as leaders we are there for the group. We’re “all in.” And to step away from the group for a moment like that 1) breaks the covenant we all agree to by being a part of the Gathering; 2) pulls us away from our group when we are supposed to be there for them, and; 3) is stupid. When we’re at the Gathering, we’re there for the group; totally and completely. Wait and have your beer when you get home. Have two. I don’t care.
- Don’t yell stuff in Ford Field.
Ok, this is a personal pet peeve. And it’s been better in recent years. But occasionally someone somewhere will yell something out in the general sessions. Like their state name, or something like that, trying to elicit a reaction. And then people cheer, and it totally throws off the direction and mood that the Dome Teams are trying to create. And it’s dumb. I’m sure that Vermont is a nice place…but at that moment, we don’t care that you’re from there. I always told my group that the person who did something like that would have to ride home from the Gathering in the bathroom of the bus. That threat, by the way, works for a lot of things.
- Be kind to the volunteers.
Oh…did I already mention this one?
- Plan on eating at odd times.
Most people try to eat at…well, meal times. That’s when the lines are long and you’ll waste a lot of time. Pick some odd times. Bring snacky breakfast stuff (fruit…toaster pasteries…etc…) for breakfast, granola bars for late morning snack and then eat lunch and dinner at an “off-time.” You’ll be much happier not waiting in a 55 minute line for Freaky Fast Jimmy John’s.
See you in Detroit!
Guest blog post by Rev. Paul Amlin, Program Director for Youth Ministry; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Chicago, Illinois
I was texting back and forth with a seminary friend this morning and the topic of the ELCA Youth Gathering, Detroit, and how the Gathering will address issues like the Charleston killings and racism during our time together. This got me thinking. If someone has never experienced a youth gathering, or hasn’t been to one in recent years, they would have no way of knowing how deep and wide we go to deal with current issues, key issues, issues that get to what it means to love our neighbor and to learn from them. I’m convinced that the bold choice to go to Detroit is affirmed in the subject matter we’ll address (equity, racism, justice to name a short list), the city where racism has played a major part in history, and recent events in our country.
This led me to think about ways to engage the material, the real examples and teaching from Detroit in our local communities. We have been blessed, the last two cycles at least, to have live streaming available for anyone with a laptop, computer, tablet or smartphone and access to the Internet. Through the stream you will be able to watch a live morning program hosted by youth at COBO (convention center) and grab a seat at Ford Field to hear the music, the praise and worship, and to hear powerful speakers address contemporary issues in light of and in response to faith in Jesus Christ. Young people and the adults who accompany them to Detroit will likely leave the city inspired (and tired!) but also wired to do big things back at home. What better way to engage this energy than to have your congregation participate through watching the live stream?
So here are a few ideas for streaming parties for all ages.
1) Open the church each evening of the Gathering, put up a screen and a projector and order some pizza or have a world-famous Lutheran potluck dinner. You could pray for those in Detroit before the stream begins, watch the stream, take notes, then discuss what you heard in small groups afterward.
2) Since not everyone will make it to the church each evening, make sure you share the link to the live stream via e-mail, text, semaphore, etc. Post questions on your church Facebook page, on Twitter, Instagram, etc. to engage folks in conversation about what they’ve heard.
3) Be sure to invite the youth to watch! For those who couldn’t make it to Detroit, this is a chance for them to feel like they’ve participated in some way. When their friends get back, they can engage in conversation about the event in a meaningful way. Of course, it’s okay to make this an inter-generational activity.
4) Give shut-ins the information, too! If you’re really edgy, set up a viewing party at a nursing home where you have members or have volunteers visit shut-ins to watch with them.
5) Have a Sunday closing worship viewing party! Live stream the service in your sanctuary while you are worshiping, occasionally turn up the volume to share the experience, OR set up a projector in the fellowship hall for anyone who wants to follow along. What if on that day your church includes the Gathering, the people of Detroit, participants AND you community in the prayers as closing worship is happening?
6) Download and share the “Getting Ready” materials. They give insight into the things we’ll discuss in Detroit, but also include things like teaching what a Theology of the Cross means for Lutherans. You could use these materials for adult education, inter-generational times, or for confirmation or youth group (even if nobody from your church is going to Detroit!).
I’m convinced that the Gathering serves as our Lutheran version of a big tent revival. Imagine what could happen if the enthusiasm, energy and teaching from this revival caught on at home! It will take some extra work and require a commitment of time and resources to make it happen, but I believe the rewards will be magnificent.
I’d love to hear your ideas, your stories of how your congregation follows along and interacts with events like the Gathering. Remember to post to social media using #RiseUpELCA and share some photos of your viewing parties for others to see.
If you’ve been following social media for youth and young adult ministries in the ELCA you’ve been seeing a lot about an informational webinar about something called “innovation grants” for youth and young adult ministry. The webinar will be recorded and you can watch it later if you’re not available to follow live. What I really want you to know is that we are genuinely interested in your ideas for investing in young leaders in the church and for innovative ways of nurturing the gift of faith in youth and young adults. Included in this blog post (see below) are the basic goals and guidelines for these grants.
The combination of creative and innovative ministry ideas and the goal for partnership between congregations/synods/outdoor ministries/campus ministries and the many ways the ELCA engages leadership development and faith formation, virtually guarantees a wider reach for your new ideas. Think outside of the box. I often ask people, “What would you do if money were not a factor?” Ask that of yourself, then see if your idea fits the grant opportunities we are offering. Remember, you can’t receive a grant if you don’t apply!!
These grants are made possible through the Always Being Made New Campaign for the ELCA and are being offered because youth and young adult voting members at the last churchwide assembly noted a problem and then took the initiative to ask for funding to fix the problem. These are the kinds of leaders we need for this church!
I continue to believe that this is an exciting time to be the church. I also believe that our investment in youth and young adult leaders will directly impact our capacity for reaching others with the Good News of Jesus Christ and help create communities of faith that can make a difference in the world. You can be a part of making these things happen.
Paul Amlin, Program Director for Youth Ministry
Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA gives us the opportunity to expand our ministries among youth and young adults to cultivate young leaders, embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion, and build a robust network of support.
Through the Youth and Young Adults ministry of The Campaign for the ELCA, we will focus on the following Core Values:
- Form faith in youth and young adults
- Develop and multiply youth and young adult leaders
- Start new ministries or enhancing current efforts
- Promote collaboration and creativity
- Engage youth and young adults of color
- Accompany communities and persons living in poverty
- Applications must be submitted on behalf of a partnership of two or more ELCA-related ministries, one of which must be a congregation or synod.
- Grants are one time, lump sum grant amounts.
- Grants will range from $5,000 to $40,000.
- Initial applications will be received June 10 – September 1, 2015. Applicants will be notified and funds dispersed by the end of September 2015.
- Funds will be directed through an established ELCA ministry.
- Grant recipients are expected to establish measurable outcomes, provide two updates on their project, one six months after the start date and a final report. Recipients also agree to participate in at least one online gathering of grant recipients.
Grants will be awarded via application. The application questions are included in this form. All areas must be completed and you must be prepared to demonstrate hoped for outcomes, budget and a willingness to communicate progress toward goals. Once submitted, applications will be considered at a predetermined time by representatives of youth, young adults and churchwide staff.
Special Guest Blog: We invited Rev. Stephen Bouman, the Executive Director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational and Synodical Mission in the ELCA offices in Chicago to address the needs of children within the church, and to talk about a new position being created at the churchwide offices. Thank you Stephen for sharing with the Network!
When you walk the streets in Arusha, Tanzania, you hear a certain greeting as ubiquitously as “how are you doing?” in our society. They greet each other with this Masai phrase: “Kisserian Injera,” which means, “how are the children?” And the answer in Masai translates as: “it is well with the children.”
It is in this “kisserian Injera” spirit that I am very excited to announce that we in CSM will be posting a new position: Program Director, Ministry With Children. With this position we will now be able to accompany the networks across the church and our society which support the spiritual life and well-being of the first third of life. We will be able to connect to leaders called by the church to support ministry to, and with, youth and young adults. I am very grateful to all of the advocates, supporters, and long distance runners in ministry with children and families. Your faithful service, witness, and holy agitation have helped to make this happen.
I want to thank the Network for lending me the platform of the Network blog. I have been thinking of this question a lot lately: “what do children need in our world today?” These are some which have involved my thinking, prayer and action. You can add your own to the list.
Spiritual Identity: At a day care center for unaccompanied minors (refugee children) who crossed two borders from Central America to flee violence, poverty and reunite with family I had a conversation with a couple who have provided foster care for over thirty of these vulnerable children of God. “They come here so strong in their faith. We pray before meals and at bedtime. They are like little evangelists sharing their faith every day because of their gratitude for being welcomed and support for their spiritual lives.” We all need to know: “you are my beloved child.”
Safety: children are growing up in a world of bullies, gun violence in our schools, malls and neighborhoods, pernicious messages and predators coming at them through the internet, and domestic violence. At the border I spoke with a thirteen year old girl from Honduras whose family was being extorted, whose brother had been killed and she was next.
Advocates\Justice: When we baptize our babies of whatever age we do not leave them at the font. It is baptismal ministry to follow them into the world, to struggle for the quality of their schools, opportunities, mentors, communities.
Strong Communities and Churches: Children need the ballast of strong and durable connections, human solidarity to accompany their lives.
Noble Vision: They need help growing into their agency to make a difference in the world as a way to follow Jesus.
The Hope of Resurrection:
God bless you all as you play your part in an apostolate to, and with, the children of our church and our world.
Rev. Stephen Paul Bouman
Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission – ELCA
Heidi Hagstrom has announced her intent to leave her position as the Director of the ELCA Youth Gathering following the 2015 event next summer. Heidi has been studying in the M.Div program at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque and intends to pursue rostered ministry as an ordained pastor within the ELCA. The ELCA has posted the Gathering Director’s position and will be accepting applications for this vital leadership position through the month of September.
The Gathering is one of the most powerful ministries of the church. It gathers somewhere in the vicinity of 39,000 young people, adult leaders, volunteers and staff together for a amazing faith formation experience. It presents and lives out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that quite simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else within the church. It is transformational for the faith lives of the participants, for the community that hosts the Gathering and for the ELCA. It is a masterpiece of deployed leadership. Everywhere you look within the Gathering, it speaks the name of Jesus.
I believe that the Gathering creates a culture of leadership that respects the gifts of both individuals and the community. It listens, learns and then acts. It is full of joy and laughter, from the stages of the initial planning, all the way through to the last closing worship. Clearly the Holy Spirit is alive and well through the ministry of the Gathering.
This culture has been carefully tended over years. And while there will be opportunity later on (it’s a long time until next July!) to thank Heidi, I’d be remiss if I didn’t name that much of the reason this culture exists is because of Heidi and the team with whom she works. As someone who has brought groups, and been in different levels of leadership within the Gathering, I’m grateful for this culture.
Now, the ELCA will be seeking a new Director for this vibrant ministry. The hope is to bring someone onboard soon, to join the leadership team and to walk through this last year of the planning cycle with them.
Might you be someone who would consider this call? Or perhaps you know someone who has the gifts for this ministry? Please give this thought and prayer. More information including a link to an online application can be found on the ELCA’s web site here.
Thanks be to God for the Gathering and its leadership. Thanks be to God for the person out there somewhere who will be called to this ministry.
Networked in Christ,
Dear Network friends,
The Network’s Board of Directors has drafted the following letter, to be sent to Rev. Stephen Bouman, Executive Director of Congregational and Synodical Mission at the ELCA. It requests that staffing in the area of children’s ministry at the churchwide offices be considered.
The Network Board invites you to co-sign the letter. If you would like to do so, please make a “comment” below the letter and in that comment, put your name, your role/title, your congregation or organization and your city and state. Please sign on or before June 17th to have your name included in the version being sent to Rev. Bouman.
Networked in Christ,
Rev. Stephen Bouman
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631
Dear Rev. Bouman,
Greetings, in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We are grateful that the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit of the churchwide organization added two program director staff positions for youth and young adult ministry in 2013. Thanks for your vision and commitment to forming and nurturing faith in youth and emerging adults. Paul Amlin and Rozella White have been marvelous partners with the ELCA Youth Ministry Network and great representatives of the churchwide expression.
We remain concerned however, about the lack of resources and support for those engaged in children’s ministry at the congregational, synodical, and churchwide level. As congregations have cut budgets and staffing, we are aware that a large number of youth and children’s ministry positions are being combined in our congregations. In our effort to identify and connect our members to training, resources, and support to those who do ministry with children we have recognized that there is no staff person on ELCA churchwide staff in the area of children’s ministry. We believe this is a gap that needs to be filled as quickly as possible.
We are aware of the importance of excellent faith formation beginning as early as possible in the life of a young person. Based on James Fowler’s Stages of Faith, and our own experiences, it is clear that our children from birth to age twelve require intentional shepherding and guidance in their faith development. If we take seriously that faith formation is a process of development, and that the baptismal journey is indeed a journey that begins at the font and continues throughout our life, then our church must provide guidance to parents, pastors, teachers, and lay ministers who are working with our infants, toddlers, and children at the beginning of this important journey.
We believe it is crucial that there be a person at the churchwide office, partnering with Paul and Rozella along with the rest of the CSM staff, working to make congregations aware of the best resources, to build partnerships around children’s ministry and to be a voice for those who work with the youngest within our church. We believe that it is essential that a person in this role
- Has experience and expertise in the area of children’s ministry
- Understands the full spectrum of faith formation as it spans all the ages
- Has skills in working in large systems to affect change and to grow ministries
We hope that you will consider providing resources for a churchwide staff position in the area of children’s ministry. This is a vital ministry for the present and future of our church.
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network Board of Directors
Erik Ullestad (chairperson)
Rev. Ben Morris
Rev. Todd Buegler
And the following members of the Network:
There aren’t enough ways that I can say “thank you.” I wish there were, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I’m still in St. Louis, here for one of the post-E meetings that typically takes place at the end of the event. I have to admit that I’m having just a little bit of trouble focusing, because my mind is still completely wrapped around the Extravaganza we just experienced.
This was a great event! I know that we’ll go through evaluations soon, and that there will be good, constructive criticism that comes from those evaluations. And, we’ll learn from them. But my gut tells me that it was a good event.
How does this all of this happen? There are a whole bunch of people who make it possible.
The E-Team is 26 of the strongest servant leaders I have experienced in the church. They worked in unbelievably creative ways to pull together an event with more than enough space for the Holy Spirit to do its work. And they are led by Scott Maxwell-Doherty, one of the church’s strongest and most creative leaders. These people need to be thanked.
But there are more: The Network’s Board of Directors, the Regional Facilitators, and so on and so on. The Network is full of leaders.
But here’s the deal: These gifted, blessed children of God are not the reason the Extravaganza was great. They’re a part of the reason, but they are not the whole. I often say that the Extravaganza isn’t an event, it’s a community. We gather as friends to share in our common mission. An Extravaganza is a “wiki-like” experience, created by community. And for that to happen, it takes exactly 653 people. Because that’s how many people were “in the house” for the Extravaganza.
653 of you put together this Extravaganza. They gave their time and energy. They shared their knowledge and wisdom. They contributed to the conversation. They gave, and they received.
I wish I could thank you all individually. Because it is all of you who made this happen. Thank you for being in St. Louis. Thank you for sharing who you are with the rest of us. we are all stronger in our ministry because of it. So I’d like to make 653 thank you’s. One for each of you. Because you made this event work. So please, please, please accept my thanks.
With gratitude, and networked in Christ,