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Posts tagged ‘Leadership’


Extravaganza Leadership Changes


Scott Maxwell-Doherty

Rev. Scott Maxwell-Doherty, who has done amazing work over the last 12 years giving leadership to the Extravaganza Team, has chosen to step down from his position, following Extravaganza 2017 in Louisville.

In a note to the Extravaganza team leaders, Scott wrote that:

As you all know I take great delight in several ‘extra-curricular’ church related activities. These events tap into my creativity, my delight in gathering folks from far and wide to deploy their skill sets, and the joy of being around people who I trust, heart and soul.This past year I had to come to terms with the lament, “how much O Lord?”

And the answer… it is time to lay this one down.

Since we are one staff person down here in the Office of Campus Ministry at CLU with no immediate funding source to fill the vacated post I need to more generously tend the home fires.

Is this a hard decision? OMG Yep, quite difficult…

My departure from my role will commence following the Louisville event.  The days that follow will be thoughtful and even sassy days of transition evaluating the next leadership design for The E Team, a process which will capably tended by Todd. Between now and then…there is much work to be done…so let our focus be on the efficacy and essence of the E.”

Scott’s leadership has taken the E to a whole new level of depth and quality.  He leads from both the “heart” and the “head.”  To say we are thankful for Scott, is an incredible understatement.

But the Network, and the Extravaganza will continue.

Anytime there is a personnel shift, it gives an organization the opportunity to evaluate and to think differently about its leadership.   Since Scott let me know about this transition, we’ve been working to develop a leadership model for the event.

The leadership tasks can be broken really into 3 different areas:
  • Tending to the administrative end of the E.  This would include:
    • Budget
    • The planning schedule
    • Team communications
    • Registration
    • Publicity and promotion
    • Logistics.
  • The Extravaganza is a large event, and there is much work in this area.   I am excited to announce that this area of Extravaganza leadership will be handled by Catherine Anderson.  Catherine, for those who don’t know her, works in the Northeast Minnesota Synod Office.  She has worked in the Youth Gathering, and was the primary leader who developed the Practice Discipleship Initiative.  Catherine has the gifts and skills for this vital role.  We are grateful for Catherine’s willingness to take this on.

The other side of the equation is what I’m calling “Participant Experience.”  It’s all of the programmatic and experiential elements of the E.  It includes:

    • Hospitality
    • Main Stage
    • Workshops
    • Exhibit Hall
  • There are other areas as well, and obviously there is a lot of cross-over between “participant experience” and “administration.”  (After all, their experience really begins with publicity and registration, doesn’t it?)  So there will be a lot of teamwork in these areas.  I’m excited that Charlie Roberts has agreed to provide leadership to this aspect of the E.  Charlie, for those who don’t know, works in the Lower Susquehanna Synod office.  He also has served as a team leader for the Gathering, and has done a lot of work to equip, develop and support leadership for children, youth and family ministry in his region.  Charlie has also served in Extravaganza leadership for a few years, helping to coordinate the exhibit hall area.
  • The last area of E leadership revolves around the hotel negotiation and contract work.  This is work that I will continue to do.  Many of the other areas that I have worked in however, primarily in communications, will be handed off into the new administrative area, freeing me up to work on other projects.
These changes will go into effect after the current Extravaganza cycle.  There will be then, two team lead areas that we will need to work on filling:  Scott’s role with main stage, and Charlie’s role in exhibits.  We will begin that work soon.

The Network is about leadership.  We are blessed to be gifted with great leaders for the sake of God’s mission.  You are all among those people.  Thank you for your ministry.

And today, I’m especially grateful for these three:  Scott, Catherine and Charlie.  Let’s keep them in our prayers as they step into new roles, and as the Network continues to grow and move forward.


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, 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


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.
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

Introducing New Leadership!

The Network is excited to introduce new members of our leadership!  There are two new people who will be joining the Network’s Board of Directors.


Rev. Regina Goodrich

Rev. Regina Goodrich is the pastor at Mediator Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and Waynoe State University, she has been involved in children, youth and family ministry for over 30 years.

Becky Cole is the Director of Children’s Ministry at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church in Kirkland, Washington.  Becky has earned both a B.A. and an M.B.A degree, and is in the process of seeking certification from Trinity Lutheran College in Children, Youth and Family Ministry Studies.

Becky Cole

Becky Cole

In addition, Erik Ullestad, of West Des Moines, Iowa, has been reappointed to a second term serving on the Network’s Board of Directors.

There are also 3 new Regional Facilitators who will begin their terms at the conclusion of the Extravaganza in Detroit.

Abby Triebel of Poughkeepsie, New York, will begin representing Region 7.  She serves at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Ashley Strelau, or Moorhead, Minnesota, will begin representing Region 3.  Ashley serves as the Associate Director of Youth Ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church.

Region 9 also will be selecting a new Regional Facilitator.  They have not yet been identified, but should be in place prior to the Extravaganza.

We welcome these new leaders in our Network!  Thank you for your service!


Nominations for Network Board of Directors Open


The current Network Board

The Network is governed by a seven member Board of Directors.  (plus two non-voting members.)  The Board is responsible for setting the direction and vision of the Network, which is then carried out by a small, part-time staff and a huge, dedicated and dynamic group of almost 150 volunteer leaders.

The mission of the Network?  To strengthen and empower children, youth and family ministry leaders in service to Christ.

This year, there are 3 seats on the board that are open for nomination.

Nominations are made either by the individual themselves (self-nominated) or by someone else (3rd party nomination).  Both forms of nomination are equally valued.

The Nominating committee, made up of two board members, two regional facilitators and one at large member, receives input from the board on what its needs are to continue its work, and then it focuses on culling through the nominations and to find the best fit of gifts and need.  The Nominating committee presents its slate of names to the board at its fall meeting, and the board either accepts or rejects the slate.

This year, the board has identified three areas of need as it looks at its current board make up:

  • Diversity of the board in terms of ethnicity
  • Diversity of the board in terms of geography
  • A need for someone with expertise in the area of children’s ministry

Of course, all nominations will be gladly received and considered.  The broader the pool the committee has, the better a decision will be made.

The Network’s hope is that perhaps you, or someone you know might be a good fit for the board.  It is a great group of leaders that makes a difference in the life of the church.  If you’re interested in serving, or know someone you believe would be a good fit, please visit the nominations page on the web site for more information.

If you have any questions, please send me an email.





An Invitation to Sign an Open Letter to the ELCA…

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.

Thank you!

Networked in Christ,

yay-3164803June 9, 2014

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)
Julie Miller
Rev. Ben Morris
Valerie Taylor-Samuel
Sue Megrund
Jeremy Myers
Tom Schwolert
Rev. Todd Buegler

And the following members of the Network:



Bunnies and Signs

BunnyIn the community in which I serve, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in the past couple of years.  There are some start-up churches, of the non-denominational type, who are meeting in our community.  They are young, passionate and energetic; and they have a sense of urgency to what they are doing.  They exist to reach out to the lost.  And their worship style seems to fit all of the stereotypes that we often think of.  And while that style may not scratch me where I itch, I do believe that they play a role within the fabric of our community.

But here’s the thing I’ve noticed:  About two years ago, one of these churches started putting out lawn signs. Lots of lawn signs.  And not just on the corner near the school where they meet, it’s like they have infinite lawn sign budgets, and they put them out on every corner in our community.  And most intersections had 4 signs…one for each corner.  They would do this to advertise their worship schedule, or special events, or holiday services.  Every month or two there was a new sign that was everywhere.

And then other churches seemed to notice, because all of a sudden, there were more signs.  Competing signs.  And so we have multiple signs on each corner, advertising for different events or worship services. This year, I’ve counted at least 4 or 5 different churches, all with lawn signs, advertising bigger and better Easter egg hunts.  This spring I thought to myself:  “Oh my gosh…what’s next?  Those people who stand on corners, holding and waving signs advertising a store clearance?”  And then (while I didn’t actually see it in person) I saw a photo posted of the bunny…waving the sign.

And so I roll my eyes.  Because all of these signs…at some point, they just become litter…they become more clutter and people just filter and ignore.

But then I start to wonder about the ways we communicate.

In the ministry in which I am a part, we have e-newsletters…we tweet…we facebook…we instagram…we text…we mail…we announce…  and I have to ask myself, “To what level is what I’m doing creating more clutter?”

Kym Meyer, who is a communications director at a large non-denominational congregation in Indiana, has an interesting book called “Less Clutter, Less Noise” about how churches communicate.  Her premise is that more is not better.  That we need to listen to how our people receive information, and then we need to be strategic, and to make the communication we share with them meaningful.  And while there is a place for announcement, what resonates with people is engagement.

Lawn signs and bunnies don’t engage.

But what does?

We live in a time of information saturation.  So what information sticks?  What works?

I don’t have an answer for that.  But I do nod my head when I hear Kem Meyer talking about engagement rather than noise.  Perhaps the question we should be asking in our communication is not how can we “get them” to come…but rather how is our communication itself actually ministry?  How can the medium itself be an actual tool for faith formation?

I’d love to hear about how you engage your people in your communication, for the sake of mission.

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.  😉


Extravaganza Evaluation Reflections

E2014RoomExtravaganza 2014 is in the history books.  The final hotel bill has been paid, and most of the random boxes of leftover stuff have been crammed back into the warehouse at the Network’s Global Headquarters (my basement).

And, we’ve been pouring through the Extravaganza evaluations.

Thank you to all of you who shared your thoughts, feelings and experiences from this year’s event.  44.8% of you took the time to fill out an Extravaganza evaluation form.  That’s a tremendous return rate.  I think it shows the deep level of care that people have for the Network and the Extravaganza.  It reminds me that the E isn’t just “something we go to,” rather it is a community to which we belong; it is renewal, it is education and it is networking.  On behalf of those of us who work on the project, we are very grateful for your commitment to the E, and especially to those who took the time to fill out the evaluation form.

This year, for the first time, we use a tool called a “Net Promoter Score” as an overall evaluation.  The possible range of Net Promoter Scores is -100 to +100.  Anything above a 0 is generally considered good.  Above 50 is considered very good; Above 70 is amazing.  The Extravaganza in 2014 scored a 78.

Another question we pay a lot of attention is the question of “On a scale of 1-10, was the Extravaganza worth the money spent?”  This year this question rated an 8.96, the highest score the event has ever received.  We feel very good about that! In 2013, the score for this question was 8.56.

As we’ve gone through the comments, there have been a few themes that have surfaced that I think deserve an acknowledgement, or a bit of a response.

  • A consistent theme was how much people appreciated the Hyatt Hotel.  It was a good property, in a good location, with great space.  E-goers really appreciated the meal “deals” and “discounts” that the hotel had put together.  That’s great!  Choosing a hotel property is always a bit nerve-wracking.  One of the things we’ll be able to do at future hotels now is to point to what the Hyatt in St. Louis did as a model for offering discounts.  Hopefully that will help to provide affordable meals in the near future.  It was also helpful that there were a lot of restaurants in close walking distance.  From a leadership perspective, we also really appreciated working with the hotel.  They did a great job.
  • Folks who were forced into the overflow hotel at the Drury Plaza loved it.  Folks at the Sheraton…wished that they were at the Hyatt.  Yep.  We know.  When we book space at the hotel, we are pretty conservative in our contracts because we con’t want to wind up “short” on the rooms we guarantee.  Then we’d incur stiff penalties.  And we’ve been on a growth trend in the last few years.  We are ratcheting our number of contracted rooms every year.  Hopefully we can avoid this in the future.
  • The main stage music had issues.  The concept of doing the “open-source” music remains one that we really liked.  It didn’t quite pull off like we’d hoped it would this year, though the musicians themselves did a very good job.  We haven’t given up on the concept necessarily, but if we do it again in the future, we’d probably do it differently.
  • 95% of people loved the “Ted Talk” format of the main stage speakers. About 5% really hated it.  There was no middle ground.  I think it’s interesting that two people can be sitting side by side at an event and have totally different experiences.
  • “There were too many changes from what was printed in the program book, especially with workshops.”  We will keep working on making this better.  Also, some of the workshop room sizes were too small.  We tried to guess which workshops would best fit in which rooms.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  In the past, we have toyed with the idea of people pre-registering for workshops, or a track of workshops, but generally people have told us that they prefer the flexibility and freedom of deciding “on the spot.”
  • “I wish more meals had been provided.”  Us too.  This is largely a budget issue.  The meals through the hotel are very expensive.  The hotel gives us the meeting space for free, based on a minimum amount of catering that we’ll buy.  So when we pay for a meal, we are really paying for the food, the service, and also also space.  That’s how the hotel makes it’s money.  So we could charge much more and provide more meals.  But we choose to charge less in registration fees, provide the meals we can and let you buy the other meals on your own at local restaurants.  It’s cheaper for you that way.
  • People loved the number and the variety of exhibitors who were at the event, and how the exhibit space “worked.”  We agree.  The space was really good.  We’re going to learn from this and work to emulate the vibe of that space every year, as much as we can.
  • A question that came up was “How do I volunteer to help with the E?”  Great question!  The Extravaganza has both E-Team members (planners) and E-Volunteers (doers.)  Every year new folks come in to both groups.  Often, people who have been E-volunteers, move into E-Team roles.  As specific needs come up on each team and the working groups, we pull new folks into these roles.  We’ll post requests for help as they come up on Facebook and on the website.  Watch for more information there.

The total evaluation report was 38 pages long.  So we’re not going to respond to every thought here.  But these were the themes that came up consistently throughout the evaluation forms.

The last question I want to highlight:  “I will be back next year.”    87% said “yes” and 13% said “I might take a year off.”  No one…not one person…said “no.”

Thanks again to all of you for being a part of the E!



Thank you Paul Hill!


Paul Hill

In 1996, there was a crew of about 20 people working to put together the first “Extravaganza” (named that year the “Ex-strato-ganza” because it was at the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas…clearly we were headed for marketing greatness).  The whole event was put together on a dime and a prayer.  There pretty much was no budget.

“Who can we get to come and speak?  And to do it for free?” we wondered.  We threw out invitations to a bunch of folks that we knew people would want to hear from.

One of the first people who called us back was Paul Hill.  He said “of course!”

Paul has been a leader in children, youth and family ministry within our church for decades.  First as a camp director in outdoor ministry, working as a team leader at the ELCA Youth Gathering (he is the man who introduced zip lines and rope courses to the interaction center), helping to give vision to Wartburg Seminary’s “Center for Youth Ministries,” teaching at Luther Seminary and then taking the helm at Vibrant Faith Ministries, Paul has been on the front end of innovation within our church.

Paul has led trainings, written books and spoken throughout the church.

And Paul has always been a strong supporter of the Network.  He’s enough of a believer that he’s totally willing to give praise when things are really going well, and he’s also willing to share his concern if he thinks the Network is moving off of the rails.  He does this because he cares about the Network and its future.  Believe me when I tell you that I’m grateful for both forms of communication from Paul.  I have always paid attention to what he says because he is wise.

I’ve always appreciated Paul’s eye for the bigger picture.  He initiated partnerships and working relationships with other denominations and traditions, learned from them and brought the best back to strengthen ministry within the ELCA.  Likewise, he would share with them what has been learned within our tribe.

Speaking personally, I’ve always been grateful for Paul’s friendship and his mentorship.

Yesterday was Paul’s last day serving as Executive Director of Vibrant Faith Ministries.  Paul is stepping into retirement.  However, those of us who know Paul understand that for him, “retirement” is a relative term.  Paul isn’t done.  He is going to continue his work in researching the impact of outdoor ministry, and looking for new ways for the seamless journey of faith to become an even stronger reality within the church.

Thank you Paul, for saying “yes” to the Extravaganza back in 1996.  And thank you for all of the “yeses” that you’ve given since then.  Thank you for living out your beliefs, and for nudging the church in the direction of greater effectiveness.  On behalf of children, youth and family leaders across the church, thank you for sharing your expertise.  And on behalf of a whole host of us, thank you for your support and friendship.

God bless you on the next chapter!

In Christ,