One of the tools that the Network has produced over the last 15 years is the annual salary survey. The survey is an indicator (not the only indicator…but certainly an important one!) of the health and well-being of our congregations in their approach to children, youth and family ministry.
The survey is also an important tool for congregations and those who work with children, youth and families as they go about planning and budgeting for the future. You can use this tool as you enter into conversations with your congregation about salaries and overall compensation.
It’s an incredibly important tool, and so we encourage all to take the survey. The more people we have who take the survey, the better the data we have, and the more effective a tool it can be.
It should take about 10 minutes to complete the survey. Taking this survey is a great way to be a part of our community, to support each other in ministry, and to give yourself (and others) important tools in their planning process.
When the survey is complete, we will slice and dice the data so that it can be cross-referenced by
- Size of congregation
- Education level
- Region of the country
- ELCA roster status
- Other categories as well.
This is a survey for both professionals and volunteers to take. (There are different sets of questions for each). The survey will be open and available through the month of March. Our hope is to have the results tabulated and published on May 1, 2014.
Networked in Christ,
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,
If you were to pick up the phone and call the ELCA churchwide offices in Chicago, and said that you had questions about children’s ministry, or Sunday School, or something similar, there would be no one to take your call. It’s true. Say it’s a question about a resource…or perhaps about background checks for volunteer teachers, or maybe continuing education opportunities; there’s no one there who could help you. Or, go to the ELCA web site. There are no pages there that reference children’s ministry.
Don’t get me wrong, you’d probably get transferred to someone, and they’d be nice and would try to help. (They’re all really nice people there) But there would be no one there who could answer your questions, or even tell you where to look.
Those positions were eliminated years ago.
Now I don’t want to get into evaluating those moves. I don’t know why those decisions were made, and the folks who made them have moved on. It could be that in the world of the church, at that time, the decision made total sense. It’s not up to me to judge. But I’ve noticed something interesting:
A few years ago, after a massive restructuring of the ELCA offices, and a reorganization, there were no children, youth or young adult positions left. (The Youth Gathering remained staffed…but that’s self-funding.) After some time and reflection, new positions were created in youth ministry and young adult ministry. And I think the direction these new positions took makes all kinds of sense. No longer “Directors” with heavy programmatic responsibilities, these new position descriptions include being aware of and knowing the landscape; networking; communicating; convening; linking congregations to resources and leadership development for both youth and adults.
But nothing has been done with regard to children’s ministry. There is no one in our denominational offices that relates to those who do ministry with anyone from birth to grade 6.
To be clear, I don’t think that having this position in Chicago would solve our problems. It would not. Our problems with shrinking participation in faith formation for children (see my last blog entry) are congregational problems that will require congregational solutions. But what kind of statement does it make when our denomination doesn’t spend any resources on the first third, of the first third of life? I think that’s troubling.
Ministry is a continuum. We all know that…it’s been one of the operating principles of the Network since its formation (and the church in general for a lot longer than that.) So to expect that we can begin resourcing for ministry with young people when they hit age 12 or 13 without any attention prior to that isn’t realistic or healthy.
I also think it sends an unhealthy message to congregations. We know the developmental importance of engaging children and their parents in faith formation at an early, early age. There is so much ‘bang for the buck.’
I believe this needs to change. I believe churchwide resources should be spent in this vital area (Not at the expense of the other two, but in addition to them). A position structured similarly to the youth and young adult positions will allow for someone at the denominational level to ask the questions…to do the research…to network…to share resources…to invite practitioners to the table to think about solutions…to train…to think big picture with their colleagues…and… to answer the phone.
It would be both a gift, and a statement, to the church.
Networked in Christ,
A few months ago, I came across a powerpoint slide that Beth Lewis, CEO of Augsburg Fortress Publishers had used as a presentation to a group of pastors at a conference in Florida. (Thanks to Beth Lewis for the slide!)
When I saw the numbers, in all honesty, it took my breath away.
The slide presented a twenty year trend line for the number of children enrolled in Sunday School in ELCA congregations between 1990 and 2010. The slide also showed the differential during the same time period in enrollment in Vacation Bible School.
Here’s the data in a nutshell: During this twenty year period, the number of children enrolled in our Sunday School ministries decreased from 1,007,774 to 400,375. That is roughly 61%.
61% fewer young people were enrolled in Sunday School in ELCA congregations in 2010 than were in 1990.
Perhaps I’m overreacting. But my gut instinct is that this is a pretty big deal. No…it’s a really big deal. We’ve heard talk about the shrinking church for years, but reading these numbers creates (at least within me) a new level of reality and immediacy.
Perhaps this just mirrors the membership trend in the ELCA? Looking at ELCA data from the same source, membership over roughly the same time period decreased from 5.2 million to around 4.2 million. Substantial…but roughly a 20% decrease. Worship attendance over that period decreased by roughly 53%, much closer (but still less than) the church school numbers.
Interestingly, the numbers of young people enrolled in Vacation Bible School have remained more stable than the numbers in Sunday School, decreasing “only” somewhere between 35% and 40%. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s interesting that those numbers have not declined nearly as quickly as Sunday School or worship attendance.
But if these trends continue…we’re on a course towards ecclesiastical irrelevance (at best) and extinction (at worst). Sure, we roll our eyes when we hear people say that children and youth are the church of tomorrow, knowing that they are the church today. But we’ve got to be honest: they also are the church of tomorrow. And trends like this make it clear that our church is at risk. I fear that the slogan of the future might be “God’s Work – No Hands.”
What most alarms me? There is no broader conversation about this. The conversation is taking place in isolated pockets…at seminaries…in local networks…at the Extravaganza…but why isn’t this a part of a larger churchwide conversation? Why is there not a sense of urgency about these numbers? The ELCA responds well to crisis. When a tornado or hurricane strikes, the ELCA is present with the promise that we will accompany those victims for the long haul.
A 61% decline in young people participating in one of our foundational faith formation ministries is a crisis. I’m not advocating that we continue on the same path we have been on. Clearly our problem has been “business as usual”. And the solution is more than just adopting a different model…or a new program. I believe that the problem lies within our church’s very understanding of faith formation; it lies in our very DNA.
I don’t have a quick solution. I’m not sure one exists. But whatever the future looks like, wherever God is calling this church, we need to take on this crisis with the same level of urgency and commitment that we do when a storm hits. And don’t get me wrong. I do believe there is a solution. I believe God is calling us to something new, something powerful and dynamic. And I believe God has given us the gifts to figure this out.
I am hopeful that these conversations will move from the periphery to the center of our church. We are committed to push for, and to create space for these conversations.
Please join us.
Networked in Christ,
Sue Megrund and Tom Schwolert have been appointed to fill vacancies on the Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. Their three year terms will begin at the conclusion of the Network’s Extravaganza, January 30-February 3, 2014.
Sue Megrund is the co-founder of Interserve Ministries, an organization based in Minneapolis that works with congregations in children, youth and ministry staff transition, and provides trained interim staff to walk them through the process. Sue has 24 years of congregational experience and completed her M.A. from Luther Seminary as well as NALIP Interim Ministry Training. She has completed the training for and implemented Healthy Congregations and Bridge Builders processes.
Tom Schwolert is a 26 year veteran of congregational ministry in Minnesota and most recently in Texas. He recently left his position at Faith Lutheran Church in Flower Mound, Texas. Tom has his M.A. in children, youth and family ministry from Luther Seminary, and has helped to provide leadership within his synod. In addition, Tom has done speaking, consulting and training, primarily around youth leadership and peer ministry. He co-wrote a curriculum on “Full-Circle Relationships.
Board members serve three year terms, renewable once. Tom and Sue will be filling seats being vacated by Yvonne Steindal, who has served two full terms, and Rev. Mike Ward, who has served one term. Mike was recently elected to the ELCA Church Council and elected not to continue his work on the Network’s Board, though he will be working with the Network to further develop organizational partnerships. I will give more information about Mike in this role in an upcoming blog posting.
The process for selecting board members begins in February every year as the board identifies the kind of gifts that are needed at a leadership level to help move grow the Network. A nominating committee made up of 2 board members, 2 regional facilitators and 1 at large member is appointed, and they begin their work in March, when nominations are opened up. Nominations are accepted until July 1, and are open to all. The board meets 2-3 times in online meetings from July until the middle of September, narrowing the candidates down to the number of vacancies. That slate of candidates is voted on by the board at it’s meeting in the middle of October.
We are excited for the gifts that Sue and Tom bring to the board, and look forward to their service!
Every year, 3 of the ELCA regions are up to select (or reappoint) their Regional Facilitator. This year, Regions 1, 4 and 5 are due up to select their RF. We have modified the selection process for RF’s this year as well. Our new process isn’t powered by election, but by a matching of skill sets and gifts of the individual and the needs of the Regional Facilitator role.
A Regional Facilitator is a person who is passionate about the work of the Lord with people in the first third of life. In addition to their work with young people, they serve the ELCA Youth Ministry Network as a liaison between the Executive Director, the Network Board and its member/owners. They are also needed to answer questions about the Network, help to connect with folks in ministry in their area and to provide a listening ear. A full description of expectations can be found on our web site. This is a minimum of a three year commitment.
If the current Regional Facilitator is either not eligible or not interested in re-appointment, the new selection process will begin as outlined below:
- Current RFs will assemble a Selection Team which includes representation from each synod of that region: i.e. Regional Team members, Synod Coaches, other strong and invested youth ministry workers, etc.
- Online nominations open in September.
- The Regional Selection Team will meet and review nominations and seek additional candidates as necessary, facilitated by the outgoing RF.
- By December 1, the Regional Selection Team will make a recommendation for the position of RF so that the selected individual can make arrangements to fully participate in the Extravaganza.
If the currently serving RF is willing and eligible for a second term, the process is the same, except that the process will be facilitated by Amy Wagner, our Regional Facilitator Coach.
This year, in Region 1, Lisa Gray has chosen not to seek reappointment. This is also true in Region 5, where Molly Haggerty Brewster has served. In Region 4, Ian Hartfield is willing to serve another term. We are grateful for the time and energy all 3 of these RF’s have given in the past 3 years. They have done great ministry.
So you might be interested in serving as an RF. Or, you might know someone who you think would be a good fit. Here are some things to consider:
- Does the role of RF fit within your skill set and the time you have available to commit?
- Can you fulfill the role as RF for three years?
- Can I devote time for: making connections with youth ministry people throughout your region, connecting with a leader in each of the synods in the region, exploring how else you can grow the Network, making monthly RF conference calls a priority, attending the Extravaganza (from our pre-meeting through our wrap up meeting), and regular check ins with the RF coach?
- For RFs seeking re-appointment: consider how you can build on what you have accomplished throughout your previous term.
The Regional Facilitators meet face-to-face twice a year, at the Extravaganza and at a spring meeting in Chicago. They also meet online an additional 5-6 times per year.
Someone recently made a comment to me about the leadership structure of the Network that piqued my curiosity. Someone wondered how leadership was developed within the Network, and if the Network’s leadership structure was ‘insular.’ It’s a great question, and one that we need to regularly be taking a look at. So I decided to do some analysis and find out.
5 or 6 years ago, the Network’s board restructured itself and the way leadership happens within the Network, moving to a “Policy Based Governance” system, and creating teams that work different areas of the Network’s organizational life. This move, in my opinion, breathed new life into the whole of the organization.
I think of leadership within the Network happening in two different concentric “circles.”
The first circle would include the Board, the Regional Facilitators, the E-Team, the Connect Journal Team, the 3TC Team, the Membership Team, the Communications Team and the Practice Discipleship Leadership Team and the “staff.”
There were a total of 54 people involved in these groups. These 54 people are in what I’d call a key leadership role within the Network. Please note that some of these folks may have held different roles in that time. (i.e. one person who has been in leadership for 7 years, but 4 of those were on the E-Team and 3 as an RF. I didn’t differentiate these roles in this analysis. I just counted the total number of years in service within the Network.
The total number of years of all those in leadership when added together: 205
The average number of years in a leadership role for individuals: 3.79
Of the 54 people I analyzed:
Those who have served 0-3 years: 33
Those who have served 4-10 years: 17
Those who have served 10+ years: 4
So 61% of those in leadership in the Network came into their leadership role just within the last 3 years.
The second circle of leadership is made up of the 65 members of the Regional Teams that are coordinated by the Regional Facilitators. Basically, each of the 9 RF’s have a team made up of one person from each synod from their region.
I didn’t do an analysis of this group because I didn’t have data about all of their longevity. Suffice it to say that as I looked at the list, many of the names were of people that I didn’t know. While that’s not exactly scientific, I do think it speaks to the steady flow of new folks entering leadership within the Network. In fact, one of my great joys is that there are so many people involved who I don’t have a direct connection with, and then hopefully, developing a connection with them.
So what does this mean? Hopefully it means that leadership is continuing to be developed…that new people are feeling welcome entering the Network and finding a place to grow and give leadership. Hopefully it means that we have a fairly ‘open system.’ Hopefully it means that we are living in the tension of harnessing experienced leadership and growing new leaders.
If you’re interested in connecting with leadership, please consider this your open invitation. You can go to our volunteer page to see where we currently have needs. Or, you can contact me and I’ll try and get you connected.