YouthWorks, one of the premier organizations across the church to offer short-term mission experiences for youth groups, has signed on as a “Silver Partner” with the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. The Network and its partner organizations commit to a relationship of mutual support.
Network Partners are a vital component of our community. And the Network is grateful to all of the organizations that choose to enter into this intentional relationship.
YouthWorks provides life-changing Christ-centered mission trips for over 30,000 students and adult leaders in over 70 communities across North America. Their goal is for everyone to experience a mission trip; so they provide lots of affordable options while maintaining high quality experiences. More information on planning a short-term mission experience can be found at their web site, www.youthworks.com.
The Network offers partnerships at two levels: silver and gold.
For more information on Network partnerships, visit our partnership home page.
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:
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, ThinkMinistry.org, GatheringLeaks.com 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:
- Deep registration discounts to the Extravaganza
- The Connect Journal, published 3 or 4 times per year
- Access to the online videos of Extravaganza keynote speakers going back to 2006
- Access to MartinsList, our online resource sharing website
- Access to 3rdTuesday Conversation webinars with experts and thought leaders in CYF
- Access to the archives of all of our past 3rdTuesday Conversations
- Discounts from some of our partner organizations including: The Center for Youth Ministries at Wartburg Seminary; Hertz Car Rental (yes, really); Impression Media Group; Lutheran Life Coaching; Trinity Lutheran College Center for Children, Youth and Family Minstry; Unify Church App Development; TxtSignal; Youth Leadership and Youth Specialties
- Access to the online Network membership Directory
- The listing of congregations willing to host traveling youth groups
- The annual salary survey
- And, there are other benefits that we hope to introduce in the next 6-8 months.
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. 😉
This is the time of year that people are making decision about whether they will be joining their community at Extravaganza. I hear from people all the time about what an important time it is for them. The personal spiritual renewal, the quality continuing education and the networking and connections that are made are invaluable. Unfortunately, there is a cost, and that cost sometimes prohibits people from being able to participate.
The Network works really hard at keeping costs affordable, and we do think that the event provides a great value. Still, there is a cost.
So I’ve been collecting ideas from people about how to keep cost down and make the E as affordable as possible. I wanted to pass those 5 ideas on to you:
- Bring breakfast. Toss some granola bars, fruit and pop-tarts (mmmmm…pop tarts) into your suitcase and save a few bucks every morning.
- Find other local youth ministers and share a ride. A high percentage of our members are in ‘driving range’ to St. Louis and this could be a way of saving some money. Also, some synods are doing buses to ride share to St. L. Contact your synod and let them know that you’re interested. If enough people are, they might be able to make a go of it.
- Look for cheap air fares. Right now, flights to St. Louis are remarkably affordable. I’ve seen both Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines have had sales that include St. Louis. Check often. Airline rates go up and down, sometimes daily.
- Connect with some friends and share a hotel room. The hotel will allow us to go up to 4 in a room. With quad occupancy, the room winds up costing $30.25/night! (plus some tax). If you don’t have a roommate yet, you can check or post on our roommate forum to see if you can find someone else looking to save money.
- Get a donation of some frequent flyer miles to help you. This is a great one: Every congregation is going to have someone who is a frequent business traveler. These folks have miles banked up. Often, more miles than they can use. If there is someone you know who you think might have miles banked, ask them if they would be willing to donate their miles to help get you to a great continuing education event that will benefit the young people of your congregation. If you don’t know who these people are, ask your senior pastor. They probably know. And the senior pastor (who is likely motivated to help save the congregation money!) might be able to make the “ask” of the person on your behalf. It’s a creative way for them to make a donation to the church!
- Remember that money that you pay for continuing education events…the money that you kick in, can be considered tax-deductible. Check with your tax person for the details.
- Check with your Thrivent chapter/community. Sometimes there are ways that their funds can be accessed to help fund continuing education events. Not always, but sometimes.
- Register early! The price of registration goes up November 1. So register on or before October 31. Sometimes people don’t want to pay until the 2014 budget year. That’s totally ok. Register now…hold the invoice and make your payment after January 1, 2014. It might be helpful to send a quick note to Laurie, our registrar to let her know that this is what you’re doing…but it’s a totally ok strategy to save money!
Ok, there are more than 5 ideas. But that’s because there are so many ways to help make it happen.
Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments below!
I hope to see you in St. Louis!
God is up to something new within our community, within our church.
The church talks a good game when it comes to community. We focus on “being” together in congregations. But the world is shifting.
Our very understanding of what community is changing as a relationships in a digital age are stretching our understanding of what it is to be together. Communities are no longer exclusively geographic, but instead can be defined by interest, education or affinity.
At the same time, the church struggles with how to do ministry with young adults. The number of blogs and videos that have popped up in the last two years explaining why or how the church has “lost” young adults is almost overwhelming; they describe the problem well. And any time you gather a group of clergy, or congregational staff folk together, and you bring up the topic of young adults, the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth is almost immediate.
No one really knows what to do about it.
Drawing together young adults to live together in an intentional community for a “gap-year” experience. The Living-Learning web site describes a communal experience that would center around faith practices, such as service projects (10-15 hours a week), theological reflection, bible study, spiritual exercise, prayer, worship leadership, and participation in local congregations and ministries. A skilled facilitator would lead and administer each community (half-time to full-time salary range), with help from local volunteers. A network of Christians, often through local congregations, would pledge to support these young adults in the experience, and in return the young adults would share their valuable perspectives, hours of service, and gifts with the communities that host them.
Visualize “The Real World” meets service-learning meets Jesus.
The church has a tradition of intentional community to draw on, (see Holden Village and the Highlander Folk School),we have a vibrant and lively theology of community and ecclesiology and we have a deep need to engage young adults for the sake of Christ’s mission in the world.
We also have Josh, one of the most passionate people I have encountered around this issue. He is a gift to the church.
I am occasionally asked by young adults about ways that they can participate in mission after high school. We’ll talk about seminary…we’ll talk about Lutheran Volunteer Corps or AmeriCorps…we’ll talk about Teach for America…we’ll talk about Holden… I am very excited that there is something new to talk about. I am excited that there is the possibility for community, reflection and service to be drawn together into an experience that is really about discerning meaning for individuals, communities and the world.
I’m excited about the Living-Learning Initiative and what it can mean for the life of those who participate and for the church. The first pilot community is opening up in September in Toledo, Ohio. We’ll be watching closely. I hope you will be too!
You can also follow the initiative on Facebook.
Years ago, I had our sr. high group out on the road on the North Carolina coast, where we were working with Habitat for Humanity. The trip was going really, really well.
One of the work days was rainy, so the Habitat chapter asked us to go to a different work site, where we could do interior work. By noon, the rain showers had ended and the Habitat director asked us to head back to our original site after lunch, to resume our exterior work. So we loaded up two 15 passenger vans to make the 15 minute drive back to our primary site.
The road to the site followed the coastline north. About 10 minutes into the drive, we joined a line of cars stopped on the road, waiting for a drawbridge to go back down after a fishing boat went through. I was driving the lead van.
While waiting, something caused me to look in my rear-view mirror, where without warning, I saw the van behind us lurch up and down violently, and an explosion of glass from the back end of the van. I turned around to the group in my van and said “stay in the van!” and hopped out. I went to the back of the second van and saw a Ford F-150 with its front end buried in the back end of our van.
It turns out that a 75 year old driver somehow had missed the line of 5-6 vehicles lined up for the drawbridge. I opened the side doors of the van. “Is everyone ok? Are you ok?” The van had 14 in it. All 14 were in shock. Some of the groaned…some started to cry… People in the other cars had hopped out to help, and several were on cell phones, calling 911.
Ambulances came from all over. At one point, I found myself inside the van, holding Sarah’s head and neck stable, while the EMT checked her out. I looked out of the van window. The members of our group from the other van had climbed out of the van (they never followed instructions…sigh…) and were standing in a circle, holding hands praying. It’s an image I will never forget.
Ambulances were loaded…probably 5 or 6 of them, and all took off together for the local hospital. I was on my cell phone, calling my senior pastor…calling parents… The doctors, nurses and EMT’s did a fantastic job caring for our group. I will be forever grateful to them.
But the thing that really took my breath away happened once we arrived at the hospital. I walked in, holding Sarah’s hand as her gurney was being rolled in. In the other hand I was juggling my 3-ring binder with their medical forms and a cell phone. When I walked in to the hospital, the pastor from the Methodist church that was hosting our group was in the lobby awaiting us. He walked over, put his arm around my shoulder and said “we’re here for whatever you need.” and he pointed to 5 other folks who I’d never seen before. They were other local pastors and youthworkers. They had just heard about what had happened by word of mouth (did I mention that we were in a small town?) and came. They just came. Word had spread in their local ecumenical network and they just came, to see what they could do.
Every one of the 14 people that were in the van were checked out by the medical providers. 6 or 7 of them were on gurneys, and needed more attention. After a few minutes of organizing I was able to assign a one of the pastors to each of these young people. One of the pastors also just went with me, to be supportive as I was on the phone communicating with all of these parents.
No one was seriously injured. The worst we had was one young person who had whacked their head on the side of the van when it got hit and may have had a very minor concussion. No question…we were blessed. Very blessed.
But here’s the thing: It was that group of pastors, who came without being called, and who sat with, listened to, calmed, and prayed with our young people, who were the miracles that day. They were amazing. They were a gift. They were God’s presence in the midst of our group. I have no doubt.
This group of pastors was our safety net.
This is what I hope our Network can be for each other. 99,999 out of 100,000 times, it will never be anything this dramatic. But in lots of ways, both significant and insignificant, we can be a safety net (or any kind of net) for each other. When I travel with a group now, I print off the names of the Network members who live in the area where we are going. Should we have problems…should our bus blow a tire…should someone get sick…should we have problems, big or small, there is, I know, someone I can call.
And if your group is coming through Maple Grove (right on I-94, in the northwest corner of the Twin Cities!) and you have problems or issues, call. We’ll be glad to help.
This is what the Network is. This is what God is calling it to be. We are a support system for each other. We are all a safety net.
Thank you for being that for each other.
I think there is sometimes some confusion about workshops at the Extravaganza. Occasionally I hear stories about folks who think “I would really love to do a workshop at the Extravaganza…but no one has ever asked me to.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Pretty much no one gets asked.
Sure, some of the educators and trainers get asked to fill specific niches in which they have expertise. But something like 80% of the workshop leaders are folks who have gifts, skills or experiences and who submit a workshop proposal.
So what can you do? What has worked for you? What have you been trained in that you can share? Where are your areas of expertise? The rest of the Network can benefit from you.
In the Network, we are working on creating a “wiki-like” culture, where people share willingly and freely of their expertise and gifts. One of the things that distinguishes the Network from other events is that we learn from each other. Ideas are formed…ministries are created, re-created and sometimes resurrected. And through the shared vision, spirits are lifted.
So can you share? Do you have something to give to the community? We have a platform for you. It’s the E.
Please consider sharing what you’ve got. Consider this your “ask.”
Last week, the Network’s Board of Directors had a final, online discussion, and voted to approve the new strategic plan for the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. This vote comes after a year of development that included prayer and conversation, writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, release of drafts, feedback, rewriting, writing, and so on and so on…
We received great feedback at the Extravaganza in Anaheim from regional meetings and other groups that were meeting during the event. All of this feedback has been looked at and considered. Much of it influenced the editing of the plan.
We are very excited about the direction this plan is going to take the Network as it grows and develops over the next 3-5 years. You can take a look at the completed plan here.
As I said, we received great feedback. Most of the questions and critique of the plan can be put into just a few categories. I thought it might be helpful to respond to a few of these as best as I’m able:
- “This plan is all about numbers. It feels cold. It doesn’t feel mission driven.” Please note that the piece we distributed last fall on the web site, and in paper at the Extravaganza is only the “strategic plan” portion of a much larger vision, which we have already worked on and adopted. So it makes total sense to me that when you just look at the “plan” portion it would not look missional. I think we didn’t make that clear when we distributed it. When this plan is seen nested inside the larger mission and vision, then I think it makes total sense, and it becomes more clear how it all ties together. No, the piece that we have been collecting feedback on, and approved last week is our new strategic plan. It is the “how” of how we’ll fuflill our mission and vision. And to be honest, for the last couple of years, we really haven’t had enough of a detailed plan. The approved document shows how the plan is nested within the Network’s mission and vision.
- 1000 is it? That seems low for a big goal! That was my initial reaction too. But then we remembered, while the goal is only 250-350 more than our current level of membership, it is also a goal that we have never hit. For the last few years we’ve kind of “plateaued” and “hovered” at our current level. To push through to a new level is going to take some additional effort and energy. Here’s hoping we hit it quickly! Then we can set a new goal!
- “There aren’t details. How are you going to do this?” Well first, let me be clear. “There is no “you” and “us.” To put this plan into reality is going to take all of us. The Network’s members are its owners. The members’ investment is their energy, passion and time, along with their membership dues. To build this Network into what we believe God is calling it to be will require all of us to be a part of the process. Second…you’re right. We’re lacking some of the details right now. This plan is the broad strokes of the areas in which we want to grow. Now we’ll drill down into each of the seven priorities and work the details. Now is where the work begins! This will be the agenda of the board when we meet at the end of April. More info on the details will be forthcoming!
- “The details of the various discounts and incentives for membership are a little confusing.” This was really helpful feedback. We’ve simplified and clarified in the final draft. Thank you!
- “In our congregations, we are being asked to do more and more with less and less. Can the Network expand to support those of us who are also working in children’s ministry, or young adult ministry?” Yes, we can. In the last couple of years, at the behest of our members, we have been doing more to support those who also work in children’s ministry. We will continue to explore other ways we can support folks in ministry as responsibilities continue to expand. We’ve added Extravaganza workshops in children’s ministry, and have a growing library of children’s ministry resources in MartinsList. Of course, this depends on our members submitting workshop topics and online resources. Please do!
- Some of the language around “professional,” “volunteer,” “lay” and “rostered” needs to be cleaned up and made consistent. Great feedback! We tried to do that. Please read through it and see if there were areas we missed. Thank you!
- The plan talks about diversity, but then only really digs into ethnic and geographic. What about other kinds of diversity? That’s a fantastic question, and one that we spent a lot of time talking about. There are lots of kinds of diversity that we need to pay attention to. While we worked up a long list, we didn’t want to list them all in the plan for fear of leaving one out. However, both ethnic and geographic diversity are ones that rose to the top as we talked about felt needs within the Network. Ethnic and cultural diversity has been one of our goals for a long time and while we’ve made some incremental progress, we need to continue to grow in this area. Geographically, there are whole parts of the country, entire synods, that are unaware of the Network and the resources it provides. These tend to be the regions that we think might benefit the most. So we listed these to lift them up as areas that we want to include special focus upon in the next couple of years. But the other forms of diversity are important and will not be ignored as well.
- Can volunteers have a different (lower) membership rate? I wish that we could. As it is, we run on a budget where our membership rates don’t even completely cover our costs. We fundraise for the difference. And the reality is, it doesn’t cost the Network less to be the Network for a volunteer than it does for a professional. We did introduce on March 1, as a part of our plan, both 3 year (discounted) memberships, and congregational team (bulk discount) memberships. Hopefully those options provide ways to continue to make membership accessible.
Those are some of the questions we heard more consistently through the process. Really, really helpful questions. Thank you very much! If you continue to have questions, please contact me.
I want to thank the members of our board, in particular, Rev. Mike Ward of Lutheridge+Lutherock Ministries in North Carolina, who walked the board through the strategic planning process. He did a fantastic job.
Networked in Christ,