It’s a phone call that comes in fairly often: “We’re planning a big event for our (fill in the blank…congregation…synod…conference…etc…) and we’re looking for a speaker and a musician. We want a (fill in the blank: (soloist…band…loud…acoustic…etc…). Does the Network have a listing, or a directory, or a recommendation or anything that can help us?”
Well, we wish we could help folks, but we didn’t have a list like that. It’s a great idea, but we just didn’t have it.
But Taylor Wilson (a very good musician, youth ministry guy, worship leader and now seminary student) took it upon himself to create it. And it’s great!
So next time I’m looking for someone, that’s where I’m going to go! Please do the same. And Thanks Taylor, for creating this!
The Connect Journal is the publication of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. Published 3 (or sometimes 4 if the budget is in an especially good mood) times a year, the journal attempts to put fresh thinking about children, youth and family ministry into people’s hands. ely
While there folks who we ask to write articles for each issue, we do solicit articles to be submitted from the Network membership. We recognize that there is a ton of expertise out there of which we are completely unaware.
So please consider this your invitation to submit an article. More information can be found on the journal’s writer’s guidelines.
The Connect Journal is a theme driven publication. Our upcoming themes (and their deadlines) are:
|Fall, 2013||“Science”||September 1, 2013|
|Winter, 2014||“The Church in the Public Sphere”||January 1, 2014|
|Spring, 2014||“How Do We Teach Stewardship?”||April 1, 2014|
|Fall, 2014||“The Link: Youth Ministry and College”||September 1, 2014|
|Winter, 2015||“The Funny Issue”||January 1, 2015|
|Spring, 2015||“Human Sexuality”||April 1, 2014|
If you’re interested in writing, you can take a look at our writer’s guidelines.
We know that you’ve got wisdom to share. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to see what you’ve got. We may use it in the journal…or we may put it in an online edition…who knows!
Thanks for considering this!
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.”
Over time, I’ve noticed that ministry with those in the first third of life seems to be kind of “trend driven.” There are new ministry concepts…thoughts and ideas that tend to bubble up. They become a big deal…they become mainstream…they fade…they are replaced…
When I first started doing this work, congregational youth ministry was all about relational ministry (the Young Life type). I totally drank the kool-aid and was convinced that this was “the thing.” A few years later, we were told that we need to be doing to get kids into small groups. It was there, that faith would grow. Then, small groups refocused around how to create meaningful confirmation experiences (actually, large group/small group models.)
Then, everyone jumped onto the mission trip bandwagon. A couple of years later, good ministry was all about leadership development. That then morphed into peer ministry. We were then told that “if you’re not doing family ministry, you’re not doing ministry” (even though no one could define family ministry.) This was not to be confused with the trend towards “faith in the home.” Most recently, the “big thing” seems to be all about the integration between theology and ministry with young people.
Now first, let me be clear. I don’t want to diminish or belittle any of these things. Each is good. Each is important. Each is legitimate. And each has champions who have done good work to develop them. And my congregation has or is participating in pretty much all of them. But sometimes it feels like I’ve just chased these things around from one to the next, trying to do “good stuff.”
This can be a problem. And I believe that the problem lies not with these concepts, but rather the way we have gone about them. We have become experts at chasing the tail that is wagging the dog. We in the church have done these things, assuming that if we do them “well,” then we are doing good ministry, that we are being effective.
However, effectiveness is not about programs, trends or fads. These ministry areas are not ends. They are lenses through which we look at something much greater.
Ministry is about the cross and Christ crucified and resurrected. It’s actually simple. It is about yoking ourselves to Christ’s journey, and accompanying others on their journey. It is about pointing to the cross and naming Jesus in the business and mess of people’s lives. It is about speaking a word of hope to those who might feel hopeless. Ministry is about Jesus. Jesus is the end. He is the subject of our sentences.
Thinking about ministry theologically is crucial. Peer Ministry is a powerful ministry tool. Faith in the Home is a vital and dynamic ministry strategy. Leadership development is crucial and mission trips are powerful. These ministry forms are all vital and can be a part of good ministry insofar as they reveal Jesus in the midst of our community and our relationships. They create space for God to do mission. But they are not an end. They are not a result.
Jesus is the thread that ties this all together. And if we lose focus on him, if we begin chasing trends, and if we evaluate our effectiveness on how well we do these “things,” I fear we’ve just been chasing fads.
Peace in Christ,
(Note: Much of this line of thinking was inspired by a conversation with Dr. Jeremy Myers at Augsburg College. Thanks Jeremy for the good conversation!)
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,
There is change happening in the church. Maybe it’s a new awareness…perhaps it’s a new reformation…I’m not sure what to call it. But something is different. There are new conversations taking place. There are new questions being asked. When I enter into conversations with those who do ministry alongside young people and their families, the first question I hear is no longer “what should I do at youth group on Sunday?” or “How do I do fundraising?”
The questions that I hearing now are more along the lines of:
- “I’m wondering where God is calling us to go?”
- “We’re trying to figure out what’s working?”
- “How do we understand God’s mission in this place?”
- “What is faith formation?”
While these may not seem like they should be new questions, in the world of faith-formation with the young, they kind of are. The primary concern used to be with technique…strategy…programs. The assumption was that faith language was not foreign to young people. My sense is that the landscape has shifted and that folks are now taking a 10,000 foot view, and are wondering much more fundamental questions. This because the world in which we live is changing, and the landscape the church occupies is so radically different than it was even 10 years ago. The old assumptions clearly don’t apply anymore.
These are the issues the Extravaganza tackled this year (Form: Faith Formation in a Missional Age). These are the issues that the Practice Discipleship Initiative are tackling. These are the issues that are being talked about on the Network’s Facebook group, in the webinars and other resources from Vibrant Faith Ministries and our other partners. This is what the SYMBOL Network (Synod staff people who work in children’s or youth ministry) is talking about. Outdoor ministries is looking for new directions. Our seminaries are stepping directly into the path of these conversations and are offering much research and wisdom. And our churchwide organization is figuring out how to re-invent itself, that it might serve well in this new, missional age.
Are any one of these things either the “cause” or the “cure” for figuring this out? No.
But my sense is that really for the first time in a long time, all of these different organizations are beginning to “paddle in the same direction” in terms of figuring this stuff out.
Some people look at the indicators of these changes in our culture and speak of the end of the church. I don’t think so. I have a much more hopeful view. I don’t believe God is done with the church yet. Though it doesn’t come naturally to the institutional church, I believe that we will change. I believe we will adapt to a shifting world. And I think the key for these changes lies right in our own sandbox. It is, I think, the world of faith formation with the young that is going to lead the change. The culture we inhabit together realizes that the old must pass away. We cannot be afraid to continue asking the questions and seeking God’s call for our ministry. As faith formation reinvents itself, I believe the rest of the church will follow. Really I do.
I believe that someday we’re all going to be able to say “we were there when…” and describe how God’s Holy Spirit moved within the world and within the church.
I am hopeful and excited for the future. And I am grateful to God for what God is up to, and for this community in which questions can be asked, and new directions discovered. Thanks to you, for being a part of it!
Networked in Christ,