Special Guest Blog: We invited Rev. Stephen Bouman, the Executive Director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational and Synodical Mission in the ELCA offices in Chicago to address the needs of children within the church, and to talk about a new position being created at the churchwide offices. Thank you Stephen for sharing with the Network!
When you walk the streets in Arusha, Tanzania, you hear a certain greeting as ubiquitously as “how are you doing?” in our society. They greet each other with this Masai phrase: “Kisserian Injera,” which means, “how are the children?” And the answer in Masai translates as: “it is well with the children.”
It is in this “kisserian Injera” spirit that I am very excited to announce that we in CSM will be posting a new position: Program Director, Ministry With Children. With this position we will now be able to accompany the networks across the church and our society which support the spiritual life and well-being of the first third of life. We will be able to connect to leaders called by the church to support ministry to, and with, youth and young adults. I am very grateful to all of the advocates, supporters, and long distance runners in ministry with children and families. Your faithful service, witness, and holy agitation have helped to make this happen.
I want to thank the Network for lending me the platform of the Network blog. I have been thinking of this question a lot lately: “what do children need in our world today?” These are some which have involved my thinking, prayer and action. You can add your own to the list.
Spiritual Identity: At a day care center for unaccompanied minors (refugee children) who crossed two borders from Central America to flee violence, poverty and reunite with family I had a conversation with a couple who have provided foster care for over thirty of these vulnerable children of God. “They come here so strong in their faith. We pray before meals and at bedtime. They are like little evangelists sharing their faith every day because of their gratitude for being welcomed and support for their spiritual lives.” We all need to know: “you are my beloved child.”
Safety: children are growing up in a world of bullies, gun violence in our schools, malls and neighborhoods, pernicious messages and predators coming at them through the internet, and domestic violence. At the border I spoke with a thirteen year old girl from Honduras whose family was being extorted, whose brother had been killed and she was next.
Advocates\Justice: When we baptize our babies of whatever age we do not leave them at the font. It is baptismal ministry to follow them into the world, to struggle for the quality of their schools, opportunities, mentors, communities.
Strong Communities and Churches: Children need the ballast of strong and durable connections, human solidarity to accompany their lives.
Noble Vision: They need help growing into their agency to make a difference in the world as a way to follow Jesus.
The Hope of Resurrection:
God bless you all as you play your part in an apostolate to, and with, the children of our church and our world.
Rev. Stephen Paul Bouman
Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission – ELCA
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: