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Posts tagged ‘Strategic Plan’


“Discipling Cohorts” Initiative Launches!

Cohorts1The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is excited to launch the Discipling Cohorts initiative, with the goal of training 500-600 children, youth, and family ministry leaders committed to growing and deepening in ministry leadership, personal faith, and vocational confidence. The initiative was created in response to the Network’s strategic goal for every member to create and live into a personal development plan.

The initiative will launch at Extravaganza 2018 (January 26-29 in Houston, Texas), where synods will form a cohort of 8-10 people for an initial session led by a trained peer coach. Cohorts will then convene monthly in local settings for the coming year, working together through a guided process for reflection on ministry leadership, skill development, vocational discernment, and spiritual formation.

The year will culminate with each participant writing and presenting a three-year personal development plan. Some ideas for plans may include:

  • Naming the professional growth areas you want to work on, such as event planning, budgeting, conflict management, etc…
  • Considering your short- and long-term vocational call
  • Developing a plan to deepen your spiritual life and practices

This plan will be shared in a concluding peer gathering at Extravaganza 2019 (January 25-28 in Jacksonville, Florida).  Accountability for participants and their plans will come from the cohort group, the synod peer coach, and a web-based system that will track progress.

While this project is different from the Practice Discipleship Initiative, which was completed 18 months ago, it will make use of and build on that project’s infrastructure.

Participation is open to Network members, including paid staff and volunteers, newcomers and veterans, and leaders from churches of all sizes and contexts. Attention will be paid to ensure cohort groups are comprised of a wide and diverse variety of congregations.

If you are interested in participating in this important project, you can sign up to receive more information by going to the Discipling Cohorts web page.

The project, led by the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, is being generously supported by the ELCA Domestic Mission Unit.


What’s the Plan with Practice Discipleship?


PD Coach Training last February in Anaheim

The Practice Discipleship (PD) Initiative has been one of the most powerful and influential faith formation ministries to take hold in the ELCA in the last 30 years.  This is not exaggeration, nor is it hyperbole.  It’s just real.

Literally tens of thousands of people have participated in training and education for leadership in congregational faith formation since the program began as a part of the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering.

The original intent, as envisioned by Catherine Anderson, was to prepare adult leaders to bring young people to the Youth Gathering by training them in basic youth ministry and faith formation skills.  The the bar on preparation and training was to go up, groups would have a better Gathering experience, and at the end of the day, leaders would serve in their congregations more effectively.  New curriculum was developed, coaches in just about every synod were trained and hundreds of in-person and on-line training events took place.

Through all this work, the PD Initiative helped to foster a culture of faith formation throughout the church.

The ELCA Churchwide Organization saw the value of the PD Initiative, and funded the program generously for 3 years.  The PD leadership team actually stretched that grant to cover the program for 4 years, and now we find ourselves in the position of discernment.

There are several different elements that put us in the position of discernment:

  1. The funding from the Churchwide has run out
  2. Tammy Jones West, who has done a fantastic job directing the initiative, is stepping back to assume a team leadership role with the ELCA Youth Gathering.  (We’re so grateful to Tammy for her leadership that there are barely words to adequately say ‘thank you.’  More on that another day.)
  3. The Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network is in the process of creating a new strategic plan, which will be “unveiled” at the Extravaganza this year.  It will guide our growth and development over the next 3-5 years.  While we’re not in a position to release details, I can say that we believe that this has the potential to directly reach and strengthen the ministry of every member of the Network.

So then, what’s the PD plan?

We believe Practice Discipleship is going to be a crucial element in the life of the ELCA into the future.  And we feel like God is giving us an opportunity to think and dream about new ways to effectively strengthen your ministry, and we want to get that right.  We don’t want to just find funding and continue what we’ ve been doing when we think there might be a whole new “thing” that PD can grow into.
We are going to take the upcoming year as a “hiatus” year…an opportunity to pray, think and talk.  Our goal is to pull together some funding to hold a couple of meetings to talk about how PD and the Network’s new strategic plan can effectively interconnect with each other.

There will not be a coach’s training event at the Extravaganza this year, as we’re not totally sure yet what they would be being trained in.  However, we are planning on a training event at the 2018 E in Houston.  We do want to thank our current coaches for their great work and keep them connected.  So we will be offering them a discount for the 2017 E in Louisville. (We also may invite those who are there into a meeting to help us think and plan for the PD future while we’re in Louisville.  As much as we’d love to fly them all in for the E, that funding doesn’t exist right now.  So we’ll just have to settle for inviting those who are able to be there.)

Details on the coach’s discount to the E will be coming in a separate e-mail.

I think it’s good that we occasionally stop what we’re doing, to talk, think and prays.  Too much in the life of the church we find ourselves in the position of trying to change the car tires while the car is in motion.  We feel strongly that God is calling us to “pause,” and to work through our options, and to discover what God is calling this thing called “Practice Discipleship” to become.

We’ll release updates here as we know them.

Thanks for your support, your prayers and your partnership!

God bless,



What’s Up With Our App?

Some of you may have noticed that the Network’s mobile app is having some issues. (I know this because you’ve e-mailed me)  It’s pretty disappointing because of the time and energy that went into developing the app, and the important role it has played in our communications strategy.  So what’s the problem?

The short answer is: when your app tries to connect to the servers at our host company, the servers aren’t responding.  That’s because they’re turned off.

Here’s the longer answer:  The company we are purchasing our app service from is in the midst of a significant internal conflict and lawsuit involving the former CEO and the owner.  If you’d like more information on the details, you can read the release from the company (and even copies of the legal filings) by going to

Since the owner of the company could not guarantee the safety and security of the apps, and the data stored within the server, the decision was made to shut the servers down until the situation gets resolved.  We don’t know exactly how long that wil take.  There is a legal process in place right now and there is a hearing on May 25th.

We’ll hope that this gets resolved quickly and that the app is reactivated.  We’ll let you know as soon as that happens.  Thanks for your patience!




We Have a Plan…

architectLast 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,


Strategic Plan

Strategic PlanDear friends,
The Network’s Board of Directors has spent the last 12 months working together on assembling a new Strategic Plan to guide the Network in its growth in the next 3-5 years.  We’re excited about the future, and on where God is leading the Network.  We are grateful to Rev. Mike Ward of Lutheridge+Lutherock Ministries for guiding the board through this process.

Below, please find a draft of the strategic plan.  The board anticipates further discussion and an approval of the plan at our meeting in January in Anaheim.

We invite you to look over the plan, and in the comments section below, to give feedback to the board.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


ELCA Youth Ministry Network Strategic Plan 

October 20, 2012

Big Hairy Audacious Goal:
By April 30, 2015 the ELCA Youth Ministry Network will have 1,000 or more members.

The Network Board of Directors has identified 7 areas of focus in achieving this goal:

  • Membership
  • Extravaganza
  • Partnerships
  • Financial Diversity
  • Diversity
  • Governance
  • The Practice Discipleship Initiative

Membership:  In three years, the ELCA Youth Ministry Network will have 1,000 or more members, reflecting a diverse cross-section of professional and lay youth ministry leaders who also reflect the cultural and geographic diversity of the church.  This increase in membership will provide more and better opportunities for youth ministry leaders to renew, learn, and connect.

Retention:  Retention rate will significantly increase (a percentage increase will be identified here.

1.  Streamline the electronic renewal process—Allocate $3,000 to do this by May, 2013
2.  Incentives
Board to determine discounts at Fall meeting
i. % discount if renewed by date
ii. Every 3rd consecutive year you are a member you get a __% discount
iii. Membership Team created that will conduct an annual membership phonathon
iv. Exit Survey to be conducted by Board members annually, or given to membership committee to conduct.

3. New Members
a. Get a new member:  You each receive 50% off your membership
b. Set annual new member goals to reach 1,000.  (Need Todd to figure this based on current retention rate.)

4. Partners
a. Reward SYMBOL leader who recruits most new members (or percentage of new members based on their size.)
i. Determine reward by May, 2013
b. Silver/Gold Partners to pay $75 more annually.  In return they get a free membership to give away.  Initiative to start in 2013
c. Partnership with Companion Synods.
i. Incentive to SYMBOL leader that they can bring a companion synod representative to Extravaganza (w/ membership for half off E registration)

5.  CrossCultural
a. Grow to 9% by end of three years in membership and Extravaganza attendance
b. Recruit from MYLE and DAYLE–phonathon
c. 3 free crosscultural memberships in 2012/13 to cross-cultural members
d. Board to revisit annually in April/May

Extravaganza:  In three years, the Extravaganza will continue as the central community gathering for youth ministry professionals and ministry resource providers. The event will lead to transformed congregations as youth ministry leaders are renewed, energized, and inspired for ministry.

Average attendance—at least 800 in three years

Increase retention rate
Net Promoter Score—set baseline and strive for growth.

In three years, the network will have established a collegial, working relationship with other organizations that share our mission, purpose, and core values. The YMNET will continue to be an autonomous entity with a strong sense of identity in the midst of these emerging partnerships.  We will continue to welcome existing groups with shared values to find their home in the Network.

Silver/Gold partners

  • Increase by 2 each per year the number of silver/gold partners
  • Grow partner revenue to 10% of annual budget
    $13,415 received in 2011/12—needs to be $26,000 to be 10% of budget

Other Networks

  • Invite every other ELCA network with like values to host a conference within the E
  • Invitation extended to Outdoor Ministry Network to attend E in 2013 and any year at member rate if member of LOM.

Financial Diversity
In three years, the Network budget will have less than 50% of income derived from Extravaganza (currently it is as much as 75%).  This will mandate that growth will happen in the areas of Partnerships, gifts, and member dues in order to accommodate this growth.  Scholarships will come from non-Extravaganza income.

  • Membership at 1,000 could mean an additional $22,000 in dues revenue after three years
  • By January, 2013 increase membership dues $10 for basic and $25 for supporting and sponsoring
  • By March, 2013 complete a Thrivent Financial grant to fund a part-time development director that includes a job description and workplan to be approved by board prior to submission.
  • May, 2013 set an endowment exploration team
  • Fall, 2013 have each board member recruit one silver
  • Upgrade half (4) silver partners to gold by January, 2014
  • January, 2014 host 5 new retail partnerships (groups not necessarily ministry related—whitewater rafting companies, ski resorts)
  • January, 2014 for YM Network to explore the development and sales of a youth ministry software management program.  Include a web development component
  • Three year membership rate to be set by Feb 1, 2013.  Also include bundled memberships so congregations can include lay people.
  • By October, 2013 provide a board training on soliciting board partnerships.
  • Create a task group to explore other methods of developing alternative revenue streams by March, 2014.

The ELCA YM Network strives to be a culture of receptivity—a network culture that will receive, honor, and celebrate voices from every “nation, tribe, people, and language” (cf Revelation 7) in order to reflect God’s vision for the creation and the church.  This diversity includes ethnic and geographic diversity of its members.  In order to achieve this diversity, benchmarks will be established within the areas of Membership, Extravaganza, and Network Leadership.


  • Extravaganza—By 2015 each synod will have at least one participant at every Extravaganza.  RF’s identify potential members in synods with no participation.
  • Membership—Annually review the three lowest participating Synod’s as relating to membership and grow each by two members every year.
  • Network Leadership—Practice Discipleship Teams will be formed in every Synod


  • Membership—Two complimentary one year, non-renewable memberships per synod for persons of color
  • Extravaganza—Up to 8 persons serving in multicultural contexts and people of color receive complimentary registration to Extravaganza.
  • Network Leadership—It is expected that Practice Discipleship teams will be reflective of ethnic diversity to include persons of color and/or people whose primary language is other than English


  • In three years the board will accomplish the following:
  • Establish goals for the Exec Director as articulated in the strategic plan at the Autumn Meeting beginning with the Autumn, 2013 meeting.
  • Set an annual evaluation of the Executive Director at the autumn meeting to begin at the Autumn, 2013 meting.
  • Self-evaluate at the Winter board meeting each year in order to direct the nominating committee of the skill-sets needed to fill vacant board positions. To begin Winter, 2013.
  • At the conclusion of each board meeting spend 10-15 minutes to do a self-analysis of how the board meeting functioned and what needs to be fixed for the next meeting.  Begin at the Spring, 2013 meeting.
  • The board will participate in a half day anti-racism training once every six years and a diversity training every six years. (this to happen once in each term).  First training to be in 2014.
  • Will assign one member of the board as a “champion” to each section of the strategic plan. Board assignments can be re-negotiated annually based on gifts of board members.  Assignments to be made initially Winter, 2013.
  • By Spring 2014, a half day leadership training will take place for the board and will re-cur every three years.
  • Board will monitor progress on each area of the strategic plan at each board meeting beginning at the Spring, 2013 meetings.

Practice Discipleship (The Practice Discipleship Initiative)

The Practice Discipleship Project is a partnership between the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, the Churchwide Organization, and other ministries within the church.  The Initiative will extend through 2015, with the hope of continuing into the future.  The Practice Discipleship Initiative is committed to bringing theological and practical training to congregations and to providing resources to groups who plan to attend the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering.

  • Actively promote a cross-generational faith formation conversation, including an exploration of how children’s ministry relates.
  • Establish a staff person to lead the Practice Discipleship Project by November 2012
  • Identify a Practice Discipleship coach and team in each synod.  It is our expectation that teams are inclusive of people of color and/or whose primary language is not English.
  • Create a communication strategy to articulate the various aspects of the project
  • Work with Youth Gathering staff to incorporate a Practice Discipleship day at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering.



New Network Strategic Plan

Dear friends,

The Network’s new 3-year strategic plan is going to strengthen our organization, deepen our ministry and broaden our reach.  The Network Board of Directors recently concluded our annual fall meeting, and one of our tasks (among many) was to complete the draft of the plan.

Our task between now and the Extravaganza is to edit and finalize the plan.  At our meeting in Anaheim, we hope to approve the final draft and begin implementation.

I want to share with you some of the highlights of the plan:

The Network has set a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”:  That goal is that by April 30, 2015 the ELCA Youth Ministry Network will have 1,000 or more members.

Our membership has hovered between 600 and 700 for the last few years, creeping up in the last year as high as 750.  It is our belief that if the Network can extend its reach, it will impact faith formation in the life of the church.  There are many more youth ministry leaders who can benefit from the resources that the Network can offer.  We hope to connect with them.

There are 7 specific initiatives that we have put together to assist us in fulfilling our goal:

  1. Growth in both new memberships and retention.
  2. Growing and strengthening the Extravaganza as the central gathering point for our community.
  3. Develop new partnerships with other ministry organizations.
  4. Increase and diversify the Network’s revenue streams to increase financial stability.
  5. Continue and strengthen the Network’s work to reflect a “Culture of Receptivity,” by increasing the diversity of the membership ethnically and geographically, and infuse the values of diversity into all of our other strategies.
  6. Strengthen our governance by deepening leadership development for the board, teams and staff.
  7. Launch a second phase of the Practice Discipleship project, which will create a variety of new education opportunities for Network members and the church, both “live” and “online.”

Each of these seven initiatives has a number of strategies under them that will help us achieve our goals.  Some will involve new programs, and others will involve strengthening existing ones.  There will be some evolutionary change.  For example, with the implementation of a strategy for financial stability, the work of the Development Team will come to a close.  Similarly, the new “Culture of Receptivity” initiative builds on the work of our Vision 2.0 team.  With the board now assuming a more active role in leading and owning that initiative, the work of the Vision 2.0 team comes to an end.  We are grateful for their time, energy and leadership in bringing us to this point.  You can read more about the Vision 2.0 initiative at its web page.

The mission of the Network is to “strengthen and empower youth ministry leaders in service to Christ.”  Our outcome is excellence in ministry with young people.  This strategic plan is going to carry this mission forward.

The work of filling in the details for each initiative will soon be complete.  We will continue to share with you these new developments as we move forward, and will continue to seek your input.  More details will be released before Thanksgiving. Our goal is to approve and launch this plan in January in Anaheim.

If you have feedback, please email me at