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Posts tagged ‘Training’


“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,



Introducing: The Network App!

iphone5_large_NewWe’re really excited about this!

Today, the Network introduces our new mobile app!  For both the Android and Apple (iOS) platforms, this app is awesome!

Features include!

  • A “live” events calendar
  • Direct feed of the Network blog
  • A directory of Network leadership
  • A media library
  • Network News
  • A “prayer wall.”  Post prayer requests, and respond!
  • Direct links to contact us
  • Feeds from our Facebook and Twitter feeds
  • Streaming media of past Extravaganza keynote speakers…3rdTuesday Conversation webinars and Practice Discipleship webinars
  • An online Bible (adding more version to it soon!)
  • A function to send the Network new ideas
  • Quick easy ways to make donations to the Network, or to other ministries we support
  • A GPS powered “Local Network Finder” (coming in March)
  • A Programs function, with more content from our programs (coming in March)

This is going to be great!  Carry the Network with you wherever you go!

What is the key to effectiveness in a national network?  Communication.  This opens up whole new ways for us to connect with each other.   We’re very excited abou the possibilities.  Lots of hours have gone into this project, and we are grateful to the team who put it together:  Michael Sladek, Andy Arnold and Rachel Claseman.  And we’re grateful to our Network partner, iGivings, for working with us on it to put it all together!

Please note that when you log in, you will be asked if you want to register.  We strongly recommend registering.  It will allow you to participate in some of the stuff that you otherwise would not be able to participate in.

Visit the Network App home page for more detailed information!



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.



Who We Are

Survey1In the last couple of weeks of November, we did a demographic survey of our Network members.  We e-mailed our members, inviting them to take the online survey sometime over a period of two weeks.  We had a good response to the invitation.  Our response rate was 52%.

There are two reasons we did the study:

  • We are getting ready to launch a new Network strategic plan in the next couple of months (more on this later, I promise!)  and the data from this survey will help us as we work on the plan.
  • One of our hopes is to develop new organizational partnerships.  This information will help us “tell the story” of the Network to these potential partners.

We learned quite a bit.  Here’s a brief run-down.

We are a more mature organization than I expected.  Our age breakdown is:

19-24 6%
25-30 20%
31-40 24%
41-50 17%
50-65 31%
65+ 2%

Interestingly, if you lump these age groups into three categories, 19-30 (26%), 31-50 (41%) and 51+ (33%) the age breakdowns are fairly even, if skewed slightly older.  This tells me two things:  1)  We are an older, and more experienced group than I expected, and 2) The smallest of these 3 categories is our youngest group.  This is clearly a place then where we need to increase our outreach and communication efforts.


Female 63%
Male 37%

Ministry Role:
“I Serve As A:”

Volunterer 10%
Professional – Part Time 22%
Professional – Full Time 68%

Education Level:

High School Graduate 12%
College Graduate 42%
Seminary – MA 11%
Seminary – Mdiv 10%
Master’s Degree (other than seminary) 22%
Ph.D 3%

ELCA Roster Status:

Non-Rostered 68%
Pastor 21%
AIM 11%
Diaconal Minister .5%
Deaconess 0

Ethnicity & Multi-Culturalism:

Caucasion 94%
African American/Black 3%
Multi Ethnic/Multi Racial 1%
Latino/a 1%
Arab and Middle Eastern .5%
Asian/Pacific Islander .5%
American Indian/Alaskan Native 0%

Ministry Setting:

Congregation 79%
Synod Staff 9%
Educational Institution 5%
Non-Congregational Youth Min 3%
Resource Provider 2%
ELCA Offices 1%
Outdoor Ministry 1%

Areas of Responsibility:

We asked the question “what are your areas of ministry responsibility?” and asked people to “check all that apply.  The percentage listed is the percentage of the total respondents (321) that replied that this was one of their responsibilities.  What we heard back was:

Youth Ministry 80%
Family Ministry 58%
Children’s Ministry 52%
Young Adult Ministry 45%
Worship Leadership 29%
Adult Education 27%

Network Resources Used in the Last Three Years:

The Extravaganza 67%
E-News 65%
Connect Journal 47%
Salary Survey 45%
3rdTuesday Conversations 41%
MartinsList 36%
Practice Discipleship Project 35%
Video Archive of Speakers 32%
Placement Page 32%
Membership Discounts 17%
List of Cong willing to host groups 12% 8%

There is a lot of information to process and analyze.  What does it teach us?  Well, we’re not sure yet.  But we’re taking a look at it.  Our sense of who we are will help to shape what we think God is calling the Network to be.  The draft of our strategic plan will be released for public comment in the next week or two.

In the meantime, if you have comments or thoughts, we’d love to hear them.  Please comment here in this blog.

Advent Blessings!


Practice Discipleship Launches!

PDIconThe second phase of the Practice Discipleship Initiative will launch in January of 2013.  This project is the result of a dynamic partnership between the ELCA Youth Ministry Network, the ELCA and its Youth Gathering, ELCA Lutheran seminaries and colleges and their faculty who teach children, youth and family ministry, and resource providers of the church.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative fosters faithful, thoughtful and intentional leaders in congregations who follow Jesus in their daily lives.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative will:

Train leadership to accompany young people on their faith journey.


Develop partnerships to strengthen faith formation opportunities for and with young people.

Gather leaders for mutual support and encouragement in ministry.

The project is made possible by funding provided by the ELCA, the North Carolina Synod, Luther Seminary and the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.

Training opportunities for adults who work with children and youth will take place in several different formats.  Seven webinars are being developed to be presented every two weeks beginning in January.  The team of educators developing these webinars is led by Dr. Jeremy Myers of Augsburg College.

These webinars will also be presented live as workshops at the 2013 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza, to be held January 25-28 in Anaheim, California.

One coach from each of the 65 ELCA synods will also receive specialized training at the Extravaganza, to return to their synods and present workshops to professionals and volunteers.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative will be directed by Catherine Anderson, the Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the Northeastern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.  More information on the project, including all of the training resources from the first phase of the project, can be found at


3TC Archive Moves to YouTube

Hey there!

The Network’s YouTube Channel

So we learned something new this week!  The word “Archive” doesn’t always mean “archive.”

We’ve built up a pretty cool history of 3rdTuesday Conversations in the last 2.5 years.  There are great resources waiting for folks to to tap into.  Our list of 3TC guests includes:

  • Shawn Small on storytelling
  • Janelle Miller, Tom Gustafson and Larry Wagner on the ELCA Youth Gathering
  • David Miller on spirituality
  • Erik Ullestad and Jake Bouma on developing your own curriculum
  • Mike Ward on fundraising
  • Alexia Salvatierra on stepping into the world of justice ministry
  • Michael Sladek on design
  • Mark Schoepp on wellness
  • Bishop Mark Hanson on the church and young people
  • Karen Stevenson on teaching about sexuality
  • Heidi Hagstrom on the Youth Gathering
  • Mark Jackson and Dr. Dave Ellingson on service learning
  • Mark Matlock on doing ministry with parents
  • Celia Whitler on ministry with women and girls
  • Enuma Okoro on Christian spirituality
  • Dr. Rollie Martinson on updates from the Examplar Youth Ministry Study
  • Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean on the National Study on Youth and Religion (audio only)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Marquardt on doing ministry with families in the midst of divorce (audio only)
  • Mark Yaconelli on practicing spirituality with young people (audio only)
  • Dr. David Anderson on ministry in the home (audio only)
  • Dr. Andy Root on “The Promise of Despair” (audio only)

This week I received a Facebook message from someone who was trying to access one of the 3TC webinars from 13 months ago and wasn’t able to get at the recording.  So I tried.  Same problem.

In the fine print, we discovered that the archive for our webinar system only holds onto the videos for a year.  Anything over a year gets deleted.  Memo to self:  look at the fine print.

However, all of the webinar files are backed up, and we are in the process of transferring the webinars that are over a year old to the Network’s YouTube channel.  The ones within a year will still be archived on the webinar system.

There are some great resources here.  I hope you get a chance to listen or watch.  They’re each about 30 minutes long and include both presentation and discussion.

To access these resources, please go to the 3rdTuesday Conversation web page and then click on “archive”.  The webinars that are within a year will require you to sign up with your name and email address.  Those older than a year are just available.  Click on the links for each webinar, and you can watch it.  Or, you can visit the Network’s YouTube channel and see what we’ve got there.

Thanks for using these resources!  We hope that they strengthen your ministry.



CYF Internships: A Snapshot

In the past 6 weeks or so, we’ve done an online survey of Network members asking about how people use interns in their children, youth and family ministry.  The results of these surveys, while I wouldn’t call them ‘statistically significant,’ have been interesting and seemed worth sharing.

Please note that this survey was not referring to or asking about seminary interns.  Rather, it was college-age young adults interning in congregations under the supervision of a children’s or youth minister, or perhaps a pastor.

We had a total of 16 people respond to the survey, and of those, 12 indicated that they do use young adults in this capacity.

  • 8 of the respondents indicated that they take on one intern at a time.  Three indicated that they use two interns, and one indicated that they use four or more at a time.
  • We recognize that internships are usually seasonal.  But the results seemed more “consistant” throughout the year than we expected.  8 indicated that they would use interns in spring, winter or fall.  Only 6 use them in the winter and two indicated that they take “J-Term” (a January term that many of our smaller colleges have as a part of their academic calendar) interns.
  • Of the 13 that responded, 9 had paid internships, while four had unpaid internships.  An additional four didn’t respond to the question.
  • Of the 8 with paid internships, there was, as you might expect, some variation in how much they were paid.  4 paid between $2500 and $3000 for a summer.  One paid $1500 for the summer.  Two congregations paid by semester, one paying $500 and the other paying $2000.  One congregation paid $12/hour.
  • We asked with what ages interns would work.  10 responded sr high, 9 jr high and 7 indicated elementary age young people.

Again, not scientific, but interesting.

It seems like if we want to grow the level of leadership working in congregations throughout our church, we need to be intentional about leadership development.  We need to be looking at how we go about identifying individuals with gifts for ministry, drawing them into preparation and training, and supporting them as they begin to serve.

I’d love to see the number of congregations who make use of interns, both to serve young people and to develop strong leadership, increase over the next few years.

In the last few months we launched as a resource for high school and college-age young people as they discern a future in ministry.  Yesterday we added a page to the site that is a directory of congregations who offer internships for young adults.  You can get to it both from the “College” page in, or on the pastors/youth minister’s/volunteers resource page.

If you’d like to have your congregation listed in this directory, e-mail me.  In the meantime, please continue to encourage your young people to think about ministry as vocation.

Blessings on your ministry!



It’s Not About Us

There is a new webinar that has been added to the catalog of webinars that are a part of the “Practice Discipleship Project” done

Serving in 2009

cooperatively by the Network and the ELCA Youth Gathering.

I’m really excited about the webinar.  It is titled “Compassionate Justice and Service Learning.”

I’d like to give you the description, and then tell you the ‘backstory’ behind it:

This webinar will explore the concept of compassionate justice as part of “Practicing Justice,” one of the ELCA Youth Gathering’s central themes. The language of compassion, justice, and accompaniment will be introduced, along with a biblical overview of justice and what it means to serve in Christ’s name. In addition, leaders will learn a practical, four-step service learning model that can be used in preparing their groups for service and mission experiences, including how to adequately prepare a group, guide meaningful reflection, and share stories and experiences with others.  We will end this session with an important conversation about what comes next – the Gathering is not a destination event, it is a preparation for ministry in your own neighborhood and the world around us! 

The webinar will be led by Dr. Dave Ellingson and Mark Jackson, both of Trinity Lutheran College, and Peggy Hahn of the Texas Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod.

So here’s the deal:  As a church, Christ calls us to serve.  We all know this.  Often, however (and I have been guilty of this…I think all of us have at some point) those with whom we serve become objects of service instead of subjects.

Don’t get me wrong…I love short-term mission trips.  I love taking the young people in our congregation into different geographic and cultural settings, embedding ourselves in a community for 10 or 12 days, and getting deep into a service project.  There is, however, a risk involved in this:  without intention, the focus of what we’re doing can shift and we can start to serve not because of the needs of those in the community in which we work, but because of our need to serve…our need to feel good about ourselves…our need to swing a hammer/build a house/feed a homeless person/feel good about our faith…

To be really honest, sometimes these experiences can even reinforce a class system that we all talk about wanting to break down.  We can approach service like an us/them, with “us” being the benevolent ones.

When we approach service this way, even unintentionally, real relationships of integrity do not form.  The relationships are unequal.

I heard many, many great stories of powerful, relational service and accompaniment in New Orleans after the 2009 event.  I also heard a few stories of folks who were upset because their kids were assigned to service that was more about listening or learning than it was about building/cleaning/working/etc…  “So our kids didn’t get to serve!” they cried.

Sure, that’s true…if you have a narrow vision of service.  But the service Christ calls us to is one that draws us into relationships of integrity.  It calls us to listen first and to act later.  It calls us to do whatever needs to be done, whether that’s swinging a hammer or sitting on a porch listening to a story.

It’s shouldn’t be about our need to serve.  It shouldn’t be about us.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  John 12: 23-25.

I think we need to be willing to take the expectations and hopes of what we think service is going to be this summer, and let it fall and die, and open ourselves up to how God’s Holy Spirit might just work in the lives of both the people we encounter in New Orleans, and into the lives of the young people that we will shepherd there.  We all need to remember, it’s not about us.  It’s about this new community that the Holy Spirit is going to create this summer of us and them…together.

Our challenge is going to be teaching this understanding of service and service learning to the young people we bring, so that they can come with open minds and open hearts.  That is what the webinar will tend to.  I strongly recommend that you watch and participate in it.  It’s going to be really good, and really helpful!

If they are open to the work of the Spirit, I believe it will produce many, many good seeds.




Have you ever had an experience where something you were deeply invested in went really, really well, and it’s all said and done, and everything is boxed up and put away, and you sit back and sigh and you realize “hey, that was really cool…it feels really good to have been a part of that.”  (apologies for the run-on sentence)

Welcome to my world.

Extravaganza 2012 is in the books.  And while it’s not the only thing the Network does, not by a long shot, there is no question that it is the biggest thing that the Network does.

And this year, it was great.

  • Are there things that didn’t work quite the way we had hoped?  Yes.
  • Are there things that we could have done differently?  Undoubtedly.

That’s where you come in.  We will depend…absolutely depend…on your evaluation forms.  And I promise that as a team we will read each one of them.  If you haven’t filled yours out yet, you can do so online anytime between now and March 10.

But even knowing that there is constructive criticism floating around out there doesn’t diminish that wonderfully satisfied feeling that we get when we’ve been a part of something where the Holy Spirit showed up and did her thing.

So this week, I’ve been living in the afterglow of a great event.

And there are thanks to be made.

  • First, to God for an amazing 4 days.
  • Second, to all of you who trusted that this event would be a good way to spend your time and (scarce) continuing education dollars.  I don’t care how good a program you have…if no one is there, your program tanks.  Over 650 of you were there.  It was amazing.
  • Third, to the event leadership who continues to knock my socks off.  There is no exaggeration when I say that I love these people

    The E-Team

    and working with them.  They are thoroughbreds.  They take their area/task/program and run with it.  They are creative and thorough.  They care about what they do.  And they do their work as volunteers, and with an amazing amount of passion.  They include:  Scott Maxwell-Doherty, Manuel Retamoza, Kristen Baltrum, Dawn Trautman, Shannon Savage-Howie, Charlie Roberts, Kevin Dragseth, Michael Sladek, Tim Huff, Laurie Hoium, Kara Clark, Debbie Clipson, Desta Goehner, Tom Hoegel, Paul Clark, Paul Schmidt, Nicole Fielder, Scott Fielder, Chris Larson, Andy “Mo” Moscinski, and a ton of other volunteers who took on different tasks during the event.  You are all absolutely amazing people

My hope?  You are all, E-team, E-volunteers, participants, etc., basking in the afterglow.  We experienced Christ’s church together.

Soli deo Gloria!