A few years ago, the Network introduced our first set of “Standards and Guidelines” for professionals who work in children, youth and family ministry. The idea was that there should be some kind of standards for how we grow and develop in our ministry, and for how we practice our ministry on a day-to-day basis.
Developing a document like this is a challenge, because everyone’s experiences are different, and our thoughts and opinions are always based on our experience. But finally, after a year’s work, in 2011 the Network Board approved our first set of “Standards and Guidelines.” We posted them, and made them widely available.
About 18 months ago, the Board took on the task of reviewing this document to see if it needed to be updated. Our basic concern was that while the first version was good, and well-intended, the document was long…and it was detailed…and it was intimidating…and even though it was intended for those who did this work professionally, volunteers would look at it and say “what have I gotten myself into?”
So work began on rewriting the document with the intent of simplifying it.
That work is complete.
The document has been retitled. It is now called Leadership Competencies. Our sense was that “Standards and Guidelines” felt more like limitations and barriers than something that we want to work towards. Leadership Competencies moves it to a positive angle, and focuses on what God is calling us to become in ministry rather than what we shouldn’t be in ministry.
The new document is shorter than the old, trimmed by more than half. But the basic concepts and the things we value are all still there.
We want these Leadership Competencies to become part of our vocabularies. I’d love it if someday, when asked by an interview committee, a person could say, “Yes, I am a member of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network,” and the committee would know what that means…they would know that these values, these competencies, are already a part of this person’s ministry; that by being a member of the Network, this person is committed to growing in their skills, their vocation and their own faith.
I invite you to take a look a the new document, and post or send any feedback. It is a document that will continue to grow and adapt as the world around us changes.
The ELCA Youth Ministry Network’s Board of Directors has completed a one-year process to revise and update its “Standards and Guidelines for Professionals” document.
The original version of our Standards and Guidelines was created and released in 2011, It helped to give shape to the professional development of those who are called to serve with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations. It also gave shape to many of the programs and ministries that the Network has continued or launched since then.
Tom Schwolert, who serves as the chairperson of the Board of Directors, said that: “Our goal in redeveloping the Standards and Guidelines was to simplify it a bit. We wanted to make it shorter and more approachable. I think this new version has done that.”
Renewal, education and connection have always been a part of the Network’s DNA. Our hope is that when a congregation calls someone to serve in faith formation, if that person is a member of the Network, the congregation will understand that person’s commitment to growing in their calling.
Schwolert went on to say that: “Our hope is that this helps to give direction to personal, spiritual and professional development. The Network’s programs, and those of our partners, can provide the resources for our members to grow in these ways.”
The Network’s Standards and Guidelines can be found at elcaymnet.org/standards.
If you ask anyone who has been doing ministry with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations for awhile, they will be able to tell you that there has been a significant change in the culture of our community over the last 20 years.
Children, youth and family ministers share resources, give mutual support and share ideas more than ever before.
- Part of that is because new technology has allowed it. Watching conversations on our Facebook group, paying attention to the traffic on MartinsList and looking at participation in things like 3rdTuesday Conversations are just an indicator.
- It’s also at least partially due to the understanding that as congregational resources have continued to shrink, and we are all being asked to do more with less, we have to be “in this together” to do this ministry.
Today, the Network is launching our new initiative to help all of us in this work together: The Discipling Cohorts Initiative will draw together people into cohorts, organized by synod, for a year of skill development, vocational conversation and spiritual growth. This one-year journey that these groups of 8-10 will take together will culminate in the development and presentation of a personal development plan for the next 3-5 years, which will further individual growth in ministry.
The cohort process will begin with the groups meeting first face-to-face at Extravaganza 2018 in Houston. While meeting there, the groups will determine their calendar for meeting monthly over the next year for conversation, guided by a trained peer coach.
If geographic restrictions make it impossible to meet face-to-face during the year, groups can meet online to facilitate the conversations.
It is our hope that those who do this vital work with children, youth and families will continue to grow in their skill, faith and commitment to their work. It is when we stop developing that we begin to fade in our ministry. The people we are called to work with deserve the best the church can give them.
We are now recruiting two groups:
- People to be a part of the first set of cohorts. We are looking for up to 8-10 people from every synod. We are looking for people who want to grow and develop their ministry.
- People who are interested in serving in the first batch of Discipling Cohorts coaches. Coaches will be trained the day prior to Extravaganza 2018 in Houston.
More information on both of these roles can be found at disiplingcohorts.org.
Please prayerfully consider your involvement in this project. We’re looking forward to the future church; the one who steps boldly into a broken world with God’s Word of hope; the one whose leaders are fully equipped and prepared to navigate a change world, and the one whose young people’s faith is deeply and richly engaged with the mission of God.
Thanks for being a part of this ministry!
Executive Director; ELCA Youth Ministry Network
Life has been pretty much a whirlwind in the last few weeks. As has been noted on the Network’s Facebook page, Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota has extended a call for me to come and serve as a pastor. After a lot of conversations, thought and prayer, I have decided to accept this call. My final day at Lord of Life Lutheran Church will be July 14. I will begin at Trinity on August 4.
The decision to accept a new call, to move our family, to sell a home, buy a home and start something totally new was a big decision. But we believe that this is the right thing for our family, and that the Holy Spirit put this opportunity directly in my path. It’s hard to ignore the Holy Spirit sometimes.
So we’re excited…sad…nervous and full of anticipation, all at the same time.
One of the questions I’ve been asked quite a bit was “what does this mean for your work with the Network?” Good question.
At the beginning of the process, I had to spend time explaining to the call committee what the Network was, what my role within it is, and what we do together. I explained that while I’m sensing a call to something new, I don’t necessarily feel called out of my Network role yet.
Later in the call process, one of the committee members explained that “as we spoke with your references, and they explained the Network and its impact, we began to realize what an important role it plays in the life of the church. People told us that the Network is on the front end of change in the church. We want to be a part of that. We’ve always supported the broader church…so we think that it’s important for you to maintain this role. We’d like to write it into your call papers.”
I was floored. And I’m reminded of how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of congregations who understand what it is to be church together. And so the short answer to the question is: I will continue in my role. My work with the Network has been in a constant state of evolution; every year the nature of my role with the Network has changed, as my role has changed, my family grown, as technology has shifted and as the Network has grown. So I anticipate that this will continue. As my congregation and role changes, the way the work happens will shift, we’ll rely more on our incredible volunteers, and the Network will continue to evolve. And that is a good thing.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! And please pray for me and my family in the transition.
Networked in Christ,
Part of our call as adults who work with young people is to watch for those who we think might have gifts to serve in ministry, and then
to assist them in discerning their call, and encouraging them to develop their gifts to serve. Having just experienced the ELCA Youth Gathering (more about that later), I was reminded that one of the greatest gifts within the church is the energy, passion and commitment of its young people.
Unfortunately, I think that the church has let them down. We have not asked them an important question: “How do you feel called to serve?”
I believe that the church needs to reclaim discernment as one of its core missions, and that we need to do so for all people, regardless of age.
And we need to reclaim the theological tenets of the priesthood of all believers. We need to be about equipping the saints (and sinners) for ministry.
But today I’m thinking in particular about young people who have gifts, talents and passion to serve and who haven’t found an outlet to do so within the faith community because they weren’t asked; they weren’t invited.
The church needs good children’s ministers, youth ministers, pastors, educators and leaders. And as I saw 33,000 young people stand en mass this week and proclaim boldly their faith, and leave the city of New Orleans with an unbelievable amount of energy, I wondered if were prepared to help them discover their call.
The Network has launched a new website that we hope will help. It is not the be all and end all. To be honest, it isn’t even really a resource. It is a portal. It is a place that high school and college age young people who perhaps heard the whisper of God’s voice calling to them to consider children, youth and family ministry can go and look. Listed there are resources, including college and seminaries who have programs…spiritual gifts inventories and other sites that can be helpful to young people as they consider God’s call and their future.
The site is www.thinkministry.org
It isn’t complete; it will continue to be a changing and morphing site, adding new resources as we discover them. So here’s my 2 requests for you:
- Please pass this address on to your young people who you think might be interested in ministry.
- Please send us information on new resources for vocatonal discernment (particularly for young people) so that we can add them to the site.
Hopefully this tool will assist young people as they listen, think and dream dreams about the future God calls them in to.