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Posts tagged ‘Volunteer’


Congregations Hosting Groups Database: We’re Starting Over!

groupsleepingchurch_newFor years, the Network has made available to Network members a database of congregations that are willing to host traveling youth groups who are on their way to a camp, mission trip, youth gathering or other experience.

We are making two significant changes in this database:

First, we are wiping that database out and starting from scratch!

There are two reasons for this:

  1. We are changing to a different database provider that is much more cost effective.  Unfortunately, it’s not possible to “bulk export” the data into our new database provider.  It uses a different programming language and it’s not transferrable.
  2. Even more importantly, as we’ve looked at the data we’ve collected we’ve realized that much of the information, especially with contact info, is out of date.

The best (and simplest) solution is going to be to wipe out the database and start over, so our information is as current as possible.

Second, we are making the database available to everyone.  

At least for awhile, we want to make this tool available to anyone who needs it.  So beginning today, it will not be limited to Network members.  We think this is an important enough tool that we want everyone to have access to it.

Please go to to add your congregation’s info, if you’re willing to host.

Thanks for being a part of the Network!

Todd Buegler
Executive Director, ELCA Youth Ministry Network


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,


Dr. Rollie Martinson Retires from Luther Seminary

The following letter was released today by Luther Seminary:


Dr. Roland Martinson

Dear President Foss,

I write to inform you of my decision to retire June 30, 2013.

While many personal and professional considerations surround my retiring at the end of this academic
year, the timing of the decision is primarily informed by my commitment to joining others of my senior
colleagues in making a contribution to timely faculty reduction, my sense that by this summer a new
phase in Luther Seminary’s renewal will call for a different skill set than mine and the heaviness of mind
and heart that have accrued over the past year and half as I’ve carried the responsibilities of the dean’s

As I make this decision, I am confident that the good work of the faculty, the good work of Luther
Seminary’s associate deans, the good work of the staff and your own good work, will lead the seminary
into a faithful and effective future.

I have greatly enjoyed my 36 years at Luther Seminary, including the years as academic dean, and look
forward to serving the seminary during the upcoming important four months.

In Christ,

Roland Martinson


There are not words…

Extravaganza 2013 is in the history books!  

E13 Day 1 Katie-91And, it was a great event.  We’re in the process of collecting the evaluation forms now, and we’ll take a lot of time going through them.  But overall, the immediate feedback we have received has been very positive, and we’re happy for how it all went.

The Extravaganza is put on by a team of amazing, dedicated and talented individuals, who form an amazingly effective team to plan and carry out the event.  One interesting piece of trivia:  The E team didn’t meet face to face this year.  Not at all.  All their planning was done by phone…by email and by online meeting.  Before the event the team spends countless hours working the details, listening, planning and thinking about how to best carry out the ministry of the Extravaganza.  At the event, they work 18+hours a day to make the event happen.

There are quite simply, not words adequate to describe their dedication, nor my gratitude to them for doing this.  All I can say is “Thanks be to God.”

The E-Team is (in no particular order):

  • Charlie Roberts
  • Debbie Clipson
  • Dawn Trautman
  • Desta Goehner
  • Eric Carlson
  • Hal Weldin
  • Kare Hairell
  • Kevin Dragseth
  • Laurie Hoium
  • Michael Sladek
  • Scott Maxwell-Doherty
  • Shannon Savage-Howie
  • Tim Huff
  • Tom Hoegel
  • Manuel Retamoza

And then there are a ton of other folks who serve as E-Volunteers, including Paul Clark, Andy Moscinski, Andy Arnold, the crew from Lutheran Retreats, camps and conferences of Southern California as well as others who helped out with various things.  There are not words to describe our gratitude for your time and energy.

And then there are all of our partners, exhibitors and vendors.  You came to share what you do with the community.  You are a blessing to our community.

And then there is Scott.  Scott Maxwell Doherty directs the Extravaganza, and does so with a unique blend of creativity, confidence, leadership and grace.  Where do I get my continuing education at the E?  It’s largely by walking around and watching Scott do his work.  He is a leader of leaders.  Scott, there are not words…

And to all who came to participate, to be a part of the event, to renew, to learn, to network, thank you.  Thank you for your trust in coming to this event.  Thank you for putting up your continuing education funds…your staff development funds, or in many cases, your own money.  Thank you for the work and ministry you do, and for being willing to “open source share” that with the rest of the community.  There are not words to describe our gratitude for how God is working within your ministry.

There are not words adequate to describe God’s grace, as it was lived out in Anaheim.  And so we just say “Thanks be to God…and thanks be to all of you.”

In peace,



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!


Lookin’ for a Little Help

The Network is looking for someone who is willing to take on the role as a liaison to advertisers for the Connect Journal.  This volunteer

The Connect Journal

role is very important.  Our approach to how we handle “business” mirrors our philosophy on ministry:  We are relational.  We believe in developing relationships with our friends have have resources to share.  Fostering and tending those relationships, as well as identifying new organizations who might want to advertise in the Journal is really important.

The person in this role will be a part of the Connect Journal leadership team.  How much time will it take?  Well, the team “meets” online monthly for a quick meeting.  Beyond that, it’s initiating contact with organizations that have advertised in the past, as well as making contact with possible new advertisers.  It’s hard to say exactly how much time it would take, but I don’t think it would go beyond 5 hours in a month.

And, I think it’s got the potential to be kind of fun!

If you are interested, or have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.



Lookin’ for a Little Help

Occasionally someone will ask me the question “How do I help out with ____________ in the Network?”  The blank space might be “the

This is sort of what our display board looks like

Extravaganza”, or “with 3rdTuesday Conversations” or with “the Board of Directors.”  Whatever it is,  it is a great question that I always really appreciate being able to answer.

What I usually say is “we really try to focus on the gifts of the individuals.  What do you think you bring to the table that would be a good fit for what our needs are.”

Sometimes we’re able to figure that out.  Sometimes not right away.

Occasionally, there are tasks that need “doing” where we’re looking for folks “right away” and we seek out people with a particular set of gifts.

That’s what I’m looking for today.

The Network has two different display boards that we send out around the country to different synod assembly’s, youth gatherings, etc.  The displays are set up to promote membership in the Network.

We are in need of an individual who would be willing to take on the responsibility of coordinating these display boards.  What does this mean?

  • Shove them in a closet or someplace similar when they aren’t out “on tour.”
  • Pay attention to when they are needed somewhere.
  • Ship them there (FedEx)
  • Sometimes, set it up so that it goes from one event to the next, until it finally returns to you.
  • Receive it when it comes back to you.

My best guess is that the total amount of time involved in coordinating this display is 2-4 hours a month.  However, it is a vitally important task for the life and growth of the Network.

There are something like 130 people who share of their time and gifts to make this Network a reality.  Our whole comm

unity is deeply grateful to all of these folks.  Would you consider joining them?

For more information on this, you can visit our “volunteer opportunities” page on our web site, or call me directly at 612.564.2195.  I’d love to talk with you more about it.

Networked in Christ,


For Volunteers

I get this question all of the time:  “Should volunteers join the Network?”

Here’s my answer:  “Yes.”

And then come the “but” comments…

  • But it’s kind of expensive
  • But they don’t need the same kind of networking
  • But I can get the info and just pass it along to them
  • But we don’t have the budget for that
Here’s my answer:  “Yes.”
The vision for the Network is one of a broad-based, diverse community where the Holy Spirit brings personal spiritual renewal, continuing education and opportunities to Network.  This vision understands the words “broad-based” and “diverse” in their richest form:  Ethnicity and culture, geographic, type of congregation, style of ministry and professional and volunteer.
We are always asking ourselves if the resources the Network provides are appropriate for volunteers.  The answer has always been “yes.”  We know that within the ELCA there are far more volunteers than there are professionals.  And while there are some aspects to the Network which are focused on professionals (like the salary survey), there are many that apply to both the volunteer and the professional.

So we do ask the volunteer youth ministry leader to join the Network, to come to the Extravaganza and to participate in the other aspects of the Network.  We believe that we are a stronger Network because our membership is diverse in this way.

And so here’s what we do to try and make the Network and the Extravaganza accessible to the volunteer:  We work hard to make the Extravaganza as affordable as possible.  We know that your continuing education (or wherever you find your funding) is valuable, and we’re committed to a great event at as affordable a cost as possible.   And we believe that the resources that come from the Network and the “E” are of value to the volunteer, and the results of our evaluations seem to bear that out.

We hear things like:

  • “We never knew these resources existed!”
  • “There is so much out there”
  • “These workshops helped me re-think my whole ministry”
  • “I want more training!”

Volunteers love coming to the Extravaganza.

So yes, if you are a volunteer, please join us in New Orleans this February.  If you are a professional who works with volunteers in your congregations, consider trying to figure out a way to bring them along.  Yes, it’s a big-ticket item, we know that.  But we believe in raising the bar for ministry across the church and we believe that if your congregation is able to invest in them in this way, the results in growth for your ministry will be exponential.




Volunteering with the Network

I have said in the past that we take very seriously the evaluations that we receive from each year’s Extravaganza. We have a thorough process of going through the pages and pages and pages of data we collect after each year’s event. And then,m as we go through the planning process, we refer back to the evals frequently, as we make decisions about specific points of planning for the event.

Occasionally, comments are made in the evaluations that also speak to the Network in general.

I have been thinking a lot about a comment that was made in the 2011 evaluations that I think deserves some form of resopnse, because I think it was a very important comment.

Someone wrote in their evaluation that “I asked someone who was working about how I could volunteer with the Network or the Extravaganza. I was told ‘that you have to know the right people.’ That seems sad to me. I’d like to use my gifts.”

In ministry, we all do events. And we all evaluate. We know not to over-react to a single comment. But we also know that occasionally comments are made that point to a perception or a reality that we need to deal with. (Ultimately, all perception is forged in some form of reality, so we need to deal with both the same.)

Often in community, there feels like there is an “in” group and an “out” group. This is true in congregational life, as well as in the church at all of its levels. Certainly it is true in the Network as well.


  1. Just so people understand “how” the Network works. We rely on volunteers, just like every other organization. The most visible group of volunteers is the Extravaganza team, because of the nature of their work. But that’s approximately 12 people. Beyond the E-Team, there are “E-Volunteers.” These folks are invaluable, and help pull off the event. They aren’t a part of the year-round planning, but rather work at the event as hosts, with set up, with running supplies, with making airport runs, with running video cameras…the list goes on and on.We work pretty hard at rotating people on the E-Team on and off of the team, and every year we add a couple of new folks to the team. Some of the roles are more long-term, like the tech crew (we lovingly refer to them as the ‘Dog Pound’ because their work is so specialized, and so skill oriented, that they can’t really just be replaced by a different volunteer. (Not many volunteers can come to the table with $15,000 worth of video editing and production equipment.) But every year we do move people on and off the team, and we really try to match up our needs with people’s gifts.
  2. If there is a perception that you need to ‘know the right person’ to volunteer in any aspect of the Network, please let me first apologize for that perception and secondly let you know that this is not the case. We are always looking for volunteers. We have over 120 volunteers working in different aspects of the Network. From regional team members, to Board members, to Vision team members, to newsletter editors, to folks working on the Practice Discipleship Project, etc, etc, etc… Look through our web site and see the programs and resources, and realize that there are volunteers behind every one of them.If you are interested in volunteering in the Network, we are interested in you. We’d love to have a conversation about what that service might look like. Sometimes we may need to wait a little while to make the connection because of issues with timing or resources, but please know that we do need/want/covet your service. And just like the Network, all are welcome.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Network, please contact me at, or call my cell phone at 612.597.6565. Let’s talk.

This organization ‘works’ because there are so many different people involved. It is member owned and operated. It is fueled with the Holy Spirit. And it is your passion that moves it forward.

Blessings on your ministry with young people!