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Posts tagged ‘Volunteers’


Extravaganza Evaluation Reflections

E2014RoomExtravaganza 2014 is in the history books.  The final hotel bill has been paid, and most of the random boxes of leftover stuff have been crammed back into the warehouse at the Network’s Global Headquarters (my basement).

And, we’ve been pouring through the Extravaganza evaluations.

Thank you to all of you who shared your thoughts, feelings and experiences from this year’s event.  44.8% of you took the time to fill out an Extravaganza evaluation form.  That’s a tremendous return rate.  I think it shows the deep level of care that people have for the Network and the Extravaganza.  It reminds me that the E isn’t just “something we go to,” rather it is a community to which we belong; it is renewal, it is education and it is networking.  On behalf of those of us who work on the project, we are very grateful for your commitment to the E, and especially to those who took the time to fill out the evaluation form.

This year, for the first time, we use a tool called a “Net Promoter Score” as an overall evaluation.  The possible range of Net Promoter Scores is -100 to +100.  Anything above a 0 is generally considered good.  Above 50 is considered very good; Above 70 is amazing.  The Extravaganza in 2014 scored a 78.

Another question we pay a lot of attention is the question of “On a scale of 1-10, was the Extravaganza worth the money spent?”  This year this question rated an 8.96, the highest score the event has ever received.  We feel very good about that! In 2013, the score for this question was 8.56.

As we’ve gone through the comments, there have been a few themes that have surfaced that I think deserve an acknowledgement, or a bit of a response.

  • A consistent theme was how much people appreciated the Hyatt Hotel.  It was a good property, in a good location, with great space.  E-goers really appreciated the meal “deals” and “discounts” that the hotel had put together.  That’s great!  Choosing a hotel property is always a bit nerve-wracking.  One of the things we’ll be able to do at future hotels now is to point to what the Hyatt in St. Louis did as a model for offering discounts.  Hopefully that will help to provide affordable meals in the near future.  It was also helpful that there were a lot of restaurants in close walking distance.  From a leadership perspective, we also really appreciated working with the hotel.  They did a great job.
  • Folks who were forced into the overflow hotel at the Drury Plaza loved it.  Folks at the Sheraton…wished that they were at the Hyatt.  Yep.  We know.  When we book space at the hotel, we are pretty conservative in our contracts because we con’t want to wind up “short” on the rooms we guarantee.  Then we’d incur stiff penalties.  And we’ve been on a growth trend in the last few years.  We are ratcheting our number of contracted rooms every year.  Hopefully we can avoid this in the future.
  • The main stage music had issues.  The concept of doing the “open-source” music remains one that we really liked.  It didn’t quite pull off like we’d hoped it would this year, though the musicians themselves did a very good job.  We haven’t given up on the concept necessarily, but if we do it again in the future, we’d probably do it differently.
  • 95% of people loved the “Ted Talk” format of the main stage speakers. About 5% really hated it.  There was no middle ground.  I think it’s interesting that two people can be sitting side by side at an event and have totally different experiences.
  • “There were too many changes from what was printed in the program book, especially with workshops.”  We will keep working on making this better.  Also, some of the workshop room sizes were too small.  We tried to guess which workshops would best fit in which rooms.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  In the past, we have toyed with the idea of people pre-registering for workshops, or a track of workshops, but generally people have told us that they prefer the flexibility and freedom of deciding “on the spot.”
  • “I wish more meals had been provided.”  Us too.  This is largely a budget issue.  The meals through the hotel are very expensive.  The hotel gives us the meeting space for free, based on a minimum amount of catering that we’ll buy.  So when we pay for a meal, we are really paying for the food, the service, and also also space.  That’s how the hotel makes it’s money.  So we could charge much more and provide more meals.  But we choose to charge less in registration fees, provide the meals we can and let you buy the other meals on your own at local restaurants.  It’s cheaper for you that way.
  • People loved the number and the variety of exhibitors who were at the event, and how the exhibit space “worked.”  We agree.  The space was really good.  We’re going to learn from this and work to emulate the vibe of that space every year, as much as we can.
  • A question that came up was “How do I volunteer to help with the E?”  Great question!  The Extravaganza has both E-Team members (planners) and E-Volunteers (doers.)  Every year new folks come in to both groups.  Often, people who have been E-volunteers, move into E-Team roles.  As specific needs come up on each team and the working groups, we pull new folks into these roles.  We’ll post requests for help as they come up on Facebook and on the website.  Watch for more information there.

The total evaluation report was 38 pages long.  So we’re not going to respond to every thought here.  But these were the themes that came up consistently throughout the evaluation forms.

The last question I want to highlight:  “I will be back next year.”    87% said “yes” and 13% said “I might take a year off.”  No one…not one person…said “no.”

Thanks again to all of you for being a part of the E!



2014 Salary Survey is Live!

SalarySurveyThe 2014 ELCA Youth Ministry Network Salary Survey is live!  

Click here to take the survey.

One of the tools that the Network has produced over the last 15 years is the annual salary survey.  The survey is an indicator (not the only indicator…but certainly an important one!) of the health and well-being of our congregations in their approach to children, youth and family ministry.

The survey is also an important tool for congregations and those who work with children, youth and families as they go about planning and budgeting for the future.  You can use this tool as you enter into conversations with your congregation about salaries and overall compensation.

It’s an incredibly important tool, and so we encourage all to take the survey.  The more people we have who take the survey, the better the data we have, and the more effective a tool it can be.

It should take about 10 minutes to complete the survey.  Taking this survey is a great way to be a part of our community, to support each other in ministry, and to give yourself (and others) important tools in their planning process.

When the survey is complete, we will slice and dice the data so that it can be cross-referenced by

  • Size of congregation
  • Education level
  • Region of the country
  • Gender
  • ELCA roster status
  • Other categories as well.

This is a survey for both professionals and volunteers to take.  (There are different sets of questions for each).  The survey will be open and available through the month of March.  Our hope is to have the results tabulated and published on May 1, 2014.

So please, please, please take 10 minutes to fill out this survey!

Networked in Christ,


New Network Board Members Appointed

Sue Megrund and Tom Schwolert have been appointed to fill vacancies on the Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.  Their three year terms will begin at the conclusion of the Network’s Extravaganza, January 30-February 3, 2014.

Sue Megrund

Sue Megrund

Sue Megrund is the co-founder of Interserve Ministries, an organization based in Minneapolis that works with congregations in children, youth and ministry staff transition, and provides trained interim staff to walk them through the process.  Sue has 24 years of congregational experience and completed her M.A. from  Luther Seminary as well as NALIP Interim Ministry Training.  She has completed the training for and implemented Healthy Congregations and Bridge Builders processes.

Tom Schwolert is a 26 year veteran of congregational ministry in Minnesota and most recently in Texas.  He recently left his position at Faith Lutheran Church in Flower Mound, Texas.  Tom has his M.A. in children, youth and family ministry from Luther Seminary, and has helped to provide leadership within his synod.  In addition, Tom has done speaking, consulting and training, primarily around youth leadership and peer ministry.  He co-wrote a curriculum on “Full-Circle Relationships.

Board members serve three year terms, renewable once.   Tom and Sue will be filling seats being vacated by Yvonne Steindal, who has served two full terms, and Rev. Mike Ward, who has served one term.  Mike was recently elected to the ELCA Church Council and elected not to continue his work on the Network’s Board, though he will be working with the Network to further develop organizational partnerships.  I will give more information about Mike in this role in an upcoming blog posting.

Tom Schwolert

Tom Schwolert

The process for selecting board members begins in February every year as the board identifies the kind of gifts that are needed at a leadership level to help move grow the Network.  A nominating committee made up of 2 board members, 2 regional facilitators and 1 at large member is appointed, and they begin their work in March, when nominations are opened up.  Nominations are accepted until July 1, and are open to all.  The board meets 2-3 times in online meetings from July until the middle of September, narrowing the candidates down to the number of vacancies.  That slate of candidates is voted on by the board at it’s meeting in the middle of October.

We are excited for the gifts that Sue and Tom bring to the board, and look forward to their service!



Regional Facilitator Selection Is On!

ELCAYMNet Mission Statement copyEvery year, 3 of the ELCA regions are up to select (or reappoint) their Regional Facilitator.  This year, Regions 1, 4 and 5 are due up to select their RF.  We have modified the selection process for RF’s this year as well.  Our new process isn’t powered by election, but by a matching of skill sets and gifts of the individual and the needs of the Regional Facilitator role.

A Regional Facilitator is a person who is passionate about the work of the Lord with people in the first third of life. In addition to their work with young people, they serve the ELCA Youth Ministry Network as a liaison between the Executive Director, the Network Board and its member/owners. They are also needed to answer questions about the Network, help to connect with folks in ministry in their area and to provide a listening ear. A full description of expectations can be found on our web site. This is a minimum of a three year commitment.

If the current Regional Facilitator is either not eligible or not interested in re-appointment, the new selection process will begin as outlined below:

  • Current RFs will assemble a Selection Team which includes representation from each synod of that region: i.e. Regional Team members, Synod Coaches, other strong and invested youth ministry workers, etc.
  • Online nominations open in September.
  • The Regional Selection Team will meet and review nominations and seek additional candidates as necessary, facilitated by the outgoing RF.
  • By December 1, the Regional Selection Team will make a recommendation for the position of RF so that the selected individual can make arrangements to fully participate in the Extravaganza.

If the currently serving RF is willing and eligible for a second term, the process is the same, except that the process will be facilitated by Amy Wagner, our Regional Facilitator Coach.

This year, in Region 1, Lisa Gray has chosen not to seek reappointment.  This is also true in Region 5, where Molly Haggerty Brewster has served.   In Region 4, Ian Hartfield is willing to serve another term.  We are grateful for the time and energy all 3 of these RF’s have given in the past 3 years.  They have done great ministry.

So you might be interested in serving as an RF.  Or, you might know someone who you think would be a good fit.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Does the role of RF fit within your skill set and the time you have available to commit?
  • Can you fulfill the role as RF for three years?
  • Can I devote time for: making connections with youth ministry people throughout your region, connecting with a leader in each of the synods in the region, exploring how else you can grow the Network, making monthly RF conference calls a priority, attending the Extravaganza (from our pre-meeting through our wrap up meeting), and regular check ins with the RF coach?
  • For RFs seeking re-appointment: consider how you can build on what you have accomplished throughout your previous term.

The Regional Facilitators meet face-to-face twice a year, at the Extravaganza and at a spring meeting in Chicago.  They also meet online an additional 5-6 times per year.

If you have questions about this process or about serving as a RF, please contact Amy Wagner, Regional Coach.



Insurance Mess: You’ll Want To Check On This


Not Marty’s actual leg

First, let me jump to the ending:  Marty is fine.  Healing…walking…  He is fine.

Now, the backstory:

Marty is an awesome adult volunteer in our senior high ministry.  He’s been doing this for years and is fantastic.  He ‘gets’ good, relational ministry, and is a ton of fun to have around. He is a blessing to our congregation.  Marty is also a black-diamond skier.  And he’s gone with us on our annual senior high ski retreat to Bozeman, Montana for years.   This past February,  he was cruising down a hill…not even that steep a hill when control was lost, his body spun one way, and his skis remained stationary.  Basically, his body moved in ways not designed by the architect.

Marty suffered a badly broken leg.

Other folks were in the vicinity, the ski patrol was called, Marty was taken by ambulance to the Bozeman hospital and his road to recovery began.

Marty had to stay in Bozeman an extra couple of days, following surgery.  So our congregation flew his wife out to be with him, and then paid for them to fly home together.

I told Marty and his wife that normally, the individual’s insurance was primary, and if there was stuff that wasn’t covered, the church’s insurance kicked in and would cover the balance.  That’s always been my understanding of how it works.

So a few weeks later, there were outstanding bills.  They gave them to me and I began the process of running them through the church’s insurance.

They were denied.

What?  Why?

It turns out that our congregation’s insurance policy has a “sports exclusion” written into it.  If an injury happens while doing a sports-related activity, it is NOT covered by the church’s insurance.

You’re kidding me?  50% of what we do could be interpreted as sports-related.

Skiing.  Ice skating.  A fun-run.  Volleyball.  Dodgeball.  Rock climbing.  Sledding.  Bowling.  Rollerskating/blading.  Field games.

It turns out, that if Marty had tripped down the stairs of the ski chalet while wearing his ski boots, he would be covered.  But skiing does not fit the criteria because of a sports exclusion.

So we asked  “Is that exclusion just for our adult leaders?  What about young people themselves.  They’re covered, aren’t they?  Nope.  The same exclusion exists for everyone.

How is that possible?  How can we have an exclusion like that?

No one knows.  I think we just always assumed that we were covered.

So as a congregation, while we’re paying that overage ourselves (it’s the least we can do considering that he was there working “for us”)  we’re also investigating:

  1. What would it cost for us to get that exclusion taken out of our policy?  No doubt, it would cause our premiums to go up, but it still might be cheaper than having to cover these costs ourselves in the future.
  2. We’re also asking “what other exclusions do we have that we’re not aware of?  Any other surprises out there?

I figured, if our congregation, a pretty large one with people who pay attention to this stuff on our staff, and who do a really good job, didn’t know about this exclusion, other congregations probably also don’t know.

So I’m tossing this out there as a ‘learn from us.’  It might be worth double-checking your own coverage.  I don’t have any ‘answers’ yet. We’re still in process.  But if I learn more, I’ll let you know.

Ultimately, we are grateful that the broken leg, though serious, wasn’t life-threatening, and that there were good people all along the way to help Marty and our group.  Thanks be to God!



Leadership Matters

leadership conceptual compassNominations open today for the Board of Directors of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.  Two seats on the board will become available when the next term begins.  Those terms don’t begin until February 3, 2014, a long time from now.  So why are we already opening up the nomination process for terms that don’t begin for 10.5 months?

Because good leadership matters.

The Network occupies an important place in the life of the church, and this is an important time in the life of the Network.  Good, progressive, forward-thinking leadership is needed as we live into our strategic plan.  And finding good leadership is a process that needs to happen thoughtfully…deliberately.  The board of directors serves as the organization’s governing body, providing primary direction and leadership of the organization as it achieves its mission.

Specifically, the board of directors:

  • guides the vision and strategic planning of the network,
  • implements plans for the organization’s future,
  • directs the work of the executive director,
  • dictates policies to ensure efficient operations,
  • monitors the organization’s finances,
  • assists in financial resource development (fundraising), and
  • assesses the organization’s overall performance.
  • The board’s work is further described in ELCA Youth Ministry Network Bylaws and GoverningPolicy of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network (Sections 1 and 2).

While serving on the board of directors, members are expected to:

  • be members of the Network,
  • be active in their own ELCA community,
  • care for their own spiritual life,
  • view their role on the board as their primary volunteer priority,
  • actively engage each other in discussions and decision making, and
  • attend all board meetings and the Extravaganza. Complete expectations of board members are detailed in Governing Policy of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network (Section 3).

So do you feel gifted in these areas?  Do you know someone that you think can lead well?  Do you know someone who has demonstrated good leadership within the community of the Network, or their synod, or their congregation?

Take some time.  Think.  Pray.  And then nominate.  We are excited for the future of the Network.  And we know that this future lies in the hands of the Holy Spirit who so clearly blows through this community.

Help us find good leaders.



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,



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


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,


Institutional Control

I have been wanting to write something about the crisis/fiasco at Penn State University for a few weeks.  However, to be honest, I needed to give myself some time to get my mind wrapped around the strong emotional reaction I had when the details about the allegations began to surface.

I react very very strongly when I hear about adults who abuse young people.  I’m sure many of you do too.

I’ve tried to spend some time trying to figure out why I become so angry when I hear about cases of child abuse.  First and foremost, for those of us who work with children and youth, our hearts break for the victims.  I can’t begin to imagine the pain they will live with.  I believe that God’s heart breaks.

But I think that another source of my anger is because I am so keenly aware of what is at stake in the work that we do with the young and the vulnerable.    I feel that all of us who are called to work with the young are given a sacred trust to protect.  And I am aware that when that trust is broken, when an adult commits misconduct, the work is made that much more difficult for all of the rest of us.

And so for the pain those young men endured, I have to admit that I feel deep sadness.
And towards the perpetrator(s) of these crimes and this injustice, I have to confess that I feel great anger.

There is another aspect to my anger, however.

On so many levels, this shouldn’t have happened.  Organizationally speaking, where were the institutional controls that possibly could have prevented these things?  There was massive failure, and blame to go around.

So here’s the question that we have to ask ourselves?  What are our institutional controls?  In what ways are we as the church of Christ vulnerable, and therefore putting our young people at risk?

Why are there still congregations within the ELCA that don’t do background checks for volunteers?  Why do we still put our adult volunteers and youth in high risk position by having them share rooms  at gatherings and retreats?  Why do we take the “warm body” approach to identifying and training adult volunteers?

There is history which would indicate that the church is fertile ground for perpetrators.   Those of us who have leadership roles also have responsibility to tend to these important issues.  We have a responsibility to know the issues.  We have a responsibility to train our volunteers.  We have a responsibility to protect the young people God has called us to serve.

It is one thing to be angry.  It is another thing to take that anger and to turn it into action that will protect the well being of all of God’s children.

Take that action.  Please.

Networked in Christ,