Luther500 will bring folks to Germany to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation, and will bring pilgrims from the United States to Wittenberg in 2017 to experience and learn together. I’ve spoken with George and Michael…I’ve read the materials about the experience…it sounds awesome.
In 2015, they are bringing two groups of congregational leaders to Wittenberg for a “Familiarization” trip. It will prep people in what to expect, how the trip will go, and what will happen. The Leader’s trips could be ‘stand alone’ events; fantastic continuing education for congregational leaders. But they’re really designed to help you in discerning whether to bring a congregational group in 2017.
Luther500 wants to invite members of the Network to participate in these Leader Trips. The dates are April 24-30, 2015 and October 9-15, 2015. (The identical trip, repeated twice.) I’m not sure, but I’m guessing because of the ELCA Youth Gathering happening in the summer, many more of the Network folks are going to want to go in October rather than April. (That’s when I think I’m going to go.)
And here’s the cool part: The Luther500 Festival wants to encourage Network members to go on the trip, and so if you register prior to November 1, 2014, they are going to give members of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network a 10% discount. How cool is that? That’ in the vicinity of $100 bucks off!
And, if you then bring a group from your congregation to the 2017 event, they will refund back to you at that time, 50% of the cost of your trip in 2015.
So I think I’m going to Germany. I’ve never been there and I want to walk in the places Luther walked, and experience the places of the reformation. It will help me understand. It will help me teach. It will help me communicate the transformational (reformational) nature of God’s grace with those in my congregation.
And hey, I want to invite you to come on the trip too! I know that Paul Amlin is going…and others. Join us! I think it’s going to be amazing.
Networked in Christ,
Guest Blog: Rev. Paul Amlin, who serves as the Program Director for Youth Ministries in the churchwide offices of the ELCA, wanted to share this story of service and gratitude with the Network.
I had a recent experience that demonstrated the value of the Network, and I feel the need to share it in a public way because of what it says about this group of peers and belonging to something larger than ourselves. I’d also like to publicly thank a Network member who dropped everything to help me handle a crisis. Two weekends ago I was blessed to host the Youth Core Leadership Team in Chicago at the churchwide offices. This is a fantastic group. Seriously. But that’s not the story here.
The story began with a flight home, an inexperienced flyer, a snowstorm and Chris Okey who serves at Woodlake Lutheran Church in Richfield, MN. After a great weekend of learning, I sent the participants on their way to O’Hare with the other adult sponsors who were flying home. The young lady got on her flight and jetted off to Minneapolis only to find out that her flight to Fargo had been canceled and that there would be no other flights out until the following day and even then, not until late that evening. She called me with the kind of concern you might imagine and I was able to work with her, the airline and the phone line for stranded travelers needing hotel rooms and we found her a room.
Because she was pretty upset, I decided to post something on the Network Facebook page to see if anyone was close by who might help out in case it was necessary. In a matter of moments, Chris Okey responded to me via a private message AND I had another offer in the comments section of the post with a phone number from Ian McConnell.
Chris gave me his phone number and let me know that he could be at the airport in five minutes if needed. What a gift and what a relief! I called the young lady back and she asked if it would be okay for Chris to come and pick her up to take her to the hotel. Chris loaded the family up and went off to the airport, then texted me to let me know that all was well and that she had been safely delivered. The young lady called me after she got into her room, in tears, and thankful that someone would be as kind as Chris and help someone that he didn’t know (and so quickly!).
That would be a nice ending, right? The next morning I got the call I asked for from the young lady to let me know that she was alright and that she had a plan for the day and her return to the airport. I was surprised to find out that she had been invited to the Mall of America to shop and have lunch with Chris and his family. “Seriously?” I thought to myself, “this is way beyond the call of duty” and “wow!” I got a phone call as she boarded the plane and she couldn’t stop talking about how great Chris was, even as I thought to myself how right she was. Later I received a text along with a really funny photo of her crashed on the floor of her home with her parents in the background to let me know she’d made it. The next day her mom called to sing the praises of the mystery person she’d never met in Minneapolis, and to say thank you for the care and concern the ELCA had for her child.
This is a beautiful example, to me, of the value of being connected with each other. I’d like to think that if there were a crisis close to me, I’d respond in the same way as Ian and Chris. We are all connected, after all, in our faith and in our ministries. Each of us works together for the good of the other and because we take seriously what it means to be community, we are able to see God at work in, with and through each other. So, publicly and with a big smile I say thank you Chris Okey and thank you ELCA Youth Ministry Network for being my community.
And thank you for sharing this story Paul!
Extravaganza 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!
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
- 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.
Networked in Christ,
There aren’t enough ways that I can say “thank you.” I wish there were, but I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. I’m still in St. Louis, here for one of the post-E meetings that typically takes place at the end of the event. I have to admit that I’m having just a little bit of trouble focusing, because my mind is still completely wrapped around the Extravaganza we just experienced.
This was a great event! I know that we’ll go through evaluations soon, and that there will be good, constructive criticism that comes from those evaluations. And, we’ll learn from them. But my gut tells me that it was a good event.
How does this all of this happen? There are a whole bunch of people who make it possible.
The E-Team is 26 of the strongest servant leaders I have experienced in the church. They worked in unbelievably creative ways to pull together an event with more than enough space for the Holy Spirit to do its work. And they are led by Scott Maxwell-Doherty, one of the church’s strongest and most creative leaders. These people need to be thanked.
But there are more: The Network’s Board of Directors, the Regional Facilitators, and so on and so on. The Network is full of leaders.
But here’s the deal: These gifted, blessed children of God are not the reason the Extravaganza was great. They’re a part of the reason, but they are not the whole. I often say that the Extravaganza isn’t an event, it’s a community. We gather as friends to share in our common mission. An Extravaganza is a “wiki-like” experience, created by community. And for that to happen, it takes exactly 653 people. Because that’s how many people were “in the house” for the Extravaganza.
653 of you put together this Extravaganza. They gave their time and energy. They shared their knowledge and wisdom. They contributed to the conversation. They gave, and they received.
I wish I could thank you all individually. Because it is all of you who made this happen. Thank you for being in St. Louis. Thank you for sharing who you are with the rest of us. we are all stronger in our ministry because of it. So I’d like to make 653 thank you’s. One for each of you. Because you made this event work. So please, please, please accept my thanks.
With gratitude, and networked in Christ,
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 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.
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!
This is the time of year that people are making decision about whether they will be joining their community at Extravaganza. I hear from people all the time about what an important time it is for them. The personal spiritual renewal, the quality continuing education and the networking and connections that are made are invaluable. Unfortunately, there is a cost, and that cost sometimes prohibits people from being able to participate.
The Network works really hard at keeping costs affordable, and we do think that the event provides a great value. Still, there is a cost.
So I’ve been collecting ideas from people about how to keep cost down and make the E as affordable as possible. I wanted to pass those 5 ideas on to you:
- Bring breakfast. Toss some granola bars, fruit and pop-tarts (mmmmm…pop tarts) into your suitcase and save a few bucks every morning.
- Find other local youth ministers and share a ride. A high percentage of our members are in ‘driving range’ to St. Louis and this could be a way of saving some money. Also, some synods are doing buses to ride share to St. L. Contact your synod and let them know that you’re interested. If enough people are, they might be able to make a go of it.
- Look for cheap air fares. Right now, flights to St. Louis are remarkably affordable. I’ve seen both Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines have had sales that include St. Louis. Check often. Airline rates go up and down, sometimes daily.
- Connect with some friends and share a hotel room. The hotel will allow us to go up to 4 in a room. With quad occupancy, the room winds up costing $30.25/night! (plus some tax). If you don’t have a roommate yet, you can check or post on our roommate forum to see if you can find someone else looking to save money.
- Get a donation of some frequent flyer miles to help you. This is a great one: Every congregation is going to have someone who is a frequent business traveler. These folks have miles banked up. Often, more miles than they can use. If there is someone you know who you think might have miles banked, ask them if they would be willing to donate their miles to help get you to a great continuing education event that will benefit the young people of your congregation. If you don’t know who these people are, ask your senior pastor. They probably know. And the senior pastor (who is likely motivated to help save the congregation money!) might be able to make the “ask” of the person on your behalf. It’s a creative way for them to make a donation to the church!
- Remember that money that you pay for continuing education events…the money that you kick in, can be considered tax-deductible. Check with your tax person for the details.
- Check with your Thrivent chapter/community. Sometimes there are ways that their funds can be accessed to help fund continuing education events. Not always, but sometimes.
- Register early! The price of registration goes up November 1. So register on or before October 31. Sometimes people don’t want to pay until the 2014 budget year. That’s totally ok. Register now…hold the invoice and make your payment after January 1, 2014. It might be helpful to send a quick note to Laurie, our registrar to let her know that this is what you’re doing…but it’s a totally ok strategy to save money!
Ok, there are more than 5 ideas. But that’s because there are so many ways to help make it happen.
Do you have other ideas? Post them in the comments below!
I hope to see you in St. Louis!
It was with some dismay and a bit of disappointment that I’ve been reading the ongoing comments and conversation in blogs and on Facebook about the City of Detroit as the site of the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering. I know that the news about the legal bankruptcy of the City of Detroit is very big news, and the implications for the city and those who live in it are immense. But to be honest, at this point in the game, it’s really not helpful, or even appropriate for those of us who are invested in the ELCA Youth Gathering to begin the ‘sky is falling’ mantras.
I have been very involved in the Gathering since I took my first congregational group to the event in San Antonio in 1988. I have served on several different leadership teams over the years, and in 2012 was blessed to be the co-team leader for the Practice Discipleship day. I will not be a team leader in 2015, but will likely be involved in some way. I think I can take advantage of my experience with the Gathering to make some observations that may be helpful. (But let me be clear – I’m not speaking on behalf of the Gathering, or the ELCA Churchwide offices. These are just my thoughts):
- First, the Gathering is a big deal for congregations, and we all know how much is invested in time, energy and money to get there. Everyone involved wants it to be a fantastic, transformational experience for young people, and for the Gospel to be proclaimed and experienced boldly.
- Adult leaders are right to be concerned about the Gathering’s safety and the quality of experience. If you’re not concerned, something is seriously wrong. When I take a group of 20 on a retreat to a camp, I’m concerned for these things. 39,000 young people in a strange city should have all the adult leaders on pins and needles, all the time. This is true for any city that we are in. To be concerned is to be a good leader.
- That being said, we all need to trust the Holy Spirit, the process, the Gathering staff and the Safety and Security Team. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the people who work on this end of the Gathering take everything into consideration. Seriously. Everything. There is a protocol for any possibility you can imagine. When I was a team leader, I had a chance to look through the mammoth 3 ring Emergency Preparedness binders. They have contingency plans for things I couldn’t even have imagined. And they work in very close partnership with the local police, city officials and even national authorities. And they are very well staffed, and they do as good a job as I’ve ever seen in training their team. They are totally, 100% committed to the safety of our young people.Will Detroit present any special challenges? Probably. But so did New Orleans (twice.) So did San Antonio in ’06. In fact, in every city where I’ve brought young people to the Gathering, there have been issues and challenges. But with the level of planning and preparation that is in place, and with strong congregational leaders watching out for our kids, and with some common sense, our Gatherings will continue to be safe. Trust the Holy Spirit. Trust the process. Trust the Gathering Staff. Trust the Safety and Security Team.
- Perhaps most troubling to me are the conversations about whether we should or should not be going to Detroit because…well…it’s Detroit. Questions like “Can it even be saved?” or “Shouldn’t we focus on someplace else that has a better reputation?” have surfaced. I was not a part of the conversations about choosing Detroit as a Gathering city. But here’s what I firmly believe: God is calling the ELCA to go to Detroit precisely because it is Detroit. I was there this past fall as a part of a group working on theme discernment for the Gathering, and got to spend quite a bit of time in and around the city. When I went there I had expected to see a city that had bottomed out…that was in desperate need. There is definitely need in Detroit. But I saw a city that has begun to rebound. I saw a city that is in the middle of re-creating itself in ways I could never imagine. I saw community gardens and playgrounds in lots where houses used to be. I saw creative neighborhood communities drawing together. I saw an “urban farm.” I saw a downtown where employment is on the increase. I saw a new baseball park…football field…and huge new expansion of convention facilities. I saw a city growing in vibrancy and diversity where God is already doing amazing things. This is the side of Detroit that we don’t see in the news.And I saw a unique opportunity for ELCA young people.We believe that Jesus steps into the mess and the crap of our lives, and lifts the cross with which we are all burdened. Jesus meets us, calls us “friend,” looks us in the eye and does this with grace and with love. I believe that God is calling us to step in to Detroit; the beauty and the mess, to meet the people there, to call them friend, and to help them to lift the cross with which they have been burdened.My prayer is that we can do it with grace and with love.
This Gathering will not be easy. And it is going to feel different from Gatherings of the past. There will be new and different challenges. I believe most of them, to be honest, will be logistical in nature. But we can deal with that. We’re good at dealing with that. Blessed by the Holy Spirit, we’ve always made it work in the past, and we will again. The team leaders for this event are amazing, gifted people of God who are creative thinkers and problem solvers.
This blog post is not meant to chastise those who are concerned…nor to shame them. Every congregation will have to make its own decision about participating. But please, before you react, pause. Think big picture. Trust the process and the leadership. Trust the Holy Spirit. Take a breath. As for my congregation? We’ll be there. I am excited to be a part of a denomination that will be there. Together we’re going to step in and become a part of God’s mission in Detroit.