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Spring 2008 • $8.95

Journal of Youth & Family Ministry

Discipleship Happens Raising Parents Calendar of Youth Ministry Events & Programs Much more...


CHOOSE NOW to make the ELCA Youth Gathering your congregation’s mission experience in 2009. IMAGINE what 36,000 young people and adults can do together for the sake of long-term Gulf Coast recovery. Contribute to the RECOVERY in New Orleans while practicing Jesus’ model of accompaniment.

This is more than a service project. It is learning how Jesus calls us to service as a way of life.

ELCA Youth Gathering July 22-26, 2009 New Orleans, LA Registration opens September 15, 2008 www.elca.org/gathering Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 2


Publication Information Published by: ELCA Youth Ministry Network www.elcaymnet.org

RENEW | EDUCATE | CONNECT

Table of Contents Welcome!

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Discipleship Happens

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It’s All About the Numbers

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Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Disciple...

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Raising Parents

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Discipleship: A Parent’s Perspecitive

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Discipleship Bible Study

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Faye Belskey: 2008 Thomas Hunstad Award Recipient Interview 17 Subscription Information: call 866-ELCANET (352-2638) or visit www.elcaymnet.org connect@elcaymnet.org

Contributing Writers: Bill Bixby, Todd Buegler, Neil Christians, Jeremy Myers, Tom Schwolert, Marilyn Sharpe Debbie Sladek, Jacqui Thone

Calendar of Events

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On The Way

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Future Connect Themes: Servant Formation (August 08) Baptismal (November 08)

Grounded (February 09) Excellence (May 09)

Design and Layout: Impression Media Group www.impressionmediagroup.com

Copy Editor: Debbie Sladek

Connect Editorial Board: Rod Boriack, Todd Buegler, Anna Mercedes, Andy Root, Debbie Sladek, Michael Sladek, Rozella Poston

ELCA Youth Ministry Network Board Molly Beck-Dean: Board Chairperson Jeff May: Board Member Rev. Beverly Conway: Board Member Rev. Dave Ellingson: Board Chaplain Rev. Dr. Nathan Frambach: Board Member

Charlene Rollins: Board Member Yvonne Steindal: Board Member Rev. Larry Wagner; Board Member Bill Bixby: ELCA Youth & Family Ministry Todd Buegler: Executive Director

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network exists to strengthen and empower adult youth ministry leaders in service to Christ as a part of God’s mission.

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Welcome! Dear friends, One of the goals in the production of the Connect journal is to deepen the level of theological conversation happening around youth and family ministry in our church, and to look at youth and family ministry through a distinctly Lutheran lens. There are plenty of places to get information, resources, and advice about how to work with young people. However, the number of places that you can do this through our ELCA worldview? It’s limited. Last year the Network came up with ten words that we think define effective youth and family ministry. In the next two-and-a-half years we are going to dig into each of these words, taking them apart and developing a new understanding of what they mean for us, via our theology, and for the sake of our vocation. What exactly does the word “discipleship” mean? This issue includes some great articles, taking apart and putting together this word again. I believe that we have lost our understanding of the word, and have allowed other faith perspectives, particularly fundamental or evangelical ones, to influence our thinking. Discipleship has been something we do…something we create…something that requires our obedience. This tends to fly in the face of our Lutheran brand of Christianity, which focuses not on what we do, but on what God does. It smacks of “works righteousness”, and it scares us away. The hairs on the back of our necks can stand up when we start talking about discipleship. The Lutheran understanding of discipleship is much broader than this. It’s not about what we do so much as it is about who we are. We live in a baptismal identity. In the waters of baptism, God claims us as his own, and God makes us disciples. It’s not about what we do, rather it’s about who we are. We do not achieve discipleship, we are called into discipleship. It is a part of our Christian vocation. So please enjoy this issue and these articles. They draw us into a conversation about what it is to be faithful people who struggle to accompany young people in their faith journeys. Welcome to the conversation!

Rev. Todd Buegler Executive Director – ELCA Youth Ministry Network Pastor, Lord of Life Lutheran Church; Maple Grove, MN

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Discipleship Happens by Jeremy Myers

following Christ into the world is the way in which we also speak of vocation. Discipleship really is vocation, or the living out of our faith on a daily basis in the mundane tasks of life that results from being justified in Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Luther on Discipleship

We were made for a particular way of life. The Bible describes this way of life as living in dependence upon Christ, as responsibility toward our neighbor, and as being stewards of creation. Sin, however, gets in the way. So what is discipleship? Is it living the Christian way of life free from sin? Is it the way we prove to Christ (or others) that we truly have faith? Is it how we say “thank you” to Christ? Or is it the way in which we come to faith? Discipleship, simply put, is life lived after justification. Discipleship is what happens when we become bound to Jesus Christ. In this article I will put forth the image of carrying one’s cross (or vocation) as the most helpful description of discipleship. I will briefly look at how discipleship has been described by Jesus, Martin Luther, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Lastly, I will discus the implications of this understanding of discipleship upon on our ministry and our lives lived with youth.

Discipleship consists precisely in “offering oneself to the cross”, not in supplementing the sacramental appropriation of salvation through one’s own works.

Jesus on Discipleship

God’s promise is to continue to create a future for us. Faith is trust that Christ actually does create a future for us. Therefore, discipleship might look like the process of learning to trust Christ’s work and promise. Luther refers to this as freedom from and freedom for. We are free from this false idea of a universally recognized pattern of discipleship that is required of all Christians; an idea that is very tempting to us when we do not trust Christ’s work and promise. We are free for service (to the neighbor) that is inline with what the neighbor actually needs rather than what we think we really ought to do. Discipleship (a.k.a. cross or vocation) is primarily otherfocused. It is costly.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? (Mark 8:34-37)

Discipleship really is vocation, or the

living out of our faith on a daily basis

in the mundane tasks of life that results from being justified in Christ.

Christ clearly calls us to discipleship (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; and Luke 5:1-11) and—at least in one gospel—to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). However, the Bible does not put forth one prescribed method of discipleship. Yet it does attempt to describe discipleship. Discipleship, as described by Jesus, does not consist of a three-day training retreat, a month-long study of scripture, or any other form of leadership development. Discipleship, according to Christ, is the act of picking up one’s cross and following him into the world on a daily basis (Matthew 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-37; and Luke 9:23-25).

Bonhoeffer on Discipleship Not even a path to faith, to discipleship, is aimed at; there is no other path to faith than obedience to Jesus’ call. What is said about the content of discipleship? Follow me, walk behind me! That is all. Going after him is something without specific content. It is truly not a program for one’s life which would be sensible to implement. It is neither a goal nor an ideal to be sought . . . it is nothing other than being bound to Jesus Christ alone. This means completely breaking through anything preprogrammed, idealistic, or legalistic. No further content is possible because Jesus is the only content. There is no other content besides Jesus. He himself is it.

I have always had the tendency to think of discipleship as the memorization of Bible verses, or completing a gifts assessment and being encouraged into leadership roles in the church, but it seems to be much more general than this. Picking up one’s cross and

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6. Proclamation - Discipleship, or living in this world as one bound to the Body of Christ, is ultimately proclamation. We are proclaiming the freedom we receive in Christ to a world that is still bound to things that do not offer life. Following Christ into the world proclaims Christ’s presence in the world. It proclaims Christ’s promise to the world. It proclaims hope and a future.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the one to coin the phrase “cheap grace.” Grace is cheapened when it denies the suffering, death, resurrection and ongoing work of Jesus Christ in our midst. I see this happen in two ways. First, there are times when we convince ourselves that grace prevents us from having to do anything about the suffering that occurs in this world. After all, to do something would be works righteousness and would threaten our salvation, right? (Please sense the sarcasm!) At other times we assume grace requires us to do something about the suffering that occurs in the world. This turns the gospel back into the law and makes Christ’s victory impotent. The full costliness of grace, and in turn discipleship, is seen when one is bound to Christ who has suffered, died, risen, and is now present and active in the midst of suffering. This “boundness” is discipleship. There is no clearly defined content, only the clinging of the disciple to his or her master as they are thrust into the brokenness of our world.

As we develop a working definition of youth and family ministry and as we work with youth and their families, it is vital that we avoid talking about discipleship as being bound to a set list of things we are to do and rather begin talking about discipleship as being bound to Christ—our new reality. This reality is an inevitable gift we receive in being bound to the Body of Christ as Christ enters the world’s suffering. It affects the way we live as we learn to discern the particular shape this “boundness” takes in our specific locations. Discipleship is being who we are. This is what we proclaim to our youth when we make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say, “Child of God, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.” Forever!

Discipleship: What is it? Now we are in quandary. It seems too easy to say that discipleship is nothing, but it also seems dishonest to say that discipleship is anything specific. So what is discipleship? Giving the way I have described discipleship in this article, I do think there are some constructive implications upon our ministry and lives lived with youth. Discipleship is . . .

Jeremy Myers is Assistant Professor of Religion Youth and Family Ministry at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. He also directs the Augsburg College Youth Theology Institute, a summer week-long intensive for high school youth wishing to study theology and its social implications. Prior to teaching, he served as Director of Youth and Family Ministry for congregations in Fridley, MN and Valparaiso, IN.

1. Gift - Discipleship is not something we earn, but it is a gift placed upon us regardless of our choosing or worth. Therefore, it is also . . . 2. Inevitable - We become followers of Christ as we are bound to Christ in faith. This results in a life of faith that is lived by people who are simultaneously bound to Christ and yet somewhat rebellious. 3. Vocation - As people bound to Christ we follow Christ into the world in service to the world in every aspect of life—work, school, family, friendship, sports, consumption, etc. 4. Discernment - This simultaneous nature of being bound to Christ and yet rebellious leads us into the age–old practice of discernment. How is Christ leading us into the world’s suffering in this place at this time? I would argue that this is the primary question of discipleship. 5. Communal – The previous question cannot be answered alone. Being bound to Christ means we are bound to everyone else who is bound to Christ—the Body of Christ. We learn how to trust in God’s promises and we learn how to follow Christ into the world as a member of the Body of Christ.

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It’s All About the Numbers by Tom Schwolert

So I was on my way, the way in which I thought one was supposed to do youth ministry. Yes, the numbers began to grow. We did fun activities, went on ski trips and even occasionally had a Bible study. I continued with this style of youth ministry for years. Here’s what the model looked like:

This style of passing on the faith is confirmed by all the latest research findings about what develops a mature Christian faith. Search Institute studies from the 1990s revealed that youth need more than “youth group” to grow into a mature Christian. The Youth & Family Institute was started by Merton Strommen, as a result of his extensive research on youth ministry. His research showed that it was parents who had the biggest influence on the spiritual lives of youth, for good or for ill. But this style of ministry that involves various people of different ages on one’s faith journey is very difficult to package in a neat curriculum or “silver bullet.” This style of youth ministry cannot be accomplished in a weekly event or once–a–year retreat. Yes, faith is caught in our multiple, varied relationships through the power of the Holy Spirit in a way that we can never fully understand. It is time (and we are long overdue) to change the culture of our congregations.

• Dynamic Youth Leader (me) • Lots of adults (the cool ones) who loved working with kids • Cool graphics and fun programs • Camps, trips, and retreats • Throw in some student leadership • Make it relationship centered You’ve got yourself a youth ministry program! Okay, it’s not a horrible model. In fact, this is the traditional youth ministry model that most churches who were keeping up with the trends embraced. While this journey in youth ministry was often fun, created many wonderful memories, and sometimes set off sparks in youth that grew into flames, it seemed that the tangible results were few. All along, I felt something was missing. I found myself constantly having anxiety over the numbers of kids that would, or more often would not, show up at activities. Let me tell you, at 43 years of age and still doing congregational youth and family ministry, I was ready for a new model.

Imagine a process where five to ten intentional, significant relationships exist to grow and mentor each young person’s faith development. Imagine a mix of God-bearing relationships which “godparent” the young person along the faith journey. These relationships become a cradle in which the child is held throughout life. This team of people, one might call them a “Promise Team,” is present through the difficult times and in moments of celebration. They make a promise to walk with the young person through the first third of life and hopefully through all of life on their faith journey. They become “life affirmers” and “Spirit bearers” for the young person. They promise to be intentional in mentoring the young person through life, particularly in their daily relationship with Jesus Christ. We long for significant relationships with people who know us and are known by us, who will stand by us and support us. How can congregations create a new way of approaching faith nurture and discipleship?

I began to think about my own life. I recalled that I went to a small church. We didn’t have a “youth group” or program or even a youth leader. I never went to camp or on a retreat or on a mission trip. In fact, those things were foreign to me. So why is it that for 20 years my life has been spent sharing the Gospel with young people and their families? Somehow, through all of the people in my life, God got through to me. Through the relationship with a brother and some peers of mine, I was encouraged to turn away from the destructive behavior that I was getting into in high school. There I learned about positive peer pressure. I looked up to a church friend’s mom whose name was Bobbie. She extended an open invitation to come over for a swim and glass of iced tea during the hot days of Texas summers. There I learned acceptance. I had two parents who nurtured my faith gently, taught me about grace, and always showed their love for me. There I saw lives lived as Jesus did. I had an eccentric grandmother who traveled the world by herself, even in her older years, yet still found time to volunteer in a kindergarten class and help at the local home for the mentally ill. From her, I learned adventure, wonder, and servanthood. I found a sense of belonging at a small church where multiple adults surrounded me with their care and encouragement. They saw things in me that I didn’t see.

The idea of the Promise Team grows out of the latest research reported in Soul Searching by Christian Smith, The Exemplary Youth Ministry Study from Luther Seminary, and resources and ministry models from The Youth & Family Institute, where I am an associate. From this research comes an awareness that young people in the first third of life need five to ten relationships with people of various ages who intentionally help them along life’s journey, particularly on their faith journeys. I wrote earlier of my own significant relationships. Out of curiosity, I shared the concept of a Promise Team with my thirteen year–old daughter. I asked her who would be on her team. She immediately was able to think of nine people that she would want on her Promise Team. She named two friends, her parents (thankfully), her two godparents, and three grandparents. All of these people are regularly, almost daily, involved in her life. These people are my daughter’s Promise Team.

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What about a congregational context? Imagine creating a Promise Team for each of twenty-four eighth grade youth (the size of our confirmation class) who are getting ready to be confirmed. The team could consist of peers, parents, grandparents or other seniors, and mentors. A minimum of one from each category, but hopefully two or three, would be sufficient. Let’s do the math. Imagine 150-200 people actively and intentionally involved in the lives of 24 young people. This exponentially exceeds the one adult to ten youth ratio that most traditional youth ministries maintain. If you ask the average youth minister what is one of their biggest concerns, they will most likely say “numbers!” Well, this is about numbers, or rather it’s about a different number. It’s about the number of significant relationships that a youth will have throughout life to mentor faith development, rather than the number of kids that will come to the next lock-in. It is time that the church got serious about this. It seems that we keep trying to do things the old way, when we know in our hearts that God uses all kinds of people to pass on faith from generation to generation. Take a moment to interview a few of what you consider your most mature Christian youth. Ask them where they “got” faith or who were their faith mentors. I’ll bet most will say a parent, many will say

a grandparent, and still others will say a significant adult or peer. Very few, if any will say at a church lock-in. So here’s the challenge to every youth minister out there: stop counting how many kids are coming to your lock-in and start counting how many significant, intentional God-bearing relationships your youth have in their lives. If you are the only one, that’s quite a burden to carry. If they only have one or two, that’s certainly good. But if they have five to ten, they are well on their way to grow into mature Christian adults who will carry on the legacy of faith. When you do this, don’t be surprised if you start to change the way you do things.

Tom Schwolert is Director of Youth & Family Ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Flower Mound, TX. He is in his twentieth year of full time youth and family ministry in the local parish. He is also an Associate Trainer for the Youth & Family Institute. He met his wife Melanie and got married at Wapogasset Bible camp in Wisconsin. They have three children, Jazmine, Max and Zoey. He is a proud parent of a teenager!

Extravaganza 2009 New Orleans, LA

Intensive Care Courses Jan. 28-29 Main Event Jan. 29-Feb. 1 registration opens July 1 at www.elcaymnet.org 8


Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Disciple I Learned in the BWCA... by Jacqui Thone

Well, maybe not everything. In my ten years of taking youth to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in northern Minnesota, however, I’ve learned a lot—both about wilderness camping and about life as a disciple. On that first trip, I literally walked in the footsteps of our guide Josh, as he showed us how to make our way through portages, how to paddle—preferably in a somewhat straight line, how to pack our gear, and cook and clean in new ways that didn’t hurt the environment. From that first trip, where I knew next-to-nothing about camping, I’ve grown in knowledge, experience, and confidence to the point where I’ve been guiding my own trips for several years now.

that snapped off died. Those that bent were still growing— growing in a new direction, to be sure, but growing and thriving nonetheless. 4. The fires in life bring new life. (Isaiah 43:1-3) Last May thousands of acres of forest were ravaged by fire. By the time I arrived in July, the signs of the fires were still very visible. Looking up, we saw the charred remains of lifeless trees. But looking down, we saw life. In just two months, the forest floor had become carpeted with lush green grasses, amidst which purple fireweed and white asters bloomed in abundance. As we paddled and portaged, we came face to face, not with destruction, but resurrection. Being a disciple is about trusting in this promise in the midst of the flames. 5. You don’t need much to get by. (Luke 12:22-23) In our consumer-driven, materialistic world, we sometimes forget that we really don’t need all that much to get by – and you need a whole lot less when you have to carry it with you on your back. Jesus sent out the disciples with a staff, no bread, no bag, and no money, and they seemed to be just fine. What a gift to travel light and realize that the things we “must have” aren’t really all that important when God is taking care of the provisions.

photograph ©2008 by Michael Sladek

Seems like a pretty good model of discipleship to me—walking in the footsteps of another until you gain the experience and confidence to lead others.

6. God is God and I am not. It is impossible to look up at the night sky with all its brilliance and not be humbled by the majesty, creativity, and power of God. I feel both insignificant in the face of the vastness of the universe and incredibly special that the God who created all of this also created and cares for me. At the heart of being a disciple, is remembering that God is at the center and I am not. (Psalm 46:8-11)

So, what are some of the things the wilderness has taught me? 1. There will always be obstacles. (James 1:2-3) My first trip to the BWCA was a week after a huge blow–down storm in 1999. Thousands of acres of trees were blown down and most of the portages we crossed were still blocked by downed trees. To get to where we were going, we needed to go over and under and around—and that usually required the help of a friend to do it. Although a canoe is usually carried by one person, we often had to rely on two or three in order to get around the trees in our path—BUT, we got to where we needed to go. Which leads me to lesson two.

So as I prepare to take a new group of young people to experience this amazing place, I am mindful that I continue to be a disciple, with much to learn. But I am also called to disciple those young people who are following in my footsteps, hopefully preparing them to one day disciple those who will follow them.

Jacqui Thone has worked with Children,

2. Things are easier with a friend. (Acts 2:44-47) Being a disciple isn’t always easy and when you run into those obstacles it helps to be surrounded by a community of faith that can hold you up.

Youth and Families at Advent Lutheran Church in Maple Grove, MN for the past twelve years. She also edits the Youth Ministry Network’s E-News and is also currently attending Luther Seminary. She hopes to receive her M. Div. and be ordained as a pastor before it is time for her to retire.

3. It is better to bend than break. (1 Corinthians 10:23-32) A few years after that big windstorm, we noticed the trees showed two types of wind damage—some had simply snapped off, while others had bent to the forces of the wind. Those

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Raising Parents: How Congregations Can Equip, Nurture, and Support Parents to Disciple Their Children and Youth by Marilyn Sharpe

I know from experience that it’s all about faith. As a parent for thirty-six years and grandparent for five, I know firsthand the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and challenges of being a family. As a Certified Family Life Educator in my congregation for thirty years, I have been privileged to walk alongside parents, committed to helping them become the best and most effective they can be. I teach parents to celebrate their strengths, give and receive support, and glean wisdom from other parents. As parents, we cannot do this most important work alone. We need one another. Congregations can bring us together on this quintessentially spiritual journey. With a passion for kids and their families, I believe that families are the classroom for teaching all that is most important, the crucible for refining the best in each of us, and a safe harbor from life’s storms Raising parents? What does that mean? Aren’t these adults? Doesn’t community education offer parenting classes? WHY should a congregation have any part in that? WHAT should we do? WHEN, in the life of parents and children and in the life of the congregation, should we do it? WHAT should we do? HOW should we do it? And, okay, I suppose we should ask WHERE should we do it?

Congregations have the opportunity to be a community of caring, education and support for families in a world in which the old structures that used to be that and do that are gone. Jesus called us together to be that community to one another, to love one another as Jesus has loved us, to bind up wounds, to be present, to pass on this life transforming faith. Scripture has something to say about this: “Hear O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7 These are marching orders for parents. We are to infuse all of our life together with faith talk “at home… away… when you lie down… when you rise.” But, if we don’t know how, who will help us?

WHO disciples their children? Can’t the congregation just do that? Please? Parents feel ill equipped and want the church professionals to do this for them. But that isn’t Biblical and it’s never worked that way. Parenting used to be the way that dependent children were kept alive long enough to be productive adults, contributing to family and community, socialized by the modeling of adults. Correction of unacceptable behaviors and explicit teaching of the values and behaviors were shared cultural assumptions. That world is no more. Extended family has often extended itself from coast-to-coast or beyond. Family does not gather to surround parent and child with other generations. It is no longer enough to do it the way our parents and grandparents and great grandparents did it. We know so much more about the normal growth and development of children. Parents are uber-busy and stressed. Our society gives us mixed messages about the value of children. The culture is toxic for children and for their parents, who really want to do their most important vocation well… but simply don’t know how. So, why and how might congregations respond?

photograph ©2008 by Michael Sladek

Congregations can be the “grace place”, teaching parents and children alike that we are loved, not just when we are perfect, but that we are loved and forgiven by a God who has chosen to love us now and forever. Parents and children can be taught to forgive one another, to forgive ourselves and to accept that forgiveness that frees us from using all of our precious life energy to deny responsibility or to stagger under a life-sapping load of guilt. That unconditional love that God offers us can be our North Star, the goal that parents aim for in our life together. We can learn to love each other

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as the unique creations we are, to forgive one another, to find our way back to one another. And we can ground our identity in Jesus, who names and claims us in the waters of baptism, who splashes us with promise, who declares “I am with you always,” even in the challenge of being family, who surrounds us with love and support and extended family in our congregations.

Congregations Welcoming Children and Youth Welcome the Child, But Not as the Future of the Church Well-intentioned adults, meaning to affirm the children, nod their heads, smile benevolently and croon, “You are the future of the church!” No, in fact, children are not the future of the church; they are the present of the church. They are our youngest brothers and sisters in Christ. We need them here now, with all of their needs and their gifts, with all of their questions and their answers. Children as Learners and Teachers We miss God’s design for all of us if we do not take seriously Jesus’ blessing of the children and message to us. “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15 From whom would we learn this, if not from a little child? We need to be with children, to observe them, to listen to them, to emulate their faith. And yes, of course, we are called to teach the children. We are invited to share God’s story, God in our story, ourselves in God’s story, and to help children find themselves in God’s story and God in their story. We need to know the most current research on how children learn. We need to create experiences, in the congregation and in their homes, in which they can meet Jesus. And, we need to equip their parents to be their teachers and disciplers, too. Welcoming Children in Worship Back it up. Start at the front door of your congregation’s building. Can you install a working door handle at “child-height”? It looks like you are expecting them. In the narthex, let them find worship bags, children’s bulletins, and other children and youth as greeters with their parents. In the sanctuary, think about reserving the front pews for children and their families, so that they can see. Or, invest in a stack of booster seats. Or, remove the front pews and have quilts on the floor, beanbag chairs, or rocking chairs there. Research tell us that children who worship with their parents are even more likely to grow to mature adult faith than those children who only go to Sunday School. Let it be very clear that young chil-

dren, and youth and their families are welcome in worship. Write an article in your newsletter and/or a bulletin insert, and/or a pew rack pamphlet. Make sure that the congregation hears from the pulpit that children of all ages are welcome. Consider coaching all of the adults in your midst that this is the faithful thing to do and share some very specific ways adults can make children, and youth and the adults who bring them feel welcome. Make sure that sermons include illustrations that feature children, real children. Celebrate faith milestones for children and youth with the entire congregation—baptism, baptismal birthdays, and first Bible (think about giving a story Bible at age three), bless backpacks before school begins in the fall and bless a new driver’s license.

Equipping Parents Be thinking about what you are already doing, what you have the gifts and human and financial resources to do, and what would complement your congregation’s mission. What is God calling you to do? Why do we Need to Equip Parents? Remember that most of the parents and faith parents in the pew have no idea that they are called to nurture faith in children outside the walls of your congregation. Jesus called all of us to “go, make disciples”, including in that most accessible and underserved evangelism field, our homes. Most really do not know that it is their job. Remember, too, that most adults in your congregation believe that nurturing faith in children is your job, you who are clergy or lay professionals. That’s what they pay you the big bucks to do! Know that virtually all adults feel woefully inadequate to share faith, scripture, doctrine, or anything else faith-related. They are terrified that they will look stupid or not know the answer to the questions of their children. They feel that this work requires a seminary education. To top it all off, they have questions. Questions about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit. Questions about why bad things happen to good people and why bad people apparently get away with murder. They had to master a body of knowledge and demonstrate proficiency in driving a car in order to get a driver’s license, but no one trained and equipped them for this daunting task, passing on faith. How Do We Do It? Sermons – You already do these weekly. Let all of the adults in your midst know that this is what they have promised in the baptism of their child… and in the baptism of children in your congregation. It is a serious responsibility. Jesus commanded us to do it. Make the case for why it is vital that they become equipped.

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Reassure them that Jesus entrusted the future of the church to disciples who so often didn’t understand Jesus or what he said or did. The Holy Spirit was sent to empower them to do what they could not have done on their own. That same Holy Spirit is with parents, helping them to pass on faith. Sermons are preaching, but they also teach. They teach scripture and its interpretation and application. Sermons equip all of us to be the priesthood of all believers. Newsletter Articles – Another wonderful vehicle for teaching and equipping is the congregation’s newsletter. Look around for parents, mere mortal non-ordained parents who are already doing a wonderful job and ask them to share what they do. Have book reviews on resources that help parents tell God’s story, teach their child to pray, see God in their lives. Have Resources Available – Make sure that you have books available for sale that parents can take home and use to learn and to do faith nurture with their child. Give a Bible to families of three year olds. Even a formerly un-churched mom or dad will not find that intimidating. As the child grows, provide additional Bibles and devotional resources that are age appropriate and that involve the whole family. Provide resources to equip parents and their children and youth at each milestone of faith. Use Teachable Moments – Before you baptize a child, have a class to help parents know not just what will happen in the baptismal service, but what happens then, in home and congregation, to share the Good News. Teach them to read scripture (which may be a children’s Bible or Bible story book) with their children, to pray with their child, and to bring them to worship. Before you give those Bibles, have parents, grandparents, godparents and all of the adults who love the children in to mark up the Bible. Have all of them underline or highlight favorite verses or stories. (Provide a list of favorites and help finding them for those adults who just don’t know.) Have them write simple prayers in the front for the child. My colleague Dick Hardel says, “Never give a ‘new’ Bible. Make sure it passes on the faith of the ones who give and use it.” In the fall, before school, nursery school, and Sunday school begin, have a blessing of the backpacks as part of the worship service. Remind children that Jesus goes with them wherever they are. Give parents a simple prayer or blessing to say with their children as their children leave for school. Classes – Offer Bible studies, often in homes, that welcome those new to studying the Bible, as well as those who have done it all their lives. No adult wants to look stupid or ignorant in front of others. Invite parents personally. Offer to attend with them. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch who knew that he needed the help of Philip, a believer, to understand what he was reading in scripture.

We need to be those who come alongside the parents to help them learn in order to teach their children. Offer parenting classes. It is as easy as finding a good parenting book and a person with passion for strengthening families and nurturing faith. Do it as a book study. No need to be an expert, just facilitate discussion and give them a chance to practice the new skills in class. Open with simple devotions. Close with prayer. Help all to find the love of God in their lives.

Supporting Parents We’ll look at three ways we support parents: networking parents, support groups and mentor parents. Networking Parents – Parents need to know other parents. They need to have a place to be real, to talk open and honestly about what hard work this is, how inadequate they feel, how exhausted they are, and how afraid they are that they simply aren’t up to the task. All parenting is hard work. That said, some parents have unique challenges. Some of those may include children born with developmental challenges, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. Others challenges include single parenting, diffculties in the marriage, and unemployment or other financial stresses. Some live in isolation from extended family. Some don’t have friends in the area. Parental mental health issues or chemical dependency are other huge stressors. Of course you cannot be a full service social service agency, but you can help parents connect with other parents who have gone through many of the same challenges and with medical and social service providers in your area who can connect parents with the help they need. Be absolutely wonderful at referrals. Build support from within, enabling parents to support other parents. Mentor Parents – can be those whose children are grown and can be surrogate parents to the parents and/or surrogate grandparents to the children who do not have family close by or whose family does not engage with and support parents and children. These relationships might be face-to-face or through phone calls, time together in the congregation, a monthly dinner out, or any combination of these. Turn your members loose and let them dream what this might be. Support Groups – It is only fair to tell you that I am sold on parent support groups in the congregation. And I’ve put my life where my mouth is. For the last twenty-nine years, I have gone to my congregation every Wednesday morning, year-round, as a volunteer, to run a parenting group we call Parents Share. Obviously, the parents aren’t the same, but I am still there, loving this part of my week. I wasn’t a parent educator when I began, but the stay-at-home mom of three children. People in your congregation could do this,

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too. What does it take? A Room – A classroom, set in a circle or around a rectangle of tables and chairs work. Have participants face each other. Coffee, if you can swing it, is a nice touch and makes it feel like a welcoming place and it gives the nervous ones something to do with their hands. Participants can bring treats, if they wish. A box of tissues is a really good idea, as parents are often emotional and this can be a safe place to share. Nursery – If you can provide this, it is a gift. This gives parents time away, to focus on issues with the child or in other parts of their lives. They can say things they should not say in front of children. Make sure it is well staffed and supervised and a fun place for the children to be. Make sure that the caregivers use the same good parenting skills that the parents are learning and refining. Offer it free or a nominal cost, if at all possible. (A young couple in my congregation anonymously donated the cost of an entire year of nursery for all–comers!) Facilitator – If you have a parent educator, it’s easy. If not, raise up a parent who cares deeply about the wellbeing of children, who believes that parenting is learned, who demonstrates healthy (not necessarily perfect) parenting skills, and who is welcoming, affirming, and deeply respectful of all. Oh, yes, and are committed to doing this work regularly

know would be ministered to by this group. Keep it open, including new parents whenever they come. Invite the neighborhood. It’s a terrific evangelism tool.

You know what I believe and value. Now, it’s your turn to assess and plan: • What do you do now? • What do you dream? • What do you worry about? • What do you hope? • What gets in the way? God’s blessings on your ministry to children, youth, and families as you equip, nurture, and support parents to disciple their children.

Marilyn Sharpe is the Director of Cross+Generational Ministries at The Youth & Family Institute. A parent, grandparent, parent educator, and longtime confirmation director, she has a passion for partnering home and congregation to pass on faith to all the generations. At The Institute, she is a teacher, presenter, congregational coach, trainer, and writer.

Invite the Parents – From the pulpit, from baptism classes, from day care or nursery school if you have it, through a local newspaper, and by word of mouth of the parents who come. Invite those you

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Discipleship A Parent’s Perspective by Debbie Sladek

A couple of years ago my son, David (then in junior high), came home from school and told me about an invitation he received from a friend who was the son of assistant pastors at a large evangelical church. The friend invited him to a youth group event where they would get to play paint ball. As we talked a bit about the details, David revealed that the youth at this church got to go to a lot of cool events and received free stuff–like “tons of candy”–to encourage them to attend youth group. David’s friend was honest with David that getting kids to his youth group was a way to get them to accept Jesus as their savior. David received many other invitations to youth group, but never to this boy’s home or anything that wasn’t church-related.

Many who lead these types of programs believe that they are following Jesus’ example and that the whole point of his ministry and teaching was to get people to believe in him as the savior. Is it true that Jesus’ purpose in discipleship was simply evangelism, or was he most interested in being with us, in relationship, and in teaching this to his followers? If his sole purpose on earth was to gain believers, then why did he spend so many years among us, experiencing the same range of hardships and joys, pain and pleasures that we do? He was certainly no respecter of social, ethnic, or economic status, and he didn’t seem to lavish his attention and compassion only on those people who had the ability to influence large numbers of people. Instead, Jesus seemed most interested in being with us in an intimate way, even with those he knew would betray or persecute him. I think that Jesus’ example of discipleship is what youth ministry should aspire to follow. I believe that the most basic form of discipleship and ministry needed by youth is someone who will walk with them through their adolescent journey and see them as real people, instead of projects. Jesus was compassionate with people no matter where they were in their faith or disbelief, he lavished his attention and love on everyone in his presence. Youth are important because they are children of God, and not just another notch on a youth worker’s belt.

photograph ©2008 by Michael Sladek

David and I had some long talks during that school year. Although he seemed a bit wistful that his friend got to do some pretty cool things at his church, he was quick to recognize that the cool activities and free stuff were really “bribes” (his exact word) and that his friend had a lot of people hanging around him simply because they were hoping for invitations to youth group and not because they were interested in his friendship. That last observation was pretty astute and I think it was the thing that held him back from ever accepting any of the invitations. David didn’t like to idea that his friend’s main goal with him and other classmates was to get them “saved” rather than being in relationship; this was more like recruiting than true friendship.

David never did visit his friend’s church. Instead, he’s one of the most active members of our church’s youth group, and it’s a place he likes to invite his friends. Our church’s youth group is small and we don’t offer flashy events or lots of sweet “rewards” for attendance, but it’s a place where our son is loved, cared for, and held accountable. It is a place of discipleship where David is is challenged in his faith, allowed to wrestle with his doubts, and is learning what God’s unconditional love is about because of the faithful involvement of adults and other students. This is what discipleship is: being present with each other as we learn about and grow in love for God.

Debbie Sladek is the newsletter editor for Our Savior Lutheran Church in Issaquah, Washington. She lives in Sammamish, Wash. with her husband and son, where she is pursuing her own vision and calling of becoming a full time writer and editor.

Discipleship is a tough thing, and it can be especially difficult for youth workers. Youth in particular, seem able to recognize these circumstances where adults or other youth are interacting with them simply with the intent of arriving at a certain destination and not out of a true sense of caring about them no matter the outcome.

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Discipleship Bible Study by Neil Christians

Opening Introduction: • Who is someone that you idolize, that you wish you could be like? This could be a great football, soccer, or baseball player, or it could be a singer, a dancer, or actor.

they call in William Shatner who played 80s TV show cop “TJ Hooker” to show them how to spice things up. He tries to teach them some skills such as bursting through doors and jumping across the hood of a car. Take a look. Show a video clip from the movie Showtime (31:15 through 33:15)

We all wish that we could be better than we are. We all love to dream of improving ourselves in some way. I want to show you a clip from the movie “Showtime”. In this movie, two actual police officers, played by Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro, have been chosen to host a new reality TV show called “Showtime” (thus the creative title for the movie). However, they find actual police work a little boring, so

• If you were going to be a TV cop, do you think William Shatner is a good role model for you? • What qualities do you look for in someone that you want to study under?

Discipleship What:

would memorize the entire first five books of the Bible by the time they were ten years-old!

To study under someone else means that you become that person’s disciple. Disciple means “a learner”. Now don’t confuse disciple with apostle. And apostle is a “messenger”. While a disciple is one who learns from a teacher, an apostle is sent to deliver those teachings to others. The word disciple appears two hundred and thirty two times in the four gospels and the Book of Acts. So, it must be pretty important. But what does it mean to be a Disciple? It’s more than just learning something!

After this, some students would return home to learn the trade of their family so they could continue on leading the family business. Other students who showed they had a natural ability with the Scriptures would continue on with their education. They would continue to memorize the rest of the Scriptures and finish by the time they were about fourteen years old!

In Jesus time, the teachers were called “rabbis”. Now a rabbi would call students to study under him as his disciples, but not just any students. They usually only picked those that they thought were the best or that they saw had greatness in them. A Jewish boy would begin his education at the age of six and would begin to memorize the Torah.

Students would then listen to the teachings of various rabbis and then approach them asking, “May I follow you?” This question was more than just asking for the rabbi to teach them. It was in actuality asking the rabbi, “Do I have what it takes to be like you?” For the goal of a disciple wasn’t just to know what the Rabbi knows but to be like the Rabbi.

The Rabbi would either encourage the student to return home to learn their family trade or they would tell the student to “follow me”. This meant that the Rabbi believed that the student had what it took to be like them.

• Who knows what the Torah is?

The Torah is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. By ten years-old the students would finish. I hope that you heard that. They

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So What: • How does Jesus pick his disciples? How is this different

not the great students when they were fourteen years-old, could still grow to become great examples of God’s love in the world. Jesus not only called these men, but he invites all of us to follow him. Jesus calls for you to be one of his disciples.

from the usual process at this time? • What does Jesus tell them? What are his exact words? (“ Follow me” – Mark 1:17, 2:14)

This means that Jesus believed that these men, fishermen and tax collectors, could be like him. They could learn from him and grow to be more like him. These men who were

• What does this tell you about how Jesus sees you? What potential does Jesus see in you?

Now What? Jesus sees potential in you. Jesus sees greatness in you. Jesus believes that you can learn and grow to be like him and share God’s love with the world around you. Jesus asks you to “follow me”.

• What steps can you take this week to grow this quality in yourself to be more like Jesus? • One step you could take is to find someone else to show you how to be more like Jesus. Who could you seek out to give you guidance, challenge, encourage and hold you accountable for this goal?

• What quality of Jesus would you like to develop in yourself?

Prayer: Open with a time of thanking Jesus for gathering you all together to learn more about him and how we can grow as his disciples. Then ask Jesus to help you all in growing to be more like him by developing the qualities of… have students then speak out loud the quality that they will be working on. Finish by thanking Jesus for believing that you all have what it takes to be like him, to follow in his footsteps in sharing God’s love with the world.

• Take some time to list all of the qualities of Jesus that students could choose from. You may wish to give students sticky notes where as a group they can come up with a quality of Jesus, then one person can write that quality on the post-in note and tack it to the wall next to a picture of Jesus or directly onto a cross. This gives students a concrete picture of what Jesus was like. Then have students pick one quality to develop in themselves. You may even wish to have each student write their name on that individual sticky note.

Neil A. Christians (AIM) is the Director of Family Life at Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. A graduate of Luther Seminary, Neil has been serving in Children, Youth and Family Ministries for over fifteen years.

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Faye Belskey: 2008 Thomas Hunstad Award Recipient Interview Q: Faye, tell us about yourself—your family and so on. FB: I was born and raised in Des Plaines, Illinois and consider myself a cradle Lutheran, having been raised in a Lutheran family. Our family was deeply involved in St. Michael Lutheran Church and I attended school there through the fifth grade. I was confirmed and married at Trinity Lutheran, and this wonderful man has been with me for 43 years. We have four terrific children, and I am looking forward to the arrival of our fifth grandchild soon. All of my family are in the Clearwater, Florida area where we have lived for the past 36 years.

photograph ©2008 by Eric Mathre

Q: How did you get started in youth ministry? FB: In 1972, my young family moved to Clearwater and my life began to change. My love for volunteering and children began to take root. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, where we had recently joined, asked me if I would help with vacation bible school. I said yes, and that was the beginning. I can’t really think of a time since then that I actually said no. It wasn’t long until I became Sunday School Coordinator, and in 1989 joined the staff and became the parish worker for Children and Youth. When I started in this work, my responsibilities included Sunday school, middle and senior high youth groups and VBS. During the next nineteen years there were so many, many dedicated volunteers who helped out, and our ministries grew. We now offer five different youth and family ministry opportunities beginning with Preschoolers (birth- bive years), family ministry (kindergarten - third grade) a fourth and fifth grade group, middle and high school groups. Q: It sounds like this is more than just a job for you, Faye. FB: I love my job in so many ways. There are a couple of “perks” I hold most dear. First would be attending the youth gatherings

—I consider each of the six I have attended an experience I would never change. Feeling the energy and enthusiasm of the youth and watching the Holy Spirit move over them, get into their hearts and heads and really affect their lives is such an awesome experience! I also love hugs at Christmas. When youth who have moved away return to worship with family, they come up to me and give me hugs and tell such wonderful stories about what is happening in their lives—it warms my heart like nothing else. I also find a special joy when youth who have grown up in our ministry go on to minister to others through things like Lutheran Outdoor Ministries and the like. Watching them in action makes the circle complete—it puts a song in my heart and tears in my eyes. Q: What motivates you to do all that you do? FB: Over the years, I have discovered a passion for what I call “putting all the pieces together.” I love behind the scenes planning, organizing and encouraging. Spreading the joy of servanthood is important to me—I have always placed an emphasis on serving—to develop the heart of a servant. I consider myself to be a woman of action, not words. I would much rather be behind the scenes organizing this event and figuring out the details than staging on stage in front of a crowd. Q: Your ministry with young people is not limited to the church— what other opportunities have been a blessing? FB: The Lord was at work in so many ways. I was a PTA volunteer and leader, a teacher’s aide for special needs children, a Girl Scout leader/trainer, a cheerleading coordinator—all this helped ready me for youth and family ministries. Q: Many have remarked about your humble spirit, Faye. What is your reaction to this? FB: I don’t have a degree and I have never been to certification classes. I only have on-the-job-training and a heart for young people. I’ve followed my heart, listening and learning from many wise people. Q: You’ve been doing youth and family ministry for awhile now. What kinds of changes have you seen in this ministry during that time? FB: First and foremost I would have to say the support, networking, education, training, and resources for the leaders. Years ago there was very little and it was hard to find. Today equipping and training leaders is happening across the church. Seminaries, online classes,

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synod events and extravaganza makes it possible for everyone find a training that best fits their personal situation. Today the resources are so amazing and plentiful without even mentioning what is online. I believe that networking with people in local churches is key. I would encourage everyone to find a network of people that they can connect with regularly. We are a rare breed of people and need to connect with others who understand us. It is extremely hard to do ministry alone. That is why the ELCA Youth Ministry Network plays such a vital role for all of us. I look forward to the future and all the new changes. The second change I would have to say is the lifting up of family ministry in our churches today and for the past several years. Twenty years ago we began our fourth and fifth grade youth group which meets monthly. Through the years I have been able to watch and see the importance of building faith and friendship between our younger youth and their families. These church friendships built at a young age, continue today, as do the friendship between their parents. They have a real connection to the church. I love the fact that family ministry is always connected with youth ministry these days. I thank God for leaders like Rollie Martinson, Dick Hardel, Paul

Hill, Nate Frambach, Tiger McCluen and others that keep researching, and developing and new information to share with us. Their insight is priceless. Where would we be without them? We owe so much to them for their love and dedication to youth and family ministry. The youth leaders of today have an awesome responsibility and opportunity to build up the community of Christ in the world. Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? FB: I would like to thank everyone on the board for their support and their confidence in me. I keep thinking about the Nooma Series “Dust” where Rob Bell is talking about how Jesus chooses the least of these for Jr. Varsity B team. That is who I am. I know there are many youth leaders who deserve this award as much as I do. I’m truly blessed, honored, and humbled to be the recipient of this years “Tommy Award.” I would like to say that Mike Yaconelli was certainly correct when he said, “When you say “yes” to God, hold on, because you are in for quite a ride!” Who would have ever thought that saying “yes” to being a volunteer for VBS would lead me to this place? God is amazing!

YOUR TURN! Our goal is to make Connect as useful a resource for your ministry as possible. You can help! Here’s how: 1. Write a letter to the editor. Let us know what you think of the contents of each issue. What helped? What could be better? What do you think? 2. Submit an article, essay, poem, artwork, etc.... Share your insights, experiences, thoughts, and your creativity on our upcoming topics: Servant Formation (August 08); Baptismal (November 08); Grounded (February 09); Excellence (May 09). Our theme words are taken from the Network’s defintions of effective youth and family ministry in ELCA congregations. 3. Send us pictures. They’re worth a thousand words, and will help us illustrate concepts in future issues. We’ll assume that you have permission from the people in the photo to publish these.

Send your submissions to: connect@elcaymnet.org 18


Calendar of Events: 2008 Summer WIYLDE (Wholly Iowa Youth Leadership Discipling Event)

Western States Youth Gathering

July 12-18, 2008 Luther College, Decorah, IA Information: http://vocations.luther.edu/retreats_and_workshops/ wiylde/index.html or contact Connie Barclay at 563-387-1327 or barcco01@luther.edu

July 31-August 1, 2008 Hilton Hotel and Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA Information: www.wsyg.com

The ELCA Global Mission Event (including youth tracks) July 17-20, 2008 University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, WI Information: www.elca.org/gme/GME2008/index.html or email GMInfo@elca.org

Fall Passing on the Faith: Milestone to Milestone conference and training event (Delaware-Maryland Synod and the Youth and Family Institute) September 19-20, 2008 Our Shepherd Lutheran Church, Severna Park, MD Information: Ed Kay at ekay@demdsynod.org

ELCA Outdoor Ministry Program Leadership Training Event November 5-9, 2008 Zephyr Point Retreat Center, Lake Tahoe, NV Information: www.elca.org/camps or 1-800-638-3522, ext. 2593

ELCA/PCCCA Outdoor Ministry Conference November 9-14, 2008 Zephyr Point Retreat Center, Lake Tahoe, NV Information: www.elca.org/camps or 1-800-638-3522, ext. 2593

Youth Specialties: National Youth Workers Conventions Sacramento, CA: October 10-13, 2008 Pittsburgh, PA: October 31-November 3, 2008 Nashville, TN: November 21-24, 2008 Information: www.youthspecialties.com/events Council of Synod Lutheran Youth Organization Presidents November 6-9, 2008 Mount Sequoyah Conference & Retreat Center, Fayetteville, AR Information: www.elca.org/lyo

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Calendar of Events: 2009 Winter ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza February 5-9, 2009 New Orleans, LA Information: www.elcaymnet.org or 1-866-398-7282

Spring Please send us your event information to: connect@elcaymnet.org

Summer ELCA Youth Gathering

Triennial Convention of the Lutheran Youth Organization

July 22-26, 2009 New Orleans, LA Information: www.elca.org/gathering

July 26-30, 2009 Hattiesburg, MS Information: www.elca.org/lyo

Definitely-Abled Youth Leadership Event (DAYLE) and Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) July 19-22, 2009 New Orleans, LA DAYLE information: www.elca.org/lyo/dac MYLE information: www.elca.org/lyo/mac

Fall Please send us your event information to: connect@elcaymnet.org

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On The Way by Bill Bixby

“I want a way to live that keeps me involved in what God is doing in me and in the world around me. Do you know a way to live that is like that?” (Martha Schwehn, age 15, in Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens)

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6a)

Christian life is really about a way—even the way. A way that is strongly centered in Jesus. A way that pays attention to God at work in persons, and in the world. A way that is truth-seeking and truth-speaking. A way that is full of, overflowing with, life. By God’s amazing grace, we know a way that is like that! The Network’s working definitions of effective youth and family ministry begin with the word discipleship. Discipleship is the church’s word for… walking in this way. Discipleship is walking with Jesus, and with many other Christians—old and young, poor and rich, friends and strangers—in lives of praise and prayer, lives of daring witness and deep service. By God’s sheer grace, we know—and know how to grow in—that way!

strong current moving toward greater Christian authenticity, toward inviting young people into the full life of the God of the gospel. The eighteen Christian faith practices found in Way To Live, quoted above, are just one example—and an excellent one! In our first definition, then, we commit to more than walking in the way with young people and those who companion them. We commit to cherish every young person, both as she is and as God is calling her to be. We commit to prayer-filled, patient and playful nurture and challenge with every young person. We commit to refreshing and reforming ALL of our practices of youth ministry with discipleship at the center. We commit to immersing ourselves in the most nourishing, most gospel-filled, most non-conforming (check out Romans 12:2) approaches to our ministry. Whew! It sure is good to know we have the Network, and many colleagues and co-workers, on this way! And Jesus, BTW. On the way, and in the waters, with you,

Bill Bixby, who has been an ELCA pastor for twentytwo years and a blessed-by-youth minister for even longer, lives and serves in Chicago, Illinois as Director for Youth Ministry. From 2000 to 2007, Bill served (and sometimes taught at) two ELCA seminaries in a lively project of theological and vocational discovery with teens.

I think it is GREAT that this is our FIRST definition! In the rising tide of new youth ministry theologies and practices, there is a

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Everybody has a dream. California Lutheran University A great place to awaken the future God has given to you College of Arts and Sciences School of Business School of Education 36 Majors 28 Minors Professional Preparation Programs in specified fields of study

Masters Degree Programs in • Education • Business Administration • Public Policy and Administration • Computer Science • Psychology Doctoral Program in Education 22

Thousand Oaks, Califormia www.callutheran.edu 1.877.CLU.FOR.U


ELCA Youth Ministry

your Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday partner in ministry.

ELCA Youth Ministry

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 8765 West Higgins Road Chicago, IL 60631 1-800-638-3522 www.elca.org/youth www.elca.org/lyo www.elca.org/gathering 23


The Discipleship Issue

ELCA Youth Ministry Network 11821 98th Pl. N., Maple Grove, Mn 55369

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Connect Journal: Discipleship  

Connect is the journal of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network

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