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FALL 2012 FALL 2012 • $8.95

Journal of Children, Youth & Family Ministry


Ignite ministry in the first third of life A powerful new resource packed with tools, ideas and strategies to help you cultivate youth who are passionate about following Jesus.

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FALL 2012

PUBLICATION INFORMATION Published by: ELCA Youth Ministry Network

CONTENTS Welcome! 4 Todd Buegler The Church We Hope to See 5 Jodi & Nate Houge LIFTing Up Congregations & Faith Formation 7 Erik Ullestad Every Step We Take, Every Move We Make... 9 Clint Schnekloth The Future of The Church: A Facebook Conversation 10 Leadership in the Church We Hope to See: Adaptive Leadership in a “We’ve Never Done it That Way Before” World Tim Coltvet


Dreaming Dreams of the Church: A Moving Bible Study 14 Rebekah Wedge Thornhill

Subscription Information: call 866-ELCANET (352-2638) or visit:

Contributing Writers: George Baum, Tim Coltvet, Jodi & Nate Houge, Tim Paulson, Clint Schnekloth, Erik Ullestad, Rebekah Wedge Thornhill Design and Layout: Michael Sladek Impression Media Group

Contributing Editor: Debbie Sladek

Connect Editorial Board: Chris Bruesehoff, Todd Buegler, Tim Coltvet, Nate Frambach, Sue Mendenhall, Jeremy Myers, Dawn Rundman, Clint Schnekloth Debbie Sladek, Michael Sladek

Cover Photo & Design ©2012 Michael Sladek

Designing Ministry 16 Tim Paulson Thank You For Your Support! 20 A View From Somewhere Else 21 George Baum Calendar of Events 22


Worship (Winter ‘13)


Erik Ullestad: Board Member

Rev. Ben Morris: Board Member

Rev. Larry Wagner: Board Chairperson

Yvonne Steindal, AIM: Board Member

Rev. Mike Ward: Board Member

Valerie Taylor Samuel: Board Memeber

Rev. 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. 3



Dear friends,

The Practice Discipleship Initiative is in motion! Adult training both live and online will be taking place this winter and spring, in every synod! The Practice Discipleship Initiative will be directed by Catherine Anderson, from the Northeast Minnesota Synod. Visit for more information.

This issue of Connect was a journey for me. When we started working on it, the theme was simply “The Future of the Church,” and I had a really difficult time getting my mind wrapped around this theme. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the future of the church . . . but I couldn’t describe it. I couldn’t imagine what it might look like. But as the Connect team worked, they led me through something of a transformation, and I came to understand 3 things: • I was trying to imagine the future of the church through the filter of what the church has been. In my mind, I was thinking about the future church as how the current church might be tweaked, not as what new thing God might do. • I was reminded that the future of the church is in God’s hands. While we certainly have the capacity to slow that process (we are, after all, captive to sin and cannot free ourselves) it is in God’s Spirit that we must put our trust. • I was reminded that we cannot presume to know the will of God. So we can’t claim to predict what the future of the church will look like. Instead, we can only think out our hope for the future of the church, and then pray that our vision aligns with God’s vision, and that God grants us the wisdom to see and understand that vision. I am not one who believes the age of Christ’s church is over. I have a great deal of hope for the future. The church of the future cannot look like the church of today. We are going to need to think about new ways to do ministry. Our writers in this issue are “taking their best shot” at both describing what this future might look like, and helping us think together about how God is revealing that future.

Amy Wagner has stepped down from her role as Regional Facilitator for Region 4 to assume the position of coach for the RF’s. Her position will be filled by Ian Hartfield from Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Thank you Amy, for your great service, and for taking on this new role. Welcome Ian, and thank you for serving!

Regions 2, 6 and 8 will be holding elections for Regional Facilitators at the Extravaganza in Anaheim. In Regions 6 and 2, Janet Renick and Julie Schussler Peralta are both eligible for re-election. Barbara Harner, in Region 8, has served two terms and is ineligible for re-election. Thanks to all three of you for your service!

Welcome to the conversation! Remember that the standard registration rate for Extravaganza 2013 expires at midnight on January 1, and then the price goes up! Get your registration in soon!

God’s peace,

Todd Buegler Executive Director – ELCA Youth Ministry Network

Yes, there’s an app for that! Wait for it . . . wait for it . . .

Pastor­—Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Maple Grove, MN

Coming soon . . . new flexible options for your Network membership including multiyear and team options. . . Look for more information in February!


FALL 2012

THE CHURCH WE HOPE TO SEE Look to the future with Jodi and Nate Houge and what they have to say about the church we hope to see. They hope for a church that is vital and thriving, and part of that hope is rooted in acknowledging that parts of the church must die. Read on for their experiences of several congregations that are doing things in new and faithful ways, including an up-close look at Humble Walk Lutheran Church.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship We are so afraid of death in our North American culture that we will not let our congregations die. We act as if we expect all congregations to last forever. But that is not the case. There are zombie congregations walking among us, friends. Other faith communities are clearly in hospice. Let’s acknowledge this, enter into an intentional dying process and close the door. Yes, it takes guts and there is grief at these endings. But take heart. Just because a church is dead does not mean that God is dead. It is only in death that we witness resurrection. This is what we hope to see. We hope the church will die so that it may be raised in Christ. Our hope is founded not in idealism or strategies but by what we have already glimpsed (albeit dimly). Let’s look at four key aspects of congregational life (building, program, membership and Sunday morning) and imagine what would happen if we let them die . . . so that they may be raised with Christ.

WHAT IF YOUR CONGREGATION LET THE BUILDING DIE? Letting your building die means holding the brick and mortar loosely. We hope that the church of the future knows how to function outside of their sanctioned walls. Maybe that looks like holding worship in your nearby park or in the parking lot of another building. Luther’s Table in Renton, Wash. knocked down most of their walls and built a bar. When you let go of your physical assets, gathering for worship becomes less about walls and more about space and place. Your boundaries get fluid. If you hold the brick and mortar loosely, when the Baptist congregation down the road needs a place to worship while their building is being renovated, you make room

by Nate and Jodi Houge to tie-dye with us. Kids bring their grandparents to share the meal. This all works because we have a high tolerance for messiness and fluid boundaries.

for them (and maybe even find your normal schedule displaced while you welcome them into your space). It might look like renting out longtime vacant Sunday School rooms to artists for workspaces. Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minn. rents rooms to an artist, a spiritual director, and a neighborhood group.

The next time your congregation holds a capital campaign, do it. And then follow the example of Lutheran Church of the Cross in Nisswa, Minn. Do not pour another slab. Use the money to fund community outreach and evangelism.

We have poured enough concrete in the name of Jesus and it has only kept us locked inside those walls. What if you were freed from that leaky roof and mortgage payment? What if you did not have to spend two hours a month discussing ways to pay the energy bill? What if all the time and energy spent maintaining your property was suddenly freed for other things?

Now that we’ve freed you of your building, that menu of programs you offered prospective buyers—we mean members—is no longer an option. Let it die. How freeing. And destabilizing. And unnerving. But free! Whatever will you do with your time? Here’s an idea: Hang out in places where people are already gathered.

What if you do not have to invite neighbors to Vacation Bible School because you are already present in the local park? Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn. does not own much. (Our inventory includes five plastic totes, a large roll of white paper and a plunger.) We rent a space for three hours on Sundays so that we might gather for worship indoors. We also gather for worship in our local park for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Bike Blessing, and once for a six-week stretch when we were homeless. Outside of worship, every other gathering happens in public spaces like bars, coffee shops, sidewalks, alleys and parks.

All too often programs successfully remove faith from public life rather than incorporate it. If you want faith to be part of people’s lives, then join in people’s lives. Not with an agenda. The goal is not to get people into the pews. Remember when Jesus hung out at the well and that Samaritan lady showed up? The only thing Jesus asked of her was to do what she had already come to do. Offer him a drink. And that led to a messy and likely embarrassing and totally rule-breaking conversation. And she left the well resurrected. There is no record or mention of her ever visiting a synagogue.

During the summer, we are present in our local public park on a weekly basis. We lead kick-ball, learn names and build community. At the end of the summer, we invite everyone to spend a week with us in the park. Each day, we play games, create art and build relationships. Then we end with a catered meal. Honestly, it’s a crapshoot—we have no idea who will come or how many will come . . . but what do we really have to lose? People do come, and then they go home and wake up their older siblings and drag them back to the park 5


What about Sunday School? And Confirmation? Here we go, let us rip off the bandage. Let them die. When you do, you are left with three possible outcomes: 1. It stays dead. Bummer, but not the end of the world. Now you have time to hang out someplace where people are already gathered. 2. It comes back just the way it was. That was a fun experiment and now your congregation has learned that it is okay to take risks. 3. It comes back new. It comes back in a way that allows parents and kids to address

their deepest longings in the context of faith, which may or may not involve memorizing the 10 commandments. Perhaps now it looks less like a program and more like relationship. The kind of relationship that carries over into home and work and school and play and life. List your congregation’s programs. Start writing their obits and get the birth announcements ready.

WHAT IF YOUR CONGREGATION LET MEMBERSHIP DIE? No building? No programs? Who would come to that church? Good question. I guess now is as good as time as any to let the membership lists die. (We all know those are ridiculously fabricated anyway. 8,000 on the membership rolls and 600 in worship. Really? Or in Humble Walk terms . . . 203 in the facebook group and 25 in worship?) Let go of membership and everyone is set free. After emancipating people, the ones who normally come to worship will still come to worship. Likely, some folks will find another community. Bless them on their way and recognize that you have gifted another congregation. If your (now former) members do not go anywhere for worship, you have freed them to live with the truth. We are not running country clubs or Girl Scout groups. We all know that life in the church is not about numbers—it is about relationships. Stop pretending that numbers and counting bodies is in any way an accurate measure of the work God is doing in and through us. The next time someone asks, “How many people worship at your church?” you can answer, “All of them.” And then let them swim in that mystery. As a side note, church leaders stop (stop!) asking one another this question. Think of another opening line. Okay. We understand that in order to live in and function as a healthy community, we need some sort of Rolodex. (Ahhhh, remember those?) Do not hit <delete> quite yet. There are natural transition times in our congregations when it seems appropriate to address the idea of membership. One is during Holy Week. (Death! Resurrection!) What if you gathered for an Easter Vigil and had a ceremonial burning of the membership rolls in the

fire? You burn the church down. And then on Easter morning, you stand together and recommit to another season of life together. On resurrection morning, the church is reborn. In the lives of youth, each year is new and fraught with transition. Our young people understand death and rebirth because they live it every single year. The graduating seniors are off on their next adventure—and those who knew them feel the absence of their presence. The incoming ninth graders are entering into a new community. Recognize these transitions. Say it out loud. Write letters to the graduating seniors and let them know they are missed. (Seriously, people still do this—with tangible paper and pens).

WHAT IF YOUR CONGREGATION LET SUNDAY MORNING DIE? The most disturbing question you can ask yourself when visiting a congregation is, “Could this service take place without a congregation?” All too often the answer is yes. The readers read, the preacher preaches, the choirs and cantors and bands and organs lead the songs and the congregation can join in. Or not. And if they choose not to nothing changes. When songwriter Jonathan Rundman leads an echo song he always instructs his band, “Don’t help the congregation,” essentially removing the safety net. This approach works in that the congregation always rises to the occasion. It is a controlled risk. Notice that there is still a level of control. Worship is generally the most public thing a church does. It ought not suck. First, evaluate the structure. At the core of worship that connects us with the divine, we find the liturgy—the work of people—our response to what God has done for us. There are set rhythms to this that work well—Gather, Word, Meal, Send—but even these rhythms can die. What if Meal became the heart of it? St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn, New York has done exactly this and met people where they already gather: around the table. What if Gathering was playing a game instead of reading a litany? What if Word came through seeing, not hearing? Second, evaluate the time. Time is precious in our culture. If more families come to your church on Wednesday night then Sunday morning, maybe you do what the folks at 6

Christus Victor in Apple Valley, Minn. have done and add a Wednesday night worship service that brings families together at the end of the day in the middle of the week. It is not Sunday morning. And it works. As your Sunday morning cycles through death and resurrection, refine the question: “Could this service take place without a congregation?” “Could this service take place without retirees?” “Could this service take place without toddlers?” “Could this service take place without Matt? Or Donald? Or Casey? Or Lydia?”

IN CONCLUSION This is what we hope the church of the future will look like. (Of course there are plenty of other things we would like to see, like parking lots for flying cars, Dip ‘n Wafers: Communion of the Future, and health benefits for part time youth ministers, to name a few. We so crazy.) But ultimately we see death and resurrection at the core of our congregations. Do not let the idea of letting things die get confused with being against things. We are all sick of being ‘anti.’ We let these things die because we live in the promise of the resurrection. We want to more fully be reformed in the image of Christ. That is our tradition. If it is holding you back it is not tradition, it is nostalgia. Tradition moves us forward. Tradition says we worship together. Nostalgia says we do it with stained glass. Finally, we hope the church of the future asks itself, “What do we hope the church of the future will look like?”

Jodi Houge is an ELCA pastor at Humble Walk Lutheran Church (humblewalkchurch. org). Nate Houge ( is a touring singer/songwriter and liturgist who occasionally leads music during worship at Humble Walk. If their glasses aren’t enough to make you want to get to know more about them, we don’t know what’s wrong with you.

FALL 2012


It’s been a rough couple of decades for mainline Protestant congregations. Worship attendance, membership and giving are down across the board. The largest growing religious affiliation in the United States is “none.” Nearly one in five adults claim “no religion”—up from 15 percent in 2007. Only 40 percent of the country self-identifies as being a Protestant Christian. In 1972, Protestants comprised over two-thirds of the population. 1

the future of our denomination. In the midst of stark realities and concerns about sustainability, we found hope in God’s assurance of faithfulness and in the many assets we still possess as a church body.

The trends are similar within our own tribe, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Since 1990, we have lost over 1 million people and 1,000 congregations.2 In that span of time, 64 of the 65 synods have experienced an overall decline in baptized members. The only synod that grew did so because one congregation went from 0 to 12,000-plus members (Lutheran Church of Hope, West Des Moines, Iowa).

The ELCA Youth Ministry Network was affirmed throughout our process as an excellent organizational model of cultivating resources and support across geographic lines. Words like “network” and “interdependence” appeared throughout the final report. Synods and congregations were encouraged to consider ways to become more fluid in the ways they function. The goal is that increased communication, collaboration and connectivity will help to foster new ideas within these existing structures.

In late 2009, a task force was assembled through the ELCA Churchwide Organization to study the evolving societal and economic changes that have impacted our church body. This group was called “Living Into the Future Together (LIFT): Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA,” and was made up of twelve people from across the church. I had the opportunity to serve on this task force as its youngest member. Throughout the nearly two years of LIFTing, I was amazed at the openness to new ideas among everyone in the group, many of whom were more than twice my age. There was honest reflection of successes and failures within the ELCA since before its inception in 1988. Task force members prayed, read, listened and spoke earnestly to discern God’s will for

The LIFT task force conducted research and formulated a report and recommendations that was given to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2011.3

In many ways LIFT was a process of honest self-assessment. Our work was guided by two key questions: (1) What is God calling us to be and do in the future? (2) What changes are in order to help us respond most faithfully? As we asked these questions throughout our church’s vast eco-system, we heard stories of joy and hope coupled with cries of fear and sorrow. Church leaders sensed that things needed to change, but they struggled to know how to counteract the trends in American religious culture without upsetting existing members. The best part of my LIFT experience was working with Kenn Inskeep, Director of ELCA Research and Evaluation. Not only is he intelligent and witty, Kenn has a powerful story of how God’s grace was made known to him as a young man. He passionately believes that we Lutherans have something amazing to share but also acknowledges that we struggle to


be flexible in our methodology. In a recent paper4, Inskeep reflects on the LIFT process and offers some thoughts on the challenges of change: For Lutherans, the challenge is less theological than institutional. Lutherans like each other and they are not hospitable to outsiders. Lutherans do not like change particularly with regard to long, well established, institutional practices and this institutional rigidity has become an obstacle to proclaiming the good news. Lutherans have trouble translating the power and authority of their theology into practices that are recognizable or appealing in contemporary American society. Yet, at their core Lutherans believe that God is continually forming and re-forming the church and that Christians have a vocation in this world that demands their attention to it and their ability to engage it seriously and relevantly. I don’t know anyone who is pleased with the declines we are experiencing. People acknowledge that something needs to change. The logistics of “what” should change and “how” to implement that change continues to baffle ministers of every stripe across the country. -------------------------------------------------------I’m told there was a time when congregations were overflowing with young families. It was the time of American Civic Religion, an era where just about every self-respecting businessman and his family would come to church in their “Sunday best” and see all the movers and shakers from the community. Congregations added huge education wings where the children could go after (or, at times, during) worship while their parents drank coffee and socialized. Throughout the Baby Boom, churches looked to public schools as the pedagogical model their children’s education ministry. Pastors and lay people were the experts in the front of the classroom who would convey the nuanced complexities of faith to this growing mass of children. As a result, it ttp:// 3 4 “Patterns of Synodical Life that Effectively Support Congregational Missional Vitality “- Inskeep 5 The PBS series “God In America” examines this era in Episode 5: Soul of a Nation. 2


was expected that these young people would develop a mature, fully-formed faith by their early teenage years.5 Churches continued this model of Faith Formation as Baby Boomers became parents. These adults may not have grown much in their faith after Confirmation and Luther League, but they knew that taking their children to church was the right / moral / good thing to do. Classrooms continued to be full, but church leaders noticed a disturbing pattern. Parents weren’t coming inside the church building for worship, education, or fellowship. Instead, they were dropping off their child to receive Christian instruction. Savvy pastors countered by requiring students to attend worship as part of Confirmation, realizing that if young teens had to be in worship, their parents would be there as well. This sense of duty helped churches hold onto young families well into the 1990s. However, this numerical success only lasted until the young person put on their white robe and recited their favorite Bible verse on Confirmation Sunday. It was common for congregations to bid farewell to half of these households once the requirements were met and the young person became an adult member of the church. From there, it was up to the charismatic youth minister to reel them back to church with game-oriented, super“fellowshipy”, attraction-based programs. Often, these programs were less concerned with discipleship formation and more focused on making church a cool place to hang out. Recently, churches are losing these young families before their kids are even old enough for Confirmation. Gen-X and old Millennial parents tend to not feel the same obligation to be at church as their parents and grandparents. Classrooms aren’t as full as they once were. Older members of the congregation wonder where all of the young people went. -------------------------------------------------------The report and recommendations generated by the LIFT Task Force was more than seventy pages long. In case this report doesn’t make it onto your leisure reading list, here are a few key takeaways.


CONGREGATIONS = CENTERS OF MISSION The congregations of the ELCA are places where mission is done most effectively. They have the ability to inspire and mobilize people to live out their faith by serving others.

SUPPORTING CONGREGATIONS IS A HIGH PRIORITY Other expressions of our church eco-system should work to build up healthy congregations by listening, teaching, and sharing resources.

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND SUPPORT Identifying and training faithful leaders is crucial to the future of our church. As Ozan Sevimli told the task force, “No brilliant idea, no brilliant plan, no brilliant strategy will be effective without strong leadership.” 6

RELATIONSHIPS WITH GLOBAL COMPANIONS AND ECUMENICAL PARTNERS We learned a lot about the model of accompaniment—walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. By pursuing relationships in this way, we acknowledge that we have something to offer and something to gain.

USE NETWORKS TO STRENGTHEN EXISTING CONNECTIONS. The growth of digital media has made it easier to cultivate networks throughout the country. All expressions of the church should explore ways to be connected through networks.

CULTURE OF DISCERNMENT When we make decisions, we attempt to discern God’s will. This is done with a spirit of openness to different ways of being God’s people in the world. If our denomination is to move boldly into the future, it’s clear that relationships, networks, and congregations will be the vehicles that take us there. The same is true for our approach to Faith Formation. In the way that congregations are centers for mission, homes are centers for faith formation. Ministry in the home is supported by the ministry in the congregation.

“Quo vadis ELCA” – Ozan Sevimli


Church staff and programs exist to support people in vocational life. A relationship of accompaniment between children, parents, peers and multiple generations is key to helping young people grow in faith. Cultivating connections with home life and church life are essential for people to learn the language of faith. Establishing networks within the congregation and in the community ensure that disciples feel supported and nurtured when doubts arise. -------------------------------------------------------Based on my experience in the LIFT process, coupled with twelve years as a youth and family minister, I believe that the best way for youth leaders to “live into the future together” is to simply be who we are—the ELCA Youth Ministry Network (The Network). It’s imperative that we support one another in the daunting, terrifying, essential work of renewal, both in our congregations and in our approach to faith formation. Through honest self-assessment and communal discernment, we can all discover ways that God is calling us to do something new. There is freedom in admitting something isn’t working. It is in that moment of discernment that the Spirit enters in and guides us into new discoveries. Take joy in the process of renewing your approach to ministry. When innovation is met with resistance, lean on your colleagues in the The Network to walk with you. Celebrate successes and failures equally, trusting that God continues to be among you as you navigate unchartered territory. Morgan Freeman’s character from The Shawshank Redemption said, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” It has been a rough couple of decades for our denomination. I think it’s time that we as a church get busy living…into the future, together. May God give us faith and courage as we support each other in the work of renewing our church.

Erik Ullestad serves as the Family Life & Youth Director at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA. His family includes wife Allison and their three children. Erik is also half of ElbowCo, a ministry resource and consulting team. He likes to watch basketball, listen to folk music,

FALL 2012


by Clint Schnekloth

Every step we take, every move we make, in organizing or forwarding the mission of the church, either explicitly or implicitly expresses in concrete form the church we hope to see. Although a strong vision of the future may or may not drive our daily ministry, nevertheless what the church does and says from day-today is just so an expression of what the church hopes to see itself as in the future. Once we come to this realization, we realize the extent to which the present form of the church—or the past forms of the church as we remember them—tend to drive our vision of the church we hope to see. The classic cliché, “We’ve never done it that way before,” is not just a description of how the church has been in the past, or how we see the church in the present; it is also a prescription for how the church ought to be in the future. In other words, the church is almost exclusively driven by what already is rather than what might be. The church re-actualizes what already is rather than dwelling and visioning in possibility. When and if the church considers hoped-for or preferred futures, it tends to extrapolate the future from present realities, either in the negative—because we don’t like the church as it is now, we hope it won’t be this way in the future—or more rarely the positive—we like this part of the church now and hope it will be strengthened. By comparison, consider the gospel pericope for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 10:46–52. Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind begger, knew precisely the church he hoped to see. He hoped to see the kind of church that could give him sight to see. In other words, Bartimaeus was wise enough to pray not for the future of the church per se, but rather for the sight to see anything at all. You can’t see a church or hope for it if you yourself remain blind.

His simple prayer has developed over the centuries into the Jesus Prayer, a penitential prayer prayed by millions of Christians (especially in the East) that offers a concrete vision of the church we hope for, as well as a confession of who we are that blinds us from this vision. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Bartimaeus hoped to see Jesus, Son of David. He sought mercy and healing. Having received report from the crowd that Jesus was calling him, he sprang up, threw off his cloak, and came to Jesus. Upon receiving his sight, he made sure he kept Jesus in his sights by following him. What might this mean for our description of the church we hope to see? For starters, it means listening to the thrum of the engine that has driven the recovery of the eschatological imagination in tweny-first century theology: the future is not something that we are on the way to; instead, the future is on the way to us. The future is coming to meet us in Christ. In this sense, the church we hope to see is the church on the way to us in Christ. I remember reading a column a few years back by Richard Bliese, the president of Luther Seminary, that caught my attention, so much so that I made one quote from it one of my “favorited” quotes on my Facebook profile. Reflecting on his return to the United States after 11 years serving as a missionary in Germany, Zaire and Rwanda, he wrote, “ I once heard this advice from a wise African missionary: In working with young people in America, do not try to call them back to where they were, and do not try to call them to where you are, as beautiful as that place might seem to you. You must have the courage to go with them to a place that neither you nor they have ever been before.” ( elerts/article.aspx?id=532) There is much to commend this way of thinking. At the very least, it opens up the


possibility that the church of the future might be beyond the imagining both of the church inviting young people into ministry, as well as the young people themselves considering partnership with the church in ministry. It confesses the temptations to continue church as it is, or to continue life as it had been prior to an encounter with the church on a mission in God. These are admirable and salutary. I recommend this kind of “imagineering.” In the end, thought, it may not go far enough. The danger is simple: the insight still implies there is something intrinsic to the tribe or the missionary that will lead them into a new place one could have guessed completely apart from God as future. It is still you, the missionary, together with them, young people, on the way to somewhere. The eschatological insight here is that the future is not our preferred future, but God’s future. It is God’s future on the way to us, not the other way around. This makes all the difference in the world. It means that the question, “What is the church we hope to see?” is not only a future-oriented question, but a matter of present realities. We are called to live, as N.T. Wright felicitously expresses it, “from the future back into the present.” The church we hope for is standing right there in front of us, if only we have eyes to see. The church we hope to see we entertain in faith when we cry out with Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us.” Now everyone is going to want something concrete, right? Tell me what this future coming from God looks like. Part of me wants to respond that this future looks like Jesus. Another part of me wants to say that the future is God. Both of those answers, though true, will sound too abstractly theological to some. I admit that I don’t find them to be so, because part of being open to God’s future on the way to us is to let go of some of our empty visions and false hopes. We are called, like

Bartimaeus, tocoffee. plead for God’s mercy in our and drink lots of blindness. Who knows what kind of sight we’ll have when Jesus heals us? However, the concrete vision is actually implicit in the eschatological insight. If the future is coming to us, then it is our reception of God’s future that is our concrete action in the world. And the model for what this looks like is Christ’s suffering love. Walter Brueggemann, in his wonderful early work, Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom, offers this quote, which summarizes as well

as anything written, the shape of the church we hope to see: “What is it God has promised that the world does not know? Simply that which separates the followers of Jesus from the slaves of this world--suffering love. This little, seemingly powerless community is ordered and identified by its practice of caring, transforming, empowering love of the towel and basin variety.”

mercy on me,” all the while keeping their eyes focused on the one who has given them sight—Jesus. Oh wait, I see, that means all the church is doing is what they’ve already seen God’s future in Jesus doing, because there he is, on his knees, washing feet.

Clint Schnekloth is lead pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas. You can learn more here:

The church we hope to see is a church on its knees, washing feet, praying under their breath, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have

THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH: A FACEBOOK CONVERSATION (PART 1) Lura N. Groen Not in our hands, in God’s. October 4 at 9:16am · Like · 7 Robert Saler Looking more and more like its past. October 4 at 9:17am · Like · 1 Erik Doughty mystery of faith. October 4 at 9:18am · Like · 3 Tim Larson Led by the Spirit -- and to be grappled with. Courage and faith anyone? October 4 at 9:18am · Like · 1 Jonathan Conrad We are standing on the edge of an exciting time to be the church! There are so many ways we can tell the Story which can reach so many people (globally as well as locally). I am working on every sermon having a specific “Let Me Tell You About Jesus” moment (I know I know, I should already have it lol). I am also working on a “Living Stewardship” idea for our congregation. So THIS IS AN EXCITING TIME TO BE THE CHURCH October 4 at 9:21am · Like · 2 Joseph Summerville ...the gates of Hades shall not prevail... October 4 at 9:22am · Like · 1

Jonathan Conrad Joseph, if I can quote Rage Against The Machine “All Hell Can’t Stop Us!” October 4 at 9:23am · Like · 3 Brad Lindberg I am curious as to what folks think it will look like? It seems to me that “church” needs to, and will, look drastically different. I think this is both exciting and scary. It seems it would be helpful to have something of a picture, or a sense maybe, of what this new vision might look like to help us try and lead people in such a bold new direction. (True, it’s not totally new since ultimately our direction is following Jesus and that hopefully doesn’t change) October 4 at 9:30am · Like · 1 Brad Lindberg Robert Saler, could say more about which “past” you see us heading towards? October 4 at 9:31am · Like Tim Larson Jonathan Conrad ...exciting, yes, and anxious, and creative, and frustrating, and spirit-filled, and difficult, and mysterious, and uncertain... etc.... Lets serve, keep our eyes on Jesus, and see what doors the Spirit opens. Our obligation is to look and respond in faith. October 4 at 9:32am · Like · 1

Chris Duckworth The Christian faith will continue and even thrive. God will continue to be faithful to his people, and our Lord will show up in Word and Sacrament, and the Spirit will guide us into a new future. But the 20th century church *institutions* we have built up will dramatically change. And by dramatically change, I mean contract on a huge scale, and in many cases crumble. October 4 at 9:33am · Like · 4 Phillip Martin will probably, somewhere, still have 8th graders serving as acolytes. October 4 at 9:37am · Like · 5 Bob Fisher There will be one. We may not recognize it. It will be good, because God is. October 4 at 9:45am · Like · 6 Gary Schulz The church will change. October 4 at 9:47am · Like · 1 John Willmann Think Europe. October 4 at 9:54am · Like · 1 Kert Lauterbach Think Africa October 4 at 10:05am · Like (Continued on page 13)


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3rd Tuesday Conversations are monthly gatherings of friends. They are great continuing education events. They are opportunities to hear from, and interact with experts in the field. 3TC conversations are free for Network members. Our schedule: December 18 - John Roberto (Faith Formation) January 15 - Brianna Morris-Brock (Mission Trips) February 19 - TBD March 19 - Kari Lyn Wampler (Youth Spirituality) April 16 - Mark DeVries (Avoiding Burnout) May 21 - Shannon Savage-Howie (Spiritual Direction)

Our conversations: We use online webinars. You can log in to a special webinar site and listen to the conversation while watching images on your screen. Or, you can watch on the computer while calling in and listening on your phone. You will have opportunities to ask questions as well.

Join the conversation! 3TC is sponsored by:

Times: All 3TC conversations begin at: 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Central 12:00 p.m. Mountain, 11:00 a.m. Pacific

Here’s our belief: There is an amazing amount of talent, expertise and skill within our community. And we

open source youth ministry

have all developed resources for use in our congregations. Many of us are willing to share those resources that we have created. MartinsList is a place to do that. Here, we can share our work with each other...and can create a community of mutual support in our ministry. It’s open source ministry.

It’s MartinsList.



by Tim Coltvet

Thinking of the mission and ministry of the church: past, present, or the church we hope for brings to mind some helpful insights on organizational leadership and change, especially in faith communities where, yes, even some well-meaning souls will inadvertently blurt out the age-old cliché, “We’ve never done it that way before!” For insight, we look to the work of Ronald Heifetz. Heifetz is most revered for his helpful parsing of the dynamics of change and challenges in organizations, whether technical or adaptive in nature. Technical challenges, Heifetz posits, are challenges that can be addressed by an expert who may have remedies or a simple solution for the situation at hand. Need a new muffler? Go to the mechanic. Need a new heart valve, find a good surgeon. But, what that surgeon cannot do for you is the deep adaptive work that is necessary to create health and wholeness long-term. Adaptive challenges demand much more of a person or a given organization. Rather than a simple fix or one or two helpful deliberate actions taken by a leader, the entire organization must enter into a posture of learning and adapting through the situation at hand. For those recovering from heart surgery, they very quickly learn that though the major challenge before them was getting through surgery, the bigger challenge is often adapting to a new diet, exercise, and way of being that will keep them in good health and exempt from future surgeries. Some challenges within organizations are very complex and difficult, and the courageous leader is not afraid to invite others into the complexity in an effort to find solutions together. As Heifetz remarks in the Harvard Business Review, “adaptive work is required when our deeply held beliefs are challenged,

when the values that made us successful become less relevant, and when legitimate yet competing perspectives emerge.” For illustrative purposes, let’s consider the topic of Sunday School. No doubt, it is one of the historically significant blessings to the church, yet also represents a seismic challenge to current frontline leaders of children, youth and family ministry in the North American context. A flurry of Lilly-funded studies over the past decade have suggested that Sunday School is not doing what it promises, or at least what we had hoped it would be doing: fostering a mature and/or maturing Christian faith in young people. Rather, Sunday School’s impact, in the long-run, appears to be paling in comparison to the formative factors of intergenerational worship life, multiple mentors, and household leaders that contribute regularly to the faith forming work of the Holy Spirit. Although a myriad of benefits have arrived to the people of the church through Sunday School classrooms over the years (yes, I had my favorite Sunday School teacher, too), its historic origins tell of a driving missional impulse that fueled its mission and purpose in a deeply contextual way. More specifically, Sunday School originally existed to reach out to poor and illiterate street children in the late 1880’s Europe. Twisting and contorting our way through a time-warp to the twenty-first century model of Sunday School brings about a curious and honest question: “How did we get here?” What do you think? Is Sunday School inviting adaptive leadership from today’s children, youth and family leaders? Here are seven markers that serve as a litmus test for understanding situations that require adaptive leadership. As you reflect on the means for fostering faith formation in the first


third of life in your church, I wonder if adaptive change might be in order: 1. If the solution requires operating in a different way than you do now . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 2. If the problem AND the solution require learning . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 3. If the solution requires shifting the authority and responsibility to the people who are actually affected . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 4. If the solution requires some sacrifice of your past ways of working or living . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 5. If the solution requires experimenting before you’re sure of the answer . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 6. If the solution will take a long time . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. 7. If the challenge connects to people’s deeply held values . . . you may be facing an adaptive challenge. John Roberto’s Lifelong Faith Journal, Spring 2011 As Heifetz dissects the change process, he is quick to point out that change is not a bad thing. As a case in point, you and I would welcome a generous donor coming to our door, unannounced, to inform us that their passion for children, youth and family ministry is compelling them to give a sizable monetary gift to the ministry. Suddenly, change looks pretty good! Yet, it’s the other aspect of change that gets most people’s ire up. Change often will illicit feelings of loss. Loss of something (a favorite hymnal in exchange for the new) or someone (that youth minister who loved our kids so

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much), loss of some place (a church closes its doors or perhaps opens the doors of a new building), and yes, even the loss of some ageold programs (fewer weekly Sunday Schools and the beginning of integrating parent/child faith dialogues and intentional mentoring connections). Name the changing situation, and you will have feelings of loss, no matter how right on you might be! At one point in my ministry, I was frustrated with the humdrum routine of suburban church life where some of the primary faith factors mentioned above were being woefully neglected. Parents as primary faith formers? Neglected. Multiple mentors in children’s lives? Too difficult to organize in a big church. Intergenerational worship and faith connections? Hard to do if the pastor is not fully on board. But, then I learned the “2 Degree Shift” (from The 2 Degree Difference that Will Change Your Heart, Your Home, and Your Health by Dr. John T. Trent) rule of thumb. Wanting so badly for parents to be more involved in their child’s faith journey, hoping so desperately to engage the growing population of aging adults in our congregation as mentors, truth be told, I longed for a 180 degree shift. Something radical, as in I wanted to turn an aircraft car-

rier on a dime! As necessary as that might be in a given situation, the wise leader learns that 180 degree turns will set you on course, however, the abrupt shift might toss half of your people off the side of the boat! The “2 Degree Shift” becomes adaptive in nature in the sense that you have your target in mind, but it is in the collective wisdom of the community that you press on towards your destination. Often, it looks more like you are tacking your way upwind, one diagonal stretch at a time, rather than in a direct line. Adaptive leadership requires one to stop and listen, to proceed as a catalyst for change while being attentively engaged in one’s community. A final aspect of Heifetz’s well developed principles turns us to the “church we hope to see” addressed in this issue of Connect. Heifetz astutely names the arduous process that all of us in systems must do. All of us must name what it is that defines us. What are the non-negotiatables that have carried us, do carry us, and will carry us into the future? The rest can, and must, be left behind as your particular community sees fit. In the church, and, in Lutheran communities, the non-negotiables tend to be relatively few. We speak of Word and Sacraments as defining elements of our life together. We take seriously Jesus’

call to come and see, to deny one’s self, to take up one’s cross and follow. The towel and basin were parting words and actions that set the course for Christian lives of discipleship. Beyond these keystone markers of worship and discipleship and the law of love, one can see that there is much room for freedom, experimentation and contextualization. Be a courageous leader, and the next time someone rehearses the phrase, “We’ve never done it that way before!” wonder with them, why? Could it be that God is bringing forth something new in this community of faith? Behold, I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

Tim Coltvet is the Coordinator of Contextual Learning and Coaching for the Children, Youth and Family Master’s Concentration at Luther Seminary. He has written for and is currently working on an essay addressing preaching to children and youth in congregational life for an upcoming Word and World journal.

THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH: A FACEBOOK CONVERSATION (PART 2) Erik Karas You have to have death before you can have resurrection. October 4 at 10:06am · Like · 2

Lynne Morrow fewer buildings... more ministries October 4 at 10:21am · Like · 4

Geoff Sinibaldo I hope there are lasers. Man that would be cool. October 4 at 10:16am · Like · 8

Matthew Martin I think the purpose statement at Sanctuary (a new mission start) pretty much sums it up: creating sacred space (wherever we can amidst the busyness), connecting to God, and responding to what God is already doing in the world. Relationships have never been more important. October 4 at 10:26am · Like · 1

Pastorjoelle Colville-Hanson is in God’s hands, not ours. October 4 at 10:17am · Like · 3


Erma Wolf “Built on a rock the Church shall stand, even when steeples are falling. Crumbled have spires in every land -- bells still are chiming and calling, calling the young and old to rest, but above all the souls distressed longing for rest everlasting.” October 4 at 10:32am · Like · 4 Erma Wolf Denominations come and go. They are transient. The Church as the Body of Christ is eternal. That is a promise for comfort, not complacity. October 4 at 10:35am · Like · 1 (Continued on page 18)

DREAMING DREAMS OF THE CHURCH: A MOVING BIBLE STUDY When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it we hear, each of us, in our own native language?” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:1–8, 12–13, NRSV) The Pentecost story is one of my favorites. It is such a rich story of unity brought on by the Holy Spirit and shared by everyone gathered. I love the incredible moment where the unexpected happens within great confusion and cacophony. The church I grew up in had the tradition of several people reading this lesson in multiple languages very theatrically. But I imagine this first Pentecost to be much more perplexing than hearing a handful of people talking over each other. I imagine there would be so much noise that nothing, including your own thoughts, would be distinguishable. It is in the middle of that great holy mess that the people find a common voice. They realize they can speak and understand each other. There is a remarkable moment of unity and community. It is an incredible start to the church. The story continues with Peter preaching: But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not

drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. (Acts 2:14–17, NRSV) As Peter preaches, he is reminding the people of their heritage and of the sacred words they have grown up hearing and reciting. The church was then—and is now—linked to the past through scripture. As we move into the future, the Spirit is among us and is visible. It is time for us in our own holy mess to listen for God’s voice and to make the Holy Spirit a visible and recognizable source in our church bodies. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us. Now it is time for us all to dream some dreams.

A NEED FOR DREAMING Recently a Pew Research Center study showed that the largest increasing religious group is the Nones, those who don’t claim any affiliation. Currently, one in five adults and a third of adults under 30 do not identify with a religion. Just from my own perspective as a young adult, I completely understand this Rise of the Nones. I have seen the change among friends and felt the varied reasons myself. When the loudest voices of Christianity are not preaching the same welcoming, radical grace-giving good news I hear in the gospels, it’s very easy to want to be somehow separated from them, even if it is in as superficial of a way as a checkbox. However, my calling as a baptized Christian claims me to something more than a checkbox. It is leading me to a deeper sense of hope and dreaming for our church. It is a sense of the church that was displayed throughout the book of Acts in the visibility of the Holy Spirit and it is a church that needs to be dreaming in community together. 14

By Rebekah Wedge Thornhill

The unaffiliated are not completely disengaged in society but are getting more involved in community service and politics. In some ways, they are the ones who are most active in creating a world where poverty and injustice are not able to survive. They are living out their dreams for the future. I sometimes worry that our churches are not actively dreaming about the ever-changing future. We need to raise up the voices of the dreamers. We need to allow our collective dreams to guide our church. What follows is a moving Bible Study you can do with your kids and youth. At each location, read a Bible passage that will connect you to the past and the living word. Then explore the questions to help you connect with the visible Holy Spirit and to begin dreaming dreams together.

AT THE FONT Gather around the baptismal font or another source of water. Baptism affirms our common call to guide each other in understanding and sharing our faith. • Read together about Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26–40. • Philip was immediately taken away by the spirit. Do you ever feel immediately “taken away” physically, spiritually or emotionally? • What are the ways you remember your baptism or celebrate your baptismal anniversary? • What do you think is the more important thing to share about baptism? • If everyone baptized could instantly understand something about God or their faith that they may not already know, what would it be?

IN A REFLECTION Find some mirrors or a reflective surface where everyone can gather. When we are joined in community, we are able to see reflections of God in each other. • Read together about the Council at Jeru-

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salem in Acts 15:1–11. • In this passage, there is debate about who is a part of the church and who is not. What are ways that we define who we are as Christians? • How does the church reflect who you are as an individual? How does the church reflect your neighbor? • What do you want the people in the church to look like?

LOOKING THROUGH WINDOWS Gather around a window. Windows can provide a look into a place we might not otherwise see. Windows also allow us to look out into the world. • Read together about Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:1–22. • How did Saul’s perception change? • We do not always experience dramatic conversions such as this, but what are the ways you have felt changed by the church? • Look around. Are there perspectives you have never seen of the church? Have you ever laid on the floor to look up or seen what it looks like from the chancel? • What is a perspective you would like to see happening in the church?

where proclaiming the gospel could mean costing him his life. In the United States, we are granted a freedom that Paul did not have during his lifetime, and that others do not have today, yet we don’t always appreciate it. What is a way that you can use your voice and encourage others to use theirs? • Whose voice is not being heard in our churches today? • Where are other places we can be proclaiming the word?

AT THE ALTAR Surround the altar. • Read together about Paul in Athens in Acts 17:22–28. • Here Paul encounters a community in Athens with so many gods that they don’t seem to know who they have built an altar to. How does this altar specifically join us together? (Hint: it’s less about the altar and more about the actions and words around it.) • How do the sacraments help to connect the community with a unified voice? • How can we help more people to understand what we believe? How can we make God go from an unknown to a known?



Stand outside the main doors to the church. Notice what doors are able to keep in and shut out. • Read together about when Peter heals a lame beggar in Acts 3:1–10. • This story is about a man who has been begging outside the church his entire life. What was different when he finally went into the church? • How would you like to welcome people into the church building or community? (Think about ways to welcome people that don’t have to do with the building such as social media or personal interaction.) • How can we welcome beauty, wonder, and amazement into our communities?

Gather around artwork, paraments, or an organ, piano or other musical instrument. In our Lutheran tradition, music and visual arts hold a special place for exploring and reflecting on our faith. • Read together about Paul and Silas in prison in Acts 16:22–34. • Paul and Silas were praying and singing in prison. When are unexpected times you can share God’s presence? • Share about a favorite hymn or piece of art. How is faith represented in art or music for you? • How would you like to see the church represented in creative ways?

MY DREAM FOR THE CHURCH IN SCRIPTURE Gather in a place where scripture is read and proclaimed such as the lectern or pulpit. • Read together about Paul’s vision in Corinth in Acts 18:9¬11. • Paul was living in a challenging time

Recently I heard a remark: if we fail to dream, we will continue to have nightmares. I don’t want to say that the church is a nightmare, but it is a difficult place for many. It is a place that many feel unwelcome and unloved. It is a place where people are not always able to hear the 15

gospel. This is when the nightmares creep into the shadows of our sanctuaries. This is why we must keep dreaming. Perhaps my best dream for the church is found at the end of Acts 2: So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. (Acts 2:41–47a, NRSV) I dream of a church where the shadows are cast out by the light of the resurrection. I dream of a church where we spend our time sharing love in community. I dream of a church where we gather together over meals and sacred conversations. I dream of a church were we are rooted in scripture and fill every breath mark with the actions of our lives. I dream of a church where we care for all people as an outpouring of God’s grace. I dream of a church were we are in constant awe of the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives. I dream of a church that dreams. I occasionally get glimpses of this church and in those moments I am overwhelmed with hope and joy. It reminds me that there is much more work to be done within the church (and the checkbox) that have claimed me.

Rebekah Wedge Thornhill is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. After a few years working in family and youth ministry, she is now a part of the Metropolitan New York Synod staff.

DESIGNING MINISTRY Almost five years ago, a group of us at Augsburg Fortress gathered in a conference room to discuss a simple question: if you were given a blank page of paper, how would you redesign the organization? The set of meetings that ensued were appropriately called the “blank page” meetings. Since that time, our organization has been on a journey—with no end in sight—pursuing this question in the context of our particular vocation as the ministry of publishing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It’s been a wild ride. Not long after the “blank page” meetings, a different group of us gathered to take this question further. This time, we began hatching a new organization within Augsburg Fortress. Our conversations ranged broadly: some of us were inspired by the “design thinking” methodologies of innovation firms like IDEO, while others focused on writing a manifesto for the new organization—with all the iconoclasm and passion that might entail. Still others of us were energized by the prospect of moving in a more ecumenical direction. One thing unified us, however—our very simple mission statement: spark new life in Christian communities. One of the core concepts of design thinking is the notion of a “wicked problem.” There are many organizations and people associated with design thinking, and there are as many approaches to design thinking as there are definitions of design. However, the notion of a wicked problem seems universal. A wicked

by Tim Paulson

problem is usually defined as a big, complex problem, with no obvious solution. In our case, the wicked problem was the state of the church. How could we use design thinking to help us with this problem? And how would we need to change as an organization? I won’t recount the challenges the church faces—you probably know better than I do. But one fact seems clear: the mainline church is not growing. Both Gallup and Pew have published the latest news: organized religion continues its decades old decline, and the only group that seems to be growing in the American religious scene is the unaffiliated. There are no doubt congregations that are bucking these trends—perhaps you’re in one of them (and if you are, your experience is important as we try to respond to this wicked problem). But overall, the challenge is deep and persistent. Like it or not, we do have a problem. Ironically, we at sparkhouse find that problems—honestly stated—tend to energize people. At least that’s the effect on us. Despite our ecumenical commitments, this is, perhaps, a legacy of our Lutheran heritage: as Luther taught us, “A theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is.” One of the first wicked problems we encountered was confirmation. I taught confirmation many years ago as an intern pastor. It was not the easiest assignment, but I enjoyed it: how often do you get the chance to teach doctrinal theology to hormonally challenged kids! More seriously, though, it’s often an unsaid anxiety in our congregations that youth “graduate from church” in confirmation, never to be seen again. This was the first wicked problem that we addressed in our new organization. We called the organization “sparkhouse.” The name means a lot of things to us, but most simply suggests the creative, dynamic “space” that we want to be. I joke sometimes that sparkhouse is not a place, but a “state of mind.” But it’s also true that location matters: we’re purposely located outside of downtown Minneapolis and the corporate offices of Augsburg 16

Fortress in what I like to call the “East Village” of Minneapolis—the Wedge neighborhood of Uptown. If you’ve ever been to New York City, you know that the East Village is an artistic and iconoclastic part of Manhattan, and that fits the Wedge. That’s probably a fair description of sparkhouse, too. Our ambition early on was to be an organization that was “provocatively and constructively orthodox Christian.” In effect, we wanted to be located in a place that reflected our sense of identity. And I think we found that. However, the iconoclasm that we brought to our new venture wasn’t for its own sake. It was about fulfilling our mission, sparking new life in Christian communities—tackling “wicked problems.” And, again, our first big problem was confirmation. Confirmation has always been a cornerstone of Christian education, particularly in the Lutheran tradition. In fact, many of you may not consider it a problem at all. In design thinking, framing the problem appropriately is critical. In this case, we chose to frame the problem of confirmation a bit more broadly: even though few were complaining about confirmation itself, many were worried to death about the way confirmands tend to drop out of church for decades, if ever coming back. That’s the wicked problem. Our hypothesis— and perhaps you share this, too—was that confirmation was a part of this broader wicked problem: that is, confirmation was a part of a larger ministry system that was not properly preparing youth for adult faith. As burgeoning design thinkers, we took the natural next step and tested our hypothesis— even if unconventionally: we tweeted. This was late in 2009. One of our colleagues had a big Twitter following, and he posted a simple message that went something like this: “Want to help us rethink confirmation?” The tweet included a link to a Google form, and within hours we had dozens of people interested in helping us confront our wicked problem. Just

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like that. It’s amazing how a wicked problem—honestly stated—can gather community (and hope)! At this point, our hypothesis had evolved into a kind of wonky aspiration statement: “Empower youth to become constructive theologians.” In other words, we thought that confirmation tended to disempower youth, not enabling them to think theologically about life—a skill, if you can call it that, which is foundational to a rich, adult faith. This had multiple implications for ministry in general, but for us—and our ministry of publishing—it meant that we needed to develop a resource that began to solve this problem, wicked though it may be. Helping teens become “constructive theologians” may sound vague and academic, but we saw it as very concrete and practical. What does this mean? Well, as we began to develop the resource, we sought out ways to make theological refection fun and concrete for youth—i.e., as fun as a set of videos that reflected their snarky sense of humor and concrete as a book full of activities that transformed into dozens of hands-on projects. And, naturally, we decided to call this resource—“reform.” There was actually a lot in this simple word: one, it referred to the Reformation, both institutionally and theologically; two, it suggested the topic— formation; and, three, it alluded to an aesthetic activity, like shaping or forming, which is the heart of the process. Yes, there’s a lot in this simple word, but it also clearly suggests our simple desire to create some change. And like Luther confronting the devil, it seemed necessary to bring some laughter with these changes. We laughed a lot ourselves. And so have many of our customers! After assembling our group of Twittersourced reviewers, we used another major tool in the design thinking toolkit: we “iterated.” Or, as my colleague says, “We made a

bunch of stuff, showed it to some people. And did it again. And again.” In this case, we visualized our concept of empowering youth—got some feedback. Mocked-up some funny video—and got more feedback. Wash and repeat. It’s really quite a simple, but it was one of first times we did this systematically. The key is to be visual, and design a good feedback group. In addition to this Twitter group reviewing our prototypes, we formed another one to help us concept the curriculum. In fact, we flew them in from the “four corners” for an event we call a “jam.” Oftentimes, it’s most helpful to get a talented group of people around a single table to hash stuff out. A jam, though, is a particular kind of event for us: a jam takes its major inspiration from the freeform and collaborative process associated with certain forms of jazz. In the end, a jam for us has three ingredients: smart people, lots of play, and hours and hours of conversation focused on a few important problems. We have even started proliferating different kinds of jams: “creative jams,” “writing jams,” “prototype jams,” “contributor jams,” etc. And each has its own “flavor,” but the goal is always the same: solve some sort of wicked problem. The problems of course continue—and in some ways that’s how we like it. It gets our creative juices going. Re:form, of course, released in 2010—and some of you may have used it. Like all our products, it’s not perfect, but we like to think it’s made a dent in the wicked problems facing youth formation. Other projects have passed through our doors as well: ReNew VBS, Holy Moly Sunday school, Connect Preteen Sunday school, Animate adult series, etc. But Re:form really kicked it all off for us. More importantly, we press on. There’s no rest for the wicked—or those of us who pursue wicked problems. We are by no means done with investigating youth ministry. Nor is


Re:form. But we ultimately measure our success in how we impact end users—regardless of age or ministry program. I still remember a particular vignette form the early days of Re:form. We were only a few weeks or so after release into the market, and we got some feedback from a congregation using it. Thankfully, the confirmation class really liked Re:form, as the congregation indicated, but more surprisingly for them (and us) was that the group who “graduated” from confirmation the year previous wanted to do confirmation again, after figuring out what the current class was doing. I had never heard of a reaction like that before. It took me a few moments to grasp what was going on. No one ever wanted to take my confirmation class again! At that point, however, I knew that we had made a dent in our wicked problem—or at least as much as a publisher partnering with you can. I knew that we had a chance—God willing—to empower youth to become constructive theologians in their own lives. Doing confirmation again was exactly the point. Reflecting daily on our baptismal identity—theologically—was exactly the point. Those confirmation “graduates” weren’t thinking about all of this, of course. But planting a “spark” for ongoing, lifelong, theological reflection was exactly what we wanted to do. And I caught a glimpse—if only a glimmer—of something truly new.

Tim Paulson is Publisher at sparkhouse, the ecumenical division of Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. Among other things, he looks forward to finishing his MBA this spring and trying to keep up with his multinational, multilingual, and interfaith family.

THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH: A FACEBOOK CONVERSATION (PART 3) Michele Fischer Jeremiah 29:11 I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. October 4 at 11:04am · Like

will trump a structured outline every time. The great stories of the Bible are still powerful. How few words to tell “The prodigal son.” The future of the church is narrative. October 4 at 5:50pm · Like · 1

David Roschke Will still be a community of saints and sinners. October 4 at 11:45am · Like · 1

Keith Andrew Spencer A place of intentional and energized intergenerational discipleship through which the best of creative selves is humbled offered in love though prayer, presence, worship, serving, justice and fellowship and where the worst of ourselves dies again and again in repentance and forgiveness. October 4 at 6:13pm · Like Clint Schnekloth The church I hope for is the church Luther hoped for when translating the mass into German, the one he said was ideal but would never happen. October 4 at 9:02pm · Like · 2

Tim Bauerkemper Messy and chaotic. Scares the hell out of me. Wonderfully scary though. October 4 at 12:43pm · Like · 3 Robert Saler The fact that clergy will, by economic necessity, be more engaged in “secular” vocations will be an initial hardship and a long-term boon to mission. Some, however, will withdraw and renew both eremitic and cenobitic streams of monasticism. Both of those features are what I meant by “more like its past.” October 4 at 12:54pm · Edited · Like · 1 Michael LawrenceWeden Five congregations in San Antonio are going through a process of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Discernment to find out what we are being called to do and to become. Our next session will be on OCt 13 from 9 to 11 am at Good News Lutheran Church. and (210) 4523207 for more information. October 4 at 12:54pm · Like · 1 Charles Fredrickson It’s in process :) October 4 at 12:58pm · Like Michael Coffey crucifixion and resurrection October 4 at 2:06pm · Like · 2 R Don Wright In the year 27,012 our times will be regarded as the early church. October 4 at 5:06pm · Like · 2 Kert Lauterbach Narrative! A couple weeks ago in Business Week there was an article sharing that power point as an effective tool is over. Someone who can tell the story effectivly

Ron Mathews Like Social Security, the ELCA church will not be around for me to retire from based on its current state, if at all. October 4 at 9:19pm · Like Scott Alan Johnson Jesus October 4 at 9:21pm via mobile · Like · 1 Clint Schnekloth Luther’s third type of divine service (after the Latin and German options) [3] But the third sort [of Divine Service], which the true type of Evangelical Order should embrace, must not be celebrated so publicly in the square amongst all and sundry. Those, however, who are desirous of being Christians in earnest, and are ready to profess the Gospel with hand and mouth, should register their names and assemble by themselves in some house to pray, to read, to baptize and to receive the sacrament and practise other Christian works. In this Order, those whose conduct was not such as befits Christians could be recognized, reproved, reformed, rejected, or excommunicated, according to the rule of Christ in Matt. xviii. Here, too, a general giving of alms could be imposed on 18

Christians, to be willingly given and divided among the poor, after the example of St. Paul in 2 Cor. ix. Here there would not be need of much fine singing. Here we could have baptism and the sacrament in short and simple fashion: and direct everything towards the Word and prayer and love. Here we should have a good short Catechism about the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. In one word, if we only had people who longed to be Christians in earnest, Form and Order would soon shape itself. But I cannot and would not order or arrange such a community or congregation at present. I have not the requisite persons for it, nor do I see many who are urgent for it. But should it come to pass that I must do it, and that such pressure is put upon me as that I find myself unable with a good conscience to leave it undone, then I will gladly do my part to secure it, and will help it on as best I can. In the meantime, I would abide by the two Orders aforesaid; and publicly among the people aid in the promotion of such Divine Service, besides preaching, as shall exercise the youth and call and incite others to faith, until those Christians who are most thoroughly in earnest shall discover each other and cleave together; to the end that there be no faction-forming, such as might ensue if I were to settle everything out of my own head. For we Germans are a wild, rude, tempestuous people; with whom one must not lightly make experiment in anything new, unless there be most urgent need. October 4 at 9:24pm · Like · 4 Jeremy Myers Clint - I like it but I wonder if it is time for a fourth type - one that actually seeks innovative ways of bringing elements of the Divine Service into the public square that Luther wanted to avoid. And I don’t just mean worshiping in a park during the summer. October 5 at 9:41am · Like Bob Fisher Clint Schnekloth - Luther was way ahead of his time, wasn’t he? Although I think today the need for serious experimentation might be greater than in his time.

FALL 2012 Tim Larson “You have to have death before you can have resurrection.” It doesn’t make death less painful -- but makes our pain and grief count. October 5 at 1:59pm · Like Tim Thompson The larger community gathers monthly, with Luther-style Third Order/house church groups gathering the other weeks. At the monthly you get full meal deal celebration worship and a sermon/message/teaching that’s been a month in the making. No more time pressure to be done in an hour. Plus the band/choir is awesome because they get a month to prep for every gathering. Always linked to a community meal. Prayer requests and praise reports from the weekly groups. In the weeklies, you have a month to process and work on applying the teaching in a supportive accountability, shared-life community. Parents collaborate and support each other in nurturing the faith of the kids. Pastors get to take the time saved from the weekly worship cycle and devote it to mentoring the leaders of the weekly groups. Oh, and since you only need the building one Sunday a month you can have the whole thing shared by four congregations and cut your facility costs by 75%. Even more if you can team up with some whackos who

think it’s OK to worship on some other day of the week. Yeah. Something like that. October 6 at 10:12pm via mobile · Like · 4

Nathan Strong Yes, I think that we will be surprised what it combines to make it work. November 1 at 9:08pm · Like

Mackenzie Thedens Grondahl Home based churches that worship once a month in town/ regional tribal gatherings where the sacraments are presided over by ordained clergy who serve as regional teachers. Regions band together in networks for mission , service, development, and mutua...See More November 1 at 3:18pm via mobile · Like · 2 Rick Fry Anti-denominational November 1 at 3:22pm via mobile · Like · 1

Chuck Olmstead The future of the church in the hands of man, as 21 so called ecumenical councils have proven, is debate God and the things of God, vote and schism, (sound familiar in the ELCA)...the future of the church in the hands of God’s Spirit is an Acts-like explosion of the power of God at work in this world...and its is an unstoppable movemnet, redeeming human souls and transforming human hearts. November 1 at 9:31pm · Like

Chris Gaule The future of the church will be filled with vibrant new life breathed by God into a world and a people that will long for the way things used to be or might be or can’t be. In the midst of that frustration, the simple fact of our dissatisfaction will be the constant reminder that we are dependent upon grace through and through. November 1 at 5:12pm · Like

Rebecca Ebb-speese After all the church has been through since its beginning- there is definitely a future but how it will look, that is the question. It should be ever reforming. November 2 at 10:06am · Like · 1

Kristy Buyok Christ will still be the head of it and the body will follow the head’s lead. All’s good. God’s got this. Christ will return. November 1 at 7:19pm · Like · 1


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FALL 2012

A VIEW FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE The Church I want to see . . . is a broad topic indeed. But, as with any topic, it starts with clarifying our terms of discussion. From the get-go, there’s that pesky first letter, “C.” If it’s capitalized, we go in one direction; if it’s not, we go in another. If we’re talking Church with a capital C, then quite frankly it’s none of my business to be saying what it should be. Because—in my own view, anyway—that’s God’s business. The big “C” Church will be what God wants it to be, with or without our help, thank you very much. And, as for the small “c” church, well, that’s also none of my business unless it’s the one where I am spending my Sunday mornings. Your church may look completely un-awesome to me (for reasons that might surprise you, honestly), but that’s none of my beeswax, as Junie B. Jones might say. Since I am an Episcopal priest, it is my bounden duty to talk about a “middle way,” a middle C/c Church/church that is neither one nor the other, but is a via media, or the middle road. Lutherans tend to hold two opposing views in tension. Anglicans seek a “middle way.” And my own opinion on the implications of those broad brush strokes is a matter for a different essay (which also might surprise you). So, what is the C/church I’d like to see? Well, for starters, it’s one where those two cases are the same thing—big “C” and little “c” sitting together, like in a Dr. Seuss book. By that I mean, a place where my local church is reflecting the broader Church. (Big C, little c, what begins with C?) Obviously, that is such an exaggerated

broad stroke that it seems like I’m finger painting. So, let me just cut to the Jackson Pollack method here and throw some “C”s at the wall, which was my pasta-tasting method in my earlier days . . . Continuity: The Kingdom is a place where all are welcome, and all participate, without regard to any of the walls and barriers and distinctions we throw up to make ourselves feel special or chosen. When we strive for that ideal in our little postage stamp of a church, we are connected to the Church of every time and every place, continuing to be part of the Church, whatever form it may take. Community: Whether or not I like you, or want you to be there, you are in the boat with me, and since it’s a lifeboat, throwing you out would require a really good justification. I mean, on the level of you’re actively drilling holes in the boat. In the best-case scenario, we do not choose our faith community, as though we were selecting a fitness club. If it’s in our hands, we will likely choose a community that makes our life easier, and that just ain’t right. Cool-Free Zone: Let’s face it, the reason many people go church shopping is because they want a place that’s cool. Most churches are not cool, by any stretch, and many “new” churches strive to be cool above all else. Sacraments and hymn singing and liturgy are decidedly uncool. And trying to make them cool suggests we are trying to create something other than church, to be blunt about it. Jesus was not cool. Jesus was not aloof or indifferent or part of the “in


by George Baum

crowd,” no matter how much your local Christian radio station may try to tell you otherwise. The church I want to see, in essence, is the church that has always been there. The place that seems foreign to our daily life, not trying to imitate it. The place that welcomes people who are not welcome anyplace else. The place that does what Luther says defines the church: administers the sacraments and preaches the gospel . . . These two criteria seem increasingly rare, in my experience. Mainly, the church I want to see is the church that is made up of every type of person in the local community. One where everyone is welcome, everyone hears the good news, and everyone can experience the gifts of grace in water, bread, and wine. I guess when it comes down to it, I’m just sort of an old-fashioned kind of guy.

George Baum is one half of the band Lost And Found (, and is also a supply priest in the Episcopal Church, the father of two, and the husband of one.


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