This past weekend I had the great joy to attend, participate, and present at the 2015 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Youth Ministry Extravaganza. The Extravaganza (or “E!” as it is lovingly referred to as) is an annual gathering of children, youth and family ministers; faith formation directors; pastors; lay leaders and volunteers; and other thinkers and leaders who have a passion for youth and family ministry. This year’s event was held in Detroit, the host of this summer’s ELCA National Youth Gathering, and featured about 1,100 of our closest ministry friends.
The E! was wonderful. It was full of big questions, great conversation and tons of opportunities for collaboration. As my wife Allison pointed out in seeing the network of leaders just from our home state of Washington together, “that’s the largest group of Lutheran ministry leaders I have ever seen from Washington state gathered together at something other than a Synod Assembly.”
As part of Allison’s and my time at the E! we had the pleasure of helping spread the news and story about LEAD. I have mentioned about LEAD many times before, and it is a group I am passionate about being a part of and spreading the story. As part of this, we were selling hot off the presses first print and published copies of our friend Peggy Hahn’s first book, The Sacred Valley. Peggy even signed books for those who wanted them signed by the author. While also helping share LEAD’s story, we invited people to respond to prompts like “Great leaders are…” broadening the conversation on leadership, and its great importance in the church and ministry.
I presented and led two workshops on leadership over the course of the weekend called, “Leadership Questions You Wished You Asked in Seminary.” Basically, I was creating space for some thoughts about leadership and ministry, with lots of room for leadership questions, stories and wondering that different people in ministry have. So many great questions were shared, and it was wonderful to watch the interaction and insights from the different workshop groups. A couple questions that were asked that stand out:
1) Why doesn’t the church take leadership development and training more seriously?
2) How can you better lead alongside another leader? (Especially when that leader is technically in a position of higher authority than you.)
We had a rich discussion on values, vision, mission, discernment, gifts and strengths. I hope that all those who participated in those conversations enjoyed them as much as I did. In the weeks ahead I am sure that I will be using some of these stories to respond to those questions and more that were posed this past weekend here on the blog.
What I took a way from those conversations and seeing the way that the different people in attendance from different states and contexts engaged them is that:
1) Leadership is a major need and area where ministry leaders are thirsting for ideas and insights on how to be better leaders and to empower and equip others to be better leaders.
2) These ministry leaders care about each other and want to help each other. They share a desire to collaborate and find solutions, as well as creatively think and respond to ministry needs in their own contexts.
3) I am connected to some really awesome people! Looking around the E! I saw so many mentors, friends, conversation partners and colleagues all engaged in ministry with me. Knowing that they want to help do the work of the church alongside me, is quite humbling and gratifying.
These insights give me great hope, not just for the present church but also for the future of church and ministry.
For more thoughts and reflections related to the E! be sure and read my wife Allison’s reflections here, as well as our mentor Dr. Terri Elton’s reflections here. Also, to see more from those who participated in the E and its many conversations, check out #ext15.