ATLANTA -- Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America interested in youth ministry participated in workshops about youth leadership and other aspects of youth ministry during the ELCA Youth Gathering here
The ELCA Youth Gathering is meeting here at the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center in two back-to-back events: July 16-20 and July 23-27. The Gathering, "Do Life! Ubuntu," is bringing together some 40,000 high-school-age and adult Lutherans who are engaging in worship, Bible study, community service and fun.
The workshops were offered through the Youth Ministry Network Academy, an organization that bring together youth ministry workers from ELCA congregations and from other areas of the church that provide leadership in youth ministry. Designed for both professionals and volunteers, workshops are held Thursday, Friday and Saturday during both events of the Gathering and include a general session for all participants.
The Rev. Roland D. Martinson, Basson-Olson Professor of Children, Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., was keynote speaker for the general session and also led a workshop "Putting the Family in Youth and Family Ministry." Martinson said he hopes the workshops will provide affirmation for the work of adults in youth ministry. He said it is important for adults to recognize the gifts, time and dreams they bring to relationships with youth.
Martinson said it was important to offer encouragement to participants, to orient them to "the real work of this generation of gifted youth" and to give participants "some knowledge and skills whereby they can increase their confidence in what they're doing." Martinson has been doing youth ministry for 41 years, including work as an associate pastor, youth pastor, senior pastor, professor and researcher.
"I suppose what fascinates me is the way in which a 12-year- old young [person] makes their way six years later ... into their adult powers," he said.
Martinson stressed that youth ministry is vital to a person's adult life. "It's such a crucial time in terms of fostering spirit, developing core values," he said. "If it's botched, it can destroy a person's life."
Workshop topics included how to care for youth, energizing congregations, teaching faith to youth, developing student leadership, preparing families to incorporate ministry into family life, youth ministry in cultural contexts and writing for youth ministry.
Many workshops began with short vignettes pertaining to the workshop topic before opening the floor to guided discussion. "I'm going to ask for input along the way," said Rick Heltne, Youth Ministry, Luther Seminary. In his workshop, "Developing Student Leadership," Heltne discussed with participants how to establish youth leaders in church communities. He asked participants to consider, "What makes that student a leader?" Nathan Frambach, assistant professor for youth, culture and mission, Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, led a workshop called "Youth and Family Ministry in Emerging Cultures." He encouraged conversation among participants about the problems and advantages found in different community contexts.
Luther Seminary and Wartburg Seminary are two of eight ELCA seminaries.
Information from the ELCA Youth Gathering can be found at http://www.elca.org/gathering/home.html on the Web.
*Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. She is an intern this summer in the ELCA News and Media Production.