Chances are you’ve heard of the Practice Discipleship initiative. What started as a one day event at the 2012 National Youth Gathering has become a program that works to enhance ministries and build disciples of Christ. We believe that this initiative can help youth ministries become the catalyst of revitalization in the spiritual lives of students and adults alike, and for congregations. If you’re interested, read more of the details below.
In 2010 the ELCA Youth Gathering Team created a day called “Practice Discipleship”. The idea behind this day at the Gathering was to bring Synods together to, well, practice discipleship! As the Gathering Team began planning this day, they invited a person from each Synod to be the Practice Discipleship Coach. This person was tasked with developing a unique day for their Synod to experience discipleship together, and to train and equip youth leaders in their Synods before the Gathering with some youth ministry basics. Beginning in 2011 and up to the 2012 Gathering trainings were being held throughout the ELCA; every synod brought youth leaders together to discuss the blessings and challenges in congregational youth ministry. In the end, there was an estimated 10,000 youth leaders trained! This left many asking, “What now?”
The team that dreamed up Practice Discipleship went to work following the Gathering in 2012 to create the Practice Discipleship Initiative. This initiative gained financial support from the ELCA, The Youth Ministry Network, many Lutheran seminaries, and many others. This has allowed Practice Discipleship to become a ministry of the ELCA that fosters faithful, thoughtful, and intentional leaders in congregations who follow Jesus in their daily lives.
In 2013 we launched into Practice Discipleship Phase 2 , or PD2013, with plans of starting a new phase every year.
For the Florida-Bahamas Synod, Practice Discipleship has allowed us to create a weekend retreat for youth leaders. We began this in the fall of 2011 with something we called LESS Training (Leading, Equipping, Serving, and Sending). This was our version of the Practice Discipleship training. As the future of Practice Discipleship was uncertain following the 2012 Gathering, we were not able to hold a retreat in 2012. But now we know Practice Discipleship is the future of youth ministry in the ELCA. We have plans to continue retreat weekends as Practice Discipleship Retreats, and continue to connect and grow our network of youth leaders in our Synod. The history of Practice Discipleship is not very old, but the future is bright!
PD 2012 | Opportunity or Despair? Youth Ministry at the Crossroads
The Practice Discipleship Initiative launched in 2011-2012, in partnership with the ELCA Youth Gathering. The training sessions are strictly geared for general training in Lutheran theology, youth ministry theory and practices, although references may be included in regards to the ELCA Youth Gathering. Special thanks to Youth Leadership and EveryDay LLC/Peer Ministry Leadership for their permission to include portions of their training curriculum in these training sessions. Also, thank you to the writing team of Dr. Terri Elton (Luther Seminary) Tiger McLuen (Youth Leadership) and Dr. Jeremy Myers (Augsburg College) for their collective work on these materials.
Opportunity or Despair: Youth Ministry at the Crossroads (Dr. Terri Elton, Luther Seminary)
Lutheran Theology: God at Work in the World & How Lutherans Read the Bible (Dr. Jeremy Myers, Augsburg College)
Youth Ministry Events as Faith Formation: Planning Events, Going Deeper and Preparing Your Group for an Event, Processing Events and Connecting them to Daily Life (Shivon Miller, Trinity Lutheran Church, Duluth, MN)(Heather Hansen, Texas Lutheran University)
We know that faith is passed on best through relationships. At the same time, we know that events – when done well – are effective tools in helping to build relationships and provide opportunities for meaningful faith conversations. This 3 part training series will give adult leaders a framework in which to plan, prepare and implement events that deepen faith. Topics in this training session include: Planning with a purpose, Logistics for planning events of all types; release forms/consent/paperwork, crisis management, processing the Experience, Connecting Events and Experiences to Daily Life and Managing a Group During an Event.
PD2013 | Faith Formation in a Missional Age
The world is changing rapidly. 1 out of every 5 adults in the USA claims to have no religious affiliation. Our task of faith formation just got more difficult. The purpose of this year’s Practice Discipleship phase is to explore the realities of faith formation in this missional age. These sessions will offer theological and theoretical foundations as well as practical ideas for faithfully moving forward with your ministry in these new times.
Overview Session by Terri Elton
This session will be an open discussion on the challenges we all face when doing ministry in this era. What are the challenges we are faced with? What is the opportunity? What are your fears and anxieties? What are your joys? We will seek the collective wisdom of the group on ways we can faithfully move forward and continue to support one another in our work.
In*cultur*ating the Gospel by Colleen Windham-Hughes
The gospel is the good news for all people, in all places, at all times. And yet the gospel must be translated anew for each generation, made fresh for each culture. What is culture anyway? Learn how cultural intelligence helps to equip us for the work of inculturating the gospel for God’s people in our places and times.
If Necessary Use Words by Hans Wiersma
By now, you’ve likely been admonished by some t-shirt, poster, or bumper sticker to “preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” The slogan (inaccurately attributed to St. Francis) appears to turn the Theology of the Word on its ear. On the other hand, the slogan resonates in a culture where explicitly religious speech is met with suspicion or even outright hostility. Still, if “faith comes through hearing” and “God’s Word does what it says,” then should we not also be speaking up for the spoken, preached Word? Along with Scripture, we’ll look at past and present resources from Lutheran and other traditions to guide our investigation.
Dog Eating Chicken: Translating Faith by Heather Hansen
What’s that you say? A dog eating chicken? Or did you mean a dog-eating chicken? It’s funny how even when we speak the same language, we have to learn to communicate in a way that makes sense to the people we are talking to. In a missional age with youth, come explore what it means to speak their language and share with them a Gospel message that makes sense. In this workshop, participants will explore the ways they might take an old language of faith and translate it into a youth-friendly way of sharing the story. Participants will also spend some time learning how to teach youth to share their own stories of faith in a way that speaks to their peers.
Walking Together in Solidarity by Rozella White
The ministry of accompaniment is the sacred act of being in authentic relationship with others. The purpose of this ministry is to allow individuals, groups and organizations to grow in love and compassion towards each other. Accompaniment calls congregations to listen deeply to their contexts in order to discern how best to walk alongside the community. This accompaniment provides a reciprocal relationship of giving and serving that builds the bond between the community and the congregation. This way of being in relationship calls the congregation to take the needs and the wisdom of its context seriously.
Going Public by Jeremy Myers
So, how can my church engage our community in new and meaningful ways? This session will build off all the previous theological and theoretical sessions and offer a way forward with a handful of practices and exercises to empower your congregation to express its faith in public ways with your youth. We’ve figured out the service project (sort of) but now let’s start talking innovatively and creatively about community asset mapping, public art, and public rituals.
Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology, Ministry, & Faith Formation by Nate Frambach
Culture: a familiar word that rolls off the tongue rather easily, perhaps casually, as though it needs no explication. How do we move beyond popular definitions to a deeper understanding of the notion of culture for today? Three assertions:• The Christian gospel and culture(s) cannot be separated;• We live within a pluriverse of cultures;• Congregations are one of those cultures.This workshop will help participants better understand the reality of culture(s) today for the sake of faithful, truthful, and effective ministry in a missional age.
PD 2014 | Frame
Frames are important. A picture frame gives perspective and focus to the picture within. The frame of a house gives a foundation from which rooms can be built and decorated. Frames give understanding. Frames help us expand our understanding. Frames give purpose.
In life and ministry, there is an overwhelming volume of information that competes for our attention and time. We can’t become experts in everything, so how do we choose? This year Practice Discipleship will explore biblical, theological and practical frames that can give intentionality to how we prioritize our ministries and respond to the gospel in our daily lives.
1. Framing Life Biblically: Where is God? God is “with us”! (Dave Ellingson – Professor of Children, Youth & Family Studies – Trinity Lutheran College)
The biblical narrative is a powerful story of pilgrimage, a journey from creation, through death and into new life. This session will explore how this powerful narrative becomes a framework for how we view the world and our lives and how we invite children, youth and families into this powerfully transformative story.
2. Framing Youth (Jeremy Myers – Associate Professor of Religion – Augsburg College)
Society’s views and stereotypes of youth are based primarily on myths. Unfortunately, many of our ministry practices are influenced by these myths. This session will uncover some of the myths that cause us to frame our young people negatively and will offer practical ways to help you and your congregation to begin framing youth as children of God who have gifts to share and calls to live.
3. Framing Failure with Forgiveness (Colleen Windham-Hughes – Assistant Professor of Religion – California Lutheran University)
Life and ministry tend to place many demands upon us all. We often feel like failures in one or more areas of our lives. The world seems to frame us with expectations of perfection and success but God’s grace frames us with forgiveness. This session will remind you of this truth and give you practical ways to live into that forgiveness and share it with others.
4. Framing Christian Community (Joshua Graber – Mission Developer – ALT Year)
This lesson will present a way of walking alongside individual young people, communities and families as we help them frame their lives by learning through relationships with surrounding community, learning from an intentional community and learning about yourself through community. We will explore practices of faith that help us frame our lives in solitude and in community.
5. Framing the Vision: Seeing Things New (Mindy Makant – Professor of Youth and Family Ministry – Lenoir Rhyne University)
“Where there is no vision, the people will perish . . .” (Proverbs 29:18). That sounds great, but how do you figure out what that vision is and get people to buy into it? This session will explore the various ways ministry with children, youth and families fit within a congregation and will introduce you to some steps you can take and some tools you can use to guide your congregation through a process of discerning its mission for ministry with children, youth and families.
6. Framing the Path: Practicing Things New (Rozella White – Program Director for Young Adult Ministries – ELCA)
You have come to realize that the culture is shifting. Church is not as important in peoples’ lives as it once was. You are also probably convinced that your congregation’s approach to ministry with children, youth and families needs to change. Maybe you even have some ideas! This session will help you frame a path towards change in your congregation. We will help one another identify and plan the steps we need to take to create the change we need to see in our congregations’ ministry with children, youth and families.
PD 2015 | Story
We are living in the middle of God’s story. God’s story includes all of creation and the specific life of Jesus. Within that story we live and tell our life stories – the places we live, the gifts of our neighbors, what it means to serve, and what matters most in growing up and into discipleship. We live by stories. They tell us where we came from, help us talk about challenges, and inspire us to make choices for good. This year’s Practice Discipleship Initiative will concentrate on weaving together God’s story with stories of self, others, and the places God calls us.
WONDER. We live in a world where we often Wonder about who God is and what God does in the world. Those questions about God are even louder for the youth that we walk alongside. Practice Discipleship 2016 draws us back into wondering. This year’s curriculum invites us to wonder anew what the almighty can do and does through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We’ll wonder with children and youth about creation, creativity, confirmation, prayer, service learning, and the church. We’ll do this knowing that our God is calling us into relationship. Join us and be a part of this wonder.