My life made easy

This year, I took one simple step to make all my events easier for me and easier for parents.  This simple step to save time and aggravation is called the annual permission slip.  I no longer spend time creating permission slips for each individual event, parents no longer fill them out for every event, and I always know where the forms are and what information is on them.  Before doing this, I checked to make sure that our insurance company was on board, they had no problems with the concept and only advised that we use a different more complex form for long distance or out of state trips. 

A simple Google search will give you forms to start with, and then you can move from there.  A few helpful hints..

1.  Ask for the child’s birthday, not age.  This is what Emergency Medical Personnel want to know. 

2.  Put a photo release on there.  This saves you time and energy when you want to share those pictures.

3. Parents are often reluctant to trust us with confidential medical information.  Advise them that you will keep it confidential.  Remind that it helps you care for their child in the best way.  Finally, remind them that emergency personnel and hospitals need to know this information in order to best treat their child.  Not only do I have this conversation with them, but it’s on the form.  It says “Medical Information/Conditions that we would need to inform Emergency Personnel Of:”

4. Before Events (and at least once a month) I ask parents to quickly check their child’s form to make sure everything is still up to date. 

I hope this helps make your ministry run a little bit smoother!



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Youth Sunday: The Good & The Bad

For years, our church has done 3-4 youth Sunday’s a year.  The 6th, 7th, 8th graders, and sometimes the HS students work to plan and run parts of the service.  For years, we have debated about how to do this better, make it more meaningful, how to make it into something of quality.

Our most recent Youth Sunday was at the beginning of March, and I am proud to say it was one of our best.  Instead of simply going through the same motions as the adults do when they run it, the youth creatively worked at making it their own.  Our 7th graders put together a presentation about why we are all prodigal children.  They pointed out that we all turn away and come back over and over again.  The 6th graders stuck clothes pins on everyone as they were returning from communion that reminded them they are prodigals.  The 8th graders took on leadership roles as readers, communion assistants, ushers, greeters and such.  The group that was ushering was assisted by an adult who usually does not interact with our youth.  They all had a blast working together.  The adult fou100_2910nd out that the kids are not all bad.  The kids found out that not all adults act “stuffy and creepy”.  Their words, not mine.  The congregation loved the creative reflections and appreciated everything that the youth did to make their worship experience wonderful.

In reality, I would love to have our 6th, 7th and 8th graders in worship every week and fully participating in Leadership roles every week.    But that is just not how we currently operate.  It’s a goal for the future.  In the mean time, Youth Sunday’s are what we can do.

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A Piece for Peace

Last fall I got a call from our local Interfaith agency.  They work to plan events where people of different faith backgrounds can come together to work on social issues, build fellowship, and promote understanding.  The call I got was about doing such event specifically for youth.  So we started…

Meetings and months later, we held our event and entitled it “A Piece for Peace.”  We invited youth of various faith backgrounds to come together and work on a physical piece of art that we can put somewhere in the community.  We wanted to show that we can move far beyond tolerance and into a place where relationships are formed, people work together, and great things are accomplished.

We started our time together with the usual 100_2933get to know you games and activities and then moved into the artistic part of the event.  Each youth made a mold of their hand using paper mache.  The were working together to make one big sculpture out of all their hand molds when we ran out of time.  They are excited about planning a time to come back together and finish.

This opportunity was so important.  So many people thing that Christians are intolerant and judgmental.  Making steps to change those perceptions is key, and who better to do it that our youth?  We all need their help to change people perceptions of the church and how we operate.

I very much look forward to our continued work with this diverse group of youth people and have high hopes for the Piece for Peace that they will create.

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I often hear tails of horror and grief from other youth leaders about their fundraising trials.  I am very blessed to say that I have tails filled with wonder and amazement. Not so long ago, I even had a kid rename it “Funrasing”.

What I feel makes the difference sometimes, and leads me to a place of gratitude, thankfulness and success is our attitude.  Long ago, I decided that fundraising was going to be a part of my job no matter what, and I put the grief away.  I then looked high and low, and worked hard to give my fundraisers boundaries and guidelines I could live with and respect.

First of all, I had to be upbeat about it and find ways to make myself upbeat about it.  Complaining was going to get me nowhere, and it would set a bad example for my youth.

Second, we had to try our hardest to do things that the whole congregation could be a part of, and things that would enhance our congregational life.  We strive to make fundraisers things that encourage fellowship and bring us closer together.  This one principle alone makes a huge difference for us. Almost every year we have a combination dinner/talent show/dessert auction.  We vary the theme each year to keep life interesting. The Sunday mornings after the event are always filled with can you believe so and so got up on stage and did that?  How was that cheesecake you won?  Wasn’t that chicken out of this world?  Needless to say, we have a great time.

Lastly, we don’t really set prices.  We let people give what their hearts tell them too.  We let them give what they think the evening is worth.  We value their contribution no matter what size it is.  By doing this, we also exclude no one.  If someone wants to be a part of it, but really has nothing to give, they are welcome too just come and have a good time with us.

We have a great time every time we look to raise some funds.  I wish you the same!

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Practice Discipleship Ininiative

Practice Discipleship Initiative


The Practice Discipleship Initiative (PD-2 for short) is a joint effort by the ELCA Youth Ministry Network (, the ELCA, First Third at Luther Seminary and the North Carolina Synod, to bring the church into the 21st century. The focus in 2013 is to explore the realities of faith formation in this missional age: i.e. to help church leaders understand the cultural shifts we are experiencing from both theoretical and theological perspectives. The initiative also suggests some practical ways congregations might engage their context in new ways. You can find out more at

PD-2 consists of 7 sessions designed to encourage dialog, reflection and exploration. All webinars are at 4:PM Eastern Time. The titles and dates are:

Overview         Faith Formation in a Missional Age       developed by Terri Elton – Luther Seminary    January 13

Theology Session #1     “When Necessary Use Words” ? Verbum Dei Theology for Right Now    developed by Hans Wiersma – Augsburg College    January 20

Theoretical Session #1   Theories of Culture: A New Age for Theology, Ministry and Faith Formation   developed by Nathan Frambach – Wartburg Seminary  February 3

Theology Session #2   Walking Together in Solidarity: A Theology of Accompaniment  developed by Rozella White of the Emory Center for Pastoral Services   February 17

Theological Session #2   In-cultur-ating the Gospel   developed by Colleen Windham-Hughes – California Lutheran University    March 3

Practical Session #1   Dog Eating Chicken: Translating Faith   developed by Heather Hansen – Texas Lutheran University     March 17

Practical Session #2   Going Public     developed by Jeremy Myers – Augsburg College April 7

These were all presentations at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza in January. Webinars and power points are or will be available on the Practice Discipleship website. Practice Discipleship Coaches have been designated in 63 (of 65) synods to facilitate presentations locally. And the best part, all of these resources are free!

We are seeking venues to present the sessions locally in the Metropolitan New York Synod. If you would like a presentation in your location, please contact deacon Charlie Germain. A schedule will be posted as sessions become available.

Practice Discipleship: Overview of Sessions 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 Project is to explore the realities of faith formation in this missional age. These sessions will help you understand the cultural shifts we are witnessing both theoretically and theologically. They will also introduce you to some practical ways in which you and your congregation can begin to engage your context in new ways. You will encounter a variety of styles in this year’s lesson plans. You will need to spend time preparing each lesson – more time will be needed on some more than others. We encourage you to tweak any and all lessons to make them work for you. Please feel free to contact the authors if you have any questions.

Overview Session

Faith Formation In a Missional Age

Terri Elton | Luther Seminary |

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 Project is to explore the realities of faith formation in this missional age. 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.

Theology Session #1

“When Necessary Use Words”? Verbum Dei Theology for Right Now

Hans Wiersma | Augsburg College |

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.

Theology Session #2

Walking Together in Solidarity: A Theology of Accompaniment

Rozella White | Emory Center for Pastoral Services |

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.

Theoretical Session #1

Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology, Ministry, and Faith Formation

Nathan Frambach | Wartburg Seminary |

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.

Theoretical Session #2

In-cultur-ating the gospel

Colleen Windham-Hughes | California Lutheran University |

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.

Practical Session #1

Dog Eating Chicken: Translating Faith

Heather Hamen, Texas Lutheran University

Heather Hansen | Texas Lutheran University |

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.

Practical Session #2

Going Public

Jeremy Myers, Augsburg College

Jeremy Myers | Augsburg College |

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

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Girl Time

About once a year, I have an overnight for just my girls.  Without the boys, conversations are more open and free.  We take the opportunity to talk about body Image, self esteem, sexuality and whatever else comes up.

This year, our theme was Daughters of the King.  We watched the movie The Princess Diaries and used it as a reference for our conversation about what it takes to be a princess and what it means for us to be daughters of the Risen King.

I found a ton of resources on line for verses and discussion starters. It was easy to pull off. I also had one of my college girls come for part of the night to teach us fancy hair tricks and nail polish tricks.  We got so caught up in hair and nail polish, we did not get to either of the crafts I planned, but that was okay.  One of the crafts was a simple picture frame with the phrase “Daughter of the King” on it.  We were going to decorate them and then take pictures for them.  The other craft was a mosaic.  We had an outline of a girl, and lots of magazines to cut up for filling the outline.  The idea was to restructure images where women an girls were judged only for skin deep beauty and transition it into an image of God’s Love for us.  I really wish that had taken the time to do those thing, but the girls loved the time for nails and hair.

I love the time I get with my girls, and taking the time to address issues without the boys around has become the highlight of the year for many of them.  Image

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While at the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza in Anaheim, CA, the participants from our Synod took time out for a meal and conversation together!

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Souper Bowl

Souper_Bowl_of_Caring_Logo_with_Web_AddressFor years now, our youth have participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring.  It’s gotten to the point where the congregation is excited to participate and knows what is going on so we can focus our efforts on involvement and planning rather than on educating the congregation.

The event is simple, and you can get as into it as you want, or keep it as simple as you want.  You can collect food or money, and donate it to any organization serving those who are hungry.

Our youth love this because they get to pick the organization.  It gives them an outlet to respond to a local need they recognize with resources that are entrusted to them.  It’s the ultimate teachable moment.

We make it fun by asking them to dress up.  We bring pom poms, footballs, jerseys, cheer and foot ball uniforms.  We get pumped and excited and have our own pep rally.  Those members of the congregation out of High School love the chance to be caught up in the game.

If you are interested, I strongly urge you to check out the link above.  It’s a simple way to engage young people in the plight of the hungry with the added bonus of a chance to respond.  There is curriculum, program ideas, teaching helps, bulletin inserts, and lots of other resources ready to go!  It’s easy! Do it!

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Counting Our Blessings

Whether in Youth group, or Sunday School, or Confirmation, I am often overwhelmed by the emotions of our youth.  They feel things so deeply, and though the times of joy are quite joyful, they are often clouded by worry, sadness, and fear.

So, in order to help us focus on our blessings in the new year, I stole an idea right from the world of Facebook.  It originally, as far as I can see, came from Slice of Life.  The idea was to fill a canning jar with blessings written on a piece of paper.  At the end of the year, it would be a wonderful to review the year. 

I tweaked it a bit for my youth.  We had tons of decorated canning jars left from a Christmas Luminary Project.  Each group got to choose a jar to use.  From now until April or so, we will be filling them with our blessings each week.  In April, we already had a schedule lesson on Encouragement.  During that lesson, I plan to go over the blessings with them, and together, we will be encouraged by what God is doing in our lives.  Then, they can take the idea home and run with it!

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Talking with Children About Disasters and Tragedies

Many of us are still in a mournful/outraged/contemplative/prayerful mood after the shootings in Connecticut on Saturday.  That’s normal.  It’s how we react.   It’s also normal that the children in our lives are mournful/Outraged/contemplative/prayerful mood.  We will all continue to process this for weeks.  I’m not stating anything unknown, we as we enter into conversations with children, we might feel that we will come up short, not having the answers that they need to hear.

I offer you this resource, Tips for Talking with Children,  which I found helpful as I prepared for youth group last night.  I received this from Lutheran Disaster Response.  It shares the natural and likely feelings and issues after something like this.  It gives us a response.

To those things, I added this as  talked through this with my Middle School youth. Things like this are exactly what Advent is about. We look for the Hope of Christ, not just at Christmas 2000 years ago, but for the sake of the world today. We await his coming, knowing that he will make all things new.  We need the hope of Christ, in every situation.  The other point that I specifically made was in response to some Facebook happenings.  Sever friends shared an image of a child asking God why so much violence was allowed in schools, and the response from God saying he was no longer allowed in schools.  A friend shared that God is very present & alive in schools.  He lives within us and goes where we go.  We can show people the love and hope of Christ wherever we go, including school.  these two thoughts had a huge positive impact on our conversation last night.

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