Building the Continuum

Supporting Formation and Vocation in The Episcopal Church

Archive for the tag “Youth ministry”

Spread the Word with an Elevator Speech

elevator-speechThe 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church begins next week and there are several resolutions that Forma would like the Church to be aware of that impact Christian Formation.

Forma’s Advocacy Committee researched and wrote position papers (approved by the Forma Board of Directors) on the following resolutions.

If you are a Christian educator, youth minister, Episcopal camp or conference center staff person, or Sunday School teacher these resolutions will affect you in one way or another. They will affect every congregation and ministry in the Church. Yes, this is a radical statement, but how we prioritize the importance of Christian Formation is often shown in where we choose to budget our staff, resources, time, and money.

Each of the above resolutions have Forma’s position papers for reading and downloading in order to share with your bishop/s or deputies. If you don’t know who they are, here is the link to all diocesan deputations. They are packing their suitcases now, why not send them an e-mail with your thoughts and a position paper or two to read on the plane? Get your talking points from Jane!

Jane Gober, a Christian educator in Walla Walla, Washington (Diocese of Olympia) and member of the Advocacy teams shares her thoughts at A Blissful Irreverent in Life and Ministry about some of these resolutions.

  •  Safe Serving A073 & A074. Ever think that training to be a certified mixologist was like taking Safe Guarding God’s Children training? Jane has the experience to talk about both. Here are her talking points, but her essay is well worth the read, and will definitely give you some food (and angst) for thought. Safeguarding Virtual Elevator Speech: Approve the updates to prevention of misconduct Model Policies in A073; Approve the updates to the training materials in A074; Make sure that both the Policies and the Training Materials have input of the people on the ground doing this work; Make sure that they both deal with social media/technology and establishing gracious methods to minister with our LGBTQ friends and colleagues.
  • She’ll give you a virtual elevator speech for why we need an online resource center at the church-wide level (A075). Let the Special BE Special (that’s all of us): Approve the creation and curation of a central digital hub of Christian formation and education resources through DFMS/Episcopal Church Website. This action will serve the questions and needs of the local mission of the church in all dioceses, cease needless and wasteful repetition of identical cataloging, empower and share the best resources for the Episcopal Church’s mission of discipleship.
  • Budget Decimation for Lifelong Christian Formation: The draft Budget offered to the 78th General Convention makes significant cuts to the second mark of ministry TEACH. This area of mission is the life-giving nurture for all the areas of mission. Changes need to be made to appropriate healthy funding for both the DFMS office and FORMA. Approve needed funding for: Youth and Young Adult Events such as EYE, the Lifelong Formation office of DFMS, the FORMA grant from some place in the budget other than the Lifelong Formation Office’s budget line.

Follow Forma on Twitter and Facebook during General Convention to learn what’s going on on the ground in Salt Lake City.

Implications to Formation if Funding Goes Away

The Episcopal Church Proposed Budget for 2013-2015 has proposed a 90% cut to the Formation and Vocation Ministries Team which includes the offices for Youth, Young Adults, Campus Ministry, and Lifelong Christian Formation, including Children’s Ministries.  To help the Church understand the real implications of what this budget means, we have looked through the Formation and Vocation Reports to Executive Council over the last 2.5 years, and pulled together the lists below.  While it does not represent each minute detail, it does represent the immense and broad work that these offices do each triennium.  We invite you to take some time to look closely at each bullet point and consider if that piece of the budget goes away, what will it mean for the children, youth, campus ministries, and young adults throughout the church.

Formation and Vocation Office: General

  • Partnering and Collaborating with Forma (formerly NAECED)
  • General Convention Youth, Young Adult, and Children’s programming and presence
  • Formation and Vocation Newsletters and resources
  • Building the Continuum Summit work with Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers
  • Collaboration on resources such as the work done with Doctrine of Discovery
  • Joint Network meetings to discuss and collaborate with one another across the age ranges: Children, Youth, Young Adults, Adults and Older Adult ministries
  • Social Media presence
  • Blogs and Web presence
  • Ecumenical Partnerships
  • Newsletters and Communication from the Denominational Staff about formation, resources, events, people, etc.
  • Support and Networking with Diocese and Provinces
  • Episcopal Generations initiative to bridge the gaps to work toward evangelism and mission as the Body of Christ

Youth

  • Ministry on behalf of young people and the Episcopal Church grounded in the Five Marks of Mission in order to keep moving forward with intentionality in mission through outreach and evangelism.
  • Building relationships, connecting and resourcing with those responsible for Youth Ministry and Lifelong Christian Formation and Vocation
  • Meeting with Youth Ministry networks at the Provincial and Diocesan levels, and with affiliated organizations such as Forma (formerly the National Association for Episcopal Christian Education Directors – NAECED) and our seminaries working on continuing education for Lifelong Christian Formation volunteers and professionals
  • Episcopal Youth Event
    • mentoring leadership with youth on EYE Mission Planning Team
    • giving church wide exposure to youth who may not have experienced richness of our diversity in their local faith community context
    • developing follow-up resources from keynotes and workshops
    • establishing personal connections for future mission and ministry
    • Doing something big together to make an impact in the church and in the world (gifts to ERD, Haiti, UTO & Habitat for Humanity)

Read more…

Keeping Easter Alive

by Kaze Gadaway

Five Native young adults from eighteen to twenty-one walk somberly up the aisle to receive the sacrament. Their hands hang comfortably by their sides and they proceed confidently to kneel at the front of the altar. They act like they belong. “This is so awesome,” one of the youth whisper. “Everyone here treats us like we should be here.”

Learn about the journey of how these youth became welcome and incorporated into the church as described in Kaze’s article posted in the Daily Episcopalian on Episcopal Cafe.  

Now we have forty two Native youth who want to be a part of something larger than small town dreams. There seems to be a lot of complaints from local parishes that they are losing members and yet are not willing to spend the personal effort it takes to develop spirituality in youth.With the trend of cutting off national programs and leaving youth formation to dioceses, I am afraid of what is going to happen to these youth when I retire in one year and six months. Dioceses don’t have extra money for youth programs. And new youth programs will not be generated simply because they are not being supplied from somewhere else. In talking with other youth ministers we realize that many do not appreciate how influential National programs have been for youth in all ethnic groups.I am guessing that with the present direction of the Church I will have to create the plan to provide spiritual formation for these youth when I leave.The difficulty is that I have been a volunteer for almost twelve years who had the time to establish the relationships needed for this ethnic group. Since we are not on the diocesan budget, all funds have to be raised slowly through grants, family and friends. Since we are isolated in Northern Arizona in a town of 5,000 people and with no local priest, we drive long distances for Church services or for relevant youth activities or even traditional Native ceremonies. Something new has to come into being.

I don’t know what is going to happen to other youth groups who will be vulnerable by this change. If they are from rich white Churches who have the money to have programs, they will endure for a while. If they are ethnic groups in isolated situations, I fear they will die out. Without programs that push the young ones to think Globally and not be stuck in the local situation, only those with financial resources will be able to get beyond their village.

My prayer is that there will continue to be enough people in the Church who care about the youth that they will help with creative approaches to keep youth formation alive in one fashion or another.

I pray that Easter may continue to be a reality in their lives.

Kaze Gadway has worked with the emerging leaders of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona as a volunteer for eleven years. They are youth of promise from ages twelve to twenty-four. The Spirit Journey Youth is an outreach program of the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona with forty young people. She is on Facebook and blogs at in faith’s posterous. This article is reposted in part with permission from Episcopal Cafe. 

Friendships Made through Mission

by Boyd Evans

Note: This is one example of how EYE impacts youth from local congregations and dioceses in connecting with one another and the wider church through mission. 

On Sunday, June 26 many of the groups attending the Episcopal Youth Event left for a three-day mission experiences.  Caitlin Peabody from St. John’s Cathedral along with Alexis Burnham, Patrick Dobbins and chaperone Boyd Evans from St. Stephen’s Oak Ridge joined a group totaling 51 teenagers (rising sophomores to college freshmen) and 30 adult leaders from the Province IV Southeastern Diocese to travel to Northern Minnesota for a mission experience at the Red Lake Nation.  This trip was coordinated by Cookie Cantwell and Beth Crow from the Diocese of North Carolina. The Red Lake reservation is home to the Ojibwe tribe of Native Americans.  The Ojibwe are sometimes referred to as “Chippewa” as this was the pronunciation of early explorers to the area.

On the five-hour bus ride from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Northwestern Minnesota, the youth and adults learned about the history of the Ojibwe in Red Lake and watched the video “Unseen Tears: A Documentary on Boarding School Survivors”.  Unseen Tears tells the story of how children of Native American families in the early 20th century were removed from their families and sent to off-reservation boarding schools in which they were not allowed to speak their native language or practice their native culture in an effort to assimilate them into American society. Tragically, many cases of abuse and neglect were documented from these schools as well as a loss of native language and culture for a generation of Native Americans. Read more…

What Should our Denomination Provide?

by Lisa C. Brown

Here is my response to the recent release of the proposed budget for 2013-2015: The majority of churches in our diocese (Pittsburgh) do not have paid children or youth staff and have far more limited funds for curriculum and programming. Also, given that their programs are primarily volunteer-driven, it is likely that even though they stand to be disproportionately affected, there are simply fewer individuals with even less time to raise any sort of cohesive protest. The local congregation DOES depend on the structure of The Episcopal Church (Church Center) in providing easy-to-use and free resources.

Diminishing funds at the church-wide level will trickle down to adversely impact diocesan level funding (if that even exists at all). Churches already struggling to keep their formation programs afloat will be even more heavily dependent on volunteer efforts to develop their own curriculum and program ideas. Financially fragile parishes will be offered even less in the way of free curriculum and programming. Small parishes will have fewer opportunities for their youth to join with other youth in national or diocesan-wide efforts designed to bring youth together. Larger and more financially stable parishes – such as ours – will face a heavier burden of supporting not only their own ministries but those of less capable churches in the Diocese. Finally, in the long term, even large parishes with thriving, self-sustaining children and youth programs, will become more and more of anomaly, their youth essentially orphaned by the greater Episcopal church.

These are the areas I feel we will be missing:

(1) Identity as Episcopalians and members of the Anglican Communion Common formation materials and programming, large gathering opportunities such as EYE, youth representation at national conventions, training conferences for children’s ministers and educators… all of these help shape our identity as Episcopalians and should be cultivated by The Episcopal Church. So many people are not born into the Episcopal tradition. If we don’t help our youngest members form a strong Episcopal identity, when faced with the inevitable transitions of modern life as adults, these individuals will feel no particular compulsion to seek an Episcopal church to meet their spiritual needs. They will be far more likely to church shop, regardless of denomination, based on factors of proximity and general impression. Episcopal allegiance will not be a priority, thus ultimately our membership will suffer.

(2) Advocacy in the Media and General Public Again considering that many individuals are not born into the Episcopal tradition, The Episcopal Church has an essential role in ‘branding’ our denomination in the eyes of the public. While the budget to support a public ad campaign, for example, would not fall under the heading of ‘formation’, cutting formation will lessen the ability of our youth to act as successful witnesses – or spokesmen, to put it in advertising parlance – for our faith. Unfortunately, Christianity in general is often depicted in the media in a way that is counter to who we are as Episcopalians. We need a strongly shared Episcopal identity – and we need to develop it in our children and youth – to enable them to differentiate our denomination and all that it stands for from other less tolerant, more extremist sects. Most people can’t spell the word ‘Episcopal’ yet alone define the kind of Christian an Episcopalian might be. Read more…

Being Part of the “Larger” Church

2010 Provincial Youth Ministry Coordinators

By Lydia Kelsey Bucklin

I was 15 years old when my life was changed by the Episcopal Youth Event.  Coming from the small diocese of Northern Michigan, most churches were too small for youth groups, and even diocesan events were small and few in number.  My dad was a priest in the diocese, and I was nervous about joining that community.  EYE, however, sparked my interest.  An opportunity to travel to another city and meet youth from all over the Episcopal Church sounded exciting.  I felt like an outcast in high school, and struggled with depression and low self-esteem.  I needed to get away, and I could not have entered a better community than the Episcopal Youth Event in Terre Haute, Indiana.  There, on the campus of Indiana State University, I felt accepted for who I was.  I interacted not just with other teenagers, but with adults who were genuinely interested in me and were glad I was there.

Sixteen years later, I have a vocation in the Episcopal Church, serving as the Missioner for Children and Youth and on the Communications team in the Diocese of Iowa.  I am pursuing a Masters in Divinity degree from the Episcopal Divinity School.   I also serve on the Standing Commission on Lifelong Christian Formation and Education.  It may seem like an exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am today if I had never attended EYE, but it was definitely a transformative event in my faith journey.

As a youth, I returned from EYE committed to finding my place in the church.  I became a camp counselor and got more involved in diocesan events.  I became an advocate for social justice at a young age and pursued a career in social work.   I know many others, too, who, because of the ways the Episcopal Church impacted them at a young age, have had their lives changed.  For this reason I feel the need to speak up. Read more…

The Vision and Voice of Youth

by Meg Wagner

Youth began claiming their voice in the Episcopal Church in the early nineteenth century in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. For over eighty-five years, youth have shared their prophetic voices and have sought to be included in the legislative bodies at all levels of church government. Their vision of where the Holy Spirit has been leading the Episcopal Church has helped the church move forward on ecumenism, gender and racial equality, and social justice issues. As released in March 2012, the proposed cuts to the denomination’s budget reduce spending on Christian Formation from around thee million to $286,000, effectively eliminating youth from participating in the larger life and governance of the church.

I have written a paper (read it here) that traces the history of youth leadership in the Episcopal Church. If we are wise, we will embrace the voices of the young people in our church, commit to the personnel and financial resources that support their life and leadership in the church, and take seriously their vision of where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

The General Conventions in 2003, 2006, and 2009 each hosted concurrent events for youth who wanted to learn more about Convention but who were not one of the eighteen Official Youth Presence. But until 2009, General Conventions were scheduled at times that made it difficult for young people to attend, before many schools were finished for the summer.The local diocese hosted the concurrent youth events with support from the Ministries with Young People Cluster. In 2003 and 2006 those events included education about Convention, participation in and observation of hearings, and observation of both Houses.

However, in 2009, the youth event was held at a facility far from Convention, offered little Convention education, and youth had no opportunity to participate in the life of Convention other than the exhibit hall and one Eucharist.  Unfortunately, funding for a concurrent youth event in 2012 was cut from the budget passed in 2009. The Province V Youth Minister’s Network plans to host a hospitality suite for individual churches and dioceses that choose to bring youth as visitors to Convention, but there are no plans as yet to make it an opportunity for a large number of youth and young people to gather to learn about our polity or participate in meaningful ways, outside of the eighteen selected as the Official Youth Presence.

Edward W. Rodman wrote, “Young people have the energy and the enthusiasm to believe they can make a difference when they are properly focused and have the appropriate support and resources to do so.” At every level of the church, support for youth and youth events require a network of trained adults working in relational ministries with youth. As written, the 2013-2015 budget proposes that formation work is really only effective and necessary at the parish and diocesan level. Unfortunately, as budgets have shrunk across the country, often the first cuts have come in Christian Formation and youth ministry at those levels. Budget and staff cuts at the Church Center over the years have meant that the Christian Education department, which had a staff of over thirty-five in 1968, has just three staff positions as we head into General Convention 2012, one of which is for youth. The Ministries with Young People Cluster, which spanned children through young adults, has been dispersed with the recent changes in the organization of the Church Center. Increased communication, coordination, and flexibility will be imperative to keep those networks functioning.

Across the country and all over social media we hear churches bewailing the lack of youth in their midst. For over 85 years now, the Episcopal Church has been abundantly blessed by youth and young people asking to participate in our governance at all levels, who want to come together as a church-wide body to worship, learn and grow in their faith. The budget for the next triennium in its current form from the Executive Council indicates that we need 90% less funding for Christian Formation in the next three years, effectively eliminating support for youth and young adult participation in our larger church family and showing them we have no interest in forming any more involved Christian youth like them.

As we head into General Convention 2012, there will be a lot of tough decisions to make and a lot of hard discussions to have. This shouldn’t be one of the really difficult choices. If we truly wish to inspire, renew, and transform the church we will choose to encourage and embrace the voices of our young people, commit to the personnel and financial resources that support their ministries and involvement, and take seriously their vision of where the Holy Spirit is leading us.

Meg is the Christian Formation Director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City, an MDiv student at Episcopal Divinity School, and a postulant from the Diocese of Iowa. She writes, “I had the privilege of working with youth in TEC for over 20 years and am in ministry myself largely because I grew up in the Diocese of Chicago where as a teenager I was invited, supported, and encouraged to be an active participant in my church at ALL levels.” The photo depicted here is of Meg with the team from Iowa attending GC 2009. 

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