The Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts

There are moments when you suddenly realize that you are in the middle of an organizational “sweet spot.”  Things click.  Visions are realized.  Goals are achieved.  And you look around and say to yourself “I can’t believe that I’m here, in this spot at this time.  I will always remember this time.”

I’ve experienced that a bit this past week as I’ve been blessed to have a front-row seat at the launching of a really cool new initiative.  The “Practice Discipleship Project” is a joint venture between the ELCA Youth Gathering and the Network.  The Gathering has always been a wide river, uniquely capable of bearing the width and breadth of the church.  It’s the largest single gathering of young people in the church…make that, almost any church.  And it’s the largest single gathering of adults in the church as well.

I’ve noticed that for the last 4 or 5 cycles of the Gathering, in addition to being a wide river, it has gotten progressively deeper.   It has become more informed by our theology.  It has become more intentional in its design as a method of faith formation.  It has become more committed to supporting the work of the congregations who bring young people.  It has become more dedicated on the gifts of young people being focused upon issues of justice and reconciliation in a broken world.  It is becoming more.

That’s why I love to be a part of the Gathering.  That “more”?  It is God’s Holy Spirit at work.

There are huge implications in this.  The adults who bring young people to the Gathering from congregations across the church have to be better prepared to tend young people as they struggle to interpret their experiences.  My greatest fear is that a young person walk away from the Gathering and when asked how it was they say “it was cool.”  I want it to be so much more than cool.  And young people need the presence of caring adults as they give language and voice to their experiences.

So the “Practice Discipleship Project” was born.

It is about the “Practice Discipleship” Day that all congregations will participate in at the Gathering, together with their neighbors from their synods.

But it’s also what is happening right now in synods and congregations.  It is really good training for adult leaders of all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels.

  • It is 3 live training sessions with synod coaches
  • It is 7 webinars
  • It is the webinar topics being presented live at the Extravaganza.
  • And it is a whole lot more.
I’ve sat live through the first two of the webinars and I’ve got to tell you, they were really good.  Dr. Jeremy Myers of Augsburg College rocked Lutheran theology.  The questions he was addressing were “How does God work in the world” and “How do Lutherans read the scriptures.”
And there are 5 more webinars available, being led by Dr. Terri Elton and Dennis “Tiger” McLuen.  They are going to be awesome.
But back to my original thought.  As I sat on my couch and listened and watched Jeremy teaching about the different ways people read and interpret the scriptures on Sunday, I realized that I was in my sweet spot.  Things are coming together.  The full year of planning was being realized, and people were engaged, listening and asking questions.  It doesn’t get any better than this.    (and the best part is that the recordings of the webinars are out there…available to all and free for the taking.)  And there are still 5 more “live” weeks to go.  For more information, go to
Thank you to the Practice Discipleship Team.  Thank you to my friend and colleague, Catherine Anderson, and thank you to all who participated.
The resources being provided for the church (the whole church, whether or not you are participating in the ELCA Youth Gathering) will be a gift for the church.  It’s a sweet spot gift.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in children, youth and family ministry in the ELCA.  Someday, I know I’ll look back and say  “That was so amazing…I’m so glad I got to be there…”  I hope you will say the same.
Thanks be to God!

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