In 1996, there was a crew of about 20 people working to put together the first “Extravaganza” (named that year the “Ex-strato-ganza” because it was at the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas…clearly we were headed for marketing greatness). The whole event was put together on a dime and a prayer. There pretty much was no budget.
“Who can we get to come and speak? And to do it for free?” we wondered. We threw out invitations to a bunch of folks that we knew people would want to hear from.
One of the first people who called us back was Paul Hill. He said “of course!”
Paul has been a leader in children, youth and family ministry within our church for decades. First as a camp director in outdoor ministry, working as a team leader at the ELCA Youth Gathering (he is the man who introduced zip lines and rope courses to the interaction center), helping to give vision to Wartburg Seminary’s “Center for Youth Ministries,” teaching at Luther Seminary and then taking the helm at Vibrant Faith Ministries, Paul has been on the front end of innovation within our church.
Paul has led trainings, written books and spoken throughout the church.
And Paul has always been a strong supporter of the Network. He’s enough of a believer that he’s totally willing to give praise when things are really going well, and he’s also willing to share his concern if he thinks the Network is moving off of the rails. He does this because he cares about the Network and its future. Believe me when I tell you that I’m grateful for both forms of communication from Paul. I have always paid attention to what he says because he is wise.
I’ve always appreciated Paul’s eye for the bigger picture. He initiated partnerships and working relationships with other denominations and traditions, learned from them and brought the best back to strengthen ministry within the ELCA. Likewise, he would share with them what has been learned within our tribe.
Speaking personally, I’ve always been grateful for Paul’s friendship and his mentorship.
Yesterday was Paul’s last day serving as Executive Director of Vibrant Faith Ministries. Paul is stepping into retirement. However, those of us who know Paul understand that for him, “retirement” is a relative term. Paul isn’t done. He is going to continue his work in researching the impact of outdoor ministry, and looking for new ways for the seamless journey of faith to become an even stronger reality within the church.
Thank you Paul, for saying “yes” to the Extravaganza back in 1996. And thank you for all of the “yeses” that you’ve given since then. Thank you for living out your beliefs, and for nudging the church in the direction of greater effectiveness. On behalf of children, youth and family leaders across the church, thank you for sharing your expertise. And on behalf of a whole host of us, thank you for your support and friendship.
God bless you on the next chapter!