Amanda Schanze asks a great question on the Network Facebook page. She asks:
Ok, people. I have enjoyed the information shared on this group, and the few things I have seen from the website. What is the advantage of actually joining “The Network.” What other benefits do I get with a membership that I don’t get for free?
Thanks for asking that, Amanda. I think it’s important that we keep talking about this, and helping people understand the “what and why” of this whole thing.
Certainly there are lots of things that the Network gives away “for free.” And many make use of some of the Network’s resources without ever joining. We’ve got the Facebook group, the e-news, the Practice Discipleship Initiative resources, the placement listings; the Things That Matter podcast (co-sponsored), the Network App, ThinkMinistry.org, GatheringLeaks.com and various blogs and other resources.
But I think there are (at least) 3 really good reasons why people should join the Network. Other folks may have other reasons, and I’d invite you to post them in the comments of this blog entry. But here are my 3, in order from least important to most important
1. Members of the Network get stuff. Yes, there are resources that are limited to Network members, and accessing them is a benefit of membership in the organization. These include:
- Deep registration discounts to the Extravaganza
- The Connect Journal, published 3 or 4 times per year
- Access to the online videos of Extravaganza keynote speakers going back to 2006
- Access to MartinsList, our online resource sharing website
- Access to 3rdTuesday Conversation webinars with experts and thought leaders in CYF
- Access to the archives of all of our past 3rdTuesday Conversations
- Discounts from some of our partner organizations including: The Center for Youth Ministries at Wartburg Seminary; Hertz Car Rental (yes, really); Impression Media Group; Lutheran Life Coaching; Trinity Lutheran College Center for Children, Youth and Family Minstry; Unify Church App Development; TxtSignal; Youth Leadership and Youth Specialties
- Access to the online Network membership Directory
- The listing of congregations willing to host traveling youth groups
- The annual salary survey
- And, there are other benefits that we hope to introduce in the next 6-8 months.
So yes, there are benefits to membership that are quantifiable, and we hope that they alone would be worth the cost of membership. However, there are two other reasons that I think are even more important:
2. Belonging is what makes all of this possible. Example: I belong to Minnesota Public Radio. Our family has joined, and I support it financially. I support it because I believe in it and its mission; because there are things that I believe public radio provides that commercial radio can or will not, and I want to make sure that it continues into the future. I could just listen, and not support it, but I want to be a part of making sure it continues to thrive.
We know that there are thousands of people who make use of the resources of the Network. And about 750 (currently) are members. These members (plus our partner organizations who share in financial support for the Network) make it possible for our free resources to be available for the whole church (including those who choose not to join). And so I am a member of the Network at the “sponsoring” level, because I believe in what we’re trying to do.
The Network’s goal is 1000 members by the end of 2015. When we reach that goal, our ability to support children, youth and family ministry across the church is going to grow exponentially. And, can you imagine what it will be like, what kind of opportunities for renewal, education and connections will exist when we reach 1,500…or 2,000 members? I get really excited thinking about it.
3. If you’re a doctor, you belong to the American Medical Association. It is their professional organization. If you are a lawyer, you belong to the Bar Association. It is their professional organization. The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is the professional organization for those who work with children, youth and families in ELCA congregations. And it is for those who are paid, and for those who are volunteer. The Network has standards and guidelines that we adhere to; it represents us to the rest of the church and it provides resources for us to be the best we can be as we tend the faith journeys of the young and their families.
And there is no doubt that the work of the Network is moving the church. Through its existence, the Network helps to shape a culture of those committed to faith formation, and that culture is changing the way that faith formation is viewed in congregations, synods and the churchwide organization. Don’t you want to be a part of that?
I’ll put it simply: If you do this work, you should belong to the Network. We wish there didn’t have to be a cost to it. But the resources we provide have a cost. We do our best to keep that cost low. And in all honesty, if someone contacts me and says “I’d love to be a member, but we cannot afford it” we can offer a scholarship. We do this because we are a stronger, richer organization with you than without you.
So I’d reverse the question: Knowing all this, why wouldn’t you join?
PS – And Amanda…because you asked…if you join, I’ll even throw in a t-shirt. 😉
The first thing that jumped into my mind when you posed the question was your reason number 2. Support from members makes all that the Network does possible. Thanks to the Network for all the support you give to my ministry!