I hope you’re well and that your Lenten season is one of reflection, peace and grace.
After the Extravaganza, over 300 of you took a few minutes to fill out the event evaluation form to let us know what your experience was like. Thank you to all who filled out the evaluations. We read every single one of them, and we take them very seriously when we do our planning for the next year.
The fact that so many of you took the time to give us your feedback reminds us that the Extravaganza and the Network are important to you. And we are thankful for that.
I want to share some of the things we learned, and reflect on a few of these things as well.
1750 people registered for Extravaganza 2021. This is by far the largest number of registrants we’ve had. This, of course, was because being online, the event was much more accessible than when we have done it in person. Because of the generous support of Always Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA and the ELCA’s Mission Investment Fund, the event was also much more affordable. We are thankful for their support!
Making a shift from an all in-person event to an all online event caused shifts that we knew were going to happen, but we didn’t know to what extent. Last year, at the E in Anaheim, 15% of the Extravaganza registrants were congregational volunteers. In 2021 online, that number more than doubled, to 33%. The other data point that really startled us was the percentage of first time participants. In the past, this number hovered between 20 and 25%. In 2021, 59% of participants had never been to an Extravaganza before. Clearly, the efforts to make the event accessible and affordable to new and different people were successful! We are grateful to all of you who participated for the first time. Even though your first experience was online, we are hopeful that you had a sense of the community that gathers together around the E.
9% of participants self-identified as people of color. This is down from past years when the number hovered between 12 and 14%. However, we believe the 2021 information was skewed. Because 15% of participants did not answer the question about ethnicity and race. So many people were added in to registrations in the last couple of weeks, and many of the folks who were added were just sent to us with a list of names and email addresses, so we never got that information. Projecting from the existing data, and looking at the congregations that sent in these registrations, we are guessing that our actual percentage of people of color was closer to 12% in 2021.
We asked evaluators to rank a list of 8 words that describe how they left the Extravaganza. The top 3 words were “Inspired,” “Hopeful” and “Resourced.” That was our hope. The lowest rated was “Networked to Colleagues,” which wasn’t surprising to us given that we are all still learning how to form community and network in an online environment.
We asked participants to tell us on a scale of 1 (no chance) to 10 (absolutely!) how likely they were to recommend the Extravaganza to a friend. The average score was 9.1.
And the average score of “Was the Extravaganza worth the money” was 9.48.
There were many, many comments made in the evaluations (33 pages, single space, 10pt. font), which again shows the emotional investment people have in the event. General themes we heard include:
- Lots and lots and lots of gratitude to the E-Team and the Network for making the Extravaganza happen this year.
- That while great things happened during this event, people missed the opportunity to gather together face-to-face
- Deep appreciation for the diversity of speakers and teachers.
- People appreciated the theme, “Holding Loosely.” Many comments reflected the idea that the theme was appropriate for the time in which we live and it both named the challenges, pain and grief, and it was hopeful as we looked to the future.
- People loved the way the workshops took place via Zoom. They noticed, and appreciated that each workshop was staffed with 3 people: the teacher, the moderator and the tech person, and this made a difference in how the workshops went. Many said that for their own events, they are going to adopt this model.
- Almost everybody appreciated the creative storytelling in the opening worship (sock puppet Biblical stories, etc…) For a few people, it didn’t work. But even for those folks, they acknowledged that that was a matter of preference.
- There was a small amount of concern that with all of the different things going on in the sessions, perhaps the theme of “Holding Loosely” might have gotten a bit “lost” from time to time. We appreciated hearing this feedback.
- More people made use of the web site this year as opposed to the mobile app. The app (especially he scheduling) caused some confusion.
- People wished for a deeper dive into Children’s Ministry. We hear you.
- People were very grateful that workshops and sessions were recorded and would be made available.
- There were a few folks who tired of the invitations to “join” the Network. We understand that. At the same time, membership is critical for us continuing this work. We can only be better together if we are together. And over 200 people took advantage of the discounted membership we offered. So we feel like this was the right strategy.
- Lots of positive comments about the affordable price.
Here’s what we know: God showed up at Extravaganza 2021. I know…not a shock. But we all experienced it. So many things could have gone wrong…There were so many ways our technology could have failed. But God’s Holy Spirit was present. I literally had chills during some of the talks, especially around the idea of “Holding Grief.” It made me realize that we all walk the same journey, and the journey has been difficult. But at the same time, God has been there, walking our road with us. Jesus comes when times are hard. Jesus has been with us this past year. Many were reminded of this good Word at the Extravaganza.
The last question we asked was “Will you be back next year?” 91% of you said “yes.” We are so thankful. 34% said you’d be online and 57% said in person. 8% said you might take a year or two off and 1% said no. Those are amazing numbers. Thank you for being a part of this community.
Extravaganza 2022 will take place in Minneapolis from February 10-14 at the Hilton Hotel downtown. Optional Intensive Care Courses will happen February 10-11, and the main event will take place February 11-14. Our theme is Boundless. The seven learning tracks have been set. The team is hard at work right now, putting it all together. Put it on your calendar. It will be both online and in person. And while we won’t be able to do the online program as inexpensively as we did in 2021, we will do everything we can to maintain its accessibility and affordability.
Thanks to all of you for being the Network. Thank you for your investment in this community. Together, we are a part of a movement of God’s Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Todd Buegler
Executive Director – ELCA Youth Ministry Network
Pastor – Trinity Lutheran Church; Owatonna, Minnesota