Young People asked the Lutheran Church: #AreYouWithUs?

And its resounding answer was “yes!”

At the 2013 Church Wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), youth and young adult voting members recognized that the church budget for youth and young adult ministries was essentially nothing. Like, desperately small. And yet, we have heard church elders publicly wondering, “where are our young people? Why aren’t my kids coming back to church?”

So we decided to act. Using the Twitter hashtag #AreYouWithUs, we invited hundreds of young voices from around the periphery of the church to tell stories about how their congregation has supported, empowered, and uplifted them. Young Lutherans asked over and over again: are you actually with us? A proposal to add $4 million to the ELCA’s 25th Anniversary Campaign was put forth, and after hearing passionate and articulate pleas from youth and young adult voting members at the assembly, the proposal was passed, and the energy from those moments carried through as the entire campaign was voted on and approved.

It was a momentous win for young people in the church: $4 million to be used specifically for empowering, connecting, uplifting, and valuing the voices and actions of youth and young adults in the church!

Not yet elected as presiding bishop, Bp. Elizabeth Eaton donned an #AreYouWithUs t-shirt during one of the plenary sessions
Not yet elected as presiding bishop, Bp. Elizabeth Eaton donned an #AreYouWithUs t-shirt during one of the plenary sessions

About a year later, a varied and diverse group of church leaders, pastors, youth, and young adults gathered in Chicago to discuss allocation of that $4 million, to develop language about our core values, and to responsibly use and invest this money.

This is the crux of what we came up with:

Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA gives us the opportunity to expand our ministries among youth and young adults to cultivate young leaders, embrace a culture of diversity and inclusion, and build a robust network of support.

Through the Youth and Young Adults ministry of The Campaign for the ELCA, we will focus on the following Core Values:

  • Form faith in youth and young adults
  • Develop and multiply youth and young adult leaders
  • Start new ministries or enhancing current efforts
  • Promote collaboration and creativity
  • Engage youth and young adults of color
  • Accompany communities and persons living in poverty

And so with great excitement, we got news today that the first round of grant applications for innovative ministry with youth and young adults are being accepted from today through September 1st, 2015!

Please take a look at the attached application, and prayerfully consider how you might get moving on a project or idea that’s been stirring around in your head. Or perhaps you’ve got a good thing going, but need some funding to keep it going? This is for you. This is for us. This is action for the sake of God’s love for the world.

Click here: Youth & Young Adult Campaign Grant Application

Look, the fact of the matter is that there is a need for reconciliation and healing between the Church and young people. We do need to reframe the expectation for what church looks like today. And youth and young adults do yearn to belong in community and act on behalf of others. And this by no means is the entire answer. This is a comma, not a period; the ELCA has responded in a way that avoids paternalism and looking down on young people. This is a response that proclaims community, and emphatically says “Your voice matters to us. We’re listening.”

And you know what? In my book, that’s a start. A really big start.

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