Churches are losing members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage. Fuller Youth Institute gathered data from over 250 of the nation’s leading congregations, as well as looked at past research including the Exemplary Youth Ministry, and found strategies that any congregation can use to involve and retain teenagers and young adults. As a result of engaging young people, these congregations have found they are growing spiritually, emotionally, missionally, and numerically. On the third Wednesday for 7 months (September through March), we will introduce and share the strategies from the book Growing Young in hopes that as leaders of ministries, you will find ways to incorporate them in your setting. And as you will learn, the strategies will work in any congregation, whether you currently have young people or not.
This Wednesday, Phil Hirsch, Director of the ELCA Domestic Mission, introduced Growing Young and why this matters as we look at the status of our Church. We were also honored to have TWO young adults, Daniel Kirschbaum and Clair Embil, present with us to share their own stories and experiences with the church. In the following weeks, Rachel Alley, Program Director for Youth Ministries, and a Growing Young Facilitator will coordinate our conversations around the strategies. We are also hoping to have at least one youth and one young adult join us for each of these future conversations as well. Let's not just talk about young people; let's hear from them directly!
The Rev. Dr. Philip C. Hirsch is working to bring about the revitalization of ELCA congregations in the United States by recruiting, training, and supporting leaders. He has a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for helping new people find faith and Christian community. He believes the church can and will grow younger and more diverse and that there is nothing more powerful than God’s love because it can transform first the human heart and then the world.
Daniel Kirschbaum finds deep joy in dreaming with people and organizations about systemic ways to be radically welcoming and holy space co-creators. He is a strategic dreamer, nerdy board game player, lover of worship that makes him move, and thinks rivers are really neat. Daniel is currently the Director of Retreat Ministries at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Colorado, the Registrar for Abide Small Group Ministries, and an M.A. student at Wartburg Theological Seminary. His call in ministry moves him towards people who have experienced trauma as a direct or indirect result of the church, specifically in relation to gender and sexual identity. Daniel identifies as a gay, white, cis-man and uses he/him/his prounouns.
Claire Embil is a Senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a writer, photographer, and graphic designer with an eye for the beauty of the world and a passion for justice. This has led her to pursue a double major English: Creative Writing and Religious Studies. She is also minoring in Photography. Claire identifies as a biracial, bisexual black woman. She has been raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is currently serving as the Media Coordinator for Abide, an ELCA Young Adults’ ministry, and is one of the hosts of the 2022 Youth Gathering. Claire considers herself a faith-based activist who uses the social justice message of the gospel to be an advocate for all people. She hopes to be an ELCA pastor one day. When Claire isn’t in church or creating art and poetry, she enjoys attempting to learn guitar, traveling, and is a competitive gymnast.
Sharing God’s love and grace with youth and equipping adults who work with teens are Rachel Alley’s greatest passions! Making sure that every person realizes that they are a beloved child of God, created with gifts to be shared with others, just as God intended, is very important to her. She understands the joys and difficulties that the teenage and young adult years bring and tries to affirm those with whom she engages with. She has over 30 years of experience working in youth ministry and will tell you that the most important thing about youth ministry is building relationships with those you serve.