The Northeastern Iowa Synod has 26 paid professionals doing Youth and Family Ministry.

Some of us may remember the “Youth Director”, who mostly organized the high school “Luther League” activities and the once a year “Youth Sunday”. This person was usually young, underpaid (if paid at all) and stayed in the job for only a few years before burning out and getting a “real job”.

Well the times they are a changing.

For the better. Youth and Family ministry seeks to integrate youth into the whole life of the church.

“We want them to be involved for and with the whole congregation, rather than segregating young people off into their own group.” says Deb Bachman, who serves under contract part time as Coordinator of
Northeastern Iowa Synod Youth and Family Ministry.

Youth and Family ministry begins earlier in many congregations and involves the whole family. “You can’t expect youth to just start coming when they are teenagers”, Deb points out.

Faith formation begins in the family as the congregation is involved in that process throughout childhood, confirmation, high school and into young adulthood.

(To illustrate how much more influence families have on spiritual development than church see the YouTube “Gumballs” below)

Pastor Mark Anderson, Assistant to the Bishop who works with youth and family ministries in our synod recently sent out a survey to our youth and family workers to find out more about their work in our synod. There were some surprising results. You can download all of the results here.

These are some interesting facts about our Youth and Family Ministers:

The average salary of a Youth and Family staff member is around $30,000 a year, with most receiving some benefits such as health insurance, pension, and continuing education.

All of our Youth and Family ministers work with high school youth but most also work with middle school and younger aged children as well as family ministry.

Youth ministry is not just about coming up with “fun stuff to do”. In our synod 78% of our Youth & Family ministers hold a weekly bible study with their youth.

As Deb points out, there are lots of other opportunities for young people do
“do fun stuff”. “While fellowship and recreation is important,” she says, “Our young people want depth and purpose. They have a lot of questions. They want to be listened to and have their questions answered, not just lectured to”

I’m very happy to report 77 % of our Youth and Family workers feel supported by our synod in their ministry. Nearly 60% have been in youth and family ministry for four to more than 10 years. This goes against the national average for ELCA youth workers of 4 years and even shorter when you include other denominations.

Pastor Mark Anderson credits that with the supportive peer community of Northeastern Iowa synod youth and family ministers. They meet monthly to share highs and lows, ideas and resources. They also utilize a closed face book group to discuss ideas on a more regular basis. This is another way that social media enhances community and strengthens relationships in ministry.

By Pastor Joelle Colville-Hanson

Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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