by Asher O’Callaghan
ELM Program Director
This past weekend, about 600 adult youth ministry workers descended upon the city of Louisville, Kentucky for the 2017 Extravaganza. If you’re unfamiliar with the Extravaganza, it is an annual 4-day event for adults who work with youth in congregations of the ELCA. According to the ELCA Youth Ministry Network which does a fabulous job of putting on this event:
It is for the professional and the volunteer. It is for the old and the young. It is for the urban, the suburban and the rural. It is for pastors, it is for laypeople. It is for all who share in the adventure we call youth and family ministry.
The event features a whole bunch of workshops, speakers, worship, music, renewal, and networking. See why it’s called an extravaganza???
According to Miriam-Webster, there are two definitions of the word “extravaganza”. The most frequent way that I’ve heard this word used is to indicate “a lavish or spectacular show or event.” The other definition (of which I was previously unaware until I consulted the dictionary) is: “a literary or musical work marked by extreme freedom of style or structure and usually by elements of burlesque or parody.”
As far as I’m aware, there was no burlesque at this event, but there was an extreme freedom of style and structure that it was refreshing to experience at a church related function. It was organized and structured but unconventional. Within one worship service, you might find: a contemporary Christian praise song, a Lutheran camp song complete with all the motions, a reading from Scripture, a quote from Beyonce, a ritual, and a game. It was truly amazing… Kind of like youth ministry.
So of course there were several Proclaimers involved in it! Proclaimers Brenda Bos and Paul Clark both served on the planning team. Becca Seely and I served as speakers and worship leaders. And Proclaimers Sara Cogsil, Laura Kuntz, Matt James, and Jeff Ogonowski were all in attendance. Since there were a number of Proclaimers in the same place at the same time, Steven Renner hosted a Regional Proclaim Meet-Up at the Troll Pub Under the Bridge. And Lutheran rapper and LGBTQ ally, Dave Scherer, aka AGAPE*, even joined us to break bread.
We’re all taking something different away from it. Becca is walking away with “a lot of hope for the church and the world – not because of our youth, whom I trust are full of passion and giftedness, but because of the adults, many of them volunteers, who are so committed to sharing the gospel of God’s unconditional love with youth and empowering them to live authentically and change this world for the better.” As a seminarian, Jeff is taking away three credits in youth and family ministry, along with, “a deeper understanding of fundraising, protection policies, self-care, and the value of continuing education for all youth leaders”. Laura commented, “I feel like I was soaking in creativity and energy from all the wonderful leaders at the Extravaganza. This helped spark my own creativity and gave me ideas and energy for daily ministry.” My take away is passion – when we do our work with passion, we bring out the passion in others.
Asher O’Callaghan (pictured with Becca Seely) is grateful for those who are working in youth ministry and are reminding us all that church can actually be FUN!