Phase One

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In the fall of 2013, an online application became available for potential young adult trip leaders. Due to the quick turnaround of this process, social media networks, young adult networks (campus ministry, outdoor ministry, etc…) and key leaders were utilized to spread the word about the opportunity. Fifty seven young adults representing thirty synods applied within the span of two weeks. The application process included an online form with essay questions and reference forms. Karin and Rozella chose the final sixteen based on the following:

  1. Ability to purchase their airline ticket to the Holy Land;
  2. International travel experience;
  3. An understanding of accompaniment;
  4. Geography – two leaders that could pair to lead trips from their synodical area;
  5. Ability to respond in a timely manner;
  6. Strength of their reference.

Key Learnings from Phase One:

  • While grouping trip leaders synodically is ideal, we recognize the need for flexibility when providing opportunities for young adults to engage.
    • Based on Karin and Ray’s experience of leading groups from the Metro D.C. Synod, phase one of this project was focused on leading trips from synods so that upon return from the trip ongoing connection and communication would be easier amongst the young adult participants. However, we have found that nationally, young adults are so transient and aren’t as engaged in their home synods that this method doesn’t always make sense. Young adults are interested in connecting with trips or leaders that make the most sense for where they are in life and with the preponderance of communication technology, ongoing connection is possible regardless of location.
  • It is critical to be explicit, systematic, and repetitive in our training of the young adult leaders
    • While the young adult leaders have each expressed feeling prepared once on the ground, there are elements of the training (including security procedures, hydration precautions, money management, and in-country communication) that can be further refined and clarified.
  • The Peace Not Walls network, including Synod Middle East Networking teams, are in need of engagement with younger leaders.
    • This effort has infused young adults into synod tables around the country. Networking teams and others connected to Peace Not Walls have been very hospitable and excited about this initiative. Synod teams have helped communicate about the trips and have been in touch with trip leaders to support them and their efforts to integrate young adults upon their return.
  • Young Adults are searching for these types of experiences.
    • The response to these trips have been overwhelmingly positive and have uncovered a reality that Churchwide partnerships can provide opportunities that go directly to young adults. Using our networks, it has become clear that young adults don’t go through congregations or synods to get information. They use their networks and connections throughout the ecology of the ELCA. We were uniquely positioned to connect with a variety of people because of the changing nature of communication and connection.
  • It is important to connect with Synod bishops ahead of time.
    • While most of the synods that had representation were open to this opportunity, there was pushback that could have been alleviated if we communicated with synod bishops ahead of time. Our initial thinking was that we would work directly with the young adult trip leaders to empower them to connect directly with their bishop.
  • We need to formalize a fiscal agent and financial accounting process.
    • This has become clear as each synod pair plans their trip. While we prepared our leaders for trip leadership and logistics, the collection and disbursement of funds has proven to be challenging. The trips were designed to be financially viable with participants paying for their plane tickets and program costs being no more than $1400 for a total trip cost not to exceed $2500 per person. This is an all inclusive fee for approximately 10-12 days in country, which is about $2000 cheaper than most trips. We left it up to each synod team to figure out how to handle money and there have been some things that have worked and some challenges. Some congregations, synods and regional offices are willing to serve as fiscal agents, while others have not.
  • Collaboration throughout the Churchwide Organization is essential and this project modeled a different way of being that brought units, partners and staff together.
    • GM and CSM worked closely together through the relationship between Karin and Rozella. Judith Roberts has connected to this effort as a resource person and traveled with Karin and Ray on their intergenerational trip in June 2014 and we are hoping to continue this partnership as we think about phase two of this strategy. A key place of connection has come with our ELCA Advocacy efforts, in both the Washington D.C. Office and the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations. We also recognize the opportunity to connect with the Multicultural Ministries team, Ethnic Associations and our Campus Ministry sites.
  • Phase one only had two young adult leaders of color, one of whom could not complete the process. This was a problem that we are prioritizing.
    • As we put together the sixteen final participants, we chose people with the amount of experience listed above. It became apparent that the young adults of color who did apply did not have the experience, nor did we have the time to prepare them given our short turnaround, to lead the first phase. Of the 57 applicants, four were African Descent, one was Asian Descent, two were Hispanic/Latino, and one was Middle Eastern.While this represented more than 10% of the entire applicant pool, only two of the candidates were chosen as trip leaders given our requirements. We did connect our trip leaders with Judith Roberts in order to include racial justice training for them and their experiences, but we realize that unless we have a leadership team of young adults of color, we won’t have trip participants of color. We are committed to changing this reality.
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