October 2016 (1)

Our Mission:
Supporting lifelong faith formation in the home and congregation.

From the President's Desk
Many thanks to Lorie Hughes, our Region 1 Network Advocate, for introducing us to Jon Bates, Director of Youth, Family and Education Ministries at Atonement Lutheran Church in Billings, MT. What a joy it is to get to know him. His en"theo"asm and wisdom as he begins his ministry in this congregation is evident. We should all take heed of his advice to fill a box with all the notes of thanks and praise we receive as a reminder of why we are called to the ministry we do. And yes, Jon, please remind us of our need to fully embrace positive and meaningful ways to use Social Media.
I am thankful to Judy Twist, our Social Media Coordinator, for coming up with the idea for our "6 Questions and a Cup of Coffee" issue each month. Please let us know if you know of someone we can highlight, learn from, and get to know.
I think you'll enjoy meeting Jon through this edition as much as I have.
Debbie Streicher
President of the CENetwork

6 Questions and a Cup of Coffee
with...Jon Bates  

1. Can you describe your call to ministry?

My call to ministry began when I was a youth in my hometown congregation in Shoreview, Minnesota, attending youth group, Sunday School, and going on the annual mission trips. I also had some inkling of a call to ministry through the affirmations from people around me. I didn't fully or want to "commit" to the ministry until I had transferred to Augsburg College for the Youth and Family Ministry Degree after I bounced among four majors at a different college.

During my time at Augsburg I experienced the world in different ways. I spent two months in the typhoon-ravaged city, Tacloban, in the Philippines, I studied in El Salvador, and seized opportunities by attending conferences around the nation. My goodness. Those experiences helped me realize that my soul feeds off of genuine learning, authentic community, and vulnerable relations all in the name of Jesus, not just for myself but also among those around me. As a college student I also served as the Congregational Life Intern at Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis and then worked at my hometown church for a period of time.

Early this year after graduation I had this pesky and annoying desire to pursue an opportunity not in Minnesota and started applying for youth ministry jobs in ELCA churches around the nation.  It was a long process that began in February and finished in June when I made a decision out of three amazing opportunities. After praying, talking, and more praying, the decision to move to Billings, Montana, as the Director of Youth, Family and Education Ministries at Atonement Lutheran Church was made!
2. What is the best part of your ministry now?

The best part of my ministry has been the continuous learning that I have experienced as I began doing ministry in a full-time position. I would say that the largest learning curve that I'm easing off now is Confirmation. I have not experienced Confirmation since I was confirmed about a decade ago. Now I get this opportunity to help provide a culture and atmosphere for the confirmands and their small group leaders where they can get excited about the Bible, share their questions, and have community together. We're also going to Christikon Lutheran Bible Camp this month for the Confirmation retreat! There we will have worship, learn more together, and enjoy fellowship outside of our "ordinary."

3. What is one fact about you that would surprise people?

I thoroughly enjoy the art of drawing and graphic design.
4. What are three things Christian Educators need to keep their eye on?

  1. SELF-CARE. SELF-CARE. SELF-CARE. Self-care is good and it is a blessing that we have so we can take care of our souls, our bodies, our relationships, and our own personal faith formation. With the season of chills and short days approaching us, self-care may even be more important. So, say no to another meeting this week. Say yes to meditating if that's your thing. Say no to staying another hour working in the office after a 9-hour day. Say yes to the things that keep you sane. I mean, Jesus took care of himself. So we should do the same.       


2. Take advantage of social media and text messages! With the election happening in November, social media may be daunting. But I think now is the time to continue to be on social media to share those memes and quotes that stir your soul.  Share the story of your ministry. Share the story of what the Spirit is doing in the midst of your community. Share ways for others to use their talents in the ministry. I saw a statistic online-so read this critically- that mentioned that 96% of texts are read within the first 5 minutes. So send out a text reminder or words of praise to those around you! There are also platforms that can help with that as well! (I use Flocknote)


3. Keep a box or container for the items and praises that you receive in the ministry. If it's a positive vocation-     affirming text from a parent, colleague or youth, screenshot the text and print it out. If it's a drawing from a child, keep it and put it in the box. Sometimes we need those tangible reminders of why we choose a call in the ministry.

5. What are some of your favorite resources?

Currently, my favorite faith formation resources have been the youth, their parents and volunteers of the congregation I'm working at. They are currently the most valuable and precious resources I have within reach that help me learn about this new community and even ministry in general.

Through the conversations with these people  I have been able to continuously discover the different passions of the congregation. I can fine-tune the resources that I need so that I can help them live out and act on their passions with the tools that are needed. I use Facebook communities, Pinterest, scribbles of notes from school, and the occasional Google search.

I also have a strong preference for using the resources from Peer Ministry Leadership. From my understanding it's based on the claim of, "If youth aren't leading, they're leaving." Through my experience in youth ministry I have seen how that claim is true for not just youth but for young adults as well. When voices, talents, and different lives are not celebrated, that community isn't as genuine as it can be. I believe this is what the church is based on -- community. When the beautiful God-crafted souls that we all have are celebrated, lived out, and shared, that's when ministry becomes even stronger. Programs then will come second and relationships take priority. Seriously, Peer Ministry is a wonderful tool for congregations.

6. How can we pray for you?

I moved to Montana from Minnesota in June and homesickness has the ability to get super real when I miss things in Minnesota such as family, friends, Super Target, Trader Joe's, Duck, Duck, Grey Duck, and especially Super Target. I really like Super Target.  In all seriousness if y'all could pray for me to stay mentally present and aware in Montana, that would be great, and also to seek out family and friends with technology when I need to!

Prayer Pause

Creator God, everything we are given is a gift from you.  Help us to take time to appreciate and revel in the wonder of creation. Give us glad and generous hearts to give thanks to you for all you provide to us on a daily basis.  Amen.

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Cummings
CENetwork Chaplain



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Christian Education Network of the ELCA
Vision Statement


Building a community which equips, encourages, and empowers those engaged in lifelong faith formation in a changing world by:

  • Providing resources and educational opportunities
  • Facilitating communication and conversation 
  • Offering networking, idea sharing, and mutual support
  • Nurturing spiritual growth






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CENetwork of the ELCA 
(formerly LACE)
P.O. Box 9304
Rochester, MN 55903

  Phone messages may be left at 
(507) 721-0057