We recently hosted a “Chocolate Spa” for the adult leaders at the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. More than 1,000 women and men came through the spa, and the conversations were rich and insightful. The youth gathering is probably the second largest gathering of women after our own triennial gathering.
I have experienced the youth gathering as a youth, an adult leader, former national youth gathering staff, supporter, … you name it! It is an experience that has had great impact on my life. This is a major production for the ELCA and congregations.
As I massaged hands for 3 days in the “Chocolate Spa,” I thought about the conversations I was having, Women of the ELCA’s 25th anniversary and a church that gathers 36,000 youth but not 36,000 women. I’ve continued to reflect and some questions have bubbled up for me. I’d like to hear your responses. (No, really, before you share it or “like it,” respond!)
What are the limitations and barriers that keep ELCA adults not wanting the same experience that our youth have?
Is it limited facts? Many women who came to the “Chocolate Spa” said they didn’t know about Women of the ELCA. Or that the unit in their congregation didn’t mirror what they saw at the spa. Or that their passion is working with youth or teaching Sunday School and that they have not been encouraged to do those things and participate in Women of the ELCA. What are we participants in Women of the ELCA not sharing?
Is it limited finances? Many women spoke of the generosity of their women’s group when it came to supporting the kids financially for the youth gathering. Think how much money was donated in a week of vacation by the adult leaders who accompanied youth to the gathering. Many spa-goers said it was important to get every kid there. When I mentioned our gathering coming up in 2014 many said they couldn’t afford it. How is it possible to transport, feed, house and entertain 36,000 kids but not women?
Is it limited faith? Is that the answer?
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.