Disability Ministries advocate and work toward goals.


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ELCA Youth Ministries and Disability Ministries call for a Spirit-embodied church


What happens when the church gathers together young people from synods across the country who feel called to leadership? The many members of the body of Christ move together in harmony, united by the prospect of religious vocation.


Each year the ELCA Youth Leadership Summit brings together potential leaders to grow their faith through prayer and discussion, discerning who people of the ELCA are and what challenges God presents to the church. Last year’s event, held Nov. 1-4 at Carol Joy Holling Camp in Ashland, Neb., was attended by Abigail Offhaus of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Carly Sorenson of the Western Iowa Synod and Nate Gallagher of the Northern Illinois Synod, as well as adult sponsor Emily Schmidlin of the Northeastern Ohio Synod. The diverse group included ELCA youth of varied abilities, ethnic identities and gender identities. The stories, hopes and visions for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that they bring back to their respective synods constitute an awesome gift, bringing welcome change.


ELCA Youth Leadership Summit“I am so glad our youth leaders with disabilities participated in the summit!” wrote Rachel Alley, the new youth program director for ELCA Domestic Mission, in a letter to Holling. “I loved getting to know all three. Each of them has such unique gifts to share with our church.” Schmidlin remarked, “It was wonderful to see our youth growing in their call to be leaders.”


ELCA Youth Ministry provided free registration for the four attendees, and ELCA Disability Ministries provided each with appropriate and cost-free transportation between home and the campsite. What did attendees have to say after the event?


  • “My son, Nate, had a fantastic time,” wrote Gallagher’s father. “He learned a great deal about advocacy and even took part in leading a prayer station during the closing candle time.... It was a fantastic opportunity to see him grow over those days.”

  • “Thank you for the opportunity to go to the ELCA Youth Leadership Summit,” wrote Offhaus. “I am very thankful because I got to learn more about God [and] my faith, and [to] meet new friends. I especially appreciated the theme of advocacy. I learned that you need to advocate for others as well as yourself. It made me realize that I am not that different from the person next to me. Now that I am back home, I am going to talk to Pastor about forming a youth council in our synod. The racial justice talk was the most interesting to me because … the Monopoly game showed me … how people are treated differently. I also liked the LGBTQ+ talk because it was about how to welcome all. That is going to help me understand the community and how to include in the church…. My other favorite part was the candle time. I thought it was really powerful to get to sit down and talk to God. And leading the conga line on Sunday made me really happy.”

Carly and Kevin StricklandTo honor our 2018 ministry experiences, ELCA Disability Ministries has created and is making available for purchase an emblem inscribed with the July totallyAble event theme, “You Belong.” We believe every ELCA member can benefit from the message, which is translated into multiple languages (foreign and accessible). To order, visit ELCA resources. We hope you will help the ministry and our youth answer God’s call of inclusivity and active engagement as members of the
body of Christ, and to feel embodied as
we envision a future together for the sake of the world.


Abigail with a group


Disability Ministries news about grants


Reminder: The deadline to submit proposals to the Mental Health Ministry for grants up to $10,000 is Jan. 31. However, until further notice, Disability Ministries will continue to consider applications for grants up to $5,000 to prepare leaders for ministry with and by persons with disabilities, to equip congregations and synods for fuller engagement of the disability community in the life of the church, and to connect and gather ELCA members as a whole church together in ministry. Disability Ministries continues to support mental health initiatives, as well as a variety of other disability ministries, in offering these $5,000 grants. We give thanks to the many people who have contributed to Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA and its Disability Ministries and Where Needed Most priorities, which support ELCA members, congregations, synods and our affiliates in important ways. To register or learn more, visit elca.org/grants.

Find additional information on Disability Ministries.
To financially support this work, click here and select Disability Ministries.

Living into Future Directions 2025 and beyond


ELCA Disability Ministries hopes to build relationships with ministry partners who have distinct and similar experiences in society and sometimes in the church.


From 1 to 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, Disability Ministries will host a workshop introducing a companionship model of Mental Health Ministry, led by the organization Pathways to Promise. A two-day “train the trainer” seminar will follow in Chicago in May and elsewhere across the country later this year. Companionship training helps church leaders learn how to engage visitors and less-present congregational members in lifelong, mutually nurturing relationships with people who may be living with or recovering from addiction, anxiety, depression, poverty, trauma and more. To learn about registration, see the Pathways to Promise flyer; to attend, email Disability.Ministry@elca.org.


ELCA members participating in three newly developing ministry teams will gather at the Lutheran Center in Chicago on Feb.13 to worship and to expand our new ministry network. Monthly conference calls will enable members of ELCA ministries to collaborate with, encourage and inspire one another as we explore church life with persons of varied abilities. Three different teams will allow participants to join with others in a shared interest:


  • The Localized Active Ministries Team has monthly conference calls to share best practices, support new initiatives, discuss new trends and learn how to strengthen long-term efforts.

  • The Faith Formation/Tools for Adaptive Practices Team promotes accessible ways for children, youth and families to grow experientially in their faith formation. From being baptized to understanding the catechism and confirmation to finding our vocation, we all seek ways to love, serve and worship; so do persons with varying abilities. Help us identify ways for ministries to engage all persons more fully in the life of the church.

  • The Grant Review Team helps ELCA Disability Ministries make important decisions about what grants to approve and for how much, then shares information about the outcomes and other good news in your area.

If you are interested in joining a Disability Ministries networking team or in learning more about the Pathways to Promise introductory workshop or two-day training, please send your full name, ELCA congregation/synod name, and email address to Disability.Ministry@elca.org, or call Carol Josefowski at 773-380-2604.

Find additional information on Disability Ministries or contact us.
To financially support this work, click here and select Disability Ministries.

Editor: Chris Ludwig


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