About Dawna Welch

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Progressive Youth Ministry Conference

Progressive Youth Ministry Conference

Progressive Youth Ministry Conference – It actually exists.  Every winter, like-minded folks gather for 4 days of inspiration, collaboration, and celebration, all designed to strengthen our ministry with students, both children and youth.  These youth workers are both clergy and lay, professional and volunteer, young and well-seasoned.  They are from all over the map and, mostly, mainline churches.

Although we have attended this conference before, this year it felt especially well-timed.  As our congregation walks through the Strategic Planning Process, it was affirming and encouraging to realize we are on the “right track” with the changing nature of student ministry.

The theme of the conference this year was “Faith in the Age of Reason.”   Acknowledging that we live in a culture that expects every mystery to be solvable, given enough time and CSI skills, the church is having difficulty finding its place.  But as speaker after speaker reminded us, every answer to every question raises more questions.  Every answer drives the mystery deeper.  And life continues to present us with quandaries like:  Who am I?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why don’t the people I pray for always get better?  Why am I getting bullied at school?  Why are school children in Nigeria being kidnapped from their classrooms?  How can I make a difference in the world?

It is in these spaces, these mysteries, the church needs to stand, the church’s people need to stand.  We need to stand with poetry and prayer, scripture and silence, music and art, ritual and, above all, relationship.  We stand in the spaces with each other, most especially with our children and youth.

Students don’t need more programs.  They are programmed to the hilt – sports (school and club), arts (dance, music, drama), school projects, and service organizations, even the internet and social media provide programs for short attention spans.  What our students need is space for their questions and caring adults to stand with them in the mysteries.

Of course, how that happens is continually evolving.  But what has been reaffirmed for us is this:  Student Ministry needs to be organic, meeting students where they are and addressing their interests and needs.  It needs to be relational, with a wide array of church folks to walk, work, and wonder alongside them.  It needs to be safe space, where diversity is not just welcome, but celebrated.  And it needs to be willing to stand in the margins of life and society, moving beyond the “bubble” and walls of the church.  Students are far less likely to come to the church than they are to welcome the church that comes to them.

Won’t you please join us as we explore what this all means for our community?

With joyful anticipation,

Dawna Welch and Janet Ober Lambert


Thank You!

Thank You!

Following my ordination to ministry service in December, 2015, I want to say, “Thank you, La Verne Church of the Brethren; thank you for being my community of faith and so much more.” It is difficult for me to conceive of ever having ventured into ministry without your insight and encouragement. Truly, it was you who suggested that I consider a vocation in ministry.  I never saw that coming! It was you who encouraged me to teach Sunday school, to direct Peace Camp, to sing, to lead worship, and even to preach. You called out gifts in me that I had not recognized in myself.

I am deeply grateful for the years I have been steeped in Brethren theology. Brethren take seriously the instructions Jesus gave to his disciples the night before he died. By sharing a last, loving meal, washing his disciples’ feet, and offering them the symbolic bread and cup, he demonstrated an out-flowing love that sought not to receive but to give.  As followers of Jesus, we love God and seek to take that love into the world. And can’t our world use a little practice in humility, service, reconciliation, peace, and justice right now?

Each of us is known to God by our own unique name; and we are called to live fully into the truth that we are perfectly and wonderfully made. What I have learned in this journey towards accepting my gifts and being ordained is that I needed my church community to love me and guide me through the process. You, like me, have been called to boldly offer your gifts to a world that desperately needs your authenticity, compassion, joy, intellect, strength, playfulness, perseverance, curiosity, encouragement, and wisdom.

How is God calling you?