Small group ministry for ELCA members between the ages of 18 and 35 – ELCA Grand Canyon Synod
Where are all the young adults in ELCA?
Daniel Kirshbaum, program director for ELCA Young Adult Ministry, hears this question often. “They are here,” he said. “We just have to find a way to meet them where they are.
Meeting young adults where they are is a goal of Abide, a small group ministry for ELCA members between the ages of 18 and 35. The program began in early 2020, shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoping to connect isolated young people from across the country, Kirshbaum, former Young Adult Ministry program director Savanna Sullivan and ELCA’s young leaders decided to host a series of weekly virtual small groups. .
During the first season of Abide, more than 400 participants gathered in more than 50 virtual small groups for nine weeks. Over the next two seasons, more than 500 other participants joined. There were groups of teachers, nurses, Young Adults in Global Mission alumni, LGBTQIA + people, and people of color. So far, weekly videos and discussion topics have included “Staying in Hope”, “Grief” and “Staying in Failure”. Mission Support makes this program possible by funding Kirshbaum’s leadership position.
Claire Embril, social media coordinator for Abide, was group leader for the spring and fall 2020 seasons. “No matter what, I have always left my group better than I entered,” he said. she said, adding that even though her group had different political views, they were ready to listen to and support each other through difficult experiences.
A challenge in particular? “As a black woman, watching intense and violent racism [over the summer of 2020] was extremely difficult, ”said Embril. “Having an Abide group to deal with this was really important. ”
Last summer, Abide teamed up with Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp to organize a hiking trip. Embril dreams of organizing a national Abide rally. For now, she’s happy that Abide is giving young adults the space they need to just be together. “Abide shows that young people really want to participate in church,” she said. “When space is done, they come.”