Why are we serving?
In 2009, the ELCA Youth Gathering invited congregations to a post-Katrina New Orleans. This reality significantly changed the structure of the event, moving it from a “stadium experience” to an intentional community of service. The feedback from congregations regarding this change was overwhelmingly positive. The gGathering became a missional experience, one that modeled the ELCA’s theology of accompaniment and invited youth (and adults) to think critically about service and their capacity to make a difference.
MYLE is taking this theme a step further. As this event is the largest gathering of young people and adults of color in the ELCA and an official pre-event for the ELCA Youth Gathering, participants will be shepherded by partners throughout the city of New Orleans who creatively address issues that disproportionately affect communities of color. Many of the organizations that MYLE is partnering with empower young people to use their voice and be the change in their communities. As these opportunities were developed, we intentionally sought out opportunities that would not be part of the ELCA Youth Gathering so that participants would have two different experiences for their MYLE day of service and their Gathering day of service.
How do we understand service?
For Lutherans, an understanding of service begins with an understanding of vocation. The word vocation is derived from the Latin word vocation, which means “to call or summon.” Lutherans believe that when we help our neighbors and not only share, but show the love of Christ, we are living out our vocations. MYLE will help participants to uncover their vocation through the act of service and consider how God might be calling them to serve in their home communities.
In addition to the centrality of vocation, the ELCA has a particular framework for understanding missional engagement that is termed a “Theology of Accompaniment.” We believe that God is already present and active in the communities we serve. As we enter the city of New Orleans, we understand that we are on holy ground and view our time of service as an exchange. MYLE attendees are providing services, but more importantly, partners are shepherding participants as they learn from those who are making a difference on the ground. We walk together on this journey, learning from one another and celebrating the gifts that God has given each of us to transform our communities.
What is service learning?
Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. MYLE is incorporating this understanding into the day of service. Participants will engage in the following ways:
1. LEARNING - Each opportunity has a learning component that introduces participants to the organization, effort or experience.
2. SERVING - Participants serve through hands-on opportunities that meet a need and provide experiential learning.
3. REFLECTING - Congregations will be provided with materials to debrief their experience and uncover how God was active.
4. DISCOVERING - Congregations will take time to discern how God is calling them to use this experience in their home context.
5. CELEBRATING - Participants will come together at the end of the day to celebrate what has been done, what has been learned and lift up a new reality.
How are service-learning projects assigned?
Service-learning projects are assigned to each congregation. The service-learning projects MYLE is connected to are generally smaller in size than those the Gathering connects to. For this reason, MYLE congregations are assigned a service-learning project based upon the capacity of each service-learning location.