Former ELCA Youth Gathering program director receives Tom Hunstad Award

2/11/2016 1:00:00 PM

​         CHICAGO (ELCA) – Heidi Hagstrom, former program director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Youth Gathering, was presented with the Tom Hunstad Award for Excellence in Children, Youth and Family Ministry during the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza held Feb. 4-8 in Anaheim, Calif. The annual event provides spiritual renewal, continuing education and networking opportunities for adult leaders who work in youth ministry at ELCA congregations and in other areas of the church. Six hundred and eighty leaders attended this year's Extravaganza.
            Hagstrom, who currently serves as vicar of Fields of Grace Lutheran Parish in southwest Minnesota, was program director of the ELCA Youth Gathering from 1997 to 2015.
            The gathering is a triennial event that brings together more than 35,000 high-school age Lutherans from across the country and overseas for faith formation, worship, fellowship and service.
            "The ELCA Youth Gathering looked very different in 2015 than it looked when Heidi started," said Erik Ullestad, chairperson of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network board, in a network news release. "This is a testament to her adaptability, her vision, and her willingness to listen. Heidi did the unprecedented thing of having two consecutive Youth Gatherings in the same city – because God wasn't finished with New Orleans, and neither was the ELCA."
            Ullestad added that Hagstrom "allowed service learning to be something that all participants were expected to engage in. She also "acknowledged that pre-Gathering conversations among youth groups should be more than fundraisers and packing lists – instead, she provided resources to equip youth and adults to engage in faithful conversation in the months before the Gathering."
            The Tom Hunstad Award is awarded annually to someone who has made a significant impact on the life of children, youth and family ministry in the ELCA. It honors the legacy of the Rev. Tom Hunstad, who helped found the ELCA Youth Ministry Network. Hunstad died of cancer in 2001.  

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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