Let me introduce myself. I’m Janelle Rozek Hooper, the new program director for ELCA Ministry with Children. My role is to advocate for children’s ministry and support leaders working in children’s ministry. This part-time gig “rounds out” the churchwide staff working on First Third of Life Faith Formation. I work in partnership with ELCA Youth Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, Youth Gathering and Campus Ministry staff. Together we strive to support ELCA ministries in congregations, on campuses and in synods throughout the ELCA.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton encourages all of us to remember “we are church together.” And being church together integrates shared faith stories from the past and present that have the power to shape our future. Part of my faith story is my growing up as a Lutheran in Texas. My experience of having served as president of the Lutheran Youth Organization in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod greatly shaped my faith and sense of call, as did my participation in ELCA Youth Gatherings. Who knew there were thousands of Lutheran youth? Attending my first Youth Gathering in Dallas rocked my world; I felt like I belonged to a Christian movement much bigger than myself or my congregation.
When something shapes you at a young age like the church did for me, it becomes essential to give back. So for the past 12 years as a pastor serving congregations in the suburbs of Chicago and Houston, I’ve worked extensively with First Third of Life Faith Formation. I also have a 4- and 6-year-old at home, and my husband and I see the impact of our faith sharing and church life in their lives. Daily faith and life integration is essential to our family and to the church moving forward. Being church together in the 21st century will continue to mean God’s work being done through our hands and through our shared stories for the sake of the world.
Needless to say, I’m excited about strengthening the ELCA’s commitment to children’s ministry through the life-changing work of ministry with folks in the First Third of Life. Please follow me on Twitter at @ ELCA4Kids.