Are you interested in becoming more involved in the church—perhaps even feeling a call to lead—but unsure what direction to take?

The ELCA has a new web app that can help: Journi.

Journi is a one-stop shop for figuring out how to serve God through the many opportunities provided by the ELCA. Through informative articles, quizzes that test your spiritual gifts and information about all walks of leadership—either volunteer or professional—Journi helps users figure out which path they can take to further their involvement in the church.

“[The web app shows] the pathways that can help you feel more into the church and help you understand what it means to discern whatever it is you’re intended [for]: lay leadership, working across the world, working as a chaplain,” said Jayne Shimko, director of content strategy for the ELCA. “The idea is you’re able to learn about that and take the steps to go down that pathway. That’s never been done before.”

Journi was put together with young adults in mind, specifically those in high school and college who are looking to take the next step in their faith journey.

“I think everybody knows that we have a large opportunity to engage people who are discerning a call to leadership, and that exists in a lot of different ways,” said Ben Pearthree, engagement strategist for the ELCA’s strategic communications team. “The first phase of life where that tends to happen is, ‘I was confirmed, now what?’ A lot of the feedback we got initially was, ‘OK, I’m finishing this kind of stage of life, I still want to be part of the church, but now there’s less programming specific to me.’ It feels like there’s an engagement drop-off.”

Unfortunately there’s not always a broad knowledge of what people can do within the ELCA, Pearthree said. Journi aims to bring awareness to the programs and ministries people can get involved in, all the while “empowering people to take their next, most faithful step,” he added.

A long time coming

The idea for Journi was born in 2018, when the ELCA received a substantial grant from a donor to focus on leadership communications, said Pearthree, who has overseen the project from the beginning of its implementation.

At first a team put together YouTube videos of interviews with bishops, deacons and other ELCA leaders, which are still available to watch today. “It was an opportunity to showcase the breadth of leadership opportunities in the ELCA,” Pearthree said.

But the team wanted to do more. A consulting agency recommended that the ELCA put together a web application to showcase the leadership opportunities available within the ELCA. That’s how Journi got its legs, Pearthree said.

He and his team spent nearly two years learning about and building relationships with different leadership facets of the ELCA.

“We interviewed people from all over the ecology of the ELCA: people in congregations, camp counselors, lay leaders,” he said. “We took two of our consultants to Churchwide Assembly, and we just listened to people’s stories for about three days. We built relationships with many programs and ministries across the ELCA. It was like a massive audit on all the kinds of different leadership opportunities that exist across the ELCA.”

“We interviewed people from all over the ecology of the ELCA: people in congregations, camp counselors, lay leaders. We took two of our consultants to Churchwide Assembly, and we just listened to people’s stories for about three days.”

After collecting all that data, Pearthree and his team put it together in a format that was easy to navigate: Journi.

Nine different paths are available for users to peruse, including “Choosing the Right Seminary,” “Connecting Faith & Public Life,” and “Get a Scholarship: Fund for Leaders.”

“This one person at Churchwide Assembly … said, ‘I want to go to seminary because I feel the call,’ but she didn’t have the money to go,” Pearthree recalled. “She had never heard of the Fund for Leaders [scholarship] program. There are a handful of connections that haven’t always been made broadly known.”

But Journi isn’t only for those 35 and younger. It can be used by anyone searching for a way to engage, or reengage, in ministry.

It’s also not a tool for those looking only for high leadership possibilities. “When we were starting Journi, there was a question of, ‘Are you building this so people go to seminary?’ And the answer was, no,” Pearthree said. “That wasn’t the purpose. The ‘Call to Lead’ path walks through the kinds of different opportunities to get involved in leadership in a nonbiased way that’s really helpful.”

Explore Journi

When you visit Journi, you’ll be asked to create an account so that the app can track your progress and evaluate where you may feel called to serve. It’s entirely free, and you can control how much feedback—if any—you receive from the ELCA, Pearthree said.

One of the tools that can get you started is the Spiritual Personality Quiz, which may look familiar. “[The quiz] is the same as the ELCA Spiritual Gifts Assessment Tool we’ve had available for about two decades,” Pearthree said. “It’s not new, just presented in a new way.”

The quiz helps users discern their gifts and can help them choose one of the nine paths to explore. Each path has six steps to follow to learn more about that chosen ministry, which include videos, articles and additional quizzes.

Another helpful tool lies within the Lutheran Outdoor Ministry path. Users can search for camps filtered by state, with website and contact information available for each program, Pearthree said.

Though Journi is an incredibly useful tool, Pearthree said it’s not a replacement for the value personal relationships bring to helping leaders discern their call.

“It’s a tool to get [people] set up to initiate those interpersonal relationships that will make all the difference,” he said.

Stephanie N. Grimoldby
Grimoldby is a freelance writer living in Antioch, Ill.

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