Simply ROCK stars

June 30, 2018

Folks, I know my gifts and planning/implementation are in my skill set. However, if you ever wondered where the ROCK stars of those gifts live – let me introduce you to my friend, Kim Adams and her transportation team. (Part of her team is pictured below. Kim is the smiling face in the middle of the back row)

Here are just a few of the things they’ve encountered this gathering cycle and I don’t even have a complete list.

  • Contracted buses not showing up.
  • Metro not believing her when she said – there will be a mass exit and more equipment should be available for this event.
  • Bus drivers – paid by the trip – telling the volunteers they were loaded and then leaving with less than 10 people on their bus. They get paid and they didn’t have to wait.
  • Bus break downs
  • Metro accidents
  • Houston traffic
  • Houston traffic
  • Houston traffic
  • Groups not where they were suppose to be for pick up
  • Groups not ready at their assigned time
  • Groups not selecting that they would like Gathering transportation and then expecting them to transport them.
  • SO, SO many more

And yet – the grace. The kindness. The patience. Even in the midst of the meanness. People have had to wait and in this heat, I know it’s hard. The Transportation Team is walking that same concrete in that same heat from 4 am until they call the all clear on the parking lots each night.

I just have to say – I am amazed. I am honored to know you and your team. Knowing you has been a true gift of this work. T-Team

Behind the scenes

March 5, 2018

39775117434_524abf3f44_mA little over a week ago we were prepping for LYO Assembly. 492 young people and the adults who love them gathered for a weekend focused on how to Love Like Jesus. I want to take you on a journey behind the scenes.

Before these 8 young people who are the LYO Board were chosen for this position, adults had loved them and nurtured them in their faith journey. Jennifer Krushas excitedly started planning for the retreat so that Joy would have transportation. Liz Fisher had nominated Landon for synod council representative. Wendy Roberts had nurtured Grace  and helped her spread her wings in both music and leadership. Kai had supported and attended games, etc. for Grace, Callie and Angela. (We had three amazing women named Grace this year) Anne lifted up Grace as an amazing young woman with many gifts for ministry including working with 3-5th graders. Holly encouraged Thea to use her gifts in this ministry.

This is just the LYO Board. Emily Norris, Matt Simpkins and Jesse Canniff-Kuhn made music possible with the youth band and those young people had another set of adults coming alongside them and encouraging them to use their gifts.

Across this synod adult advisors were also walking through the small group materials with the 78 young people who were leaders of small groups. In the week before the event Lauren Thurow was printing schedules, stacking supplies ceiling high in my office and tackling the giant task of housing.

On the Friday of the event…Kai was walking the board through the LYO Playbook; Liz Fisher and Naomi Carriker were wrestling the Embassy Suite keys into submission; Adam Fisher was setting up the sound system while mentoring Gavin who this year DJed our entire dance thanks to Adam. Pebbles Cloninger was writing stories of LYO and counting ballots for the Engage the Bible task force.

Adults were gathering participants; putting them in cars; finding them food and traveling across the state to Greensboro. Bishop Tim and Wendy traveled to Greensboro to spend the weekend with this group. Randy Youngquist-Thurow and Christa Drengler from Agape-Kure Beach Ministries drove over to spend the day talking to these young people about Outdoor Ministries and shooting a few free t-shirts into the crowd.

In a separate boardroom, Lauren Thurow was leading 9 young adults in a training around faith and science, vocation and big questions of faith. Sara Ilderton, Will Rose and Bishop Tim all participated in this event as well.

On Saturday, adults gathered with Sandra Cline to talk about the ELCA Youth Gathering. Liz Fisher, Danielle DeNise and I all shared details about this exciting event.

People of faith – thank you. You made this possible. You made LYO and all that went with it a success.

40 or so days…

February 12, 2018

Changes and new faces…

Well, it’s 40 or so days into a new call. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s been 40 days in the wilderness and certainly not 40 years but I’ve had lots of questions about what has really changed. So, here’s a little bit of what I know at this time.

My areas of responsibility have changed significantly. I’ve added First Call, Leadership School, Get to know your synod day, and congregational conflict. (Here’s the prayer that all is well – everywhere.) The current portfolio…

  • First Call Theological Education
  • Leaders Learn – continuing education for rostered ministers
  • Leadership School
  • Get to Know Your Synod Day
  • Holy Innovations – fast growing congregations (more on Holy Innovations soon)
  • Holy Innovations – mapping congregations
  • Discipleship
  • Youth & Family Ministry
  • Congregational conflict
  • Limited call process

In order for this to happen, assembly had to come off my plate. Michael DeNise (bless his heart) will take over the assembly beginning in 2019. We’re walking together through it this year.

We are so blessed by exceptional leaders in this synod and several of them are stepping into new or expanded roles as we continue to be a synod committed to forming young people in faith.

Let me tell you about four amazing people.


Kelsey McNeely from Christ the King, Cary is now serving as our NC Synod Discipling Initiative Coach. The ELCA Youth Ministry Network launched the Discipling Cohorts Initiative at the Extravaganza this year, with the goal of training 500-600 children, youth, and family ministry leaders committed to growing and deepening in ministry leadership, personal faith, and vocational confidence. The initiative was created in response to the Network’s strategic goal for every member to create and live into a personal development plan.
Youth Ministry folks are invited to join a cohort of 8-10 people for an initial session led by a trained peer coach. (that’s Kelsey!) Cohorts will then convene monthly in local settings for the coming year, working together through a guided process for reflection on ministry leadership, skill development, vocational discernment, and spiritual formation.
The year will culminate with each participant writing and presenting a three-year personal development plan. Thank you Kelsey for your commitment to Discipleship and equipping leaders.

Kai and Lauren

Meet Kai and Lauren Thurow. Kai serves at St. John’s, Salisbury and Lauren actually serves at the synod office with me.

Kai has served as LYO Advisor for several years already and will be moving into what I’d call an expanded role. He does LYO Assembly so well and my role will be more big picture than down in the details. Super thankful for Kai’s ministry not just with the assembly but with the LYO Board.

Lauren serves in dual roles at the synod office with both programmatic and administrative responsibilities. Lauren will be taking the lead on YouthQuake and providing administrative back up for LYO and other areas including coaching for First Call participants.

CathrynCathryn Hewett serves part-time at St. Philip, Raleigh. She has agreed to serve as LYO Advisor with Kai. Cathryn brings so many gifts to this ministry and we are blessed to have her in this new role. She’ll begin with LYO Assembly 2018 and walk alongside Kai in working with the 2018-2019 LYO Board.


Hear my heart. I will always have a love for those who serve in the first third of life and young people in general. My commitment to equipping leaders has simply expanded. I am committed to continued networking, fellowship and learning together. Our trainings and events will now broaden to include all those serving in this synod. All are welcome.

Tammy Jones West

Assistant to the Bishop

Minister of Word and Service

Happy 71st Daddy!

April 14, 2016

I’m writing today so that every post isn’t in memory of someone. Today I am thankful for my Daddy. Father to four girls and we just haven’t always been the easiest. (Some more than others!) Through it all, we knew we were loved and supported.

Daddy spent his career as a funeral director/embalmer. Mother and Daddy lived in the garage apartment at the funeral home when I was born. No call forwarding in those days! Someone had to be there at all times. Once the magic of call forwarding happened, we each learned how to take a death call, what information to take down and how to respond to questions. His ministry, and believe me, it’s a ministry, touched the lives of thousands of people in Cleveland County. His ministry with his daughters and wife made us who we are. Some of you have heard me say to get your butt in a pew. His butt was in a pew and his compassion for others almost matches my mother’s. His love for his grandchildren is so fun to watch. The adult conversations he has with Robert and Grant are just as important as rocking Owen to sleep. This is what happens when you have daughters who range in age from 31-47. Eight grandchildren love their Pops beyond belief. Four daughters do too.

Daddy, you are so loved. I know we drive you completely crazy and we many times deserve the “kiss it” we get from you. You’ve taught us well. You’ve taught us the art of telling a story and today the story is you – Happy 71st Birthday Joseph Robert Jones, III.


Proclaim the Gospel

March 29, 2016

On Easter Sunday around the world the alleluias were shouted, bells rang, hymns were sung and the message was clear. He is Risen Indeed. Alleluia. Later that night, death interrupted yet again. Rev. David L. Lohr passed away. From joy to sadness, celebration to grief.

Funerals should proclaim the Gospel.  David Lohr was clear on that. I remember him saying it more than once. His death breaks my heart but I also know what he taught so well. Death does not have the final word. Easter – resurrection.

On April 7th, family and friends will gather to say goodbye to dear Pastor Lohr.  He’ll forever be a part of my faith journey and he’ll forever be associated with the Good News.

I wrote the paragraph below for an article in The Lutheran Magazine insert in 2013. We were focusing on the Spirit at work in our lives and ministries. I pray that the Holy Spirit would bring comfort to Betty, Cindy, Christy and all those who mourn David.

The Spirit at Work in my life.

I recently had the honor of visiting my former pastor in the hospital. Rev. David Lohr came to Ascension, Shelby when I was in the third grade and retired in that same congregation after I was gone. He suffered through all four Jones girls with confirmation, graduations, weddings and so many youth trips. Bless his heart! He was also there in our times of great sorrow. He was there to pray with us and comfort us at the loss of our grandparents. He was there for surgeries, births and all those events that mark milestones – good and bad, in our lives. He was simply and yet profoundly “Pastor Lohr,” with all the connotations of that title.

That day in the hospital as I prepared to leave I was able to pray with him for healing and strength. More importantly, to follow in his example. This man who taught me to pray now was the recipient of those prayers. Blow Holy Spirit, blow.

The Spirit worked through David Lohr in his ministry to equip me for ministry. Thanks be to God for all those in leadership in our congregations who lead us, guide us and accompany us on our faith journey.


Grandparents for Rent

January 27, 2016

RoyallI’ve often said that one of the best kept secrets of some of our congregations is the wonderful, wise, witty, generation of elders contained within. We need signs outside with the words, “Grandparents for Rent.” Rent is really the wrong word but “Free Grandparents” sounds a little like free kittens and in today’s society value comes with a cost.

On Saturday, the cost of one such beautiful contract came to a close for our family. For just a little while, we took up residence in the life of Royall and Martha Yount. We say goodbye to Royall on Friday and it hurts. We loved him dearly. He was a pillar of faith and it has taken me days to even start this post to share a little of our life together.

Some knew Royall as Bishop Royall A. Yount, Sr. who served the Florida/Bahama Synod as LCA Bishop for 37 years. I knew Royall after all that. He’s always been former bishop to me. For us, he was just Mr. Royall and he was married to the wonderful Mrs. Martha. Every Sunday, pulpit side of the aisle, they were there. Potluck dinners, congregational events – they were there. Always.

As Royall grew more frail, we would meet them at the back door of the church and Eric would take him upstairs to the sanctuary in the wheelchair. Eric even refrained from popping wheelies with the wheelchair – only because it was Mr. Royall. We won’t talk about all the times we asked to pick them up or the times Royall drove them to worship and then got in the wheelchair. Stubborn and independent go hand in hand. We would take lunch to their house after feeding the LR kids and sit in their den and listen to stories of their life in Florida before we even knew them.

When I became assembly manager, Royall was still able to come for at least the first day and be recognized. Later, I’d go see him before and after assembly to tell him all about it. He was always quick to say no when asked if he missed synod assemblies as bishop. As his health issues grew more serious and they both moved to Trinity Village, I knew that one day soon we’d be calling his name during assembly worship and ringing a bell. It’s a lovely remembrance for a lovely man but I’m telling you now, there will be tears.

Royall Austin Yount, Sr., we were blessed to know you, love you, and call you friend. You taught us about Jesus because you lived as his disciple – each and every day. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Royall’s in all our lives.

Grandparents for rent – priceless.

How many people have prayed for you?

October 1, 2015

Pastor Andrew Miller asked this question in worship on Sunday. How many people have prayed for you? He asked us to guess at the number. There is no way to know that number and there is some comfort in that. Knowing that people are praying for you is powerful. We take turns doing devotions in the office and Tuesday was my turn. I wanted to add to that number and lift up our rostered leaders. I printed off a list and gave each staff member a sheet of names and asked that they pray for the leaders on their list. Pastor John Mocko took his list and emailed each person on it asking for prayer requests. I “borrowed” his idea and emailed my list as well.

Thank you John Mocko for following through on the request and letting them know you were praying. Thank you Andrew Miller for asking the question. Your question led to conversations with rostered leaders and led to prayers I would have never known to pray for. To our rostered leaders – you are being prayed for by name. Your number is increasing. As you are a blessing to this synod, know that we are praying for your ministry. Thank you for your service.

Catherine Anderson – well done good and faithful servant!

September 14, 2015

So, before the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering a wild idea started bopping around the Youth Ministry world. What would it look like to have a “Synod Day” as part of the gathering? One of my dearest friends, Catherine Anderson, was approached with this new idea. Catherine, in her infinite wisdom, said it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done UNLESS someone put together a coach in each synod to do trainings so that adults traveling with our most precious young people would be equipped to walk alongside them on this journey of faith. Turns out Catherine was that someone. So, she gathered some people to dream and when you get together with people you enjoy working with and dream together, amazing things happen.

The Practice Discipleship Initiative happened. I have been blessed to be a part of this journey and on December 1st will move into the position of Interim Director. I’m not taking Catherine’s place because that simply isn’t possible. She is one of a kind. She has built a wild idea into reality and is ready for her next adventure. I’m stepping in as we decide what’s next for Practice Discipleship. The ELCA has funded this Initiative and conversations are happening about what’s next and what’s best. I trust in the process and have faith that it will bear fruit.

What I do want to say publicly is thank you, Catherine. For daring to dream big dreams and trusting that God would be with us and guide us. For being Christ to so many. “Most likely to make a difference in the ELCA” – not a superlative you’ll find in any high school yearbook but one that rings true. You’ve made a difference and will continue to do so.

Because of your dreams we have…

– 5 years of curriculum that will be used for years to come.

– incredible webinars that are free and easily available.

– coaches in each synod that are equipped to teach and share the faith practices.

– over 30,000 people who have been a part of some type of Practice Discipleship training.

– writers in our colleges/universities and seminaries who have blessed this initiative with their knowledge.

– a system in place that makes folks take notice. Proclaim Story used the same delivery system with Synod Day Directors and it worked SO well.

– volunteers who were once searching for accessible trainings who can now feel equipped to walk with our young people.

– young people surrounded by adults who have the tools they need to talk with young people about where the Kingdom of God has drawn near and to feel comfortable with the big questions of faith.

You’ll never take credit because that’s just who you are but bless your heart – without you, this wouldn’t have happened. The Holy Spirit took you by the hand and set you on this path. Thank you for bringing us along for the ride. Well done, good and faithful servant.

If you have no idea what Practice Discipleship is all about – check it out.  You’ll be glad you did.

Another LYO, another Senior Blessing, the long goodbye.

March 1, 2015

Well, let’s just say I’m not known for making it through the blessing of our high school seniors at LYO. I’ve done it maybe twice without tears. The problem with being a crier is that once the tears start, it’s almost impossible to hold them back again. Each year at LYO Assembly we have seniors stand, give them a blessing stone and have them bless their adult advisors and then the advisors bless them while we pray for their journey. Liz Fisher and I usually took turns doing this each year. (OK, full confession, I usually convinced her I’d done it the year before. She knew and yet she did it anyway. Thanks Liz.) Then we became brilliant women who let our dear Bishop Bolick do it. My job was to have them stand and pass out stones to the adults. Today, I took the microphone, looked out into the congregation and just said nope and passed it off to LIz as Leonard took the stage. Couldn’t even do that much. My son, Robert, is one of those seniors and no one expected me to make it anyway so I’m not even sure there were bets on it this year but the tears had already started long before we approached that blessing.

Leonard stood to give the sermon and it washed over me that this was his last LYO as bishop. This year we’ve done event after event where at some point it has hit me that this was yet another goodbye. I’ve been calling it the long goodbye. Leonard’s retirement as bishop after 18 years is hard. I’m so excited for him – being bishop has to be exhausting. However, I’m just gonna miss him. He first walked into my life when he assumed his role as Assistant to the Bishop in 1986. I was serving as LYNC President. (Lutheran Youth in North Carolina) During my college years at Lenoir-Rhyne I would see him on campus periodically and he even asked me to serve on the Region Nine Youth Gathering Planning team while I was there. On my wedding day he called and talked to my mother asking her to share his congratulations. (It took awhile to figure out who called. My mother said some nice pastor called and said congratulations. I knew a few pastors back then and by the process of elimination and her finally remembering he was from Salisbury, I knew)

For the past twenty years we’ve worked together. Our office has never been one of light shining on the office of bishop. Leonard has the unique ability to shine that light on others. Leonard, you’ve been Christ to me and so many others.

My life has been richer, my faith journey deeper, the laugher sweeter because of you, Leonard Homer Bolick. I give God thanks for your being a part of my story. You are loved!

Detroit 2015

September 3, 2014

2015 ELCA Youth Gathering
Tammy Jones West

It’s that time again. Every three years in the fall prior to the actual gathering we gear up, make our decisions, gather information and begin the registration process for the ELCA Youth Gathering. This year is no different. Approximately 1,000 youth and adult advisors from across our synod will hit the submit button on October 15th – saying, “Yes, we’re going to Detroit.” Will you be with them? I will. I have agreed to serve on the Proclaim Story Day Team. This is the day we gather as a synod to worship, share, learn and laugh. This is the day we will also celebrate together the ministry of our dear Bishop Bolick. One of his final days serving as our bishop and it just so happens that 1,000 NC Synod Lutherans can be together in Michigan to say thank you and Godspeed. ☺

So, why Detroit? What about safety? What about…..? I’ve heard your questions, fears, and concerns. Some of them were my own. There are other places I’d rather have gone simply because of logistics. I prefer a place where walking everywhere is an option. I prefer a place where synods can be housed together. I prefer a place where it’s not so expensive to fly there. The problem with all those phrases is “I.” This is not about me. Yes, there are concerns and when I’m concerned I’m not the best at trusting the Holy Spirit. I want to make things right myself. Not the greatest example on the planet – true confession time. However, our team has spent a considerable amount of time working through the Gospel of Mark. Mark 1:1 keeps reminding me that this is “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We are part of that story. Detroit is part of that story. How we proclaim Christ – how we proclaim our story within God’s story is important.

I think we gather in Detroit, not to bring Jesus to Detroit. We are called there to witness how the kingdom is being proclaimed; how the story of that city does in ways translate into our story; how our stories at home are part of a much bigger story and how our call to discipleship means we go not where I prefer but where we are called.