Investing in the ELCA Youth Gathering Experience

 The Board of the Lutheran Youth Organization at the ELCA National Youth Gathering. You can find Pastor Keseley in the second row.

The Board of the Lutheran Youth Organization at the ELCA National Youth Gathering. You can find Pastor Keseley in the second row.

When I was in high school I had the opportunity to attend the ELCA Youth Gathering. My congregation didn't have any high school youth interested in going, but my friend's congregation invited me to come along with them. I have many, many memories of those fives days that were filled with thousands and thousands of high school Lutherans. 

Standing at the pay phone (back then...remember...there were no cell phones) I met Melanie, who would later become one of my dearest friends and Julia's godmother. We were both calling home at the same time to share the news that we had been elected to the Board of the Lutheran Youth Organization. It was the beginning of a three year term of serving the larger church that played a huge role in discerning my call to ministry. 

All this is to say that when I think back on the formative faith experiences of my teenage years, the Youth Gathering is high on the list. I encountered a church far different from the one I worshiped at on Sunday mornings. It was filled with energetic young people from a variety of backgrounds who were excited about following Christ. I heard speakers who talked about faith in ways that made it real and accessible. I was entrusted with responsibility and treated like an adult as we traveled around the city participating in the events. I witnessed the power of faith at work in the world, making a difference in a city that needed in an influx of young people willing to serve.

This summer, I have the opportunity to head back to the Youth Gathering as one of the chaperones for our 13 senior high youth from Abiding Presence who will be attending. I cannot wait to see how God works in their lives through this experience. Having met with them this past week, I can assure you that they are  excited and ready to see the church in a whole new way. 

As a congregation, we have the opportunity to invest in our young people. The Youth Gathering is one of the faith experiences that we know grows roots in young people that keep them connected to Christ and the church into adulthood. Your investment in their Youth Gathering experience will reap the benefits as these young people grow in faith and become the next generation of Sunday School teachers, church council members, service ministry team leaders and maybe even pastors. 

Our youth attending the Youth Gathering will be leading The Abiding Table this Sunday at 10:00 a.m. They will be sharing a bit about their hopes and dreams for this experience. Over the course of the next few weeks, there will be opportunities to offer financial support to make this experience happen for them. Thank you, in advance, for investing in our young people. Knowing this group of teens, I can assure you that it is an investment well worth making.