Investing in Our Youth

The Abiding Presence group getting ready to head out for a day of service in the city of Houston.

The Abiding Presence group getting ready to head out for a day of service in the city of Houston.

What do you get when you put nearly 31,000 Lutheran high school youth and their adult leaders together in a stadium for worship? The answer is a whole lot of communion stations with thousands of communion assistants!

What impacted me the most about our experience last week at the ELCA Youth Gathering, however, wasn't the 31,000 people. Instead, it was the 12 youth and one young adult from Abiding Presence in whose company I was privileged to travel. Here's what I can tell you about the young people of Abiding Presence:

First, we have good youth! We have youth who are passionate, energetic and faithful. The youth of Abiding Presence are funny, compassionate, respectful and kind - to one another, strangers they encounter, new friends they meet while standing in line and to their adult leaders. I genuinely enjoyed being around our youth, even when we were standing outside in a line for over an hour in the sweltering Houston heat. 

Second, we have youth who aren't easily discouraged! When I was tired, our youth were still going strong. When I was hot, our youth weren't complaining one bit. When the food trucks all ran out of food the first night of the gathering, we had no snacks and we didn't think we were going to be able to find food until much later that evening, our youth said, "Don't worry! We'll be fine!" and kept on going. More than that, though, when faced with the current problems and challenges of our world, our youth are energized to make a difference. We learned a new phrase, "God has grace for that!" In the midst of our mistakes, failures, hurt and pain, God has grace. The youth of Abiding Presence embody that grace. 

Finally, we have youth in whom we should invest! I believe that among our current Senior High youth we have the future pastors, bishops, church council presidents, Sunday School teachers, ushers,  youth ministers and musicians of the church. They may not serve at our church as adults, but they will serve at a church somewhere and make a difference in that community because of the way their faith was formed here at Abiding Presence. 

We're not just investing in our youth for the future of the church, though. We are investing in them because they have gifts and skills that we need today. I learned so much from our young people while traveling with them. I know they can mold and shape our church today. 

I encourage you to take a few moments to chat with some of our youth who attend the ELCA Youth Gathering to learn more about their experiences. I also invite you to give a big "Thank You" to Matt and Sara Dyson for accompanying the youth to the gathering with me. The theme was "This Changes Everything" and we have all come back believing this to be true!