Yesterday, the National LCMS Youth Gathering – We Believe – ended in New Orleans. Over 23,000 Lutheran youth gathered together for a time to worship, learn and grow.
I am a firm believer that every Lutheran youth should do two things. Number One – Go on a Mission Trip. Number Two – Go to a National Youth Gathering. Both of these events will change your life in dramatic, if admittedly different, ways. I know because I experienced both and my life was changed by both.
My first experience with a National Youth Gathering was in 1995 – River of Light in San Antonio. I lived in San Antonio and my Pastor / Dad helped coordinate the Sunday morning worship. On that Sunday morning, our church was filled with youth from around the country. What a joy to experience different youth worshipping together – at my home church.
Even though I was in Junior High at the time, and not old enough to be an official participant, I was old enough to be a volunteer in the daily morning Bible Study skits. I was on stage as the friendship between CJ and Bruce and Heather and the others unfolded. I was there when Bruce watched his best friend CJ get shot. I was there to hear the gasps from the youth. I was there when we all realized the modern day symbolism. I was there as the resurrection story came to life that day in the Alamodome.
From that moment on, I was eager to attend a Youth Gathering as a participant. My turn came in 1998 as I traveled to Atlanta with my youth group from Crown of Life. We were all “Called to Be” and daily reminded of that fact through Bible Studies, sectionals and Mass Events. There were joyful moments, emotional moments and challenging moments. All of them bonded us together in a way that only a Youth Gathering can do.
Youth Gatherings challenge you to grow in your faith. Youth Gatherings encourage you because you realize that you are not alone. There are thousands of other Lutheran young people who share the same faith as you! What a wonderful discovery when you are in the midst of the challenges of high school and so often feel alone. Little do you know how many of you may even end up at the same college someday, especially if it’s a Concordia. Youth Gatherings are defining moment in one’s life.
Youth Gatherings remind us of what “We Believe” and of 1 Timothy 4:12. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
I pray that all the youth who have attended youth gatherings – this year and in the past – will remember this. Let’s set an example! Let us all be reminded that we, as Christians, are called to set an example for Christ in all we do. May this be your daily prayer and mine!
If you have any Youth Gathering memories, please tell us! What did the Youth Gathering mean to you?