By Pastor John Hulden
My siblings and I grew up on a three-year summer schedule. Every third summer, some (or all) of us were off to the next National Lutheran Youth Gathering. We all can name off the gathering cities from the ’60s and ’70s into the ’80s – Miami, Detroit, Seattle, New York City, Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, and San Antonio.
I’ve gone to those gatherings as a kid, with my wife Becky as young adult leaders of a youth group, and then as a pastor/dad. My kids continued the tradition of making the trek to the National Youth Gathering, including more cities – St. Louis, Atlanta, San Antonio, and New Orleans (x 2).
“The Holy Spirit changes lives at events like the National Lutheran Youth Gathering.”
Next week, van/bus/plane loads of teenagers from the Minneapolis Area Synod head down to Houston. When you add it all up, our synod will send about a thousand kids and adults to meet up with 30,000 more Lutherans from across the country and globe. That’s just like we did three years ago in Detroit.
Why? Because the Holy Spirit changes lives at these events. And not just at the youth gathering. The Holy Spirit is on the move during the pre-meetings, at the fundraisers, on the bus ride (with fun bus games), and then at the homecomings, with stories shared with church members/supporters, family, and friends. Be sure to ask your pastor and youth director what impact the national youth gathering had on them.
TEENAGERS COME BACK FROM this every-third-summer gathering with a glimpse of the larger church in action, with goose-bump moments in a football stadium remembering our baptisms, sharing holy communion with 30,000 friends, and dancing and praying and sharing the peace. Oh yes, and there is the singing! Check out “Make A Difference” from a few years ago. In Houston next week we’ll all be singing the theme song for this year’s gathering: “This Changes Everything.” (Surprise a Lutheran teenager and learn this song before they get back from Houston!)
In addition to the mass gatherings every evening at the football stadium, each of the three days are spent in service work, in interactive learning, and a Synod Day — where our synod kids and adults gather for worship and more. Bishop Svennungsen and Spoken Word artist Joe Davis will be preaching. We have a great group of synod youth and adult leaders putting all the pieces together for our Synod Day in Houston.
For the service day, our teenagers will fan out all over Houston — wearing orange t-shirts — to show what it means to be Lutheran by doing God’s work with their hands.
“Next week, van/bus/plane loads of teenagers from the Minneapolis Area Synod head down to Houston.”
Pastor Kelly Chatman and I head down to Houston to represent the synod at the Interactive Center at NRG Park. A massive convention center full of activities where kids can reflect, move, connect, accompany, bond, and dream. Our Minneapolis Area Synod booth will invite folks to play “unfair foursquare” — the rules drive home a message you may want to re-enforce by playing at home!
Ah, it’s time for that third summer again. Please pray for ELCA Youth Gathering!