LCMS Youth Ministry hosted the National Lutheran Youth Workers Conference (#NATIONAL21) in Houston July 11–14. The conference occurs every three years during the year prior to the Youth Gathering and in the same city as the Gathering. It aims to educate and provide resources for those who work with youth in their congregation and to familiarize youth leaders with the setting for the Gathering.
“It was a blessing to be able to be in the same space with youth and adults from across the country,” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Kiessling, director of LCMS Youth Ministry. “These last months have put major restrictions on networking and learning opportunities, and the conference provided help and support for congregational ministry. The event was not only a great time to start preparing for the LCMS Youth Gathering in 2022; it also provided time to discuss opportunities, challenges and concerns around ministry to young people and families with what is happening in our communities.
“God’s Word, reminders of His faithfulness, and God’s gift of faith and hope on display in the lives of the young people who attended, brought great refreshment and focus on God’s continued blessings through these difficult past months.”
Looking ahead to next summer, Kiessling noted that the Youth Gathering is much more than five days in Houston: “It is a gathering around God’s Word … [and] growing together in Christ. We celebrate the wonderful thing we have in Lutheran doctrine,” he said. “It’s about being in the Word of God in the local congregation and in our districts.”
Concurrent with the conference, YouthLead (formerly Lutheran Youth Fellowship) met for its annual retreat. Sixty-two youth came to grow in their ability to lead other youth and to learn how to live as Lutherans in this world. The executive committee of YouthLead, five youth who were elected for three-year terms, arrived early to prepare the conference and serve as its primary leaders.
“YouthLead has offered training for young people in the church for more than 40 years, and it’s a great blessing to bring it alongside the National Lutheran Youth Workers Conference,” said DCE Julianna Shults, program manager for LCMS Youth Ministry. “This training helps equip teens to be servant leaders in their congregation and to grow their identity in Christ. One of the things that continues to make YouthLead special is that teens are led primarily by other teens. It’s always a joy to see God working through young people to reach out with the Gospel to their peers, both at the conference and afterward.”
Read a longer version of this story in an upcoming issue of Lutherans Engage the World.
Posted Sept. 2, 2021