Next summer, Lutheran youth from all over the country will be gathering in Houston Texas for a few days of life-changing experiences. An estimated 40,000 participants will pack arenas, hotels, restaurants, and everywhere in the city of Houston. And Wanda (St. James church van) will be parking in the world's largest parking lot.
We are going to the Gathering because it is truly an experience for youth like none other. Something incredible happens when you get that many Lutheran youths and supporting adults together. I can honestly say that attending a National Youth Gathering (back in the early 1990's) had a positive effect on my faith life and vocation as a child of God. I remember being charged up and feeling like I was a part of a church that was much bigger than my imagination. I heard incredible and inspirational people share their faith. I recall "rocking on" with the music of Jay Beech. It truly opened my perspective and formed my theology (thoughts about God).
We are going to Houston because this experience is important for the next generation of Christians to have. They need to have their faith inspired, charged up, and the opportunity to experience the larger church. St. James has long supported youth participation in National Youth Gatherings. We have a good and positive tradition of attending these Triennial gatherings.
Over the course of the next week, I will be offering two information gatherings for parents and youths to find out the details about the Houston Gathering. Invitations have been sent to households. I hope that we will have folks come out - I know already that there are more who will be coming out for these info nights then went to the Gathering in Detroit. I say 'hope' rather than 'wish' because hope involves trusting in God to make things happen. The success of Gatherings in the past has largely been to the work of the Spirit moving among people who shared their time, talents, and treasure in order to provide this essential faith growth opportunity.
I hope (again, trust) that parents will encourage their children to take a chance on attending the Gathering. They may not know anybody else who is going. They may not think that it will be "cool enough" or fashionable enough. Courage is needed to go outside of boxes. Sadly, all too often we let our children stay inside carefully constructed realities (which ironically are not real at all) at the expense of exposing them to new opportunities. This has the effect of stifling their growth. The Gathering is a safe and life-changing experience where they will be able to talk about their faith, celebrate it, question it, and have fun.
Catch me and I will be happy to share more stories and experiences of Gatherings over the years. As a veteran of three Gatherings, there is a lot to tell.
If you don't have youth in your household (grades 8-12 this September) to encourage to attend, then simply pray to God for the blessing of this effort. Celebrate the ways that we are reaching out and connecting with high school aged youth. Support, through your general giving, the ministry that provides this opportunity. Pray. Please pray for those who will be going, those who will be preparing Houston for the Lutherans.