I love reading through the evaluations from the Middle School Gathering. Youth that age don’t mince words, and in the sleep deprived state they are in when they fill out evaluations I find their words an honest window into what they are thinking. Often the comments are funny, like the youth who said the best part of the Gathering was “Dave Scherer because he didn’t drone on and on when he was talking.” (Don’t worry pastors…I’m sure that wasn’t a reflection of your confirmation class or sermons!) But this year I was struck by numerous comments like these:
- “I learned that I am worth something.”
- “I learned to be and love myself.”
- “The best part was when we learned how God is always with us.”
Comments like those stop me in my tracks, because if they feel like they are
these things it means on any given day our youth
feel like they are worth something…they
feel like God is always with them.
And that is why we hold events like the Middle School Gathering. I know without a doubt that the youth who wrote those comments hear the message of God’s love for them in their congregations. But there is power in gathering with others to hear God’s love spoken in different ways. One of the greatest gifts of the Middle School Gathering is it allows adult leaders to be on the faith journey with their young people, rather than leading from up front. So when speakers like Dave Scherer, Bishop Tom or the LYO Board leaders say something from up front…adult leaders can ask youth, “What did you think about that?” It’s probably the same thing you have said in confirmation class or youth group…but coming from a different voice, allowing youth to hear and process the message of God’s love for them in new ways.
This year we had nearly 850 middle school youth and adults gathered over the two identical events held the weekend before Thanksgiving. Dave Scherer was outstanding (and not just because he doesn’t drone on and on!), Bishop Tom helped youth deepen their understanding of the sacraments, and the LYO Board leaders planned and led a rich and meaningful faith experience for our synod youth. When youth (and adults) are plucked out of their routines and placed in an intentional relational environment of welcome, faith formation and holy play it sets the table for the Holy Spirit to spark faith in new ways.
It is no wonder then that our youth heard and experienced that God is always with them, they are loved, and they are worth something because they are named, claimed and sent in the name of Christ
Then. Now. Always.