It’s upon us again. The time when youth are scrambling to pack, leaders are double-checking transportation, and committees are reviewing who goes where and when. This summer, a buzz of excitement, an incoming swarm of matching backpacks, and the jokes, prayers, and songs of thousands of high schoolers are descending on the city of Houston for the LCMS Youth Gathering.
An Experience like No Other
The Gathering is an experience unlike any other. Every third summer since 1980, youth from all over the nation—and even the world!—have gathered en masse to learn, worship, and join together as the Body of Christ. The Gathering has many components, and thousands of people spend countless hours to organize break-out sessions, mass events, and everything in between.
My first experience at the LCMS Youth Gathering was after my freshman year of high school. Being from a small town meant that this experience was radically outside of my ordinary experiences. I’d never been on public transport before, played bubble soccer in a convention center, or worshiped in a stadium with 25,000 people. That week, I did all those things and more.
That first Gathering I attended left me in awe. I felt transformed and encouraged through the experience. And I learned some things that helped me in my future Gathering attendances; you’ll want to know those things too.
There’s practically no way around it. When there are that many people all doing the same thing, it can be hectic. You’ll be standing in crowds and lines, and more than likely, as your group is running to make it to an event on time, you’ll all have to stop and wait because a group member left his water bottle in the convention center again. Practice patience, take little breaks, and remember that you’re surrounded by people who care. If you find yourself in need of something, reach out to another youth group or volunteer. You won’t find a more compassionate and enthusiastic community of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Make sure you pack a water bottle, sunscreen, a pair of good walking shoes, and a high protein snack to keep you going. Physical health can get overlooked, but God wants us to take care of our bodies too!
Soak It All In!
This is your chance to dive into the Bible in a new way, ask tough questions that you’ve wrestled with, and get advice from new perspectives. You’ll be surrounded by wisdom and have moments where God uses His Word to strengthen your faith. When you’re worn out from a long day, it can be easy to let these moments pass you by. Take notes at your devotional time and attend break-out sessions during the day that interest you. Even if you’re falling asleep, pry your eyes open during mass events to take in the amazing Christ-centered speakers and music.
Take advantage of the convention-center booths for free items, new opportunities, and information. Sign up for service events, and get involved with the wind symphony or choir. More important, engage with the people around you, whether that’s your youth group, fellow Young Adult Volunteers, or someone working alongside you.
A New Understanding of Faith and Vocation
I left the Gathering refocused on Christ, committed to habits of prayer and devotion, and passionate about sharing the Gospel. This event equips you to faithfully live out your vocation at home. After my first time attending, it took some time to catch up on sleep, but the glow of the Gathering stayed with me even longer. I can still remember how the first time I set foot in the Superdome, the roar of cheers, intensity of lights, and energy in the air left me breathless. The wisdom of the speakers blew my mind. There’s a lot to be amazed by, but that’s not what stood out to me most. It was a realization brought on by Romans 12:4–5:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Every member of our small youth group left the experience stunned by the same thing: we’re not alone. At the concluding service, communing with 25,000 other people transformed my view of the Church at large. Hearing so many voices confess the name of Jesus Christ uplifted me in faith and vocation. The Gathering is an opportunity to be reminded of the vastness of the Church and to see that God puts unique callings before all of us. He calls us to stay connected to and serve His Church. We are all redeemed by Christ, loved individually but united by that same love that makes our song of praise echo though history.
Explore the LCMS Youth Gathering Site!