Why a Youth Gathering?
Since before the turn of the 20th Century, the ELCA and her predecessor bodies have held a triennial Youth Gathering. In 2018, that gathering landed in Houston, Texas, and attracted 31,242 registered youth and adult leaders, with over 1,200 volunteers, making it the largest gathering of ELCA Lutherans in the country. In recent years, the “Gathering,” as it has come to be known, rotates participants through three primary days of faith formation practices, a day of service in the host city, a day of interactive learning with various ELCA partners and para-church organizations, and a day to gather as synod for worship and conversation about how to take the Gathering home to the participants’ communities and congregations.
In the city of Houston, the ELCA walked alongside 200 local institutions, agencies, and non-profits, to provide service within the city, including local schools, renovations to churches and homes affected by flooding, food banks, human-trafficking organizations, immigration agencies, and more. The “orange-wave” as it has become known, because our youth all wear matching orange tee shirts, sent 10,000 participants out to serve daily in the Houston metro area. The “Blast Off for Books” campaign, this Gathering’s in-kind offering option, garnered 40,000 books that will be distributed to children in the Houston area who might not otherwise be able to afford these books for basic school reading programs.
Our synod had 62 congregations represented with approximately 636 participants and 48 volunteers. Bishop James S. Dunlop and his wife Connie were also in attendance, as was synod Director for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry Charlie Roberts. Roberts shared that one of the unique stories from the ELCA Youth Gathering is the growing opportunity for families to serve together.