For the last five days I have watched from afar as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America sent 30,000 youth and adults to Detroit Michigan for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been streaming all the amazing and life changing experiences in Detroit, not only for the city but for those attending the gathering.
However, after the planes, trains, cars and buses return home, and everyone gets back to their daily routine. After the excitement wears off from the Ford Field worship services and the t-shirts are washed and put away. Will this experience continue to have an effect on the participants? Or will their 2015 National Youth Gathering experience be another fun memory those summer days in youth group?
There are things that we can do as parents, churches and pastors to keep the excitement of Detroit alive in the hearts of the youth and the halls of our church.
- Give an opportunity to share personal stories in church – Church members have spent the better part of three years helping the youth fundraise for their trip to Detroit. Sharing stories about things that happened in Detroit will benefit the youth who attended the gathering as well as the church members. The church members want to hear about the service work, the memorable experiences and the fun that the youth had. They want to know how lives were changed. Work with the youth to talk about how they can share their God-Moment experiences.
- Show Pictures from the Gathering – The best way to have people see what happened at the Youth Gathering is to create a slide show of pictures. Ask your youth to combine pictures on to one flash drive. Then have one of the youth (or an adult) put together a slide show with the best pictures. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or long. Let the viewers get a good idea of what happened while you traveled to Detroit. Include a few pictures from each day, a few from the large group gatherings and a few of your return trip home.
- Arrange a local service project – A highlight from every youth gathering is the time spent serving others. Youth want to serve in the world, they want to know that they are making a difference. If you plan a service trip now, they are likely to attend because they want to relive their memories of serving in Detroit.
- Connect with other churches in your conference and plan a time for the gathering participants to get together — Your youth may love one another, but they want to connect with other youth who were at the gathering. Your youth want to know what other churches did, what they saw and experienced. Call up a neighboring church that went to the gathering and plan an night of pizza, games and conversation.
- Book Rachael Kurtz, Agape or Lost and Found to come to your church – Well you don’t need to book them because they are already playing many shows around the United States. But if you want to hear the music that you heard at the gathering, go and see one of these amazing musicians.
- Look for ways for your youth to be involved in the Synod — One of the draws of the gathering is to see thousands of youth together in one place. If your synod has an active youth program, get involved! If your synod has a camp, get involved! There are many ways to connect with others beyond the walls of your church. Figure out how to connect and rekindle that large group experience for your youth.
- Plan a Mission trip — Looking for something to do next summer? Plan a mission trip. Take your youth a few hours from home, do something for someone else and have a good time. This will give reason for them to continue to be involved throughout the year and it will give them something to look forward to do in the future.
- Look ahead to the next youth gathering –– Houston is only three short years away. Start to think about who is eligible to go to the next gathering. Connect the youth who returned home from this gathering with the upcoming participants. Let the older youth share why the younger youth should go to the gathering. Create a mentor/mentee relationship.
It is important to connect with your youth especially after an amazing experience at the National Youth Gathering. Focus on the experiences that moved them, the service projects, the speakers, and the worship. All the negative stuff that happened can be put to the side. We want them to have a positive memory from this experience, something that will help keep them connected to the church for a long time.
If you would like to receive more resources about how you can connect with your youth and other valuable information about life and ministry click on the link below.