by Vicki J. Biggs
“We Believe,” the 11th triennial National LCMS Youth Gathering, will be held July 17–21 in New Orleans. This will be the event’s third visit to the city. Previous New Orleans’ gatherings included “A Time for Joy” (1992) and “Higher Ground” (2001).
“There is a deep connection between the Synod and New Orleans,” says Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, director for LCMS District and Congregational Services—Youth Ministry. “Our founders arrived in New Orleans from Germany and eventually made their way up the Mississippi River, where they settled in Perry County, Mo. Each time we return to New Orleans for the gathering, there is a sense of ‘going home.’”
The theme, “We Believe,” based on John 20:31, reflects what youth participants commonly express about their experiences at the Youth Gathering.
Photo courtesy LCMS District and Congregational Services–Youth Ministry
Dittmer explains: “One of the things that young people say about the gathering is how much it means to encounter other students who ‘believe like I do.’
‘We Believe’ is a wonderful, corporate expression of our faith in Jesus Christ, especially as we focus on the Creed and our confession as we share our faith with the New Orleans community.”
Over the course of the event, participants follow three program paths, tagged “Look,” “Listen,” and “Live.” Within these tracks, participants will experience hands-on activities, high-impact speakers and performers, and meaningful learning opportunities. By the end of the event, all participants will have experienced each of the tracks. Service events and group evening events, including a worship service on Tuesday night, are key components of the Youth Gathering.
Young people and their adult chaperones are collecting a special offering to bring to the gathering. This year’s offering will support community renewal and reconstruction projects in New Orleans as well as a new LCMS grant program to help youth groups reach unchurched youth. Offering funds, expected this year to reach more than $150,000, are collected from a variety of sources, including donations from participants’ congregations, families, and friends. According to Dittmer, many young people commit a tithe for the offering from funds they raise in order to attend the gathering.
“The offering is one way to say thanks to God for the blessings He has provided as participants prepare for the spiritual experience of the gathering,” Dittmer says.
Youth participating in the gathering are between 14 and 20 years old. This year, the adult-to-youth ratio has been increased to more fully address the spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs of the young people involved.
The LCMS National Youth Gathering is held every three years. Youth spend time together in worship, God’s Word, prayer, song, and service. Gathering worship and mass events will be streamed live via the Internet. Check the Youth Gathering Web site at www.lcmsgathering.com for times and events.
About the Author: Vicki J. Biggs is the LCMS Board for Communication Services director of public affairs and media relations.