“Youth Gathering has changed my life!” exclaims Sarah Bordsen Bailey, thinking back to the ELCA’s event in the summer of 2012.
Sarah, a May 2015 high school graduate, is anticipating this summer’s event. She and 17 of her peers along with four adult leaders from the University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis are headed to Detroit for the ELCA’s 2015 Youth Gathering. “The teens are pumped,” confirms the congregation’s Youth Director Jim Vitale, a student at Luther Seminary, who will accompany the teens to Detroit.
The Mission Investment Fund’s Youth Ministry Demand Investment account will help the youth group make the trip. The congregation opened the MIF account in advance of the 2012 Youth Gathering. “Our pastor realized that it’s easy to write checks from this account and not have the worry of credit or debit cards,” Vitale says. “We sponsor a number of activities throughout the year to raise funds for Youth Gathering as well as our annual summer trip to Camp Amnicon in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. The MIF account is a great way to grow those funds. And the convenience of the account is just perfect!”
University Lutheran Church of Hope’s youth group hosts a number of successful fundraisers throughout the year—from serving up monthly community meals to hosting an Easter breakfast to selling Norwegian butterbraid pastries, spring flowers and Christmas wreaths and poinsettias.
And the vibrant youth ministry program does so much more. Each Sunday, the youth group gathers for an hour of discussion and learning. Omnipresent is the message of God’s enduring love. The 20 or so youth group regulars are also deeply involved in church worship, taking an active part as lectors, ushers, readers, vocalists, musicians and participants in the church’s traditional bell choir. They explore various faith traditions and compare the different beliefs and similarities. To share the youth perspective with members of their own church, they serve on important planning committees for the congregation.
In the youth group’s recent Sunday education sessions, the upcoming Youth Gathering has been a hot topic. “The Youth Gathering’s theme, ‘Rise Up Together,’ is perfect for the Detroit setting,” Vitale says. “Our youth group delved into the history of Detroit— the rise and decline of the auto industry, the exodus of residents from the city, the descent into poverty. But now, there are signs that the city is coming back. The themes of death and resurrection are so powerful here.
“Youth Gathering is the starting point,” he continues. “You learn. You grow. But what you take back with you is what’s important.”
Youth group member Sarah Bordsen Bailey had quite a takeaway from the Youth Gathering of 2012. It was the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, ELCA pastor, who told the 30,000 Youth Gathering participants in New Orleans that God accepts individuals’ failures as well as their successes. Her message resonated with Sarah. “I realized: There’s a place for me here. I’m important.
“I love my church.”