It’s almost National Youth Gathering time! Approximately 25,000 Lutheran youth and their adult chaperones, a seas of yellow shirted volunteers passionate for building up youth in our churches, another sea of orange shirted young adults passionately serving Him in New Orleans, it sounds absolutely wonderful to me. I can not wait!

Does your church body have a gathering for youth? If they do, I hope you get to experience it, even once. It is truly a thing to behold.

This year, I get to bring my oldest daughter. This mom is super pumped. I’m sure that some of you remember sharing a “first” faith milestone with a child – the first time they went up for the children’s message, the first time they could speak the Lord’s Prayer, the first time they belted out a song with the whole congregation of God. It’s exciting when God gives us these glimpses of His work in them. This milestone, my daughter’s first National Youth Gathering, feels like a big one. I’m not sure who is more excited- her or me. 😉

One reason I am looking forward to this for her is that she has the opportunity to be swept up in the largeness of the Body of Christ.

She gets to see the wider expanse of the people of God coming together. On any given Sunday, Macee only sees the Church from the perspective of our congregation in Northwest Ohio. It is a wonderful congregation, but I want her to understand the full diversity of the church – different sights, different sounds, different people in fellowship, in the Word, and in worship.

For all of us, but for teens in particular, this is a unique opportunity to understand the scale of the church and say,

I’m not in this alone! This walk…we’re in it together.

I have decided that this is particularly important for a PK or other church work kid. There is an ugly factor in the church that these kids see, no matter what protection and boundaries we put into place. There are also occasionally weird expectations for these kids that they can shake free of at a mass event or program at NYG, in a way they may not be able to in their local church. For this tiny bit of time, they get to be one in a crowd.

The idea that there is a crowd and they’re part of it…it may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. At our small church, sometimes Macee is the only one at youth night or her Sunday School class. The crowd is a gift that I can give her within our normal life. Through the crowd she can be reminded that she’s part of something more, something bigger, that she’s not alone.

And so, I’m setting out to love on some PKs, DCEKs, DeaconessKs, LutheranTeacherKs, any church work k’s at the National Youth Gathering. I do not know the statistics, but I personally know countless stories of church work kids walking away from the church, and if I can do one tiny thing to help them to stay, to share with them the beauty of this Body together, as broken as we all are, to share with them that they are loved and valued members of the body of Christ, I’ll do it, however I can.

Church work kids – find me at NYG! This should be a challenge, given the other 25,000 people traveling the streets together, but I think you are up for it! I will have a giant orange sunhat to identify me. Inside my backpack I have a thank you gift for you. It’s edible. That’s all I’ll say for now.

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I can’t wait to see you at NYG. I can’t wait to say thank you and take a minute to acknowledge that we’re in this together – all for His glory. Visit me! Pass the word around, so others know I have treats. If you’d like to be involved in loving on some church work kids this summer, give me a holler.

See you in July! Look for the big orange hat.