Skip to content

ELCA Blogs

An Extravaganza of Preparation

– Todd Buegler

My first experience bringing a group to the ELCA Youth Gathering was in San Antonio in 1988. I brought a group of nine young people, along with one other adult leader.

Our experience in San Antonio was okay. Good. Fine. Not great, but good.

After the event, I talked with our young people about their experience. I compared notes with colleagues from other congregations who brought groups to the Gathering and heard about their great experiences. I came to realize something after these conversations: the good and decent experience we had in San Antonio wasn’t the fault of the Gathering planners and organizers. It was my fault.

It was my fault because our group wasn’t prepared to receive what the Gathering offered and to recognize how God was at work. I just wasn’t prepared.

The Gathering isn’t meant to stand alone as an event. It is intended to be contextualized for your community.

Everything experienced from the main stage, the interaction center, and the service opportunities are intended to be interpreted for your unique youth group. And you… we… the adult leaders… are the interpreters.

I’ve been a part of every ELCA Youth Gathering since 1988: as a pastor bringing a group, as a planning team member, and as a team leader.  These experiences have affirmed for me that our group’s experiences are still dependent on how well we are prepared to receive what God brings through the Gathering. Pressure? Yeah, maybe some.  But here’s words of hope: you are not alone in this.

We have a Network.  The ELCA Youth Ministry Network is the organization that supports adults who work with children, youth, and families in ELCA congregations, The Network focuses on renewal, education and networking.  We connect with each other to create a culture of learning and support, so that the work we do as interpreters of the Gathering, of other ministry experiences, and of God’s work in the lives of young people can be transformative for those we are called to serve.

From January 26th to the 29th, almost 1,000 adult leaders will gather for the annual Extravaganza in Houston for worship, learning, and to connect with each other.

Prepare yourself and your group for the Gathering.
Strengthen your ministry.
Learn all you can learn.
Know the material.
Ask questions.
Wonder about what God is up to.

I invite you to join the Network!  We are a community centered around faith formation for the young, and our belief that God calls us to serve. Thanks be to God!


Rev. Todd Buegler is the senior pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, and also serves as the Executive Director of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network.