Similar to how God brought Jonah to Nineveh, I felt dragged to the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. I loved church, but doubted whether the ELCA was right for me. I was one of the only young Lutherans regularly active in my congregation and community. Older members dominated the conversation. Could I be a leader in this church?

The worship, speakers, and people that I experienced that week forever transformed my life. Jesus was present in every moment. Young people are not an afterthought in the Church. We are the Church here and now. The week’s theme “Rise Up Together” became a call to action in my life and completely changed my perspective.

Upon returning home, I claimed my faith as my own. I started reading my Bible more and doing what I could to keep that flame of the Holy Spirit from the Gathering burning in my heart. When seats came open on my congregation’s council, I was encouraged to run for one – and I won. I was the youngest person ever elected. All of the sudden, my voice and those of my young friends were heard on all issues – not just those related to youth. God equipped me and surrounded me with wonderful people as I grew as a leader and child of God.

I eventually got the opportunity to go to an ELCA Youth Leadership Summit and then to the 2018 Gathering. I now attend an ELCA college and am a leader in our campus ministry. I’m also involved in the ELCA Young Adults Abide program. Church is where your life happens. It is a community that should reflect all people, and that includes young people like you and me. Take and make every opportunity to get involved – you won’t regret it. God will guide your every step. The Church isn’t the Church without you and your voice. Make yourself heard.


Ethan Roberts is a junior at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He enjoys running, reading, and having fun with friends. He loves experiencing God through the ELCA and all of its ministries!