Announcing the city of the ELCA Youth Gathering, Multicultural Youth Leadership Event and the tAble is a fun and somewhat interesting task. In this blog post, we’ll give you a behind the scenes look at the process of selecting a city to host this life changing faith formation event in.  

First, cities bid on the event years in advance. We’ve already selected a city to host the 2027 Gathering and we are close for 2030. If that doesn’t instill terror in your planning hearts, think about it.  

  • What might this church look like in 2030? 
  • What will our youth groups look like in 8 years?  
  • How many hotel rooms and ballrooms will we need to contract?
  • What type of venues would best suit our participants?

It’s one of the things that makes us lose sleep over. Why do we need to plan so far in advance, you might be wondering? Really, this isn’t so far in advance to cities. They are consistently planning 10 years out on what groups will come to their city. Gathering leadership selected New Orleans to be the 2024 host city all the way back in 2017. So, in a nutshell, the city isn’t chosen based on need, political leaning or any of the reasons consistently rumored about. It’s impossible to predict what will be happening in our world 5-10 years in advance.  

Next, let’s narrow down the cities that can host the Gathering— sadly, it’s not just any big city. In the most recent cycles, we’ve searched for a city that has a closed stadium or large venue arena in close walking distance to a large convention center. Additionally, places for all of you to sleep (yes, even if it’s just for a few hours a night). It’s a lot of rooms we need—all within a certain distance from our venues. New Orleans is an amazing city to host our event because it’s a walkable city with all our hotel properties close to the convention center or the stadium. Transportation is simplified (and cheaper)—which means we can spend those dollars on exciting programming for you and your young people.  

Some cycles, the number of cities that bid is high and the CVBs (Convention and Visitors Bureau) can offer the moon to get you to sign with them. Sometimes, the hotel rates we are requesting are too low when they could get better rates from business travelers, and cities choose not to bid. It just depends.  

Every cycle we hear something along the lines of “Oh, (insert host city here) needs us. I’m so glad we are going there.” We get the sentiment, however, let’s be clear on one thing— we are not going into the city to fix it. In our five short days in the city, we might inspire others, learn from locals doing great work, give new eyes to a problem, or even pitch in for a short-term win but we go into a city knowing God is already working, already on the ground and we are invited in to watch, learn, listen, pray and maybe get our hands dirty—or not.  

Every Gathering cycle, leadership spends a good chunk of time listening to those in the city before we arrive so that we do more good than harm and hopefully, our young people leave loving a city and its culture, the locals and thinking differently about issues of justice and peace.  

Another thing we often hear is, “Why would we spend our money in that state, etc.?” With contracts and a commitment that our church will show up in these cities 5-10 years in advance, it’s impossible to know what the city or state might be like when the event happens. It’s hard. However, we see it as a chance for us to join with those on the ground in a state that might be hard to serve in and where God might be calling us to advocate on behalf of the least of these.  

Well, that’s a snapshot of what happens 5-10 years leading up to the Gathering. It’s a daunting, yet thrilling task. New Orleans is an amazing place. We look forward to welcoming you in 2024.