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ELCA Youth Gathering Blog

The Mission and Goals for the Gathering


The Gathering’s mission, faith formation in teens, is the hub from which all things come for the tAble, MYLE, and the Gathering. Our goal is to create environments and opportunities for faith formation through worship, Interactive Learning, Bible study, Service Learning, and fellowship. While some of the experiences can be replicated at home, some are unique and special to the Gathering because of the size and scope of this ministry.

There are five core goals that we have for this ministry. We hope that all participants can be both affirmed and challenged in their faith, experience new perspectives, ponder their vocation, bond with their congregational group, and learn more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

While some participants may accomplish these goals during our two pre-events, MYLE or the tAble, some will at Mass Gatherings, where participants come together for music, speakers, and worship. Others might tackle these goals in the Interactive Learning space, where they can experience exciting things that the ELCA and our partners are doing. Or maybe it’s being God’s hands and feet in the Twin Cities on their Service Learning day. It might even be during Synod Day, where participants are in community with those geographically close to them or it might just happen during the nightly congregational devotion and debrief called Final 15.

Wherever it happens, we know that this is a powerful and transformational ministry if you are brave enough to let your guard down long enough for the Spirit to enter in, if you can be quiet long enough to listen to someone different than yourself, if your prayer is to be open to what God is calling you to, if you realize the strong roots of a community will ground you no matter the strength of life’s storms, if you imagine yourself as part of something bigger than you.

Unexpected Learning at the Gathering

– Debra Porowski 

One of the greatest lessons I learned at a Gathering happened in Detroit, in a small quiet hallway in the Cobo Center. On Friday night while we were walking back from Ford Field back to our buses, I fell and twisted my ankle. By the time I got to the hotel,  my ankle was swollen and bruising. We had our Practice Justice Day the following day.  I knew there was no way I could walk onto a site with them that would require me to be on my feet and working. Maybe we would be assigned something easy that I could do sitting down? Then it hit me. If we got to do something in where I could physically take part, it wasn’t what I knew my kids were looking forward to doing.   

We got our assignment the next morning and sure enough, the kids were going out to the streets of Detroit to fix up and paint houses. There would be power tools, loose boards, and lots of manual labor; nothing I could do on one foot. I hugged each kid goodbye and sent them with my adult leaders out to participate in an experience that would stay with them forever. After a visit to the first aid station and all fixed up with an ace bandage and lots of ice, I found a bench in a quiet hallway in the Cobo Center. As I was sitting there, another adult leader from another church (probably from another state) came up to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained that my youth were off having this amazing day and I was sitting there. The adult leader asked if she could pray with me. It was the most beautiful thing anyone could have done for me in that moment.

I sat and cried while she prayed for my youth—for their safety and for blessings on the work they were doing. She also prayed for me, for healing, for strength for my ankle, and for my broken heart.  

I learned a huge lesson that day. As adults we accompany the youth to the Gathering and we are ultimately there to support them in their faith journey.  My youth experienced God in the houses they fixed and painted, and I experienced God in the hallway.  

In 2018, I am happy to be serving as a Synod Gathering Coordinator to help other adults to find the balance between the responsibilities and the rewards of the Gathering.

If you approach your role with faith and a little flexibility, you too will find the Gathering as a highlight on your own faith journey—in very unexpected places.

Hurricane Harvey: How You Can Help

The number one question heard after a major event like Hurricane Harvey: “How can I help?”

As followers of Jesus, we are called love our neighbor and to serve those in need.

First, thank you. On the Gulf Coast, your love and support are appreciated during this time.

Second, as people of faith, please pray. Pray for first responders, for those who had to evacuate flooded homes, for people worried about family, and for those who are trying to pick up the pieces.

Third, financial gifts are more helpful than gifts of goods right now. Financial resources are portable and used for many different purposes. Consider donating to Lutheran Disaster Response (for case management).

Finally, wait and listen. The disaster isn’t over. It is still raining. During the first stage following a disaster, search and rescue (typically first 72 hours), there is not much that can be done. Some areas may not even be accessible yet. With a hurricane or flooding, flood waters may still be rising in some areas while receding in others.

Once the water subsides, communities will begin the process of assessing their needs. Once needs are determined, the synods will work with local congregations to help care for their communities.

For the most current updates, please connect with Gulf Coast Synod on social media:


“Lord, hear our prayer”

PrayerWith heads bowed, ELCA volunteers prayed.

“Whatever we’re engaged in, let it be an act of worship.”

“Even today, even in the midst of last minute planning….”

Wherever we find ourselves… let it be an act of worship.”

The 300 volunteers are leaders of dozens of work projects across New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

They gathered one last time to pray before the 2009 Youth Gathering begins on Wednesday in New Orleans. Some 37,000 youth and adults are expected to help in projects across the area.

“While we’re here in New Orleans, let’s worship God in all that we do and all that we say.”

“[Even] If we find ourselves at a work site and the tools aren’t there.”

“Let’s let everything we do be an act of worship.”