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Dear Youth Leader: You are Brave!

Dear youth leader,

As you prepare for the Gathering, you might be feeling a mix of excitement and anxiety. The task of planning and leading a trip for your group can be daunting, especially knowing that thousands of youth and their leaders from various congregations across the ELCA will be converging in New Orleans in just a few short months. The pressure to ensure everything goes smoothly, from travel logistics to group dynamics, can feel overwhelming. Know that these feelings are completely normal, and you are not alone in this journey.

We recognize the immense effort you are putting into planning this experience. It’s no small feat to organize travel logistics, accommodation details, and a full schedule of activities while also keeping your youth engaged and enthusiastic. The unknowns and potential challenges can add to your worries. Remember, your dedication and hard work are deeply appreciated, and you are making a significant impact on the lives of these young people.

Here are a few thoughts to help you navigate this journey:

  1. Your Presence Matters: How you show up—your attitude, your energy, your openness—will greatly influence the experience of your group. Your youth look to you for guidance and reassurance. Even when things don’t go as planned, your calm and non-anxious presence can help keep the group grounded.
  2. Embrace Curiosity: Approach this experience with a posture of curiosity. Encourage your youth to ask questions and explore. It’s okay to admit when you don’t have all the answers. Use these moments as opportunities to brainstorm together and discover solutions as a team.
  3. Flexibility is Key: Let your group know from the start that things might not always go according to plan. Emphasize the importance of being flexible and open to change. Challenges can be valuable learning experiences. Ask, “What can we learn from this?” and use setbacks as teaching moments.
  4. Be Prepared: While it’s essential to have a solid plan, it’s equally important to be ready to adapt. Have backup plans in place and stay nimble. Be prepared for the unexpected, and trust in your ability to navigate through any hurdles.
  5. Encourage Leadership: Empower your youth to take the lead. Trust them to handle responsibilities and make decisions. This not only alleviates some of your burdens but also helps them grow in confidence and capability.
  6. Prioritize Self-Care: The summer heat in New Orleans can be intense. Ensure both you and your youth stay hydrated, wear sun protection,  and take necessary breaks. Your well-being is crucial for the success of the trip.
  7. Be Authentic: Show your true self to your youth. Your authenticity will inspire them to be genuine and open. Be brave in sharing your own experiences and feelings.

Dearest youth leader, hear these words: you are capable! You have been called to this role because you have what it takes. Trust in your abilities and the support around you. You are enough! You don’t need to have all the answers or be perfect. Your presence, care, and leadership are more than enough. You are brave! Stepping into the unknown with courage and an open heart is a testament to your bravery. Your willingness to lead and support these young people is admirable. You are making a difference! Every effort you put in, every moment of guidance, every word of encouragement—it all matters. You are shaping lives and making a lasting impact.

Amidst all the planning and preparation, remember to take moments to breathe, reflect, and recharge. Your efforts are seen, and your dedication is making a difference. As you lead your group this summer, may you find strength, joy, and fulfillment in the incredible journey ahead.

Take care, be brave, and may you and your youth find inspiration and growth in who God has created you to be.
We’ll see you in the bayou!

Written by: Bobbi Cyr (she/her)

Dear Youth Leader:

Dear youth leader:

Being a youth leader can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s a role that requires a great deal of energy, compassion, and patience. If you’re feeling tired or overwhelmed during this Advent Season, you’re not alone. The demands of guiding and supporting young people, coupled with all the responsibilities of the season, in addition to balancing the visioning prep for upcoming trips and all that goes into them, can take a toll.

Firstly, we want to acknowledge the importance of your work. You play a crucial role in shaping the lives of young individuals and fostering their spiritual growth. Your dedication is commendable. We see you. We see how tirelessly you work to prepare youth events, Christmas parties, Christmas programs, and so much more, while also you are continuing to fundraise and prepare your congregation for the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering.  Your work for the sake of young people to know that they are loved by God is admirable. 

Here are a few words of encouragement:

  1. You’re Making a Difference: Even on the days when it feels like you’re not making an impact, remember that your presence and guidance are meaningful. You may not always see immediate results, but God is working through you in mighty ways to influence and shape the future of our young people.
  2. Take Care of Yourself: It’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Just as you support others, make sure to carve out time for rest, relaxation, and activities that bring you joy. Taking care of your well-being will ultimately enhance your ability to support others. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with peace as you find moments of rest.
  3. Lean on Your Support System: Don’t hesitate to reach out to fellow youth leaders, church leaders, mentors, or friends for support. Sharing your challenges and successes with others who understand your role can provide valuable perspective and encouragement—and remember, God is with you through it all. 
  4. Set Realistic Expectations: Understand that you can’t do everything, and it’s okay to ask for help. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your ministry. Take one day, one step at a time. You are more than your to-do list. You are enough. Your worth is not found in how much you accomplish today. 
  5. Celebrate Small Wins: Acknowledge and celebrate the small victories, whether it’s a breakthrough with a particular individual, successfully formatting a spreadsheet, having exactly enough supplies for that late-night youth party, or finding enough Angels for the Advent Festival.  
  6. Reflect on Your Calling: Take a moment to reflect on why God called you to be a youth leader. Why does this work matter?  Reconnecting with your sense of calling can reignite your passion for the work that God is doing in and through you.

Dearest youth worker, we see how weary you are, but beloved one, beautiful child of God, hear this: 

You are enough.

Just as you are. You do not need to do anything more, or be anything more. You are, just as you are created to be, exactly enough. Your commitment to loving, guiding, and supporting the youth is making a positive impact, and your efforts do not go unnoticed.

Take care, and may you find renewed energy and inspiration this Advent season as we wait for the coming Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.


Written by: Bobbi Cyr (she/her)