W hy is Youth Ministry so important? Or a more important question- where are our youth and how are they putting their faith into action.

Originally I sat down to write this article and thought I was going to write about myself. A few months ago I was asked by Connor at Luther Village to come to camp and help in the kitchen – head cook actually. Now in a former life I actually went to cooking school and was working in that industry. Exactly 20 years ago – almost to the day of that phone call – I had loaded my truck with Cody and Byron (who were 1 year old at the time) and headed to Luther Village to work as the head cook for the 1997 season. As I headed out this summer I was a bit nervous. Can I still do this job? will I get along with the staff? and many more thoughts. As I drove up to the office, Emma saw me and came running up with a huge hug and all my fears just went away. Luther Village makes me feel at home, and at that moment I realized that this was actually a very different story.

Usually over the summer (especially the years there is not a gathering) youth programs slow down and almost take a break. Attendance at Sunday church services for youth is almost nonexistent and people are always asking “where are the youth?” The easy answer is holidays, sports, cabins and summer jobs.

What I saw this summer was a very different answer. Yes, all those things are still happening. But as I helped with grades 4-6 camp & 7-10 camp another thing was happening. Alongside the camps was the LIT (leader in training) program. The program leader was Lauren (a former youth at SPLC), and several LIT’s are youth in our shared ministry program with Abundant Life and St. Luke’s Zion. They were there learning, training and growing in their faith while also helping to lead the younger kids. Then there are the staff and volunteers at camp this summer. Many of our youth and leaders (myself included) were helping as summer staff, kitchen volunteers, maintenance volunteers, and a few volunteers who even ended up as paid staff. Emma, Lucas, Wyatt, Eden, Melissa, Alyvia, Byron, and Laura were all there representing our shared youth ministry. Their love of Luther Village, doing good, and helping others, is such an example of putting faith into action.

Another opportunity to put our faith into action is work weekend. Many of our dads, youth, young adults and pastor have been doing this for approx. 10 years. They head up every Mother’s day weekend to help get the camp ready for the upcoming season. Every year is a new mix of volunteers and many come every single year. This year we had a family friend – with no connection to the Lutheran Church at all – come out to help again. We had a father and son there who are not members of our congregation, but participated in our youth ministry a few years ago. We had a former youth take part – a member who joined our congregation because of our youth ministry and the relationships formed through it.

The opportunity to do so many good things for the camp as well as the friendships and fellowship that comes with the weekend is a great way to share their faith.

This summer, our youth and leaders were blessed to be able to spend a weekend camping at Luther Village. We swam, hiked, sat around the bonfire sharing stories and had an opportunity to lead Sunday morning worship on the beach for all the campers. Each youth and leader had a role in sharing the story of baptism. Even some first time youth joined the adventure!

Luther Village is just one example of the many ways I see our youth, young adults and leaders giving, sharing, and growing in their faith journey. Through their involvement in youth ministry, our youth have developed close relationships, grown in faith, and have been sent out to serve the world that God made.

So to those who say “where are our youth and young adults?”

LUTHER VILLAGE is CALLING and I MUST GO!

– Submitted by Lisa van Dijk

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