by Beth Anderson, Synod Ministry Coordinator 10/29/2015
I’m still emerging from a blessed 3 days with 215 of our senior high youth and adult advisors from congregations large and small, all across the synod. Each year as the Synod LYO Gathering unfolds, God astounds me at the way the Holy Spirit is at work in and through this annual event.
In the Luther’s explanation of the third article of the creed in the Small Catechism, Luther writes:
- “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
This is exactly what I see happening as I watch this event come together. The Holy Spirit at work is the only way to explain how so many separate moving pieces come together to become a cohesive meaningful experience that reveals God’s love for the youth and adults who have gathered and the community that hosts the Gathering each year.
This event is not a one-person show, or even a one team show. Beginning in January, 11 youth, 7 conference advisors and 1 synod staff person who don’t yet know each other come together for a retreat filled with team building experiences focused on getting to know one another, engaging in Bible Study, uncovering their mission, and prayerfully discerning a theme and direction for the fall gathering. Over the ensuing months this board meets for two more afternoon planning sessions and excitedly gathers the evening before the Gathering to finalize all remaining details. The youth board does most of the work, dreaming and planning the event with input and guidance from the adult advisors. A local planning team is identified in the host community who assists the board by finding Action Track presenters, lining up a service project that meets the needs of the local community, and working with the local hotel to coordinate room assignments and workshop needs. A chaplain works with a worship team of youth from the board to plan opening and closing worship. Our 4 Bible Camps begin identifying staff who will play with the GLUE, a worship band made up of staff from all 4 of our Synod Bible camps. These band members have never played together before, but prepare by sharing music and working with the worship team to coordinate song selections. They come together for the very first time, from the 4 corners of our synod, on the opening day of the Gathering to inspire our youth and set a positive welcoming environment for our young people. Adult leaders at congregations across the synod work to promote the event – inviting and cajoling young people (and their parents) to sign up for what promises to be a weekend of fun, service, and faith building. Keynote speakers and action track leaders prepare their presentations, and the LYO Board members pray, prepare FaithTalks and attend to the details of the event. All of this activity and preparation is carried out by many people, in many places, all with different parts to play. And the only one who has any idea of how the LYO Gathering will really unfold is God.
At the Gathering, youth connect, God speaks, adult advisors work together to watch over and encourage our youth and one another, and the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian community, keeping it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. You can ask our participants, and I think they will agree that “This is most certainly true.” The unfolding of God at work in the process reminds me of an orchestra – each person perfects their piece and the Conductor draws them all together to create an experience through which Christ is present, the Holy Spirit moves and faith is inspired in new ways.
There are times when, as the synod staff person assigned to the Gathering, I think that pulling this off would be easier and certainly less anxiety-producing if we just appointed a Gathering Coordinator – a paid person who would be responsible for all programming and ensure that every detail was in place; or if we paid camp counselors, assigned them to small groups and let them oversee and guide the youth participants’ experience. Adults could just drop them off, and a structured experience would unfold. But I wonder if much might be lost if we went this route? I’m not certain the experience would be as rich. It certainly would be less messy, and probably more organized, but maybe a little chaos gives God room to surprise us. It certainly allows leaders and youth to discover new gifts in themselves as they are called upon to lead in new and courageous ways – to discover what it’s like to open ourselves up and allow God to work through us to deepen the faith of others and find our own faith deepened as well.
I was once told that “Ministry multiplies when it is given away.” When others are invited in to share their gifts as a part of God’s ministry, amazing things happen. We let go, and let God be the creator that God is. It may be messy, but out of the messiness, amazing witness can emerge. We witness people blossoming in leadership and their ability to minister in Christ’s name. We witness the body of Christ embodied in the community gathered. Divine inspiration calls us out to serve in ways we never anticipated, and others witness Christ present in ways they may not have encountered before.
So I wonder . . .Where is the Holy Spirit calling you to give away ministry today? Who is God calling you to invite into ministry? Maybe you are sensing the Holy Spirit leading you to share your gifts in new ways? What do you need to say “Yes” to or “No” to in order to join in whatever it is that the Holy Spirit is stirring up in your home, or congregation, or community today?
P.S. – Thanks to the LYO Board, Advisors, Participants, Glue, Presenters, Speakers, Local Planning Team, Bishop Mark, Pastor Joe, Ramada Grand Lodge Staff and everyone else who allowed the Holy Spirit to work through you to reveal Christ’s presence in our midst this past weekend! Thank you for the surprises and the gifts, and most of all Thanks Be To God!