A total of 457 participants from 32 congregations attended the 2022 Middle School Youth Gathering held on November 12-13 at the Holiday Inn in Kearney—the largest number so far at the District’s annual Middle School Gatherings.
The 2022 Gathering was centered on the theme word of “Show” and based on Romans 5:8, “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Participants were reminded that God showed us love and forgiveness first and that He wants our whole heart. Students also studied 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love,” and were reminded that God wants them to show His love to others.
The Nebraska District offers a Middle School Gathering every year, encourages congregations to attend the LCMS Youth Gathering held every three years, and then holds a District Youth Gathering for high school students the year after each national LCMS Youth Gathering. Each of these events provides an opportunity for students to spend time in fellowship, study, and prayer, and to be encouraged by seeing a large number of teens who are excited about their faith. Rev. Christopher Ramstad of Immanuel, Columbus, explained, “I think that the middle school youth gathering helps to prepare the foundations of faith growth that lead to bigger experiences later in life. It is great to see these gatherings not as one-time events, but part of a bigger process of faith formation in the lives of our youth.”
Each gathering includes a number of breakout sessions to give participants the opportunity to learn about different topics that deepen the participants’ understanding of the theme and how it applies to their lives. They address topics such as what makes us worthy of God’s love; how God shows up in parts of our lives where we don’t always expect it; and how to recognize God’s presence, not only in the joys of life, but through tough situations as well.
James Hayes, Director of Youth and Small Groups at Holy Cross, Kearney, said, “Gatherings like this are always a great opportunity for the youth to get out of their comfort zone and talk about topics that they don’t usually talk about. They really showed some thoughtfulness and maturity with the tough topics.”
When reflecting on the three-event Know, Grow, Show cycle of themes, Rev. Ramstad said, “I think what has stuck with me the most after seeing the full cycle of themes is how they stick with our youth. They remember and take with them the stories, speakers, and message of each gathering. And they pass it along to the next group when we go the following year.” James Hayes said that those attending the district gatherings, “have learned a lot about what it means to prune out the bad things in their lives as they follow Jesus. These gatherings have a great message of letting the youth know following Jesus will not be easy, but it is completely worth it and better than anything this world has to offer.”
Planning has already begun for the 2023 Middle School Youth Gathering and the District Youth Gathering, both of which will be held in November. Visit https://ndlcms.org/youth-gatherings/ for more information about youth gatherings and resources.