In this monthly column we hear from young people in our church about the ministries and mission they are part of – and how we in the LCA can better engage with youth in our communities.
Tom Krahling is a self-confessed ‘camp junkie’, having become hooked on Christian camps while he was still at school. Now at Adelaide University studying Mechanical Engineering and Maths/Computer Science, he’s become a camp leader and is also seeing the benefits to his faith journey of being involved with Christian student groups.
When I was eight, our family moved from the Barossa Valley to Kadina in South Australia. That was a formative time for me – thanks to my pastor, Dr Michael Lockwood, I became captivated by Lutheran teaching and the Bible.
While living in Kadina, I went along to my first Christian Life Week (CLW). After that I was hooked. I would attend Novo, a camp for Years 7 to 12 also run by the SA-NT District’s Blueprint Ministries, and at least one CLW per year after that. After moving back to the Barossa, I attended CLWs there, too, and last year was a small group leader for the first time for Novo and CLW.
I love being able to live in a community brought together by Jesus’ love on camps – it really is like a taste of heaven on earth. The best part is being able to share that with kids who don’t always have that. By the end of the week, just about every kid understands the kingdom of God in a very tangible way.
For a long time, the focus at camps has been on exposing kids to Jesus in an action-packed week of activities and worship. However, this ‘elevated’ experience sets unrealistic standards. Lots of kids sprout up quickly after camp, only to dry out when they return to mundane life from the so-called ‘mountain-top experience’ – simply because they have no roots. Fortunately, our leadership teams are changing camp culture to ensure campers are planted in congregations. Several Barossa congregations got together after camp last year and ran a Youth Alpha course for campers so that kids could continue to grow in their own congregations. The merging of communities went both ways. At camp last year, the leadership team invited pastors and other local church figures onto camp, so that kids could meet their church family.
After camp, through a Christian students group at uni, I was involved in a production called The Mark Drama. I was immersed for six weeks in Mark’s gospel and we had around 200 people attend that performance. The best part was that we had an estimated 30 per cent secular audience. It was an incredible experience because I was able to invite all my uni friends to come and hear the gospel proclaimed – and they came!
I’ve also been involved with Lutheran-run Bible studies at uni, which is led by Adelaide pastors who hold twice-weekly studies on a reading for the upcoming week, and that’s been really great for diving deeper into the texts.
Tom Krahling is a member of St Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpa in South Australia.
How can the LCA/NZ engage more effectively with young people?
Lots of people approach church relationships as friendships. This is good, but making friends between generations is unusual in Australian culture. However, we are not the church friendship-circle. We are the church family. I think this distinction is important. Through the lens of family, intergenerational relationships in the church make sense. Don’t feel afraid of looking dorky in front of teenagers. Instead, embrace them as family and embrace your differences.