In this 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.
At her home church in suburban Adelaide, Josephine Matthias serves confirmation students as the program’s games and activities coordinator and a small group leader. This experience in supporting young people in her congregation led the 18-year-old chemical engineering student to participate in a global conference of young Lutherans passionate about youth work and sustainability.
Last year I had the incredible opportunity to represent the LCA/NZ in the international ‘Like a Tree’ conference run by Mission EineWelt, the partnership, development and mission arm of Germany’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria.
The conference involved young Lutherans from around the world who are leaders in youth ministry and interested in sustainability. The conference theme was a reference to Christians being like trees, standing together in God’s forest.
We were all created to look after God’s creation and called to share the word of God with others and support them in their growth as Christians. During the nine days of the conference, we talked about our calling as Christians through the topics of sustainability and youth work.
The conference was meant to be held in Germany, but due to COVID travel restrictions, it was staged online via seminars and a website.
Before the conference began, we each had the task of creating a video introducing ourselves and our involvement in youth ministry. These helped us to get to know each other, as did the 24-hour challenges we were given throughout the conference. For one challenge, we had to find a song about sustainability, so I wrote an original composition called ‘Save the World’. Another challenge was to write a poem. We began the conference with an online church service where I read the opening liturgical sentences in English after they were heard in Portuguese and Hungarian. For the concluding online service, we each had to bring something green to hold up for a screenshot ‘photo’ to make a ‘forest’ of humans. We talked about how the word of God is the rain which helps us to grow.
Our other main topic was sustainability and we looked at the United Nations’ 17 Sustainability Development Goals. We discussed how churches around the world are already working towards these goals.
Our final topic was youth ministry around the world, with each region sharing about the ministry in their churches.
It was so refreshing to meet other young Lutherans who are passionate about their faith, and active in their churches. We have remained in contact and continue to share ideas for youth activities.
Mission EineWelt and Like a Tree also staged a global worship event after the conference and I was blessed and honoured to be a part of the planning team. Creating the service to allow people from around the world to ‘meet’ together even while apart was very exciting. After all, we are all trees in God’s forest.
Josephine Matthias is a member of Good Shepherd Para Vista in South Australia.
How can the LCA engage more effectively with young people?
I think that the way to engage young people is to offer more opportunities for mentoring and conversations. These allow young people to have a sense of belonging in their church community because relationships are being built and they know that other members care about them. Along with this, young people love the chance to use their skills.
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