When Cloey and Sadie walked into the Greensboro Embassy Suites this past February for the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) Assembly, it was their first synod youth event. Their 40-family home church, Advent Lutheran in Spindale, does not currently have an official youth group. Kimerly Hinkelman attended as their chaperone and guide. Kimerly is among the many skilled church folk who are “retired” but continue to actively serve God and the church. Luckily, she has deep experience leading youth in previous roles and offers her time and talent to Cloey and Sadie.
Since this was a first for the teens, they had no real idea what to expect. Although they were a bit nervous, Cloey and Sadie decided to take full advantage of this opportunity. They jumped right into the mix, participating in all the events and even making their way to the front of the action. “I think they were very brave to take off like they did,” Kimerly confided, adding that they were 100% all-in for the whole weekend. Cloey reflected that the music was a highlight for them and really helped to relieve some of the initial nerves “because everyone was being goofy and just enjoying the time.” They brought some of the fun home to their congregation of Advent when returning to Spindale. They boldly stood before the congregation for sermon time talking about all they learned and then led the group in singing “Lighthouse” complete with hand movements.
The theme of this year’s LYO Assembly, Points of Balance, resonated with Cloey and Sadie. The two teens are much like their peers, managing schedules packed with academics, sports, and jobs. Assembly presentations included practical tips for finding balance like going on walks, listening to music, and taking time to breathe and refocus. Cloey said the tips were valuable. “It helped us realize that even when our lives are chaotic, we should always take a moment to breathe and simply enjoy what we are doing.”
Kimerly affirmed the importance of this theme for young people who often hear an outward-facing message in church regarding care for others. By offering a message of balance, self-care was presented as an important part of our Christian responsibility alongside loving others and loving God.
If you aren’t taking care of yourself then you probably aren’t able to care for those around you or your relationship with God properly. In order to find balance, you must take time for yourself to get your priorities and/or schedule in order. Once you are able to balance your own self in life then your relationship with others will come naturally and during all of this you will find your relationship building with God. —Cloey, high school junior
The synod’s commitment to young people is so important, Kimerly asserted, because it gives them a better sense of the larger church. Even the word synod was unfamiliar at the outset of the assembly. By the end of their time at LYO, Bishop Tim recognized Cloey and Sadie and had impressed them with his candid answers to sensitive questions. The financial support offered by those who contribute Mission Support funds to the synod makes youth events like LYO possible.
What’s next for these young members of the ELCA? They are interested in attending the ELCA Youth Gathering next year in New Orleans. In addition, they are discussing potential outreach projects focused on homelessness that they can initiate in their community. Cloey and Sadie, like so many other amazing young people, are ready to shine their lights in the world.
Thanks be to God for the gifts that you give—as individuals and congregations—to Mission Support of the NC Synod! These gifts support LYO Assembly along with other youth ministries.