Three Congregations In the One Spirit

Tyler hopes his youth get the same feeling—that they are not alone in their faith.

May 20, 2024 |

Image credit: Pastor Melody Simpkins

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. —1 Corinthians 12:12-13

This summer, youth and leaders from all over this church will join together in fellowship and worship in New Orleans at the ELCA Youth Gathering. The stated goal of this event is …“to create environments and opportunities for faith formation through worship, interactive learning, Bible study, service, and fellowship.” Youth leaders have been busy planning this trip for over a year for their congregations. As Pastor Melody Simpkins (Cross & Crown, Matthews) began researching all the travel options for her youth, she decided to reach out to local colleagues to see if they wanted to travel together. The youth directors she called—Tyler Weller (Christ, Charlotte) and Mark Hustedt (Morning Star, Matthews)—were both enthusiastic about joining her. What began as a travel planning group grew into full collaborative preparation for the Gathering, including youth group meetings so the young people could get to know one another.

The youth and adults from the three congregations have interacted as a regional small group for several months, rotating leadership responsibilities for meetings and locations. The leaders designed five units with the goal of creating a sense of community for the youth, each meeting integrating fellowship time with faith formation. Pastor Melody, Tyler, and Mark agree that the young people in their church programs are looking for real connection, craving something they are missing in their everyday lives.

Tyler was actually a young person at Pastor Melody’s previous congregation and had a strong relationship with her before this collaboration began. He attended the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston and felt that the event helped open his eyes to see that there were thousands of other young people who shared faith. He felt more connected to the church at large and hopes his youth get the same feeling—that they are not alone in their faith. Christ, Charlotte has a strong music ministry component; their group The Xperience is set to tour and perform in New Orleans.

Mark has never been to a Gathering, but also hopes that his Morning Star youth feel that the church is so much more than what is inside the walls of a building they visit on Sundays. His youth are already inspired and ready to be leaders so he is excited to see how they will make waves at the Gathering and beyond.

Pastor Melody certainly started something with her initial call to colleagues. She hopes that each of these young people will hear the Good News and come home ready to tell others about their experience. Each of these youth leaders looks forward to this group moving forward with touchpoints and deepening the connection in the future. When asked what the biggest challenge of youth ministry is in today’s climate, Mark replied, “It’s more of a dance than a challenge—trying to keep kids engaged and keep it light while still ministering.” This alliance of churches feels like a really good start to creating a dance floor that will be open and inviting to more young people and more churches!

Stay tuned for the follow-up article, when these leaders and some of their youth let us know how they felt about the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering!

Your generous Mission Support gifts to the NC Synod—whether directly or by way of congregational giving—strengthen the ELCA ministry to youth that happens during the Gathering. It’s a blessing to youth and adults that buoys their faith and compels them to service in the world. Thank you, thank you!

Story Attribution:

Carol Schierlmann (former Dir. of Spiritual Development, Advent/Charlotte) for the NC Synod.


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