Making Disciples Among Youth and Young Adults

In the summer of 2001, having just graduated high school, I served for a few weeks with a team of other youth assisting Berea Lutheran Brethren Church in Alexandria, Minnesota with their Vacation Bible School. A few months later, I was a part of another team of young adults headed for Chandler, Arizona, where the plan was to spend the next nine months working alongside Lutheran Brethren Home Missions (now North American Mission) as we sought to plant a church in that city just south of Phoenix.

My story of being involved in Lutheran Brethren Youth Ministries is only one note in the song that is the beautiful history—the awesome legacy—of the Lutheran Brethren’s investment and concern for the generations that would follow them. And that investment paid off. When I went through Seminary, I was reunited with others I had trained or served with through my time in Youth Ministries. Now as a pastor serving CLB churches, moving around the U.S., and spending time in Canada, I have met and been reunited with people from all over our denomination who participated in, or were served by, Youth Ministries during that time. Some of them were pastors, some were elders, some were Sunday School teachers or members of a trustee board. Some are serving overseas as missionaries. This is a beautiful testament to the investment in our youth, being paid off in our churches.
It wasn’t long after I had graduated through Youth Ministries that our denomination had to make some difficult choices. This isn’t written to criticize the decisions that were made, or any past or current leadership—please do not see it as that—but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that our denomination hasn’t been investing in the youth of today as we once did with the youth in my day.

But even while I recognize that this is true, what has encouraged me, why I am writing this article, is because we, as a denomination, have not been satisfied. Between our several camp ministries, which have been discipling our youth and young adults for many years, and our churches continuing to faithfully disciple our next generation, investment in our youth has never stopped. It’s exciting to witness our denomination taking more intentional steps to lead us in these efforts. There are some fantastic and exciting things on the horizon for the youth and young adults of the Lutheran Brethren.

This summer (July 2-6, 2024), youth from CLB congregations will gather in Estes Park, Colorado, for our biennial youth convention, which is titled “Elevate.” The theme for Elevate ’24 is Crafted, with our theme verse as Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” It is our prayer that all in attendance would be encouraged in the truth that God has intentionally and powerfully crafted each one of us. He has crafted us in his image and has called us to great missional purpose—fantastic works—that he has prepared for us to do. What a wonderful opportunity for our youth, to gather in one place with peers from around the continent, to be encouraged in who God has made them and for the purpose to which he has called them! And what a blessing for us as a denomination to invest in our future!

Another exciting way that the Lutheran Brethren is unleashing new leaders is by partnering in mission with Tuscarora, an affiliate ministry of the CLB: a conference center based on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware river. The Church of the Lutheran Brethren and Tuscarora have joined forces to present Rooted, a gap year program for young adults 18 to 25 years old. The foundational verse for this exciting new program is Colossians 2:7, “Rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” This opportunity for our young adults is designed to be a one-year adventure into what it means to be a disciple. There will be class time and service projects, along with time of fellowship and growth, both individually and as a group. The desire is to invest in our youth, give them practical tools to be everyday disciples, and help them fall in love with the theology of the Lutheran Brethren. We don’t know where God will take it from there, but we’re excited to see what he has in store. This program launches in September.

The vision the Lutheran Brethren has for youth and young adults does not end with just these two new exciting opportunities. We know that we need to be investing in our future. We know that a convention every two years is not enough. We know that adding one location for a gap year program won’t meet the needs of a growing Church. So, please keep our leadership and other ministries in your prayers, as they continue to cast vision and make plans for this incredibly important demographic.

Rev. Daniel Stenberg is the pastor at Calvary Church in Bergenfield, New Jersey. Daniel also serves as Interim Director of Elevate Youth Convention and as a board member for Rooted.
The new Rooted Gap Year program is looking for a couple who would be willing
to serve as the resident life directors. The primary role would be to live in the campus
housing and be a part of community life. There are also a number of job openings at Tuscarora for employment. There is an opening in the position of summer staff supervisor at Tuscarora from June–August which would require moving in the beginning of June.

INTERESTED? Contact Roger Viksnes / (860)805-0760

No Comments