The new LYF Executive Board who will be installed at the Gathering.

The new LYF Executive Board who will be installed at the Gathering.

June is Youth Ministry Month in The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The designation goes back to the early 1970’s after the Synod in convention had established a Board for Youth Ministry to replace its relationship with the Walther League.  The purpose was to encourage congregations to give thanks to God for the opportunities we have in nurturing the young  people in our churches.

Really, Youth Ministry Month takes C.F.W. Walther literally.  Walther once told his seminary class of future pastors, “You cannot use your time to better advantage than by serving well the young people of your congregation.”  Walther himself is recognized by people in and outside the LCMS as a pioneer for youth ministry in United States Christendom.  In 1848, he encouraged establishment of a young man’s society at his church, Historic Trinity Soulard in St. Louis.  A young woman’s society followed.  In establishing a national youth ministry in 1893, the young synod named its new organization after the first President of the LCMS and called it The Walther League. When the League and Synod parted company in 1968, the Synod continued to emphasize youth ministry through establishment of a Youth Board.

Youth Ministry month provides an intentional opportunity to give thanks to God for His blessings to LCMS youth and the blessing they are to His church. It’s a time to give thanks for God’s claim on them in baptism, recalling the theme of this year’s Synod convention. It’s a time to give thanks for our youth’s faith, their commitment, courage, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, passion and love for God and His people.  It’s also a time to give some thought to challenges in youth ministry including a declining youth membership, a culture often hostile to our faith and values, ministry with post-high school young adults, campus ministry and how do we nurture the faith in our young.

June was selected years ago as it marks the completion of the school year (although these days  most schools are done in the middle of May) and the beginning of summer youth events and projects.  This summer, Lutheran Youth Fellowship’s Teens Reaching Teens leadership training workshops, a witness emphasis, will be happening all over the country.  Up to 4,000 LCMS teens will serve in LCMS Servant Events, a major mercy effort by LCMS Youth Ministry.  And, this year, thousands of LCMS youth will head for the National Youth Gathering and other events, camps and conferences, evidence of our life together.

This month, pray for your youth and young adults by name.  Check for special youth ministry month materials.  Commission your youth as they go off to the Gathering.  A commissioning service is available at the Gathering web site:   Organize your own local servant events or plan to hold an LYF training event (check with your district office).  It’s a great time for youth ministry in the LCMS.

– By Rev. Dr. Terry K. Dittmer, Director, ONM – Youth Ministry