CONNECTNESS STORY: Youth & Family Ministry in These Times

 do This summer has our Delaware-Maryland Synod Youth and Family Ministry looking different in a number of ways. Deacon Julie Stecker, Assistant to the Bishop for Communications and Youth + Family Ministry is on a much deserved sabbatical, and we are delighted to have Adam Fairchild serving with us as the Interim Coordinator for Youth & Family Ministry. Adam comes to us with years of experience as a Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) Leader Among Leader as well as a current campus ministry leader with The Humble Walk at University of Maryland, College Park. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what our synod’s Youth & Family Ministry programming looks like, but we are excited to be doing ministry in new ways.

Earlier this summer, we accepted new applications for LYO from high school youth across our synod. We are happy to have over 60 youth involved again this year, with 20 of them being new. Despite changes with school, extracurricular activities, and other commitments, we are thrilled that so many older youth in our synod have chosen to continue in faith formation by making LYO a priority this year (2019 photo)

 Since we cannot gather as we normally do for our annual LYO Organizing Retreat at Mar-Lu Ridge at the end of August, we are gathering for our retreat in a new way. We are meeting for our retreat mostly utilizing Zoom, with an option for in-person gatherings for each LYO Team at different congregations across our synod. In the LYO, we feel that God is calling and nudging us to explore new possibilities to ensure that LYO continues to play an important role in the faith formation for our synod’s youth (2019 photo)

 One of the most exciting things that happened this summer was our synod’s digital, at-home VBS. Throughout this spring and summer, a group of Youth Ministry professionals, Pastors and Deacons developed an online VBS program, available for free, that families from across our synod used in their homes. Our VBS included skits produced by counselors at Mar-Lu Ridge, along with various activities, games, and service projects for children and families to do at their own pace in their own way (Summer 2020 photo)

So August 3-7, over 150 children from more than 30 of our synod’s congregations participated in our synod’s VBS program – now that is being church together! It was such a blessing to see pictures posted on social media from families that showed children enjoying VBS activities. We are incredibly grateful for support from our DE-MD Synod that helped us to provide print materials to all families who registered, along with DVDs and USBs of the skit videos for families who wanted them.

In a summer that has felt overwhelming with what we cannot do due to COVID-19, our synod-wide VBS program stands out as an example of how God has continued to be present and at work among us (Summer 2020 photo).

As we continue to plan for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, we are envisioning different opportunities for youth and families to stay connected while we cannot gather in-person. Although we do not yet know what Youth + Family Ministry programming will look like for the foreseeable future, we will communicate information about new opportunities in the coming weeks and months. One thing that we do know is that the ELCA Youth Gathering has been postponed until July 2022. The 2022 ELCA Youth Gathering will take place from July 24-28, 2022, in Minneapolis, with the two pre-events, the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) and the tAble, scheduled for July 21-24, 2022. The theme is “Boundless: God Beyond Measure,” and we are grateful that Pastor Naomi Hartman has agreed to be our Gathering Synod Coordinator. Stay in touch to learn more!

If you have any questions or thoughts about Youth + Family Ministry in this time, please feel free to touch base with Adam through August. You may email him at [email protected]