The Rev. Mark Kiessling leads Youth Corps participants in prayer before their day of service. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

In August 2014, I had the opportunity to participant in a pilot program for Lutheran Youth Corps hosted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Philadelphia Lutheran Ministries on the campus of Shepherd of the City Lutheran Church.  This week-long event served as an introduction to the Lutheran Youth Corps, which will be an opportunity for LCMS young people (post high school) to be engaged in extended service in the name of Jesus Christ.

It was a tremendous experience to participate in such an event in this hands-on way since most of the work of our office is resourcing, equipping, and networking youth ministry practitioners, not actually engaging directly with youth.

The program brought together thirteen young people (aged 16-20) from across the country.  God blessed our week with safety, encouragement in our faith, and building new relationships.  I could write pages on the amazing experience Lutheran Youth Corps was, but for this blog reflection, I’ll share three things that I learned or were reinforced for me during my week in Philadelphia.

  1. Young people have a great capacity for learning and service – The participants engaged in over five days of worship, learning, and service. In each facet, the participants were eager to participate and share their faith, questions, and abilities with others.  I was amazed at the future careers and vocations being considered by participants and how they were living out their current vocations on high school and college campuses and in their communities and churches.  Our church body, individual congregations, and communities are blessed with amazing sons, daughters, members, students, and citizens.
  2. They are young ADULTS – Participants took great initiative in taking care of others in the group, others in which they came in contact, and their own needs. We ran a pretty intense schedule for a week, but participants carried out expectations, collaboratively made decisions or provided feedback, and did it with the positive attitudes!  Participants rallied together in a new environment to support one another through minor health concerns, allergies, a birthday celebration, and concerns for friends and families back home.  It was a great reminder that young people can be well-equipped to take care of themselves and each other.  We lived in “intentional community” for almost a week and we all left smiling!
  3. The blessing of family and supportive churches – It was a blessing to hear and observe the power and importance of family and church involvement in the lives of these young people. Parents, pastors, church workers, and members may think their investment in the faith development of young people doesn’t produce “fruit”, but don’t be discouraged, “YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE NAME OF CHRIST!”  Thank you for your time and effort in investing in the lives of young people.  I was able to hear thirteen beautiful and affirming stories about the family of God in Christ.

I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside and observe the faith and work of our Youth Corps participants.  Certainly, I wanted to return home to my wife and home, but it was truly hard to say, “See you later,” to our amazing hosts (Pastor and Deaconess Adam DeGroot) and the young adults who participated.  To God be the glory for a safe week and times of growth and service!

To read and see more about Youth Corps, check out a story and photos.