What the NYG and Higher Things have in common.

nygThis year I went to the National Youth Gathering with my youth group.  A lot of my friends are right now in Colorado at a Higher Things gathering with their youth.  

And of course many keystrokes have been tapped over these gatherings before and will be again. One group claims one of these gatherings is something to be avoided like the plague.  The same group often speaks of the other gathering as somewhat of a little heaven on earth.  In contrast, another group claims that one of these gatherings is lacking needed application to real life and borders on boring.  They speak about the other gathering as if it is the best experience any youth could have on this earth.  

There is much that could be said about either gathering.  (If you want my opinion of the National Youth Gathering this year, hit me up personally). But I want to focus on something that can and should be said of both gatherings to our youth.     

What should be said?  This: They are not as important as they might appear as you watch them scrolling by on your facebook feed.  This is not to say that no good comes from them.  But neither will really accomplish much by itself.  Whether the rock band pulses through your veins in a way that seem to shake your soul or whether you think the Te Deum could not sound even a bit more sweet if a choir of angels performed it, this is not what will sustain your faith over time.

The rock band will not make Jesus any more present in his word or sacrament and neither will the cantor extraordinaire.  And as for all those sectionals, most of their content could be taught to you by your local pastor if you would give him the time and attention needed to do just that.  He can teach you just as easily as the rock star hipster pastor or the confessional juggernaut celeb.  

htHere is my point.  Way too often we adults are promoting these gatherings as the thing kids should be most excited about.  We act as if they will change everything.  We post pictures and videos as if nothing else could measure up.  

But I want my youth to know this.  These gatherings may be fun.  They may be enlightening.  They will likely give you a sense of the universal church that is hard to grasp locally.  But they are not even close to the most important things in regard to your faith.  

So what is?  Two things.  First, connection to and participation in your local church as it gathers around the Word and Sacrament weekly.  Second, daily prayer and catechesis in your home.  Your pastor and your parents are much more important than the celebrities at either youth gathering.  While those famous types might encourage you to follow them on twitter, your pastor and pastors will be right by your side throughout the ups and downs of life with Christ.   And if they are doing their job well, they will make sure to take your hand and lead you back to Jesus time and time again.

I have nothing against going to these gatherings. But if any of them becomes looked at as way better than what you pastor gives you at church and your parents teach you in your home, there is need for repentance.

Participate in your church.  If you do not have one, start looking here.  A pastor will be waiting there to help teach you and give to you God’s gifts in Jesus.  Pray and learn in your home. If you need help having time of regular prayer in the home, check out LivingPlanted.com.  Listen to the faith that your parents are seeking to pass along to you.

What do the NYG and Higher Things have in common? Neither is as important as they seem.  Your church and pastor are.  Your home and parents are.  Find Jesus first and foremost there.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2016 at 7:14 pm and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “What the NYG and Higher Things have in common.”

  1. Ralph Wetzel Says:

    Thanks for the emphasis on home, family, and a local congregation in assaying the two large gatherings of our Lutheran young folks. It needs to be said over and again that a living faith in family life is so vital in our times in which our families must live among an increasingly godless society. My son, Rick, was a chaperone at the NOLA gathering, and two of my grandchildren attended. The witness that left the greatest impression on them was that our LCMS is so large, and that there are so many together in a common faith, worshiping together, singing, and witnessing. My son and granddaughters come from a small congregation in Michigan, and this common witness born in a large group made them see how much our Synod has done and is still doing to bring young Christians together under a common banner in Christ. Nothing is perfect this side of heaven, but these kids seeing other professing the same faith in one place, makes them aware that our church body has something powerful to say with emphasis on the reasons for being confessing Lutherans in a post-Christian world! SOLI DEO GLORIA!

  2. Peter Hoft Says:

    It was great talking with you today. I just came across this article that I thought really put things in perspective, in regard to our conversation.


  3. Youth Events Compared With Church and Pastor, Home and Parent, and Catechesis | Lutheran Catechism Says:

    […] Phillip Hoppe has written an excellent article titled “What the NYG and Higher Things have in common,” that compares youth gatherings with church and pastor, with home and parents, including […]

  4. Larry Bell Says:

    Good thoughts. I cannot help but envision what could be done with the MASSIVE amounts of money spent on and at these gatherings on central city ministry through organizations like EPIC MINISTRIES. Can kids, parents and most of all pastors get as excited about working as being entertained? Somehow I think probably not. “I came not to be served but to serve”. Hats off and high fives to those who do.

  5. Daniel Says:

    I’m going to disagree on one point, though I do agree with the main principle that such events and organizations are not sources for regular spiritual/pastoral care.

    “Way too often we adults are promoting these gatherings as the thing kids should be most excited about. We act as if they will change everything. We post pictures and videos as if nothing else could measure up.”

    What are people supposed to do? Have a bad time? Not rejoice in them? The problem isn’t enthusiasm attendees have for these events. The problem, regardless of attending one of these events or not, is breaking the third commanndment. The third commandment doesn’t apply more because someone goes to these events, nor are the events themselves responsible for someone breaking the third commandment in despising God’s Word and the sacraments.

  6. Ralph Hough Says:

    The report we received from our Youth director is that besides the awesome worship, Bible study and actual on the N.O. street engagement with homeless is the bonding that occurred between the 19 or 20 youth that took place. Of course bonding occurs anytime 2 or more are gathered in Jesus’ name even if it isn’t taking place in Sunday worship. I believe the ‘bigger picture’ that the youth sense about God’s kingdom reminds them that we do indeed have a God (Lord and Savior) who is bigger, greater than they could have ever hoped for or imagined. While it does not replace local church/worship/fellowship, these gatherings can be a valuable catalyst/vehicle for the planted/watered seed of the Gospel to take root and grow into the disciples Jesus intends to raise up and send out. “The world is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” These gatherings are indeed part of God’s good and gracious gift to His people! Let’s not make them less than what the faith filled leaders intended for the good of our youth (chaperones included)!

  7. John Rutten Says:

    It is too bad society seems to want to take it themselves to downplay any established program or use a review of existing programs to promote their own. I too had three grandchildren and a daughter attending NYG. All 4 have expressed delight and spiritual fulfillment. Three of the same attended Higher Things last year and found it extremely boring and even though they knew one of the key organizers, could not wait to get home. They all felt the program was better targeted to a different demographic. Now to the conclusion of this article, you are probably correct, but you deny the real issue. The LCMS seems to have no use for youth. Lots of attention is paid to them until they are confirmed. They are told at that point they have all the rights and responsibilities of adult members, except the right to vote in matters of their own congregation.
    No wonder, by the time they are 18 we do not see them cross the threshold of their own or any other church.

  8. A Dinitarian Higher Things Conference? | The Cellar-Door Says:

    […] do well to rethink the merits of big hooplah “youth-events” in general— see this fine piece by Rev. Philip Hoppe for a good explanation of some of the reasons why. The Walther League they […]

  9. Episode 2: Higher Things—TOYOTA | The Cellar-Door Says:

    […] the product of erroneous thinking regarding the Church, the Ministry, and the Christian home. Rev. Phillip Hoppe’s article was the buried lede of my whole piece. If all I did in my post was get more people to read and […]

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