This past fall, almost 30 congregations hosted WELS Youth Nights, offering area-congregation teens and youth leaders opportunities to grow in God’s Word and build relationships with one another.
Introduced at the 2022 International Youth Rally, WELS Youth Night is a series of three youth-focused events to bring teens and youth leaders from area churches together in between large rallies. WELS Discipleship provides all the resources to help congregations plan and run the events, which include games, food, music, prayer, a keynote address, and small group discussion.
King of Kings, Garden Grove, Calif., invited youth from 16 congregations in southern California to its WELS Youth Night in October. More than 50 6th- through 12th-graders from 8 different congregations attended.
“I had this dream of pulling [area youth groups] together out here just because when we get together it’s so special. But I was intimidated by all the work to make it happen,” says Josh Robertson, a teacher at King of Kings and the congregation’s youth and family elder. “At the youth rally, as I sat in on the WELS Youth Night presentation, I was floored by God and his goodness because literally my entire dream was already being planned by the synod.”
Robertson says he’s passionate about youth ministry because of all the societal pressure put on teenagers today. “I want to be able to share the gospel with them and help them be in a personal relationship with their Savior,” he says. “I think this event does that really well.”
Mike Leahy, the youth group leader at St. Paul, Howards Grove, Wis., also sees the importance of events like these. He coordinated St. Paul’s October WELS Youth Night, which gathered about 50 teens from 10 area congregations. “It’s good to expose them to other teens in the area . . . so they can see that there are more people their age who have the same passion for their Savior,” he says.
After serving more than 10 years in youth ministry, Leahy says it’s easy to get into a rut. “It’s nice to have something to switch up the routine for our teens,” he says. He also feels this can serve as a good outreach opportunity for teens to invite their unchurched friends.
Mary Athorp, a senior at Howards Grove High School and a member at St. Paul, appreciated the new event. “I knew it would be an incredible way to experience the community faith can create with other people,” she says. “I experienced this on a larger scale at the WELS International Youth Rally, so I was looking forward to the same idea but with a closer-knit group. I also wanted to learn how different people my age express their faith in God.”
Both Robertson and Leahy are helping plan a second WELS Youth Night in their areas this winter.
Learn more about WELS Youth Night at welscongregationalservices.net/wels-youth-night.
Author: Forward in Christ
Volume: 110, Number 1
Issue: January 2023