The History of the Youth Gathering

Network is a Verb

StadiumThe ELCA Youth Gathering has a long history, and an even longer lineage, going back to 1902.  Do you think that the Youth Gathering will be coming to Minneapolis in 2021 for the first time?  Think again.  This will be the 14th time that this event will be held in the City of Lakes.

Thanks to John Hulden, who sent us this information.  Thanks to David Halaas for requesting the information from the ELCA Archivist.  And thanks to Joel Thoreson, the ELCA’s Archivist for Management, Reference, and Technology for keeping track of this great information!

Here’s the history of the Gathering in the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies, including the themes (when available) and any special, notable facts:

ELCA Youth Gatherings (1988-Present)

  • 1988 – San Antonio, Texas – “Rejoice in the Lord Always”
  • 1991 – Dallas, Texas – “Called to Freedom”
  • 1994 – Atlanta, Ga. – “2 Be Alive”
  • 1997 –…

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Gathering Roundup



Just over two years ago, I presented the dream of Hope sending youth to not one, but two youth gatherings – the 2017 Western States Youth Gathering with the theme of DREAM BIG and the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston with the theme of THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. Hope captured the dream and answered the call, supporting us through our various fundraisers and buoying us in our journey with prayer. Thank you! We will never forget the experiences shared and the ways we have grown during these two summers.

It is fitting that our first night at the Gathering in Houston focused on call. It was God’s call that brought over 31,000 of us to that one specific time and place. On this first night, we heard from six speakers, including the ELCA’s Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. They shared their unique stories of God’s call in their lives. Our…

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Jesus Changes Everything

Checked out of our hotel

Took our last trip on the Metro

Worshiped at NRG: heard Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton preach and communed with over 30,000 friends

Boarded the bus and started the journey home

Stopped for dinner and a group photo





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God’s Hope Changes Everything

Brunch at Harry’s

A trip to Hermann Park and the zoo gift shop

The Interaction Center

Another amazing night in the stadium

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God’s Grace Changes Everything

This morning we all had to be up earlier for our service project, but we did have a late start because it was so early all of us slept through our alarms and a lot of us were leaving with an empty stomach. Our service project was helping in a small local garden called Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Community Garden. The work we had to do was thankfully not very laborious and it wasn’t stressful, it was only pulling the weeds in the beds. Even though it wasn’t much we all had a lot of fun and it was a good time to get to know the city a little bit more. There were three very sweet old ladies that we got to know and we had some great discussions with them, they talked about the hurricane last year which was very interesting. When lunch came we all were very exited for some food and enjoyed the tasty local sandwiches. Later we went to the service party and got to wonder off in groups and enjoy the activities set up, there were some familiar games like Gaga ball, nine-square in the air, and four-square. They also had a whole room with blow-up obstacle courses and some really interesting active games. Waiting in the line before the Mass Gathering was hard because of the extremely hot weather and all the body heat surrounding all of us wasn’t helping much. Tonights Mass Gathering was personally my favorite so far, we had good seats, we were more energetic and all the speakers and performances were awesome tonight. I can not pick a favorite thing from tonight.

“You are magnificently imperfect.”-Nadia Boltz-Weber

“There’s Grace for that.”-the Rev. Will Starkweather

“It makes no sense, but this is God’s grace”-Michaela Shelley

“You matter, you are loved, and there is no limit to God’s grace.”-Elizabeth Peter

-Madelyn Wambolt, Redeemer Lutheran

photos from the leaders

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God’s Love Changes Everything

June 28th 2018

We all woke up in the Whitewall Hotel, where our denomination booked out for our trip. We were required to meet in the lobby before we started our day. Once we met, we all chatted with our neon green matching shirts(there were about 16 of us), and walked around downtown Houston for Synod Day. We fit right in with the other people in the East Washington and the Idaho region. We worshipped together and shared our beliefs in small groups for the morning. In the afternoon, we took our presence to a restaurant, even though it was far past lunch. Even in the restaurant, the waiters seemed to have the same emotion and influence we had in the worship center an hour before. After our late lunch, we took the metro to the Astrodome. In the train, people asked us “What’s up with all the kids in matching shirts?”. We simply told them it was a nation wide youth gathering with about 30 thousand participants. They were astonished that the ELCA was right in their hometown; Alike the same attitude of waiters in the restaurants. For a few moments, we had some self-fame. After we left the metro and went to the NRG Stadium where we worshipped that evening, several guest speakers preached about how God touched their lives. With one man, it was being blessed with something he already paid for, and bearing a daughter. With another, it was health. Whatever the scenario, God is always with us!

-Colter Sprague, Hope Lutheran Church

Some photos from Pastor Meggan  to accompany the journal entry above (not necessarily in the order they happened).



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God’s Call Changes Everything


A long drive across Texas.


Made it to our hotel in Houston




Opening Night (including keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson)


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