What is it like to be at a Higher Things Conference? In this article we hear from three members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Winside, NE. They attended Bread of Life 2016 at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO.
Higher Things is the one week I look forward to all year. It's a place where we are joined together with more than 1,000 of our brothers and sisters in Christ to learn, worship, hear His word, and receive His Body and Blood.
Every year my favorite thing about this conference remains the same: the opening Divine Service, where nearly a thousand youth are gathered together in the church singing at the top of their lungs and confessing the same faith.
We had many breakout sessions in which I learned how our faith isn't our job to somehow improve, for I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him, however in Christ God is already pleased with me. I also learned about individual confession and absolution and why it is so important, as well as why it is good to have art in the church and how it all points back to Christ and Him crucified for us. The evolution session taught me the difference between how the world looks at and treats people around them, compared to how Christians view the world.
Each day after learning and worshiping we would have a little fun. I particularly enjoyed the friendly competition this year between the tetramorphs, especially getting to meet other youth on the same team. I had fun searching for Walther, listening to performers in the talent show, participating in archery tag, and watching pastors and youth chant pop songs.
Even though I will not be able to return as a youth member to next year's Higher Things conferences, I will cherish the memories and everything I have learned for the rest of my life.
I love that my kids love it. Let me be more specific. All of them talk about coming back after graduation—to a "high school" event. They want to be CCVs. They want to be leaders. They want more. They could go other places to play games. They just seem to prefer worshipping multiple times a day in between Bible studies tackling real issues of doctrine and life, and then going to play games afterward. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't follow the "youth ministry" rules. It just equips our kids to be Lutherans in this world. It's in-depth, and hard work comes before play, but it gives them the tools they need, and they love it.
I love that my kids sing. Not just for 4 days. I love that they're the ones who sing out to carry my congregation through the tricky parts of Evening Prayer during Lent. Higher Things doesn't promote conferences as a mountain top experience. They kind of shy away from it. However, this year we literally went 5,000 feet up a mountain and sang with 1,500 kids before an altar in front of a giant window that overlooked the Rocky Mountains. Whether or not you want to lean on the feeling that comes from hearing thousands of kids put seminary chapels to shame, it's there. That feeling, whether we want it to or not, shapes our kids' understanding of what church is supposed to look like as the line between heaven and earth is blurred by a Christ who makes Himself present for sinners. As it turns out, church is supposed to look a lot like what they get each week at home. We're not teaching them that the pinnacle of church is something different from the Word and Sacraments they receive at home. Same church. It's just a little louder up the mountain.
I love teaching. It's not about the "atta-boys", the attention, the free shirt, or even the chance to play with Power Point slides that prove I know how Google image search works. It's because the kids don't care about me at all. They just want Jesus. It sounds bad, but it's incredible. So much of the adult dialogue about how to deal with kids is candy coating the assumption that you have to trick them into liking you, then trick them into liking Jesus. It still shocks me to see kids wander into a breakaway session knowing nothing about me at all, because they actually want to learn about Jesus. It's a personal reminder that the stuff we teach on a daily basis really does matter to our people, young and old.
I loved the experience of going to HT and knowing that there are other youth who love being Lutheran as well. I got to be with over 1,000 other Lutherans confessing and learning about Jesus.
During some of the breakaway sessions that I went to, I learned about different denominations, the minor prophets, the purpose of life, and confession and absolution and how to defend my faith. Plenary was a group Bible study where we learned about "The Bread of Life."
I loved listening to the organist, the choir and everyone singing so loudly during all the services. I was thrilled to participate in orchestra which played during the last Divine Service. It was incredible and I look forward to going to another HT conference.
Created: August 29th, 2016