In 1998, several LCMS pastors began planning a smaller, more regionally-minded, cost-effective conference for youth, designed to be uniquely Lutheran. A year later, those plans were unveiled for the Dying to Live National Lutheran Youth Conference, held in the summer of 2000 and sponsored by the Wyoming District of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Over 700 youth and adults from 25 states attended what was, for all intents and purposes, the first Higher Things Conference. Based on the success of that first conference, more plans developed for what would become Higher Things.
The name for the emerging group was chosen just before the first conference, as it had become obvious by then that the event would serve as the impetus for something worth continuing and expanding. The new organization’s theme verse was: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2).
Ten years ago, Higher Things was started by a handful of pastors and laypeople who cared very deeply about the young people of the church. Today over 750 LCMS congregations have been impacted by the mission of Higher Things
Today, Higher Things is a lot of things, all of which seek to keep young people focused on Christ and His gifts as they grow and mature in their faith. It is parents teaching their children the Cate- chism. It is youth workers and volunteers reinforcing what is preached from their congregation's pulpits and confessed in their pews. And it is pastors keeping their young sheep Lutheran as they grow up.
The future of Higher Things is as limitless as the Gospel we proclaim. In a post-modern feel-good age that dismisses truth claims, Higher Things remains unapologetically Lutheran.
Simply put, we believe that authenticity counts! We are proud to be Lutherans, and want to encourage other Lutherans to cultivate their faith, rediscover their roots and seek to embrace their own confession and heritage.
This year at the SOLA conferences, we heard over and over that we are saved by Jesus Christ alone – by His holy life and bitter suffering and death in our place. All that Christ has accomplished for us has been done by grace alone – without any merit or worthiness in us. Faith alone receives His gifts for us with a response of “Amen.” The Good News of Jesus and the salvation He has won for us is sure and certain because it is in Scripture alone.
While Higher Things has engaged in many activities related to youth ministry over the years, its summer conferences have always remained its flagship. To this day, the overwhelming highlight for nearly every one who attends Higher Things conferences is the opportunity to gather to pray the church’s prayer offices, sing her song, and receive Christ’s gifts.
Youth, especially, need solid ground that will nurture lasting Christian faith. Rather than treating youth as an adolescent subculture and subjecting them to experiences that cannot be replicated at home, we believe in challenging youth to learn the pure doctrine of the Christian faith. By teaching them the same message that they hear at home, youth grow in the fullness of the Christian faith as they come to appreciate historic liturgical practice and its unique focus on God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation for us delivered in Word and Sacrament.