Starting July 19, over will 850 youth, plus chaperones, from across Texas will descend upon The Woodlands for a four day youth conference entitled “Glorybound: Uncommon Unity.” The conference will feature teaching and experiences geared towards exciting and engaging the faith of youth and young adults involved with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LC-MS) in Texas.
Across the Evangelical Christian spectrum, and especially in the LC-MS, young people are falling away from the church and opting for more “spiritual,” but not “religious” pathways to belief. This gathering is aimed at combatting this trend and reconnecting these youth to their faith community.
Organizers hope attendees will become bolder in their faith expressions, and closer with fellow Christians, after attending the event. “In today’s culture it is uncommon to have true unity in faith or to glorify Jesus in front of anybody,” said Brett Bortnem, co-director of the event.
“We pray it can become a common thing for youth to unite with their own communities to make a difference at home,” he said.
To inspire this type of response, organizers have a three prong approach intended to engage attendees’ heads, hearts and hands. Bortnem said, “Not only do we have great local and national speakers, excellent worship and community events, but service is a big part of the conference.”
Katie Thomas of LINC Houston mentioned that they are excited to partner with Glorybound and deploy nearly 400 youth to help with projects across the city. Thomas agrees with the conference’s vision and believes the service will augment youths’ faith.
“These projects offer students hands-on, transformative experiences to live out their faith,” she said. Thomas added, “From painting fences and classrooms to putting on Vacation Bible Schools, these projects will help high school students see the city through Christ’s eyes.”
Still, one wonders if all of this will be able to confront a growing divide between the Christian church in America and the emerging Millennial generation.
Nearly two-thirds of youth and young adults are lukewarm about their religion. Many of them do not pray regularly, attend worship services or read the Bible. Over half are unsure if following Jesus is the only way to heaven, a basic tenet of the Christian faith.
Writing in his book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church...And Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman said, “Teens and twentysomethings and the church are living in the tension of deep cultural change.”
Kinnaman identifies the factors leading to a drop-off in young adults in the Christian church. Despite being brought up in the faith and attending events like Glorybound, many youth and “twentysomethings” feel judged by the church, disengaged and that Christianity is shallow, unscientific and excluding.
“The transmission of vibrant faith from one generation to the next is still to be determined,” he said.
This concerns leaders like Bortnem who realize there is an uphill battle to fight. Nonetheless, he expects Glorybound will counter the potent drift from the Christian church by teaching students more about faith and giving them possibilities to serve and connect with other Christians.
“Some kids just don’t know they are not alone or don’t get the opportunity to serve their community and live out their faith like this,” he said, “Glorybound will give them the chance to see they can stand out for their faith but they don’t stand alone, they have a community.”
This is focused at individuals like John H. Davis of Katy. A senior in high school, Davis is involved at a local church and looking forward to the gathering. “It will be a great opportunity to see and get to connect with other youth that believe what I do,” he said.
Perhaps aware of the decline in young Christians, Davis added, “It is important for my generation to know it is important for us to be involved and make a difference in God’s Kingdom.”
Glorybound leaders have prepared, and now are praying, that attitudes like Davis’s will be the outcome of their event. Despite the statistics and trends, they still have faith that the next generation will have uncommon faith, and uncommon unity.
*This story is a guest post from Sacred Duty, a Houston Belief blog at Chron.com. It will appear in print on Friday, July 13, 2012 in the Houston Chronicle's Belief Section.