Wow! We have spent the last three years planning for the Gathering. We have spent countless hours in preparation of our mind, body, and soul! We have washed many cars, held golf outings and auctions, and sold a lot of subs in order that we could afford to attend. So many people in our churches have supported us and prayed for us. We have spent so much time getting ready for this and…just like that…it’s over!

When you think about it like that, it is a little depressing. I want to let you know that it doesn’t have to be depressing! Sure, we will all miss the great times we had in New Orleans…the great music and speakers, the great atmosphere, the great food, the great friends, and most importantly, the great things that the Lord did during this time. But, we can take those experiences that happened in New Orleans and apply them in our everyday lives. We can take the memories we made and we can continue to live our lives knowing that we are saved and redeemed children of God!

In our congregation, we like to take our “story” back and share it with the entire congregation. We will have a worship service where our Gathering youth will be able to show how the Lord touched their lives. We will include in this service Scripture lessons from the Gathering as well as a few songs and other ideas centering around the Gathering theme, WE BELIEVE. After the service we will invite members of our church for a free, Youth Gathering appreciation lunch. During the lunch we will share our pictures, videos, and stories and thank our church members for all of their prayers and support that they have given in the past three years. Whether you do something formal like this or not, I strongly encourage you to take all of your experiences from the Gathering and bring them back to your congregation. Bring back the stories, the messages, the songs, the pictures and videos, and bring back the passion. The LCMS has and will provide you with a lot of Post-Gathering materials that will help you with this.

I would also like to encourage you to use the Gathering as a building block for your ministry. Remember how you felt when you were in the Superdome. Remember how you felt when it seemed like you were so incredibly close to God. Take those feelings home with you and let those feelings of closeness to God be your motivation for some great ministry. Take those feelings with you and strive everyday to serve, love, and praise God more and more.

For an awesome few days we had some great times together praising God, but now it’s time for us to come down from the “mountain” and go back to the places that the Lord has us in. Even though we will be miles away from each other now instead of sections or hotels away, we still are in this together. We still have work to do; there are still people who need to hear the awesome, saving message of the Gospel. The Gathering may be over, but Jesus’ love and forgiveness for His people never ends! It’s not the end; it’s just the beginning.

And, always remember…WE BELIEVE!

May God bless you as you continue on the road from the Gathering.