During the first week of July, members of Zion’s Jr./Sr. Youth
Group will be heading to the Higher Things Youth Conference held
on the campus of Concordia University, Chicago. This year we have
15 members of Zion attending the conference, which is the largest
group we have had in years! Praise God for drawing these excited,
eager young adults together to experience this conference! The
chaperones are Pastor Clayton and Marianne McDaniel. The group
will leave from Zion early on Tuesday morning, July 2 in order to
arrive in Chicago by about 10:00 AM to register. The group will
return late Friday evening, July 5 after the conference ends with a
Divine Service with Holy Communion at about 3:00 on Friday
This will be an intense, busy, exhausting, but uplifting and fun
week for our youth. A number of years ago the leader of the Higher
Things Conferences (Rev. Klem Preus at that time) made the
observation that that Americans like to worship their work, work at
their play, and play at their worship. He explained that at Higher
Things conferences, the focus is that when we worship, we worship;
when we work, we work; when we play, we play.
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What does it mean that Americans “worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship”?
That is a deceptively deep and perceptive phrase. For many people, their job is the highest priority in
their lives. Think about this: if most people have the choice between a day of work on Sunday or being in
church, which do they choose? What then is our God? Then, when it should be time to relax, most Americans take their hobbies
or “games” so seriously that the emphasis is on having the best (most expensive)
toys and being the best, with the result that fun and relaxation are lost, and play becomes work. Finally,
and most perceptive of all, is that Americans play at their worship. Most “worship services” today have
become thinly veiled entertainment. The “worship team” or “praise band” up front on the “stage” complete
with amps and speaker arrays and lighting effects to rival many rock concerts, “entertains” the audience
with lightweight, popular songs that are heard a dozen times a day on “Christian” radio stations for a few
months, and then disappear because they do not have the quality to endure. The pastor then delivers his
“message” which more closely resembles a late-night comedy standup routine than a serious time of
teaching. Jokes outnumber doctrinal instruction by a large margin. The entire experience is relatively irreverent and more like a play
or a concert than a worshipful encounter with the all-powerful God, creator of the universe.
At Higher Things, the order is set right. When we work, we work. When we play, we play. And when we
worship, we worship. At Higher Things, “work” means going to instructional sessions taught by Lutheran
pastors attending the conference. Usually there are about 30 topics to choose from, and most youth find
there are more topics of interest to them than slots to hear them…so, often they arrange for a friend to go
to one session and they go to another, then they compare notes afterwards to learn from both. Higher
Things students relish the learning opportunities at the conference and take them seriously. When we
play, we play. Conference activity coordinators provide lots of fun events for youth to do in the evenings
after instructional sessions have ended. In recent years, some of the activities have included blacksmithing, carnival games, archery tag,
a dunk tank, hatchet throwing, a youth talent show, and more. Most importantly, at Higher Things, when we worship, we worship. Services are
reverent and uplifting. They are
distinctively Lutheran, all drawn from the hymnal. The conferences open and close with a Divine Service
with Holy Communion, and each day the students also participate in Matins, Vespers, and Evening
Prayer. The music, while similar to what would be heard in the local congregations, is accompanied by a
larger brass ensemble and full orchestra. The youth who are interested join together to form a choir of
usually 70-100 singers to participate in a couple of the services. The preaching is drawn straight from
God’s Word and clearly proclaims Law and Gospel in a powerful way. Every year, the youth who attend
the Higher Things comment that of all the wonderful experiences at the conference, worship was their
favorite. What a wonderful testimony!
Thanks be to God for the opportunity that 15 members of Zion will have to worship, work, and play at the
Higher Things Youth Conference in Chicago early in July. Please encourage and support our youth as
they experience this wonderful opportunity this year.