BOLD: Being Ourselves. Living Different. | UMC YoungPeople
Connecting young people and their adult leaders to God, the church, and the world
April 2022

BOLD: Being Ourselves. Living Different.

By Chris Wilterdink

As you know YOUTH 2023 will be in Daytona Beach, Florida from July 25-28, 2023. As you don’t know (until you finish reading this post!) we’ve got an amazing theme for the event to help us build out the worship messages and the opportunities for you to grow.

Over three days in late February of 2022, our Design Team met onsite at the Hilton Oceanfront Resort to pray over the space, meet each other in-person for the first time, and create some plans for YOUTH 2023. Among those hours, our team spent time working through many different possibilities for an event theme. So many questions and thoughts were bounced around as we explored, discussed, and prayed:

  • How will we facilitate many possibilities to experience God?
  • How could we hear about what God is already doing in the lives of youth?
  • How do we understand ourselves and our actions considering God’s unfiltered and unfolding story?
  • What does it mean for us to gather again for the first time in four years? Has COVID-19 changed how we behave with each other?
  • How can we come alongside youth who are figuring out their identity, their sense of belonging, and their purpose to offer support and challenges to grow?
  • How are bravery and authenticity measured in today’s world?
  • What does today’s church and world need to hear from youth?

As you can imagine, the discussion was rich, the answers as diverse and powerful as the Design Team itself, and slowly a theme we could all buy into began to emerge.

A regular piece of advice we receive is to “just be yourself” – but what if you don’t know who you are just yet? It takes a certain amount of courage to admit you’re still figuring that out, and honestly, it’s a question that even adults come back to. God’s answer to us as we figure ourselves out is pretty bold, “You are a member of the family, and you are loved.”

The way that the world expects people to act and the way that God asks people to act can be radically different. We’re asked to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly – to demonstrate our love for God and care for our neighbor. Bold move to ask us to act differently than most of the world and look for ways to bring people together in a world where division seems easier than unity.

Even gathering can feel like it takes some additional bravery as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions. Youth are so good at not tripping over obstacles and bringing energy, passion, and joy to worship. It’s a bold act to bring as much joy and energy and spirit-filled passion to worship as possible. The church and the world need to see how good young people are at coming together to worship and to celebrate the things that unite us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 mentions a “great cloud of witnesses” – people who have gone before us in faith to create opportunities for faith that we have now. It also mentions Jesus as a pioneer and a perfecter, who boldly showed a way to lay aside distractions, so that we could discover how to endure and grow as disciples, walking in the ways that lead to life! So here it is, the theme for YOUTH 2023:

BOLD: Being Ourselves. Living Different.

To be ourselves, we need to know more about ourselves. We’ll discover who we are as members of God’s family and why God loves us unconditionally. We’ll find out more about how we are called to live differently because of the example that Jesus set for us. We’ll invite the spirit to our worship and fellowship, making new friends and connections during our time together.

A world-transforming disciple is bold enough to make tomorrow that much better than today.

Chris serves as Director of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church. Chris has a BA in English Education, and an MS in Project Management, and over 15 years of local-church youth ministry experience. He is passionate about leadership and faith development in young people and helping ministry leaders understand their value in the lives of young people. A Stephen Minister, Chris is a native of Colorado living in Franklin, TN with his wife Emily, 2 children, and sausage-shaped beagle.