While driving back to Chicago from Detroit a few months ago, I listened to a segment on public radio in which a business professor was talking about the national trend of lower enrollment in MBA programs. There are as many reasons for this trend as there are schools creatively addressing it, but I primarily heard affirmation for the ELCA Youth Gathering. I know that wasn’t the producer’s intention, but let me explain how I got there:
I recently returned from a meeting of the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau Customer Advisory Board. Three key leaders spoke to the board – two representing billionaires Dan Gilbert and Mike Illich, who are investing millions in Detroit’s reinvention, and a rep from the mayor’s office. He reported the metrics of lights being turned back on, emergency services response times being brought more in line with the national average and, most exciting to me, the mayor’s commitment to neighborhood stabilization.
It is easy to get caught up in these kinds of presentations. The power of big money to reinvent a city like Detroit is astonishing.
"To dream about painting and not also to work at it doesn't ever bring about a painting. To dream about creating a new world that is not teetering on the edge of total destruction and not to work at it doesn't make a peaceful world. So it is important that we are creative people working daily on the greater picture as well, bringing to it all our skills of imagination and making." This quote from Sister Corita Kent's book "Learning by Heart" struck me as representative of the spirit of ELCA youth who will be attending the Youth Gathering in Detroit.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z brought their show to Chicago’s Soldier Field recently. Friends who went said it was fabulous. Most of the tickets were in the $250 range. Teenaged “sneakerheads” think nothing about spending the same amount – or more – on a pair of Lebron James signature shoes. And for the first time since 2003, teen spending on food, Starbucks being their favorite, has eclipsed spending on clothing. When I hear numbers like these, I’m convinced that the life-defining experience of the ELCA Youth Gathering is a bargain.
This month I am going to share the most important piece of advice I have for primary adult leaders regarding the Gathering. Here it is: Let reality shape your expectations.
That’s it. I am suggesting that you get a clear understanding of Detroit, your youth, their parents, your adult leaders and the Gathering. Let that truth shape your expectations of what the Gathering can be and will be.
Why is this so important for a successful Gathering experience? Let me share a particular topic where realistic expectations and desire can lead to two different experiences.
Clara is a young adult from Germany, who moved to the Chicago area to intern for the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, Ill. In a recent blog entry, Clara reflects on being German and expresses some uncertainty about tending to the holocaust survivors she meets at the museum. “Should I say, ‘I am really sorry’? or ‘It’s terrible what happened to you’?” Clara wrote.