Thirteen NYM youth attend national youth gathering

Contributed photo
Before leaving for Housten, Gary Bach and his group of youth celebrate his 13 youth gathering trip in their matching regional shirts.

By Kathryn Wilkowski


Trinity Lutheran’s Director of Christian Education Gary Bach has certainly not been diagnosed with triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) after a long-awaited trip to Houston, Texas.

The excursion was his 13th youth gathering trip. He took 13 teens and they ironically stayed on the 13 floor of the Hilton hotel. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) youth trip ended on Wednesday, July 13.

“I started going to the LCMS youth gatherings in ‘86; I missed the first two,” he said. “I was in college in ‘80 and our church was going to go, but we didn’t get in registration-wise. The first one was in Colorado State and it had only 5,000 attendees. Then in ‘83, I was in my first church and the youth gathering was in Nebraska. However, we decided to do a different youth trip. But after that, I went every other year.”

Held every three years since 1980, the LCMS Youth Gathering provides thousands of youth and adults the opportunity to come together as a community of God’s people to be encouraged in their walk with Jesus Christ and learn about the Christian faith and their Lutheran identity.

The Gathering is more than the five days of the event. The preparation process for the Gathering brings together young people and supportive adults to encourage each other in their baptismal identity. The Gathering provides young people a vision for the vastness of Christ’s Church and equips them for vocational service as they continue their walk with Jesus.

“We used to call it the ‘National Youth Gatherings. But they recently told us it’s more than that—it’s international now. There are people from 10 different countries that go to the gatherings.”

Gary Bach on the LCMS Youth Gathering

Every year, the international youth gathering has a central theme that speakers and other authorities lead off of, throughout the five-day event. This year’s theme, in all things, is a reminder that the Christian story encompasses all things. Nothing, and no one, is left out. 

In baptism, all things in people’s lives are brought under the gracious rule and reign of Jesus Christ. The story includes everyone. Christ is the single “big idea” in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and he was the single big idea at the 2022 LCMS Youth Gathering.

“Along with a new theme each year, they always have backpacks,” said Bach. “And that’s always a huge deal—the color of the backpack. This year it was like a navy color. Which was exciting.”

Gary Bach

For each church that goes to the gathering each year, they send a primary adult leader with the teens that are eligible. Bach has been the primary leader all 13 years and has kept tabs on all information regarding the youth trip, as well as where all of the kids are during the trip.

“It’s almost overwhelming, to me, because the very first one, you got a packet in the mail. Now, you have to look all throughout social media for updates and information a good year in advance. It’s a lot to try to soak up all the information.”

For his 13th youth gathering trip, Bach took his first trip to Houston to explore the city and affirm, support, and promote the ministry that Bach has been a part of for the past 40 years.

“This particular group of teens I think was one of the best groups I’ve ever taken,” he said. “The adults that got to come with us, happen to all be parents. They were a great group of people to work with. I try to emphasize that we have to be all, once we get there.”

Throughout the many years Bach has been taking teens to the youth gatherings, various things have been changing as the years progressed. 

“I think the biggest change in the gatherings have been the numbers. They have both progressed and declined throughout the years,” he explained. “The first gathering I went to, in Washington D.C., I would like to say it was around 10,000-15,000 people. It was all in a big convention center.”

Numbers have definitely grown with the most recent gathering at 20,000 people including the youth, adults and young adult volunteers. Open to kids between the ages of 14-18, the international youth gathering has many opportunities for kids to gather together in big stadiums. 

“After the 90’s, the youth gatherings became more focused on some really good substance stuff in terms of the themes and what scripture says about it. With a bigger focus on serving too. It’s not just a big party. So each one has gotten better,” Bach said. 

Bach and his teens have gotten to do many off-site serving events through the gathering over the years including: packing lunches for summer activities at the YMCA, picking up trash in low-income neighborhoods, cleaning up grounds at a nursing home, etc. 

For more information on the next LCMS Youth Gathering, taking place in New Orleans, visit 

To visit Gary Bach at Trinity Lutheran Church in New York Mills, visit or call 385-2450.