Registration has opened for the 2022 WELS International Youth Rally, June 28–July 1, University of Tennessee—Knoxville. Usually held every other year, this will be the first rally since 2018, as the 2020 event was canceled due to COVID-19.
The rally is open to all WELS teens heading into their freshman year of high school through seniors graduating this spring. Youth from around North America will gather for group worship, small workshops, and recreation and fellowship.
The first ever WELS youth rally was in 1974; in nearly 50 years there has never been a four-year gap between events. “This is the longest we’ve ever gone without a rally,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, director of WELS Discipleship.
Dobberstein says this rally is going to be really important for two reasons. First, it’s bringing together teens to help them realize the church of God is so much larger than individual WELS congregations—where the average weekly worship attendance is at 70. Second, it’s an opportunity for the youth leaders to connect and share ideas.
Jennifer Wockenfuss will be attending as a youth leader for a group of 17 teens from Messiah in Nampa, Idaho. She says, “We are in the heart of Mormon country so most of our kids are constantly surrounded by kids of other religions and have never been around many other kids that believe the same thing. I am excited for them to grow as a youth group and grow in their faith as they worship and fellowship with so many other Lutherans their age.”
The theme for the 2022 rally is “Here and Now,” inspired by Esther 4:14. Dobberstein says, “Esther probably isn’t the first name you think of as a biblical hero; her story isn’t as well known. But when you read it, it’s powerful. It’s a story of how God can choose someone out of obscurity and use them for his purpose. God doesn’t have a use for our youth only in the future or down the road. Like a young Esther, you don’t know what God’s timing is for you, but he does have a plan for you. I believe God has a plan for you here and now.”
Two keynotes will be presented to the attending teens based on the theme. Rev. Aaron Robinson, English professor and cultural diversity coordinator at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., will present “Why Not Us? Royal People,” focusing on how Christians should be asking “Why not us?” instead of “Why us?”. Rev. Jon Bare, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., and director of the Pastoral Studies Institute, will present “Why Not Now? We Serve at a Momentous Time with Momentous Purpose,” which will examine how God places his people right where he needs them right when he needs them to serve.
Additional workshops address the challenges young Christians face in today’s world, with topics such as “Superhero Training: Bystander Intervention Strategies,” “Where’s God When . . . Responding to Faith Challenges,” and “Creating Mental Health Resilience: Strategies for Thriving in a Stressful World.” Dobberstein says some of the workshops will be recorded so they can be used as resources for youth ministry in the future.
So far, in the first week of registration, hundreds of people have already registered for the rally. Rally organizers are anticipating about 2,000 attendees. Registration runs March 8–May 31. The cost is $375 if groups register by April 30 and $395 from May 1-31.
Learn more about the workshops, recreational excursions, and the rally—and register—at wels.net/youthrally.