Meet ‘YouthLead’: Lutheran Youth Fellowship gets new name

James Wright (left) of Madison, Neb., and Cullen Flieth of Jamestown, N.D., work together at the Lutheran Youth Fellowship 2020 Leadership Development Training on March 13 at the Pallottine Renewal Center in St. Louis. Lutheran Youth Fellowship recently changed its name to YouthLead. (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)

By Stacey Egger

For the past 40 years, Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF) has been providing leadership training to Lutheran youth from around the country.

This year the program will take a new name that more accurately reflects its emphasis: YouthLead. The change comes after a series of focus groups and discussions.

“One of the many things that came out of the conversations we had was that many people were unsure what Lutheran Youth Fellowship was. There was a need for us to adjust the name in order to better reflect what was happening in the bulk of the program,” said DCE Julianna Shults, program manager for LCMS Youth Ministry.

A ‘hidden gem’

First created in 1978 with the idea of being a national youth-group network similar to the Walther League, LYF transitioned within the first few years of its existence to being primarily a youth leadership training program.

The first LYF Leadership Development retreat was held in St. Louis in 1980 and has been held every year since. LYF has a rich history of raising up leaders in the LCMS, with district presidents, seminary professors, pastors, deaconesses, DCEs, other church workers and countless lay leaders having attended the training in previous decades.

“For many leaders in the LCMS, these retreats were the time they felt the church was tapping them on the shoulder and saying, ‘God is calling you into service. And here are some mentors and peers that can encourage you,’” said the Rev. Dr. Mark Kiessling, director of LCMS Youth Ministry.

“And [it’s] not just church workers either — it can be about being a good elder at your congregation, being a great Christian spouse when you get older. … There are so many things that happen when you have encouraging adults and are able to serve your peers in that way.”

Yet Kiessling said the program, despite its rich history, remains a bit of a “hidden gem” in the LCMS. With the name change and rebranding, LCMS Youth Ministry hopes to increase the visibility of the program and connect with more Lutheran youth.

Annual leadership training continues

The annual youth leadership training weekend, which will now be called “YouthLead Training,” features a training curriculum developed each year by LCMS Youth Ministry. In recent years, the curriculum has covered topics such as witnessing, apologetics and theology. 

During the training weekend, an executive team of five youth who are elected every three years teaches the curriculum to the other youth attendees. Those attendees are then equipped to go back home and teach the curriculum to other youth at their congregation or in their district.

Along with a new name, the YouthLead training will feature a few new components, including:

  • For youth, an expanded leadership development curriculum that will encourage practical servant leadership skills.
  • For adults, instruction and enrichment opportunities. 

YouthLead will also be involved in creating a youth and young adult track at the National Youth Workers Conference that takes place the summer before each LCMS Youth Gathering. The 2021 conference is scheduled to be held July 11–14 in Houston.  

YouthLead training

The next YouthLead Training is scheduled for Feb. 25–28 in St. Louis. Registration is open to individuals or groups from congregations interested in attending. Each LCMS district also has the opportunity to nominate youth to attend the conference.

Contact your LCMS district directly to learn more about a possible district sponsorship, or visit for more information, to register for training, or to view training resources from previous years.

Posted Oct. 20, 2020


Meet ‘YouthLead’: Lutheran Youth Fellowship gets new name