Maddie Upchurch, DCE Student

Humans of the Gathering, LCMS 2016

I had two DCEs at my church growing up, so I always knew that’s what I wanted to do. I always wanted to talk to people and do Jesus things. The children’s director at my church was really big with that. We’re still really close. I was on the planning team for VBS this year. We do VBS for about 400 people. To be in North Carolina, outside of the Lutheran circle, we are a big church. We do a lot of elaborate sets. Last year, a girl had to get stitches. Luckily, the games guy was an ER physician. He was really good about it. Afterwards, he was like, “I’ve never seen that much blood in my life.”

This year was a little more low-key. It was hard. It was an interesting week. We actually had an awful car accident in our town the week before where two members of our congregation were killed in the congregation. The one woman who died, her children were at Bible school that week. It was really neat to run VBS for all of the kids, but then to also be intentionally like, “All right, these kids are here. Our job here is to tell them about Jesus and be like, “Your mom was a believer, and she brought you to church every week, and you’re still here for that.”

It’s really hard. I have a lot of support. My dad’s a second-career pastor and has only been in the ministry for about five years. That made it easier, because I could come home and ask him how to deal with it and cope with it. He’s the one doing the pastoral care anyway. Having the support team that was on while I was there and being able to apply what I’m learning in school was good. Asking things like, “How do you not break down in tears in front of a kid?” helped me recover from it. I’m a verbal processor, so getting to talk through it was helpful.

I’m not 100% sure how my gifts have served the Church at large. It’s been a really neat thing to have had my gifts used and fostered and developed as I’ve gone through high school and college. I’m going to be a senior this year in college. I’ve been doing Lutheran Youth Fellowship all these years with our team. I’m coming off five years of that, which is just huge for me in learning what my different gifts are. Being able to use that at my home church and be like, “You need me to teach Sunday School this week? Sure! Give me the lesson plan. You need someone to process registration? I can make sure that’s getting done.” God has used me to fill in gaps a lot. Being able to connect people is great. I do the same thing at Concordia.

Photo credit: Matt  LaVere, 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering Media Team

These Exclusive Stories do not necessarily reflect the teachings of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. They are the reflections and thoughts of participants at the 2016 LCMS Youth Gathering as they wrestle with what it means to be a child of God. Please continue to pray for these participants as they grow in faith.

LCMS Youth Ministry
LCMS Youth Ministry leads, serves, resources and networks youth and adults as a community of God's people where Jesus Christ is the central focus. Every three years, LCMS Youth Ministry hosts the LCMS Youth Gathering. The 2016 Gathering marks the 13th Gathering since 1980. Learn more about other resources and events hosted by LCMS Youth Ministry at