District Youth Gathering Interest Centers


Thank you to all who volunteered their time and talents to share with Gathering participants in the interest centers.


911!  What should I do when…?

What should I do when…?  This is a difficult question.  What should I do when a friend is suicidal…when a friend tells me he/she is being abused…when I find out a friend is using illegal drugs…when I see cuts on my friend’s body?  This presentation will focus on really practical ways youth, parents and caregivers can address the real difficult challenges being faced by teens today.  If you ever asked the question, “What should I do when…?” this is the presentation for you.

About the Presenter: Pastor Mark Hannemann is Senior Pastor and Director of Ministries at Divine Shepherd Lutheran Church in Omaha.  After 30 years in ministry, Pastor Mark’s love for preaching and teaching God’s Word is still going strong.  Before coming to Divine Shepherd in 2008, Pastor Mark most recently served as executive director of Windgate Christian Counseling in Ellisville, Mo., (2005-08) and as senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Lincoln (1994-2005).  He grew up in York County, Neb., and married his high school sweetheart, Sandy.  They have four children and six grandchildren. Pastor Mark is president of the GracePoint Institute for Relational Health (relationalhealth.org), a Christian counseling agency in Omaha.  He likes spending time with his grandchildren, working outdoors, watching movies, riding his bike and traveling with Sandy.


AKB Comics: Using Your Gifts for Ministry

Come and hear about Biblically inspired graphic novels made by 16-year-old Adam Boggs, designed to encourage readers to explore the Word of God. Adam will talk about each of his books, some of his upcoming projects, and answer any questions that you might have.

About the presenter: Adam Boggs is a high school student, creator of AKB Comics, and the author of “David’s Mighty Men” and “The Armor.”


Am I Really Forgiven? Paralyzed or Matless

While looking at Jesus’ healing of a paralytic, we’ll think more deeply about the work of Jesus as it plays itself out in our relationship with Him and others.  We’ll look at the fears of guilt and shame and the freedom of the gospel to relish the love of an overwhelming God.

About the Presenter: Ryan Matthias is campus pastor at Concordia University Nebraska.  He is the husband of a missionary pediatrician and the father of two wonderful kids who know they are forgiven.


Art and Creativity for God’s Glory  (Session 1 only)

How does art and creativity reflect the glory of God?
Must our art, as Christians, have a certain “Christian content” to it, or is there something deeper at work?  How do we as Christians create art that is honest and relevant and how does that honor God?

About the presenter: SevenGlory has been creating music for contemporary Christian audiences and leading worship for over 12 years both around Canada, the U.S. and on the African continent.  Come and learn about the ministry of this year’s Gathering Band.

Girl Talk: Is HE Your Hero? (FOR GIRLS ONLY)

Have you ever had the thought, “If I just had a good boyfriend, I would be happy.”? Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself, “If I give myself to him physically, he will love me.” Or maybe you’ve found yourself believing the following statement, “You are less of a person if you are not in a relationship.” Yes ladies, these are just some of the many lies that can run through our minds (been there!), especially when the world tells us that we are to find our identity and worth in our relationship status. But ladies, your relationship status does not give you worth or your identity. AND (gasp!) God has never meant for a guy to be your Hero. Come for some “Girl Talk” and be reminded of the ONE who IS your HERO and what that means for your life today.

About the presenter: Stacey Holt serves as the DCE at Peace Lutheran Church in Columbus, NE, where she primarily works with children and youth. She lives in Columbus with her husband, Bryant, and their two dogs, Oso and Izzy. They have FIVE nieces, Emily, Mia, Anna, Kaitlyn, and Ember. Stacey loves outdoor activities, “rehabbing” properties, reading, and learning new things.


Hometown Heroes

Taking part in a servant event at the gathering is great, but God has given each of us the opportunity to be everyday heroes in our hometowns – heroes who point to the true Hero, Jesus. This session will be filled with ideas on ways youth can be the hands and feet of Jesus in their daily lives – in school, in their neighborhood, and into the community. From personal relationships to organizing outreach activities, there will be something for everyone to take home and do. Youth leaders are also invited to come and get ideas for helping the youth engage the community around them.

About the presenters: Nichole Hetz serves the Nebraska District LCMS as Community Engagement Coordinator, working alongside churches and schools to encourage and equip them as they reach out with Jesus’ love. She and her family moved to a new town a year ago, and she enjoys learning about her new neighbors and letting God use her to be His salt and light in her new community.


LCC K-9 Katie Comfort Dog: “Golden” Opportunities

Every LCC K-9 Comfort Dog is a true friend who brings everlasting comfort to individuals and families who are heartbroken. The Comfort Dogs comfort individuals, help with conversation and interaction, and work with special needs people, veterans, and the elderly. A Comfort Dog helps stimulate minds or lift spirits of young ones all the way to the elderly. They also help make memories for those that may be hurting or just need a friend. LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs have been used to help calm the atmosphere in counselling situations. A Comfort Dog brings a calming influence, allowing people to open their hearts and receive help for what is affecting them.

About the presenter: Dawn Gilfry is Top Dog and K-9 Comfort Dog Handler for Katie Comfort Dog. She has been an active member of Trinity, Fremont since July, 2000. Dawn was awarded and recognized by the Nebraska District LCMS educators as Outstanding Lutheran Early Childhood Educator in 2014. After her 14 year career as director of Trinity’s early childhood center, she concluded her full-time employment with Trinity Lutheran and humbly accepted a full-time position as mom, wife, and volunteer.  Dawn was blessed to be able to be deployed with Katie’s ministry team to Roseburg, OR in October and Stillwater, OK in November, to Dallas in July, 2016 and various local deployments.  She was also invited and attended the Chicago-United Airlines Fantasy Flight in December, 2015.  Dawn enjoys being responsible for  Team Katie as the “Top Dog” and helps with Katie’s social media.


Preparing for College

Choosing the right fit college can be a monumental task and is a huge life decision.  Let’s talk through all the factors that go into finding “your” right college and how you can make it affordable.  We will discuss campus visits, applications, scholarships, FAFSA, choosing a major, athletics and much more.

About the presenter: Aaron Roberts is the Director of Admission at Concordia University Nebraska with 15 years in enrollment and financial aid services, specifically working in private, Christian universities.



Real Men

FOR GUYS ONLY…or girls too

Just one dude telling younger dudes what it is to be a real man in a world full of counterfeits.  Too often, young men have no road map toward being the strong, bold, significant influencers they were designed to be,  I’ll try to help, not with my wisdom, but with the Creator’s.  Young ladies are welcomed too, to hear the type of young man they should be looking for to date.

About the presenter: Justin Bell is the pastor of GraceHill, a new church plant in West Omaha. Grace is the undeserved love that God gave to all of us by sending His Son to die on a cross… on a Hill, giving us the gift of eternal salvation. GraceHill is a place we can bring our stories; stories that are met with His story of love and forgiveness.  A place to be equipped and to find His purpose for our lives.


WHO are YOU? (say with Rafiki voice)

In one of the most memorable scenes in “The Lion King,” Rafiki the monkey asks Simba this question: “Who are you?”  It is revealed that Simba defines himself by his mistakes.  We as Christians often make the same mistake by letting our sin define us.  God sees us in a completely different way.  This session helps us look at the identity that we now have as a gift from Christ at the cross.  Come start to discover who God made you to be.  (Warning – there MAY be singing – Hakuna Matatta!)

About the presenters: Eric Gerken has served as DCE at Trinity Lutheran in Fremont for the last 10 years with 10 years of ministry experience before that in Florida and Wisconsin.  He has been married to his wife, Brenda, for 20 years following their first date to see “The Lion King” in the theater.


To be determined…

Due to a cancellation, this session is being developed. Watch for details in the participant guide.

About the Presenter: Dustin Lappe began serving at Messiah Lutheran Church in Lincoln in October of 2016, where he serves as Associate Pastor. He grew up on a farm near Lakefield, Minnesota.  He received a BA in Elementary Education, with a special focus in early childhood and art, from Concordia, Nebraska (1997).  He taught Kindergarten for a year in Juneau, Alaska and then began studies at Concordia Seminary in  St. Louis, Missouri, where he received his Masters of Divinity.  He served as Associate Pastor at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church in Gilbert, Arizona; helped in the planting of a new church, Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Aurora, Colorado; and was then called as Associate Pastor to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kearney, Nebraska, prior to serving at Messiah.  He is blessed to be married to Trudi.  Their family consists of their oldest daughter, Trinity, identical twin girls Skylar and Sydona, and their son, Lincoln.


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