LAUNCH is an event for recent high school graduates led by Pastor Dave Delaney, and his summer intern, Maren Corliss. Held on the campus of Roanoke College in Salem from July 8-12, LAUNCH helps participants take stock of where their faith life has led them so far and provides opportunities to engage in discussion on matters of faith, life, and vocation that participants are likely to face as they transition into a new life stage.
Twenty high school graduates gathered for LAUNCH this year to learn and discuss with speakers from across the Synod matters of faith, lifestyle, and vocational challenges and choices. This year’s speaker lineup featured current college students and recent college graduates who grew up through Synod Youth events, The Rev. Lyndon Sayers of Good Shepherd in Lexington, Dana Ripley, Chaplain Chris Bowen of Roanoke College as well as several others who came to share their knowledge and experiences. From these visiting speakers, the LAUNCH participants got a chance to closely examine and ask questions about diversity, dealing with judgment when identifying as Christian, how to define and practice their own self-care, the importance of establishing a work-life balance, what the transition to college is like, and so much more.
There was tons of fun to be had at LAUNCH as the group attended a local baseball game, and watched a handful of favorite movies over the five-day event, but there was also plenty of time taken for quiet reflection as well. These chances for independent reflection and study were scattered throughout each day, and are a unique component of LAUNCH that isn’t often a feature of other youth events. These opportunities allowed attendees to consider the big conversations and experiences they had together that made an impact on the major life transitions they’ll be making this fall.
This year, some attendees at LAUNCH were asked to share what their biggest takeaway from the event was. As there are a variety of speakers and activities throughout the week, each participants event experience was unique to them and providing them guidance on their faith journey!
1. I learned the difference between other Lutheran denominations, and I think that will be helpful for understanding my own faith.
2. I got a lot of helpful study tips from the college students who spoke with us. College is going to be a lot different than high school, but I know I can handle it.
3. Vocation is a synonym for calling, and I have started thinking about my own call. I might want to go to seminary, but I’m not totally sure, and that’s okay.
4. I’ve learned a lot more about what college life looks like, and can better envision what the next few years of my life might be like.
5. I’m recognizing the importance of keeping up a supportive social structure as I transition into my adult life.
6. A better understanding of how I can keep developing my faith on my own.
7. When I’m in college I’ll need to prioritize my time differently than I did in high school!
8. I learned that while attending college there are a lot more opportunities available that can support my faith life than just going to church. I can join a college ministry group on campus, I can volunteer in the area.
LAUNCH participants also had the opportunity this past week to reconnect with friends made at previous Synod youth events, as well as to take time for themselves for intentional evaluation on what they want their future experiences to be like. All LAUNCH participants were invited to stay through the weekend and attend Power in the Spirit, serving as another way to connect and make the transition from youth to adult in our synod.