The Metro D.C. and Delaware-Maryland synods have entered into a unique and innovative partnership to enhance our ministries with youth and families.

Since February 2021, Deacon Julie Stecker has served as the Assistant to the Bishop for Youth + Family Ministry, bringing together the young people and those who work with them from both synods to engage in faith formation, leadership development, and deep community. More details about this transition can be found here.

Deacon Julie Stecker

Beyond the Crossroads

2021-2022 FreeRide & RoadTrip Theme

The journey of life, the journey of discipleship, is always changing. New opportunities, new challenges, new relationships, and new communities shape each day and each season. In the midst of that, God gives us grace for each day, and Jesus continues to show up for us and with us in expected and surprising ways.

At our events this year, we will share our journeys with one another, explore the nature of discipleship, and orient ourselves toward the presence and call of Christ.

6-8th Grade Youth Event

Registrations Due by October 6

Bring your youth in grades 6-8 for a weekend of service projects, faith-filled discussions, and relationship-building in small groups. FreeRide includes workshops and networking for adults, as well as opportunities to worship together. Come make new friends and renew friendships with attendees from throughout our synod!

$250 per person includes program, lodging, meals, activities, and a t-shirt. Scholarships of $100 or $200 are available for participants!

Work Crew Information

FreeRide relies on a small group of adults (ages 18+) and high school students who help as the Work Crew for the weekend – serving in the kitchen and dining room to serve the event participants. Each congregation attending FreeRide is required to bring one Work Crew member with them for every 10 youth and adult participants attending (for example, if you have 10 or fewer people attending, we ask that you bring one Work Crew member; if you have 11-20 participants, we ask that you bring two Work Crew members). We also welcome those who may not have a congregation attending but would like to serve. For more information on Work Crew, you can download the Frequently Asked Questions. You can register for Work Crew online by selecting “Adult Event Staff” from the registration type options.

Service Project Information

As part of our commitment to serve our communities, local and global, we are assembling Lutheran World Relief Personal Care Kits at our youth events this year. To help us collect all the necessary items for these kits, which are distributed among those in need, including the victims of natural disasters, we are asking each congregation to donate supplies to our effort.

Many churches host a donation drive for their assigned item (found in the list below), placing a labeled box in a common area of the building and inviting everyone in the congregation to participate. This is a great way to lift up the important role young people play in the life of the greater church! Placing a short blurb in your bulletin or newsletter and announcing the drive during worship goes a long way to ensuring we can assemble the largest number of kits.

Church names beginning with A-G – 4-5oz bars of soap (need to be individually packaged)
Church names beginning with H-R – adult-sized toothbrushes (individually packaged)
Church names beginning with S (including Saints) – metal nail clippers (w/ or w/o attached file)
Church names beginning with T-Z – sturdy combs

In addition, we are asking that EACH PARTICIPANT bring at least one new lightweight bath-size towel, preferably in a dark color.

When you arrive at FreeRide on Friday night, you will be able to drop off your collected supplies in the same place you check in. Thank you so much for supporting our commitment to service at youth events!

COVID Precautions & Expectations for all Events

We are excited to return to in-person youth events for the 2021-2022 program year! Many things will look the same as they did in the past – small groups where youth can explore and deepen their faith, service projects to help us engage with the world around us, energetic large group gatherings, and time to connect with your congregational group. And, there will be some changes to help keep everyone safe and healthy during the ongoing pandemic. As your group or family consider whether to attend, we invite you to carefully read over our precautions and expectations of event participants to aid in your discernment.

An important note: While we are not requiring adult or youth participants to have been vaccinated against COVID in order to attend, we encourage all who are eligible to receive the vaccine to help make our events as safe as possible for those who are not, including some of our youngest participants and members of our communities back home.

At FreeRide, we are striving to meet outdoors when in mixed congregational groups, especially for Small Group sessions and large group gatherings; in the event of inclement weather, we are identifying indoor spaces with more room to distance and increased ventilation. Space and adult leadership permitting, we will work to house congregational groups together in their own cabins, separated by gender. If it becomes necessary to combine two or more congregational groups, we will be in contact with adult leaders ahead of the event. During meals, congregational groups will be seated together at assigned tables. We are building in additional time spent with congregational groups into the schedule to enable participants to spend time unmasked (at the discretion of congregational adult leaders). This event-specific information will be updated ahead of registration for each subsequent event.

If you have any questions about the precautions and expectations below, please contact Deacon Julie Stecker.

  • truthfully indicate COVID vaccine status on event registration (“prefer not to answer” is an included option);
  • monitor their health leading up to the event, staying home if symptoms arise or they have been exposed to COVID within 14 days of arrival;
  • report any new symptoms during the event to the event medics, arranging for transportation home if medics determine it is unsafe to stay at the event;
  • wash and sanitize their hands regularly;
  • wear a face mask at all times when indoors unless eating or sleeping (congregational groups may choose to spend time together indoors without masks, as long as there are no participants from another congregation present);
  • observe the “you pick two” rule when in mixed congregational groups (outdoors, masked, distanced – pick two!);
  • practice casual consent by asking others for their boundaries around close contact (hugs, high fives, removing masks in outdoor settings, etc.), and determine their own boundaries as well; and
  • follow the guidance of event staff, including Small Group Leaders, medics, event security, venue staff, and food service providers.
  • register by the registration deadline – no late registrations will be accepted;
  • remind youth participants to go through a symptom checklist, posted in each cabin or room, every morning and escort them to a medic if symptoms have developed; and
  • be a good role model by following masking rules and all other safety precautions throughout the entirety of the event.

Coming Up

ELCA Youth Gathering is On!

We can’t wait to gather together in Minneapolis in July of 2022. Before the Gathering gets started, there will be two incredible pre-events: the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event and the tAble, an event for young people living with disabilities. You can click on the name of the event to learn more. MYLE and the tAble take place July 21-24, and the Gathering takes place July 24-28.

Meet the Metro D.C. Synod Youth Gathering Coordinator:
Elizabeth Burnside!

Elizabeth Burnside, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at Bethel Lutheran in Manassas, VA, is our Gathering Synod Coordinator. That means if you have questions about anything related to the Gathering, you can reach out to Elizabeth at

She will be working in conjunction with the Delaware-Maryland Gathering Synod Coordinator, Pastor Diane Day, to make sure congregations in our synod have the very best Gathering experience possible!

Scholarship Applications Due by October 15

Exciting news! The Metro D.C. and Delaware-Maryland Synods are involved in a pilot project from the ELCA Youth Gathering to be able to offer financial assistance directly to congregations and individuals within our synods. To learn more and apply by October 15, click below. 

COVID Precautions for Youth Gathering

After much prayer and conversation, Gathering leadership have decided to require full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative test result (likely 72 hours before arrival) to attend the 2022 Gathering, MYLE and the tAble. As of now, leadership have not decided on any additional safety measures. We commit to continued transparency in the decision-making process and will release information as it becomes available regarding additional safety measures or adjustments to key dates. Any updates will be communicated via Gathering social media, gNews and our website.

2022 ELCA Youth Gathering Website

The ELCA Youth Gathering team has provided all the details you need to know including registration details, FAQs and housing specifics.Check it out by clicking the button below.

Youth Ministry Resources & Supporting Organizations

We have gathered some helpful resources and links to supporting organizations that Adult Leaders may find helpful!

Background Check Authorization Form

All adults working with youth at synodical events need to complete a background check per the Synod Background Check Policy (7/5/16 update). Fill out the appropriate form and submit to Katharyn Wheeler at the synod office via email at

Fees associated with a Background Check will be determined based on individual factors. 

Contact Katharyn Wheeler with questions at or 202-417-3678.

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