Lutheran Youth Organiztion

Youth Leadership Development Program

The Lutheran Youth Organization, or LYO, is the high school youth leadership program for the Delaware-Maryland and Metro D.C. Synods.

Youth are organized into one of six teams to live into their God-given gifts and sharpen their skills for service in our synods, their own congregations, and the surrounding community. Each team is mentored by two to three gifted adults, and led by Leaders among Leaders, who are selected by each team at the beginning of each year.

About the LYO

The Lutheran Youth Organization is a leadership development program for youth in grades 9-12 who are members of congregations in the Delaware-Maryland and Metro D.C. Synods. Following an application process, youth who are accepted into the LYO are organized into one of six teams to live into their God-given gifts and sharpen their skills for service in our synod, their own congregation, and the surrounding community. Each team is mentored by two to three gifted adults.

The LYO year begins with the Organizing Retreat, held at Mar-Lu-Ridge toward the end of August. During this long weekend, members of the LYO receive training on a variety of topics that will serve them throughout the year, including active listening, peer ministry, leading devotions, and topics related to our annual theme. They also engage in service projects, play games, and worship together. The weekend provides them their first opportunity to gather with their whole team and imagine ways they might use their gifts to serve the young people of our synods. Before the end of the retreat, each team selects a Leader Among Leaders or two - peers who will help keep the team organized and working toward their goals, as well as serve as the liaison to the Youth Events Team, which has responsibility for general oversight of our events.

Every other month (September, November, January, March, and May), the LYO gathers for an All-Team Meeting on a Saturday, often meeting at centrally-located churches where our students are members. These meetings provide an opportunity for training on a particular leadership topic, frequently suggested by the Leaders Among Leaders, a chance for teams to meet together in person, and fellowship time to continue strengthening relationships within the LYO. Usually, teams will meet together in person or by Zoom in the months when an All-Team Meeting is not taking place.

One of the primary ways our LYO members put their leadership development into action is through the planning and execution of several large events throughout the year, including:

  • FreeRide, a weekend event for youth in grades 6-8 in November

  • RoadTrip, a weekend event for youth in grades 9-12 in January

  • Transformers, a weekend leadership retreat for youth in grades 6-8 in the spring

  • Seekers, a one-night retreat for children in grades 3-5 in the spring

  • High School Leadership Event, a weekend retreat for youth who have completed grades 8-12 in the summer

Each LYO member also selects a Congregational Mentor who serves in an area that relates to the youth’s team. This adult leader helps the LYO member reflect on what they are learning in LYO and how they can use those skills to lead in the congregation. The Congregational Mentor serves as an advocate for their student, and finds ways to lift up their work within the life of the congregation.

There is no membership fee to be a part of the LYO. The only costs are for events, which our Youth + Family Ministry budget partially subsidizes for LYO members. In the 2021-2022 year, these registration fees for LYO members totaled just under $500. One additional cost to consider is transportation to and from meetings and events, though students are often able to carpool with those who live nearby. Money should never be a reason you cannot participate in LYO. We have event scholarships available specifically for LYO members, and we will provide whatever support we can if finances become an issue.

The 2022-2023 LYO Application Process is Open!

The Lutheran Youth Organization application process for the 2022-2023 school year is now open! The application deadline is July 10th. Please use this form to apply.

The full process consists of an online application form (this one), an adult reference (they should use this form to submit their reference), a telephone conversation with the applicant, a phone call with at least one parent/guardian, and calls with the applicant’s pastor, deacon, and/or youth worker. Applicants should expect a follow up phone call during the week of July 10th.

The LYO is a year-round high school leadership program of the Metro DC and Delaware Maryland Synods of the ELCA. Dozens of high school leaders from around the region work throughout the year to build community, develop skills, plan events and programs, and implement those events alongside elementary, middle, and high school students. They are strengthened for their leadership in the church and in the world, in their congregations and in their communities.

Applicants will be invited to participate in Sorting Day (via Zoom, on the afternoon of July 24th), where we have conversations with all of the new LYOers and our team mentors.

The LYO meets once a month during the school year for training, community-building, serving, and planning. We gather for our LYO Organizing Retreat each August. And we help to lead weekend youth events for the two synods in October, January, April, and June each year.

Questions? Looking for help? Reach out to LYO co-coordinators Christine Myers Park ( and Mark Parker (

Teams of the LYO

  • The Worship Team engages in learning about different worship experiences and practices, and then translates this learning into leading young people and adults in worship and praise during the synod youth events. The team also provides leadership for developing a prayerful and spiritual life of young people in the LYO and synod. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in visual arts, graphic design, drama, and public speaking, among other areas.

  • The Music Team engages in preparing for and leading the assembly in song through a variety of musical styles and methods at the synod youth events. Using a variety of vocal and instrumental methods, the team works to excel in their musical presentation as it connects to the wider worship and large group experience. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in singing, playing instruments, composing music, and sound engineering/mixing, among other areas.

  • The Service & Outreach Team engages in learning and participating in different service and outreach opportunities, and then brings some of these same opportunities to the synod youth events for practice and engagement. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in paying attention to the immediate needs and root causes of suffering and injustice in the world, among other areas.

  • The Fellowship & Hospitality Team engages in learning and practicing methods of fellowship and hospitality in the Church and community, and then brings these practices to the young people of the synod through music, games, food, and conversation. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in building relationships and community, helping others feel welcome, and looking out for those on the fringes of the group, among other areas.

  • The Small Group Team engages in training to effectively lead small groups of their peers in Biblical and topical discussions during the synod youth events. Young people on this team also engage in the curriculum-development process for the programming of events and retreats. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in helping facilitate discussion with their peers, teaching, and writing, among other areas.

  • The Elementary Team engages in learning about ministry with elementary age students (specifically grades 3-5) and preparing for and leading one-day events throughout the year and an overnight retreat in the spring for elementary aged students. Young people on this team also work with the other LYO teams to provide leadership to children in the congregations of our synod. Young people suited for this team might be interested/gifted in working with elementary-aged students and interested in working with others to share their faith in creative ways.