That's the message going out to more than 2,000 UCC youth expected at National Youth Event July 10-13 on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
"We're making a push to use technology to spread the word," says Waltrina Middleton, minister for youth advocacy and leadership formation on the UCC Congregational Vitality and Discipleship Ministry Team. "In the past, we might have said, 'Leave your technology behind.' But we're asking them to bring it. The unofficial theme of NYE is 'No matter your gadget, your technology is welcome here.' We want to show that you can use technology as a sacred tool of worship and faith formation."
The official theme of NYE 2012 is "Imagine." More than 50 daily workshops are planned, with large breakout sessions interspersed throughout. General Synod-like service-projects, in conjunction with United Way, also are on the agenda.
"The National Youth Event is an event of the whole church," said W. Mark Clark, the UCC's associate general minister, and co-convener of the National Youth Event. "We want all local UCC churches to get involved, by financially supporting youth, by carrying NYE stories on their church websites, and in a multitude of other ways."
The harsh economic climate makes estimating NYE turnout a little tricky, said Middleton. "But we are faithful and hopeful that we'll have a strong turnout."
Conferences are lifting up NYE in unprecedented numbers, said Middleton. "We really reached out to ask them to be present, and so far, 13 have committed to being there and being involved."
The UCC Collegium of Officers' will be more involved at this year's NYE. "They will provide a strong presence and have taken on this event as a major priority for the denomination," said Middleton.
Clark sounds like a kid as he anticipates his first trip to a National Youth Event. "It's going to be an amazing experience," he said. "We're excited, and it certainly will be the largest gathering of UCC folks this year."
Middleton also lifted up the NYE vision team, a group of a dozen youths nominated by Conference Ministers and charged with creating the event's theme and logo, and selecting its Scriptural focus (Isaiah 43:19).
"They're the ones who said, 'We can't run away from technology,'" said Middleton.
Among unique additions for NYE 2012 will be a "literacy labyrinth," said Middleton. "We're asking everyone who is coming, when you pack a bag, pack a book to give. We're hoping to collect 2,000 to 3,000 books to give to a partnership of non-profits. The books will go to foster- care programs, after-school programs, libraries and some public schools. "
Registration opened last November, two months earlier than usual, said Middleton.
"We have a new format for registration and are encouraging electronic registration," she said. "Forms have been online for a long time, but now you can submit it online instead of going to the web site, printing out the form and mailing it."
Registration deadline is May 21.
Held every four years, NYE provides an opportunity for youth ages 13-18 to gather for worship, workshops, faith, fun and fellowship. Learning about spiritual and leadership formation is a substantial benefit of the event.
"NYE is not like a summer camp where you send them off for three or four days, then they come home," said Middleton. "It needs to be something everyone takes ownership of – just as they would General Synod."
For more information or to register for NYE, please visit www.ucc.org/youth/nye/.