By Paul Kelly

Last weekend, a youth minister from a small church in Latvia spent the weekend with me. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Latvia is a little country on the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe. It was part of Russia for most of the last century and Russian culture still influences Latvia, though they seem to be looking to the West. But, I’m wandering from my point. Arturs and I visited several of the most significant youth ministries in Southern California (as well as the youth group at my church, a small church in Yorba Linda). Spending time with Arturs was eye-opening. Here are some of the things we talked about:

1. While American churches are strong, they are not having much impact. We have resources that people in most parts of the world could not imagine having. So, one would think we are much more effective at reaching people for Christ and disciple-making than churches in other places. The opposite may be true. Despite all we have, we are often less committed to the mission of Christ than churches who are trying to carry out the great commission with virtually no resources, no paid staff, and people with limited training and education. I wonder why . . . ?

2. American churches seem to be better at building programs than building relationships. Arturs was amazed at how little time most Christians spend with other members of their church. I am a big believer in a church developing organization to support its work . . . but is it possible that we replace real discipling relationships with discipleship programs?

3. Many American churches seem to be helping teenagers connect with the Word of God in a way that is powerful in their lives. Lest I leave you with the idea that all of Arturs observations were negative, I want to emphasize that Arturs was overwhelmed with the number of teenagers who seem to be passionate for Christ. In many places in the world, students are so molded by their culture that engaging them in discovery of the Word of God seems impossible. Leaders often are content with trying to build relationships and hope something rubs off. I think Arturs left America with a new passion to make the Word of God the central focus of his youth ministry in Latvia.

There is much we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ . . . whether they are around the corner or across the ocean. Youth ministry is simply too important to simply go it alone. We need to see what we are doing that can help others . . . and what we can learn from them.

Category : Youth Ministry Discussion

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