The world is a big place. Oftentimes, with my Atlantic Canadian mindset, I forget how big the world is and that God is not only working in my neighbourhood but also in others around the globe.
In May 2017, I traveled from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Prague to take Contemporary Youth Culture through Acadia Divinity College. This course was taught by Dr. Jeff Carter, a Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) / European Baptist Federation (EBF) staff member, and the class was comprised of eight Canadians and seven Europeans. We spent a week at a retreat centre near Prague, where we learned from Jeff and from each other. Our discussions helped us to understand youth culture today and how to engage it. We looked at trends in youth culture, from fashion to politics, and how they offer insight regarding youth today and coming generations. In our second week, the Canadian students visited different EBF churches to learn about youth ministry across Europe, and saw this in action in different cultural contexts.
Here are my two big takeaways:
- Every neighbourhood is different, yet Jesus is still leading.
As a former youth pastor, some of my challenges were creating programs that compete with sports events, responding to disgruntled parents, and addressing a youth damaging something in the church building. One of my new friends from Estonia, Miikael, was sharing his difficulties in the context of a post-communist country with older generations passing down communist ideals and values to the youth. However, he said, “There is a powerful movement of God among young people now where churches are being planted and youth are catching the heart of God.”
Miikael and I may come from very different neighbourhoods, yet Jesus is still at work, leading the way and calling us to join him on his mission to make the gospel known in our neighbourhood.
- We take our ability to disciple for granted.
My roommate, Dražen from Croatia, shared that he oversees two different youth ministries: one has three students and the other has less than five children. When speaking with other European youth leaders, I found that Dražen’s experience is typical.
In the past, I thought, “A program with less than five kids is a waste of time.” As I reflect on my perspective on discipleship, and what Dražen accomplishes, I am ashamed of myself. In North America, we have a culture of valuing bigger, louder, and faster. Like Dražen, we need to follow the example of Jesus and see the worth of each youth.
My trip to Europe and my time with new EBF friends will be reminders that God is at work, changing the world one neighbourhood at a time.
Andrew is a church planter in Saint John, New Brunswick, where he lives with his wife Courtney and children, Audrey and Titus. He gives leadership to the church plant, Rooftop, and serves as the part-time Associate Director with the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada’s Youth and Family