So many things were different in Germany than in America. I found no diet Pepsi and the Cola lights were served with no ice and no refills. Trees were everywhere. Homes weren’t set in carefully planned and manicured housing tracks. The small towns had a history that stretched back longer than the United States has been a nation. There wasn’t a lot of independent churches, but there were many state-run churches and institutionalized religion. This side of religion gave me a new perspective on the petty politics at my own church.
While there were many differences that were interesting to explore and experience, I found many commonalities that I share with German youth workers. Reflecting on these gave me a chance to be reminded of some of the very basics of what is really most important in ministry. Here are a few of the things I thought about:
1. Healthy youth ministry needs a dependence upon God. Ministry programs can look good, but true health requires leaders who are deeper than good programs. It’s important for all leaders in a youth ministry to have a personal and growing and dependent relationship with God. Without dependence on his Spirit for strength and direction, youth ministry will be human-made efforts attempting to make a difference in the world around us. In Germany I sensed a hungry group of people who were dependent on God for direction.
2. Healthy youth ministry has leaders who are learners. The German youth workers I met were so thirsty for training! They were eager to know and learn more—there was a deep hunger for knowledge related to youth ministry. Even though I was there to train I was inspired to have a deeper passion to learn. I left Germany wanting to know more not miss out on what God wants to teach me.
3. Healthy youth ministry is done in community. Most of the youth workers at this conference were volunteers and brought their volunteers. Different than Americans, they did everything together. They asked questions in community, they ate in community, and there was a depth of appreciation for one another that I don’t always sense in youth ministry conferences in America. They modeled that ministry can’t be done alone…no single person has all of the spiritual gifts and can’t do ministry in isolation of other believers. We need others and we’re always better together.
4. Healthy youth ministry isn’t about resources. Of the youth workers who were paid in Germany, most of them were only in part-time roles. I only met a few full-time youth workers and I didn’t meet anyone who came from a multiple youth ministry staff. As mostly volunteer run youth ministries, they are doing GREAT ministry and making passionate advances for the Kingdom of God…and they didn’t have a lot of youth ministry resources. I was reminded that resources are just material things that won’t outlast this world. America has a bunch of ministry resources, but I observed last week that it wasn’t about the resources or the finances…it was about the faithfulness of the people. Your ministry may have two dimes for a budget, but if you have a lot of faithfulness you’ll be successful in God’s eyes.
These were just a few thoughts from my journal while in Germany. I was reminded of a few of the more important issues for a healthy youth ministry that I often forget when I’m living in America surrounded by so many good “models” of youth ministry. It was great to be with such wonderful people…even though they don’t use ice in their drinks.