My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Youth groups in the spotlight – part 1

I’ve come across posts about youth groups on quite a number of blogs over the last months. Some positive, some critical. After reading two more critical posts at Anne’s café and spunky homeschool, I decided to finally share my own thoughts about youth groups. I decided to split it up into a series, to share my positive and my negative opinions and to make it a better read.
As experiences influence our opinions I’ll tell a little bit about my background and my own experiences with youth groups first.

My first “Christian” memories are of my mom reading me stories from the children’s bible and teaching me little prayers to say at bedtime. We also went to church on Christmas every year, maybe Easter. But faith did not play a more active part in our family life than that. At least I cannot remember it.
When we lived in Norway (1980-1983) I attended two Norwegian kindergartens that were both affiliated with churches. And I went to a children’s Sunday school (on Saturdays) that was held by the Salvation Army. I remember that we sang and learned a lot about Jesus there and I still treasure the little pictures of the good shepherd that I received there :). After a while my parents took me out cause I got “too enthusiastic” and “too fundamental” about Jesus and faith in him.
After we moved back to Germany I attended a children’s and later a girl’s group at our church. After two years of classes and mandatory church attendance I was confirmed. It was important to me, I knew a lot about God and believed in him, but didn’t know that much about Jesus. Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it?
I went up to the front at ProChrist the year I turned 17 when Billy Graham spoke, but actually found Jesus several weeks later – on a Christian teen camp from my church. The group of leaders consisted of our pastor and several youth about one to a few years older than me. They also held the bible studies in small groups, each leading his own small group. The faith those teenagers had amazed me, I knew they had something (a relationship with Jesus) that I didn’t have – but I also knew that I really wanted it. So on that camp I gave my life to Jesus.
Since then, for more than 10 years now, I have been involved in youth ministry. I’ve been a leader at confirmation class camps and at several summer camps to Norway and Italy. I’ve also done kid’s camps. At my international church now I’m a volunteer at our youth group for the high school kids and also at a youth conference and our annual snow retreat.
Maybe my own involvement makes this topic – the advantages and disadvantages of youth group – so attractive or better: important for me.