On Saturday, the participants of a workshop were discussing if youth meetings are still relevant in our time. They didn’t find a recipe for the perfect youth meeting, but they gathered ideas for developing them further.
Bianca Waldauer, Peter Dambach and Marc Stumpe from the district church South Germany have made it their goal to find out what today’s youth meetings should be like. Right from the start of the workshop it was clear how much you can talk about this topic. The participants told their neighbours how youth meetings are organised in their district. And soon it was clear: There are many differences.
Almost as quickly we could see that much has changed since the 1930s when youth meetings were first mentioned in documents of the New Apostolic Church. In a letter from these times, which was shown during the workshop, the following was said about the content of youth meetings: “There is also the opportunity to give all kinds of dissuasive examples to influence the young people accordingly.”
A lot has changed in 90 years
Today, about 90 years later, there is a different approach (fortunately). In South Germany, for example, there are four approaches: Faith, projects, experts, fellowship. Traditional youth meetings like the ones 20 years ago no longer exist, Peter Dambach says. “Today, the young people choose the interesting options.” But what is interesting?
Variety is important. If we have a spiritual topic one evening, there will be social topic in the next youth meeting. In the end, the right mix is important. “There are young people who are just not interested in music. But if you organise a social project, they sign on immediately,” Dambach continues. Don’t be afraid of external experts: “We invited a prison priest once. The youth liked that”.
From young people for young people
In some districts, it worked well to let the young people draft youth meetings. However, some participants said that it is sometimes hard to motivate the young people to do that. One possible solution is to let the youth choose the topics themselves.
To be or not to be ... ?
Does the youth even still want youth meetings? Yes! - the youth leaders and young people agreed. “I think that youth meetings are important. After the confirmation, it is not enough to say ‘go into the divine services now’. We need to talk about our faith,” a young sister said. Her neighbour added; “If you have a question about our faith, it makes sense to discuss it among the youth.” The youth leaders on the other hand would like the youth to be more willing to make decisions and they would like to know what topics the young people are interested in. The young people would like more practical relevance of the topics: “less working with the Bible and more fellowship.” One of the participants made it clear how important the role of the youth leader is in this matter, and the others agreed: “Ministers and members need to be closer again.”