Taking a fast train to “Thrive” ville

From October 21 to November 3 over 100 students converge upon Luxembourg City for the annual AICEME Youth Conference.  Members from our ACP lycée group will be taking the famous high-speed TGV train to be amongst the scores of teenagers also traveling by plane or train for this weekend getaway in the tiny country of Luxembourg.

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Our host is All Nations Church and they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary the weekend of our arrival.  http://www.allnationschurch.lu/en/ 

Each year, the Association of Churches in Europe and the Middle East (AICEME) hosts a number of gatherings and conferences including the Pastors and Spouse conference, Youth Pastors conference and also this Youth Conference.

You can visit the website to learn more  http://www.aiceme.net

AICEME is an association of Christian congregations, bearing witness to the Gospel and serving Jesus Christ among English-speaking people throughout Europe and the Middle East.  AICEME member churches are diverse in style, tradition, denominational affiliation, and membership.  Many of the churches were started by English-speaking Christians from North America. Today, the association includes believers from 6 continents who are business people, expatriates, diplomats, refugees, missionaries, and students.

What brings everyone together is the English language and  love for Christ.

There are approximately twenty-eight member churches in this association and each church has middle school and high school students involved.  While some churches are not yet able to hire a youth pastor or have an official “youth group”, AICEME creates an opportunity once a year for all churches to send students to an international conference where they can make new friends, be inspired in their faith and equipped as a follower of Jesus.

What I have discovered is that these Third-Culture students find commonality and solidarity with one another and instantly forge friendships.  Why?  Party due to the fact that they are all accustomed to transitions and having to open up to new students on a regular basis.  Many of these churches are full of transient families and, like my church here in Paris, have learned to become a welcoming community for all, even if only traveling through for six months.

Another reason why students love this conference is that they understand each other.  Many are from multi-cultural families, speak multiple languages, have dual citizenship, feel 100% comfortable at an airport by age twelve,  and struggle to answer the often posed question “Where are you from?”

So, once a year we gather from across Europe to support and encourage one another.  This year the 2013 AICEME Youth Conference is themed THRIVE  Real faith: Real life

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Youth pastors from various churches will lead the main sessions and seminars and we have city-wide treasure hunt and Serve the City opportunity to focus our time on having fun together, exploring this new city and serving those in need.

I am honored to be part of a church that supports this association and believes in the importance of our students learning, worshipping, serving, and living alongside each other as we embrace our unity in diversity as followers of Christ.

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emerging youth ministry resources

I am frequently asked about good youth ministry resources:  curriculum, books, videos, training, conferences….the whole deal

I hesitate to respond partly because it has always been my challenge over the past decade to find good resources but also because every youth ministry context is different.

Also, if I am to be honest, there are some really bad youth ministry resources out there…perhaps even the majority of what is produced and promoted (at least in my opinion)

I quickly discovered what might work well for suburban teens in New York, may not fit with middle America.  Urban environments are vastly different from suburban or rural

Every church is different and so is each denomination.

My recommendation could be to first look towards your denominational affiliation to see if they have created or recommend good resources. While I strongly believe in partnering across denominational lines, it is always good to strengthen bonds and ideology within the framework of any organization you are associated with.

I have discovered that, for the most part, U.S. based curriculum gets lost in translation when used overseas.  Here in Europe, the context is very different and so the content of what I teach needs to change as well.  Teaching style (or the method) can work well in most places since “Teens are teens” wherever you find them. However, the content (or message) needs to be contextualize and recaptured based on the particular group of students

In Europe in general, secularism and postmodernity have widely influenced the culture and religious climate. This has major implications on youth ministry and resources.

The challenge, as I have discovered is for youth ministries in Europe to discover quality resources.  Certainly compared to the U.S there is severe lack of networking, training, and resourcing.  We are looking to change that.

Language can be a barrier for sure, but there are countless English-speaking ministries and congregations all throughout Europe.  Many of them are international settings that offer a rich and diverse community whose influence spans the globe.  As I have traveled some of Europe this past year I realize how prominent the English is, especially for the younger generation. Most teenagers from France to Estonia and down through the Mediterranean understand English.  Wonderful resources for youth workers can be produced in promoted in these areas, either in the native language or simply in English. The question of course is what content?  It is my hope to actively dialogue with both international youth workers but also native youth workers and theologians to discover common issues, ideas, strategies, ideologies to help youth workers not just ministry to today’s students but to prepare to tomorrow’s teens!

This past year I attend two youth ministry conferences:

The International Association for the Study of Youth Ministry (IASYM) in Tallin, Estonia http://www.iasym.net/

and the AICEME (Association of International Churches in Europe and the Middle East in London, England http://aiceme.net/

I will write more about each gathering and association in a later post this month.

A big question that continued to come to the surface of conversations was this:  What are resources that “work” in Europe (secular and postmodern) and in international contexts (global and transient).

The conclusion and dream are to work together towards the creation of new resources and open-sourced sharing of ideas.

Over the past few years I have found and used some wonderful resources that have translated to my youth group both in New York and now here in Paris.

My next post will be a basic list and links to my personal recommendations for emerging youth ministry resources, whether in the North American, the U.K. or Europe.