“European children and teenagers transcend ethnicity, culture and religion,” says Miika Parkkinen, leader of Mix Ministries, OM Finland’s youth ministry, and OM Europe’s Empowering Kids&Youth ministry. “It is most important to encounter them and to encourage churches to get active in ministering to them.”
Miika and his virtual team focus on meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of the next generation in different countries across Europe.
Europe consists of over 30 nations, is home to more inhabitants than the United States and is culturally and linguistically diverse.
Though many youth centres run by local towns exist in Western Europe, Miika says that the concept is foreign in Eastern Europe.
“The Communist Party worked with the youth, but after the fall of communism the youth programmes collapsed as well,” explains Miika. Therefore, OM teams in Hungary and Moldova reach out to children and teens through sports and summer camps.
While churches in Europe do a lot of youth and children’s ministry for children and teens from Christian families, OM Europe seeks to reach teens who do not come from a Christian background and don’t attend church-affiliated activities.
Interacting with the youth is more important than any programme.
“We go where the teenagers already are and meet them in their own surroundings,” says Miika. OM teams carry out programmes at youth centres in Western Europe: Finland, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, amongst others.
Research on the needs of European youth and the experience of those working with teens around Europe shows that the greatest need of young people is to establish a conversational relationship with an adult.
“Interacting with the youth is more important than any programme,” says Miika. “There is no one correct way to do youth ministry. Instead, it is essential to offer an environment where we can encounter teenagers and where they can feel safe.”
“These teenagers and children may turn out to be a different kind of Christ-follower than we are,” continues Miika. “I hope that despite our cultural differences, we would go to places and instead of converting anyone, we would look for ways to befriend God together with the teenagers.
“I hope that the new generation would grow to have a different image of what it means to be a believer. Our generation spends too much time in Christian strongholds and is afraid of encountering the world.”
Miika and his team realise that everyone in Europe has an idea of Christianity, though it may not be based on correct information. “We need to understand it is a process,” he says. “Most people come to faith through a personal contact. The longer you are with the same children and teenagers, the more they will listen.”
*Source - BBC News / www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14838749 - © 2011 BBC
Credit: OM International
· © 2011 OM International