Postcard from Paris


Mark Oestreicher, The Youth Cartel

postcard-from-parisLast week I was in Paris, along with 50 youth workers from about 7 countries, for a wonderful little exercise in co-learning called Open Paris. There’s something so sharpening for me, as a youth worker, about being with youth ministry friends who are in a very different context than my own.

I had been asked to host a discussion on “What U.S. and European Youth Workers Can Learn From Each Other.

I started by sharing a few very short thoughts…

A few things that we (American youth workers) can learn from European youth workers:

– Being the church can be hard.

– Success is measured in ways other than numbers.

– We’re designed for inter-dependence.

– Christianity was never at its best when it was the dominant worldview. Youth ministry models forged in a Post-Christian context are miles ahead of us (in many cases).

And a few things I think European youth workers can learn from us:

– Youth ministry needs theological framing, not just pragmatics (great theological reflection about YM is happening in the States).

– Good research helps us see where we’ve been missing the point (great research about YM is happening in the States).

– A 20 year-old on a one-year contract is often not the best hire. Youth ministry can be a life-long calling, and great wisdom comes with age.

But I could easily add another point to the list of what we can learn, and it’s really a broader cultural observation that has a trickle down impact on youth ministry: Americans, as a whole, tend to be self-centered and fairly oblivious to the needs of the world. The church in Europe tends to have a more holistic understanding of the gospel that impacts their compulsion to meet the tangible needs of the world.

As a leader of 30 Hour Famine, I’d like to think that you’re an exception to that norm. But I’m reminded again that getting teenagers involved in “doing the Famine” is much more than an opportunity to let students tick off a “I care about the world” check box. 30 Hour Famine can, and should be, a focal point in a year ‘round intentionality to give our teenagers a broader understanding of the Kingdom of God, a deeper engagement in God’s redemptive plan, a more immersive participation in the gospel, and a series of learning and experiences that get our attention off of ourselves.

Yeah. 30 Hour Famine is best when it’s not just a “thing we do,” an event on our youth ministry calendar. Instead, let’s make it a component of developing a greater, Jesus-y worldview!