David Jones – The Father’s House, Smiltene, Latvia.
Our church youth group ‘Go Bananas’ (don’t ask) has been running for over ten years. What I share here will all be pre-COVID as under current regulations we aren’t able to meet. And, for reasons I still can’t fathom, the current youth aren’t into doing group Zooms.
From the start I made it clear that we are a Christian youth group. Yes, we have a lot of fun and madcap games but, we also have worship, teaching and ministry times each evening. Initially the teens were very middle class and for a season we numbered over thirty, meeting in a rented hall. More recently the youth has come from much poorer, broken and chaotic homes and we generally number about 15 teens. Two years or so before COVID, we moved to meeting in our flat, where we eat a hot meal and play table-top games. The emphasis in this season is more fathering. Discipleship at this time is more to do with personal hygiene, how to behave in social settings and even how to eat nicely and how to lose well at competitive games! In the summer we meet at the lake for picnics, swimming, water sports and more mad-cap games.
Almost all the youth come from non-church backgrounds. We only advertise once a year, in September, to coincide with the start of the new school year. Otherwise 99% of ‘recruitment’ is members bringing friends along. The majority of those passing through the group over the years have become born again and most of these were also baptised in the Holy Spirit with tongues. Some have been baptised in water too, but this is a bit tricky here, as we baptise in the local river (very Biblical but also very public) so if a parent refuses permission it’s a bit difficult. However, some have circumvented this and been baptised at the New Day youth event in the UK. Ten out of ten for initiative!
Some of the youth have become long term attenders at church, and some have become full members at age 18 – for legal reasons minors cannot be full church members.
On youth evenings everyone has to get involved, be it playing mad-cap games or laying hands on the sick. Some of my greatest memories of youth group are being with non-Christian teens as they lay hands on their sick friends and see them get healed. For me it is better than 100 sermons.
Over the years, some have led worship and preached – both in the youth group and in church – and others have been very involved with youth Alpha as well as Alpha in church. A few have openly continued their walks into adulthood, marrying Godly spouses, and actively participating in their local church.