So that the youth can build their future

What would the Church be without its youth? A church without a future! The Chief Apostle and District Apostles repeatedly emphasise the importance of our offers to young people. But what does this mean in concrete terms? What offers are these?

It was at the 2013 Day of the Youth in Brisbane, Australia that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider made his now famous statement about the future of the Church: “You are not only the future of the Church—you already fashion the future of the Church today, namely in the way you live your faith, the way you treat one another, the way you support one another, and the way you forgive one another. Today you define the Church of the future. Today you set the standards of the Church of tomorrow. It is for this reason that I tell you, dear young brethren, set your sights high when it comes to the Church, and demand only the best.”

He made a similar statement at the Iberian Youth Convention in Alicante, Spain: “The manner in which you serve the Lord and commit yourselves to the Church today will define the services that will be performed in the Church of the future. Naturally, your own personal development, the activity of the Holy Spirit, and your own spiritual maturity will all play a role in the process. For this reason, I ask you the question: ‘What do you want for the future of the Church?’ You define this today. Treat one another with love, forgive one another, and serve one another out of love for the Lord. Then things will become more and more beautiful in the Church.”

A prime example: IYC 2019

In practical terms, this comes to expression in our daily conduct. “All theory is grey”, said Goethe (from Faust 1, Mephistopheles in the study). And indeed—actions must follow! And a prime example is the International Youth Day. Its motto motto is: “Here I am”. Concerning this the Chief Apostle stated, “The message is to show that we wish to define our ongoing future with God. God is there for us, and we put ourselves at His service.” The statement incorporates various perspectives: on the one hand, it is in this manner that God talks to us human beings. On the other hand, this also characterises man’s call to God. And it is not least in this manner that the young people in the local congregations bring to expression that they want to help along.

Offers for young people

Particularly on the local and regional level there is an abundance of offers for young target groups, including youth discussions in the congregations and districts, meeting places and gatherings for youth in larger cities, youth conventions on the state (or provincial) and national levels, youth choirs, youth orchestras, youth magazines, youth projects—for example, on the occasion of religious holidays and so on. There is something for one and all. And as the preparations for the IYC 2019 demonstrate, young New Apostolic Christians have clear ideas of what the Church is to impart to them. In any case, the expectationsfor the IYC are clearly content-oriented. Throughout all age groups, participants assigned the greatest priority to divine services and musical events. The most highly ranked topics of discussion are the return of Christ, life after death, and practical Christian living.

Requirements for youth work

That youth care is of great significance in the New Apostolic congregations is also stated in the Catechism (CNAC 12.4.2): ): “Pastoral care and support for our young brothers and sisters is a special focus in the work of our Church.” It goes on to say that young people find themselves in a state of transition from a childhood largely defined by their parents to a self-determined adulthood, and that most young people experience this as a difficult phase of life. “They search for their own goals and standards in life, while critically scrutinising the existing values and norms of their environment.” The tension between the gospel and other religious and ethical worldviews in an increasingly secularised society has a discouraging effect: “Young people are witnessing the marginalisation of the Christian faith and how churches are losing their significance. Increasingly, churches are becoming anonymous institutions and are no longer accepted as a moral authority.”

Demanding the best

The fact that youth work is worthwhile in any event is demonstrated by the aforementioned citation from Chief Apostle Schneider: those who win young people over to be active in the Church are shaping the future of the Church. The standards of tomorrow’s Church are being defined today. “I tell you, dear young brothers and sisters, be demanding when it comes to the Church, and demand only the best.”

Photo: Marcel Felde

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Peter Johanning
Congregational life