Key principles for training teens
Did you know that the organisation sending the biggest group to TeenStreet (TS) is a church in Sweden? This is the first part of the story about how TS became an inspiration to develop a fruitful youth programme in their church.
Over the last 13 years, the leaders of the youth programme in a church in Linköping, Sweden (Ryttargårdskyrkan) have developed a fruitful way to help teens grow as disciples. It all started as Ackie and Ian Lowry came back to Sweden in 2007 after years in missions in Beirut and realized that very few young people attended their local church. The kids’ programme was excellent, but there was potential to develop something more for teens.
They found out that there was an international youth camp in Germany called TeenStreet. Ackie went to the TS reunion with two teens to check it out and decided to bring a group to TS that summer. She and the 24 teens who joined her thought it was fantastic; the teaching was Jesus centred, and they experienced how Jesus believes in young people and wants to equip them.
Coming back, one of the teens had a vision that 50 people would go the following year. A few weeks before TS, the teens and leaders who were going got up on stage for their church to pray for them. At that point they were a group of 49 people. “We knew that the vision was 50 people,” Ackie said, “and while they were still praying for us, a man got up on his feet. He had decided to join us! This showed the teens how faithful God is. He listens to our prayers. It was like God said: ‘Look! I am with you’.”
The TS concept has helped them build a youth programme equipping young people to be true Jesus followers, and where there is a focus on leadership and missions. There are a few key principles that they use: the small group, practical outreach, and systematic leader training.
“When we came back from TS, the teens had a positive outreach experience and wanted to serve people.” Since then outreach is a natural part of their work. “Our aim is to let our teens do something practical to serve the people in our city every five weeks. Sometimes we walk through a district praying for the people living there; sometimes we serve coffee in the city offer or to pray for people or hand out roses,” Ackie shared. They also team up to support church plants in immigrant-dense areas.
Every year a group of teens are handpicked and trained to organize the trip to TS together with one of the M&Ms and Ackie’s husband Ian, who is one of the home reps. They organize bake sales in church, sell hamburgers and waffles,and apply for grants so that money will not be an issue for the teens. The mission board fully supports the work, both financially and through prayer.
Ackie points out that “being a coach at TS is the best leader training you can get. For one week you live with the teens in the same way that Jesus lived with His disciples.”
So what tools are available in your church? What can you learn from TS, and how can you train the young people to become Christ following disciples and leaders who have a tangible impact on the world?
“Be creative!” Ackie exclaimed with a smile. “Let them use what they have learned in practice at TS. Walk the talk.” She also stressed the importance of working in teams, since “one person can go wrong. Encourage one another! But somebody has to be the vision bearer.”
Are youth from your church being called to TeenStreet? While the overall experience is impactful and inspiring, Ackie encourages everyone to “Wait for the Holy Spirit. He will speak individually to every church.”