When I was studying theology at the Adventist University of the Philippines, I had the privilege to attend various small group settings and associate with many young people of different ages and backgrounds. Being surrounded by such a lovely and delightful environment of diversity, I was inspired to start creating a vision of my own, which eventually turned into an avid aspiration: to set up a similar place in my hometown, Athens, Greece.
The Bible tells us that every individual has a purpose in God's ministry. God has bestowed each one of us a spiritual gift through the Holy Spirit and called us to be witnesses. Having been around young people since I started my ministry in Greece one and a half years ago, I have seen what these young people can do for the Lord and what their potential is. All of this to the idea of creating our own Youth Church, a place that could be a huge boost for every individual to keep nurturing and developing their spiritual gifts and allowed young people to meet, sing together, share stories, and grow.
One of the challenges to make a project like this a reality is trusting young people with the keys of initiation, leadership, and mission. Showing them such trust allows them to experience firsthand the sense of service in the community, and makes them feel they belong to something greater than themselves.
Purpose of the Initiative
Besides the spiritual aspect, Youth Church aims to train young people to become mature and responsible individuals who have learned how to take initiatives and develop the essence of leadership. For this reason, scholars and professionals from the Hellenic American College of Greece will conduct seminars concerning personal growth and leadership training, to generate strengths and enhance skills appropriate for business both in the secular and religious world.
I firmly believe that this collaboration will be a blessing both to us and the highly educated individuals that will be presenting to us. As they feed us with knowledge for our cognitive development, we will have the opportunity to show them who we are and what our purpose is.
“A youth church may sound strange, but being in Athens, I find it pleasant news,” one individual who attends church said. Even though Greece is a country with a strong Christian tradition, the Adventist Church does not have a strong presence. There are only a few hundred church members across the country. And young people are few.
“I believe, however, that the creation of a community of people with close perceptions, as well as ages, allows for more direct communication, exchange of experiences, and reflections,” he added. “The beginning of the existence of such a church allows us as young people to be with each other more often. Within this new community, we are aware of everybody’s presence. Everyone feels useful, because we shape the program.”
In the end, this young person concluded, “So yes, I believe that the existence of this church is positive as we can undertake various projects, which would not be possible if we were scattered in the various local churches. Furthermore, our faith grows through honest discussions, always centered on the Scriptures, and thorough study. And finally, building closer relationships between us will bring positive results as we avoid the frustration seen in the world where relationships, both friendly and otherwise, are ruined by a lack of honesty, [by] jealousy and disloyalty.”
Upon hearing the news of having a youth church, another young person commented, “I was so happy that I shared the news with all my acquaintances. I look forward to seeing it grow in members, but also in faith.”
At the beginning of 2020, we found a place for the meetings, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and everything took a step back. After a period of challenges, prayers, and endless hard work during July and August 2020, however, the Youth Church project finally came to life, and it has been operating since then.
Despite the restrictions due to COVID-19, the response from the youth living in Athens was truly impressive. On the first Sabbath, August 29, 19 young people attended. The following week there were 24 young people, which is definitely encouraging!
Moreover, their comments about the structure and organization of the place were all positive. They fell in love with the place and its atmosphere. Some even suggested coming to the Youth Church and Centre regularly.
What impressed me the most, however, is their willingness to arrange schedules for cleaning the place. Being their leader, I would normally have to delegate these types of tasks, but they took the initiative and set everything themselves. I could not be prouder! It was then that I realized what a difference such a place can make for young people.
We hope that people around the world will continue to pray and support this project as we are looking to fulfill God's mission in our generation through the love of God that compels us.