What would you prefer to do? Play hopscotch or play on your mobile phone? Sit bored in church or be involved in active mission? Two hundred youth from across southern Serbia faced those questions as they learned that they are an important part of the church and God’s family and that the Lord has a mission for them.
The April 14-17 youth weekend at a hotel near Kragujevac, in southern Serbia, focused on the topic “between ideals and reality.” Miodrag Jovanović, a pastor from Munich, Germany, focused on sharing content that deals directly with the issues they face in everyday life. “Young people need to feel they are a significant part of the Church, and that their role in the work of the Church is very important,” he said. His spontaneity instantly engaged the youth, who nicknamed him “Miki.”
“Our discussion is based on the fact that our youth often hear about ideals that are quite different from tomorrow's reality,” said Zoran Sudarević, Youth Ministries director in the South Conference church region in Serbia. “We rarely speak in church about how to achieve your best in everyday life.”
The weekend gathering was a mixture of quality Bible study and discussion, music, social and sports opportunities, as well as time to take part in humanitarian activities. Those humanitarian activities of practical Christianity took place Saturday afternoon. Visiting Kragujevac, a city with a population of 150,000, the youth divided into groups. Some maintained a stand promoting health and the fight against violence, while others played with children from local shelters, found homes for abandoned animals, played instruments in the street, or, most intriguingly, took part in a project that invited people to put their mobile phone down to play hopscotch. Despite the rain, the youth enjoyed serving others and establishing new contacts. At the end of the day, they got together to share their experiences.
Vocal-instrumental ensemble “Vesnik” made the weekend even more memorable, as they also offered a charity Easter concert at Kragujevac Children’s Theater. Somewhat to their surprise, they raised a significant amount of money for the children of a local shelter.
Youth Engagement in the Church
How can youth become more engaged with the church? A very practical aspect of the weekend was to give youth the opportunity to express their own ideas about the church, what they wished was different, as well as the things they are thankful for. By the end of the weekend, a document was published to be delivered to every pastor and officer of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South-East European Union.
Among the things the youth said they were grateful for, they mentioned “having the opportunity of participating in church services,” “having brothers and sisters in Christ no matter where they go,” and “having a church where we can develop our talents and gifts.”
What would young people change about the church? The youth mentioned they would like to “put an end to constant gossiping,” “enjoy more mission-oriented opportunities,” and “be able to enjoy more vivid experiences with God.” Above all, they said, “we want our church to organize more meetings like this one.”
The weekend included not only a baptism but a special appeal to those who had not yet decided to get baptized. As a result, a sizable group of young people came forward to be prayed for and commit to the Lord.
Sudarević emphasized the importance of gatherings like these for boosting the Christian experience of the Serbian Adventist youth. “We believe that this meeting has been significant for the spiritual life of every young person who attended,” he said.