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2024 Youth Ministry Leaders Network

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    Youth Ministry
Equipping leaders who are seeking to influence the next generation of believers

Sometimes youth ministry is viewed as a non-essential “add on,” a place to serve when one is too young to do anything else or too inexperienced to move into “real ministry.”  However, the data would tell us that just the opposite should be true.  Ninety percent of believers put their trust in Christ before their 21st birthday.  Strong youth ministry is essential if we want to reach Europe again for Christ.

A high percentage of Christian workers receive their call into ministry while they are still young.  Young people are more teachable, more easily motivated and mobilised, and still have most of their key life decisions before them.  Teaching them to reach their peers and make disciples can prepare a new generation of leaders for the church.

In spite of this, most youth leaders have no specific training on how to effectively lead their local youth ministry.  Learning a philosophy of ministry based on the life of Christ and drawing from the experiences of others who are effective in a European context can powerfully increase their effectiveness.  Quality preparation can also keep them from becoming discouraged or burned out.

The aim of the Youth Ministry Leaders Network is to lay a strong base in youth ministry philosophy from the life of Christ, as well as teach strategies that are bearing significant fruit in a European context.  The participant will walk away with a deeper understanding of what makes a disciple-making youth ministry, as well as have specific tools that can be immediately applied to their setting.  

This year's programme* will include lecture options for the whole group and 6 small cohort sessions divided by ministry stage.  The small cohorts will use "Walk 2/6”, a special course designed to equip youth leaders to build disciple-making youth ministries following the model of Jesus.  Participants from previous years are encouraged to return and choose a different ministry stage as well as different seminars to keep deepening their youth ministry skills. 

Prior preparation will be set for all applicants.

What Network Participants Are Saying

  • "Time at the European Leadership Forum is very helpful and meaningful for my ministry. I have had the ability to meet so many great leaders who have experience in leading youth. I find it so helpful to connect with people who already do what I am dreaming of doing. I am inspired by the leaders at the Forum who treat people so well and show such great examples of leadership." - Gabriele Krulyte, Youth coordinator and radio host, Lithuania
  • "Being at ELF is a wonderful gift to me because I learn what the work of other youth leaders looks like. Through other people’s experiences, I learn how to bring youth closer to Jesus. I have learned how to create a safe environment for young people and how important that is, especially today when so many teenagers are struggling with anxiety, loneliness, and depression."
    - Buda Vaczi, Youth Leader and Worship Team Member, Hungary

Applicants should be currently involved in youth ministry and seeking to develop their gifts to better reach and disciple the young generation.

Network Leadership

Paul Bowman has almost 30 years of experience in full-time youth ministry in the local church. He has served in a variety of settings throughout Ireland – both urban and rural – working with churched and unchurched young people. He is passionate about developing youth ministries that are rooted in… Read more
Terry English is the Director of Learning and Development for Josiah Venture. Prior to moving to the Czech Republic 22 years ago, he also worked with youth and student outreach ministries in the USA, UK, and Norway. While his focus is now on equipping local churches, he also continues to work with… Read more

Network Speakers

Mark Abrman has been a full-time missionary in Slovakia for the past 8 years. His primary focus is youth ministry and the development of leaders. He grew up in a missionary family where he was able to do ministry alongside of his parents from a young age. After high school, he attended Word of… Read more

Paul Bowman has almost 30 years of experience in full-time youth ministry in the local church. He has served in a variety of settings throughout Ireland – both urban and rural – working with churched and unchurched young people. He is passionate about developing youth ministries that are rooted… Read more

Zala Cempre was born and raised in Slovenia. Currently, she lives in the capital, Ljubljana, where she serves as an overseer of youth and young adults ministry in her local church. On a national level, she leads a 2-year discipleship program for college students and serves as a director of… Read more

Robert Chestnut is the director of training for Josiah Venture, a youth ministry organization serving Central and Eastern Europe. He studied organizational communications at Cedarville University before moving to the Czech Republic in 2003 where he found a passion for working with young people… Read more

Tom Chilton is the Global Vice President for Awana Europe and Middle East. He provides leadership and support to 50 full-time and part-time staff and thousands of volunteers across Europe and the Middle East. These leaders partner with approximately 1,900 churches evangelizing and discipling… Read more

John Dickson’s story is eclectic. Starting out as a professional singer-songwriter, he now works as an author, speaker, historian, and media presenter. He was the Founding Director of the Centre for Public Christianity (2007-17). He has published over 20 books, two of which became television… Read more

Zuzi Džubakovská decided to follow Jesus when she was 10 at a camp. Since then she has been involved with teenage, youth and young adult ministry all her life. After university, she started working in business and continued in marketing and facilitation. Meanwhile, she served in her home church—… Read more

Terry English is the Director of Learning and Development for Josiah Venture. Prior to moving to the Czech Republic 22 years ago, he also worked with youth and student outreach ministries in the USA, UK, and Norway. While his focus is now on equipping local churches, he also continues to work… Read more

Julia Garschagen is a theologian and serves as the director of the Pontes Institut for Science, Culture and Faith in the German-speaking region. She speaks at universities and in business contexts across Europe and loves to be in dialogue about a faith that is both intellectually credible and… Read more

Lelde Keice has been involved in youth work and discipling young people since she has been 16 years of age. A couple of years after graduating from high school in Latvia, she moved to England. While there, she completed a BA degree in Applied Theology and Youth & Community Work at Moorlands… Read more

Christopher Townsend chairs the editorial group of Cambridge Papers, a quarterly publication with the strapline ‘Towards a Biblical Mind’, which aims to help Christians engage with a complex and changing world (www.cambridgepapers.org). He wrote ‘… Read more

Kristy Williams has 17 years of experience as a full-time missionary in the context of youth ministry and leadership training. She serves primarily in Ukraine, though her love for training leaders takes her to different places across Europe with her missionary organisation, Josiah Venture.… Read more

Network Programme

Sunday, 26 May

Since youth culture is a constantly moving target, those who work with young people are often looking for something “new”. What are the latest trends, how do we capture young people’s attention, what will make our programmes attractive and contemporary? While there is nothing wrong with being trendy, the most profound insights about youth ministry are actually very “old”. We forget that Christianity began as a youth movement. Many of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers when he called them. How did his youth group launch a movement that changed the world? If Jesus were to teach us how to lead an effective youth ministry today, what would he say?

What it takes to start a youth ministry is very different from what it takes to grow one or what is needed to expand its impact after it is healthy. Youth ministries follow certain patterns of development, and require a shift in focus from the leader at each stage. Not understanding these stages can create barriers to growth, since a youth leader will often not naturally concentrate on the right things. Looking at the development of Christ’s ministry, how do we understand these stages, and how do we lead our youth group through them?

*Please note: This session is designed for first-time attendees at the Youth Ministry Leaders Network. Returning attendees will attend "Lessons Learned in the Last Year". 

This moderated discussion will provide an opportunity for participants to share their experiences implementing into their ministries lessons learned during the previous ELF. This session will help participants learn from, guide, and strengthen each other as we seek to create disciple-making youth ministries.

*Please note: This session is designed for returning attendees at the Youth Ministry Leaders Network. First-time attendees will attend "What Got You Here Won't Get You There".

Monday, 27 May

On Day 2, participants will be divided into six groups depending on the stage each participant is at in the development of his or her ministry. Each group will do a different session of “Walk 2/6”, a special course designed to equip youth leaders to build disciple-making youth ministries following the model of Jesus. In these smaller units, participants will look deeper into the life of Christ and directly apply what they see to their youth ministry, evaluating their current situation and discovering their next steps. This will happen under the leadership of one of the teaching team, all of whom are experienced youth ministry coaches. Returning participants will be placed in a different track than they were previously in, so they can continue to grow and stretch in their leadership skills. At the beginning of each track time, there will be a short 10-minute “TED-talk" on a key youth topic that participants can teach in their youth ministry.

Tuesday, 28 May

This session will offer a brief overview of the ‘gender revolution’ and its impact on younger people, highlighting the rapid increase in gender dysphoria and trans identities among teenagers and younger people. Our focus will be on exploring together some practical ways that church youth ministry can help children and teenagers to grow up in this confusing environment, grow up as disciples of Jesus, and grow into a healthy relationship with their bodies, gender expression, and sense of identity – one rooted in God’s love in creation and in Christ. Lastly, we will consider the role churches can play in helping young people who identify as trans or non-binary find a better way forward.

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.

The storms of life come to all people everywhere. When loving, caring adults in the Church guide children to build their lives on the Word of God and a relationship with Jesus, they are preparing them for victory in these storms. From the rejection of a father to a cancer diagnosis to losing a loved one in war, come hear how working with pre-teens builds resilient disciples who are leading like the Joseph of Genesis in the Church today!

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.

In the session, participants can choose from one of the following moderated breakout discussions and group brainstorms:
- First Responders to an anxious generation – practical skills for helping young people in pain
- Equipping young people to share the Gospel with their peers

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.

Wednesday, 29 May

We live in an age of doubt. We question everything, from politicians to priests, to our own parents. ‘Trust’ itself is in freefall. In this session, we will describe the different kinds of doubts we all face and encourage us to go further and doubt our doubts.

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.

In the session, participants can choose from one of the following moderated breakout discussions and group brainstorms:
- Caring for your team – developing concrete next steps
- Bridging the gap between pre-teen and youth ministry

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.

In order to reach the young generation, we need to understand their mindset and what moves them in today´s world. To reach them where they are, we have to engage in person as well as in the digital world. Julia co-leads the largest national evangelistic youth outreach in Germany that reached half a million people through a YouTube-format and in-person evangelism. In this session, she will share experiences, principles, and ideas for how to effectively engage and communicate with youth.

*Please note: This is one of three sessions for participants to choose from.