Reaching Nepali Young People in a Rapidly Changing World

By Dr. Steve Kaptain, YMI Asia Director

For over a decade, I trained youth leaders in Nepal at the informal level. As I visited different youth groups nationwide and attended various programs, I noticed an almost universal trend. Some students in these youth groups seemed very Western while some still seemed very Eastern, even demonstrating a preference for indigenous dress, music, and anything culturally Nepali. Though some managed to make peace between these two very different cultures, others seemed to reject both, drowning in a sea of cultural confusion.

Most youth leaders, probably due to a lack of training, adopted a kind of “one size fits all” approach to disciple-making. My observations led me to believe that many young people simply do not feel culturally at home in most youth groups.

While conducting doctoral research for my dissertation to address these issues, my wife and I attended a concert at a local hotel in the Kathmandu Valley. The music was a wonderful blend of contemporary sound with indigenous rhythms and cultural themes, a tremendous illustration of the blending of Western and Eastern cultures.

Those in attendance looked as though they had flown in from Los Angeles, California. The girls wore elegant cocktail dresses while the boys were styled equally chic. If the music exemplified the balance of two very different cultures, the young people in attendance epitomized an extreme imbalance, with Western culture swallowing up local values.

The entire evening, I could not help but think to myself, “Who is equipped to reach these young people for Christ? And which church would they go to?”

The following day, I learned that probably almost half of those in attendance were actually from the villages outside of Kathmandu! Locals told me that many of these girls leave home in traditional attire, then change their clothing once they reach Kathmandu just in time for the concert. What hope do churches in the villages have if churches in Kathmandu struggle to reach out to a generation of young people assimilated to Western culture? What evangelism strategies will the Nepali Church develop to reach them—and who will advocate for such a strategy?

Enter youth leaders like Prabin Karmacharya, who have received training in youth ministry at the Master’s level in his own culture at a seminary in his home city. Youth Ministry International’s curriculum provides the only academic training program for indigenous youth leaders that I am aware of. It provides a comprehensive philosophy for making disciples of the next generation AND a comprehensive methodology for developing programs in context. Not only that, but Prabin continues to multiply this comprehensive training into the lives of other youth leaders and their ministries.

Any type of training short of a comprehensive ministry philosophy coupled with the knowledge to contextualize programs to reach and disciple young people who balance Eastern and Western cultures in unique and personal ways will fall woefully short. The result of training that falls short of these ideals will be a generation of concertgoers in attendance at various hotels across Nepal who will remain lost in a sea of culturally shifting waves. Praise God for those like Prabin, who now know how to navigate these culturally troubling waters and weather the storm.

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