So, What is “Normal” Programming?
How Romanian Youth Minsters Reach Their Flock
My name is Alin Costache, and I am a 2019 graduate of YMI’s youth ministry training program at the Baptist Institute in Bucharest.
I’ve been serving as the youth pastor at Agape Baptist Church in Bucharest for about a year and a half, and I wanted to share with you some of the benefits of the youth leader training program.
I would start by confessing that I did not realize the importance of youth ministry until I began experiencing it. It is hard to say that I benefited from such a ministry during my teenage years, but being a pastor and doing it myself, has blown away any misconceptions or blurry understandings regarding the need for addressing the next generation through a ministry dedicated to them. There are a few things that have helped me understand this.
The first of them was the summer camp in august of 2020. The last night of that camp was awesome! After a few days of games, fun, and teaching, we experienced God’s presence moving in the hearts of the teenagers through a Bible message, testimonies, a lot of worship, and so many confessions of painful experiences and struggles they’d had for years. Some of them decided to follow Christ that night, others opened their hearts toward counseling, and others heard the Gospel and were exposed to a Christian environment for the first time. And yes, the following months verified that what happened was authentic. Baptisms and active membership followed each of the decisions to accept Christ. Counseling and discipleship followed the desire for a changed life. Others, who were there for the first time, were eager to be with us again in such an environment. It was a memorable night, and I felt extremely encouraged by God to keep doing this! I realized it was His will for such a ministry and if we hadn’t had it, all these great things couldn’t have happened! Praise Him!
I’ve already mentioned the counseling and one-on-one discipleship that I did with some of them. I realized they needed to open their hearts to someone qualified to give answers, who is not boring, who speaks their “language,” who is willing to listen, and who wants to walk with them. So, I understood that person should be a youth pastor. Before I became a youth pastor myself and during the discussions of whether our church should start such a ministry, one of our elders said he didn’t need someone to “educate” his child. His child has stopped attending church for at least a year, and I understand this ministry is not just education, it is so much more! So many students simply cannot speak with their parents about their struggles. I’ve discovered big problems like homosexuality that the parents had no idea about, while others confided they had been bullied. Now, I strongly believe it is the role of a youth pastor to search for these lambs and be there for them and help them grow and become the mature Christians God desires for them to be. Reaching their potential is not possible without specialized help!
All the classes in youth ministry training helped me gain a lot in understanding how to do programming, what I should focus on, and how to understand youth. I have much gratitude towards Phil Rice and Mike Hinton! Because they demonstrated they weren’t there just to deliver information, but also to be around guys like me and encourage us to keep doing this ministry even when it is hard to continue for various reasons. I very much appreciate Phil’s ability to see potential in people, and understand needs and come up with solutions to them. It was very encouraging for me to meet with him and for him to tell me what he saw in me in terms of abilities. Sometimes you just need somebody to affirm what you understood that was coming from the Lord. This made me appreciate and respect him a lot!
Mike has also come alongside me and spent many hours mentoring me. Praise God for Starbucks and his patient wife! In the last few months, I have met with Mike, and shared with him all my frustrations regarding ministry. I have appreciated his patience and wisdom in dealing with me! It was the first time I had heard about burnout syndrome and how to overcome it. His advice for my personal life and ministry has helped me a lot! I realized I needed a mentor, and God sent Mike. Praise Him! I am also looking forward to having him with us at our next youth camp and whenever it is possible during the coming year.
In conclusion, the experience with the YMI team was not just for my time at the seminary, but it is an ongoing one, and I am very thankful for these guys! Praise God for His servants, and thank YMI for sending and supporting them!