Shannon and I have now been in Ukraine four months. Since then, our readership has grown, and we think it would be good to reiterate what our ministry is here in L’viv, Ukraine.
We are a campus ministry. We look like campus ministries in the states. Picture an Intervarsity, a Campus Crusade for Christ, even better a Wesley Foundation and you’ll have a pretty good idea about what Youth to Jesus is. If you aren’t familiar with any of these ministries in the States, think of us like a church that has a weeknight service, small groups, events, and a service arm all filled with the liveliness of young people who are making faith their own. To be even more clear, let me read you a translation of our purpose statement that was created even before we arrived: The purpose of Youth to Jesus is “to form and unite Youth who understand, accept, grow, practice, and live Christian faith.”
Now that you have a good general understanding of who we are, let me also note some of the particulars of our ministry that would not generally be shared by campus ministry models in the states. First, we draw from a number of schools. L’viv is loaded with different scholarly institutions ranging from two major universities, each with an enrollment of 20.000+, to a number of technical schools. Our ministry therefore isn’t “Florida Campus Crusade” or “UCLA Wesley” we are more like “L’viv Campus Ministry”.
The second particular about our context is that as Protestants, and even more so Wesleyans, we represent a minority branch of Christianity that many Ukrainians see as a sect. While students would regard a Protestant campus ministry in the States as normal, here a Protestant gathering is more likely to be seen with suspicion and in some way deviant from the dominant expressions of faith in Greek Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
The third way we are different from campus ministries in the states is that we are made up of youth in the Ukrainian sense and not so much of students as the more strictly defined “people who are presently attending school”. The term “youth” in Ukraine refers to the age group of people from 16 to 30 who possibly exhibit any of the following characteristics: they may be attending school, they may have already graduated, they probably are not married, they probably live at home, and they may have a full time job. This means that our worshiping body is pretty diverse and we are definitely not only university students.
Another reason we are made up of more than just students in the strict sense is that some who have worshiped with us feel like Youth to Jesus is their faith “home” do not see any need to move on. Also, there is not a Mehodist Church like our ministry that exists for adults. Sure, they can attend a Greek Catholic or Orthodox church but many of them feel more at home in the Methodist tradition after having been with us a while. Thankfully, we have a easy solution to this dilemma, but more on that next week…