“When the next EJE came around, Maria invited Rose, an unchurched friend of hers from school who was having a lot of family problems. The weekend had a significant impact on Rose and her family; and although they don’t attend our church, they are one step closer to each other and to knowing God. Rose has a new group of friends who seek her out and pray for her, and her friendship with Maria has deepened,” Annette said.

Since most people in Latin America live with their families until they get married, and frequently even after marriage, the sharp divisions between life stages we have in the States, such as high school or moving away to college, are less pronounced. People stay in the same communities and continue to be dependent on their parents in many ways. As a result, youth ministry in a Mexican church encompasses everyone between puberty and marriage, roughly between 13 and 26 years of age.

“Because of this we can’t call it ‘student’ ministry in Mexico because many of them are not students. We wouldn’t want to highlight the difference between those who are pursuing a ‘professional’ career and those who don’t go to college. If a church does divide the youth group, it will be between adolescentes (roughly from 13-18) and jovenes (18 and up),” Annette said.

There are distinct benefits to youth ministry in heterogeneous groups, as opposed to the American church’s highly sectored, age-specific style. According to Annette, here are three of the benefits:

1. Strength of Numbers: It is encouraging and empowering for youth to feel like they are part of a group with critical mass.
2. Youth Attract Youth: It is not un-common for a teen to see a youth group out talking, playing a game, hanging out, etc. and engage in conversation with them because he or she wants to have what the group radiates.
3. Mutual Enrichment: Each age group has something positive to share with the others. For example, college students might have lost some of the enthusiasm and silliness that junior highers have, while the high school and college students are motivated when they see young adults modeling a lifestyle of serving God with their time and talents and being His ambassadors at work.

One of the benefits of having stripped-down budgets and resources available to you is the focus on God’s sufficiency. “Bare-bones youth ministry can be so refreshing,” Annette concluded, “because it forces you to remember that God is living and active, especially when He shows up in people’s lives and does amazing things.”


For the past 10 years Tim & Annette Gulick have lived in Toluca, Mexico, providing resources and training for youth workers throughout the Spanish-speaking world through OC International (www.oci.org).

Over 18,000 pages of resources are available free of charge at www.ParaLideres.org. A full course on youth ministry created by the Gulick’s team is available at the Escuela de Capacitación Cristiana en Linea (www.eccel.org).
 
Cheryl Miller lives on a lake in Georgia with her seven sons and husband, Steve Miller, a youth ministry resource writer. More information on student ministry in other countries can be found at
www.youth-ministry.info.

Copyright 2006, YouthWorker Journal. Used with Permission.