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YWAM’s Secret Sauce?

The young and the old together

YWAM. In essence, it is a space where the young and old can fulfill godly purposes. Together.

My YWAM journey began when a 20-year old Minnesota-born boy found himself at a YWAM event. It took place in Munich at the 1972 Olympic Games Outreach.

 I remember it as a great adventure. Living among 1000 youth, from hippyish Jesus People to conservative church kids, eating new foods (think Nutella on brötchen), and giving out Chick tracts in various languages to strangers. Google “Jack Chick.” (Some images are disturbing)

We were told that we would do a “Jesus March” through the city after some Israeli athletes had been massacred.  We sang “He is Lord” in several languages. The ‘one way’ symbol, an index finger pointed upwards was common. But somehow I felt ‘at home.’ I think it was because a common thread had to do with being “in Christ.”

OK, a disclaimer: I left the event early, told Landa Cope, my ‘flock group’ leader that I was moving on, dumped my remaining literature into a bin, because it was all somewhat stressful. My response was to escape. From YWAM.

Looking back, what impacted me the most, was the presence of older legends. “God must think that we are significant”, because Corrie Ten Boom, Brother Andrew, and Joy Dawson among others came to share their time and lives with us. I don’t remember much of what was said, but it brought a sense of accountability to my young mind and heart. Something was imparted into my spirit, that  I never could have found on my own.

When YWAM works well (it does at times!) it is usually when 3 generations join together, combining their strengths. The young are idealistic. They have tons of energy, and rise to a challenge. They move on quickly and get bored easily. “Grit” doesn’t come to mind. They don’t know what they don’t know.

This week I met with the senior YWAMer in a large muslim-majority nation. He told me that there are now 168 of our tribe working long-term in that nation, organized into 4 circles. He and his wife, veterans who raised 4 kids thriving children, have turned over day-to-day leadership to 3 young couples in their location. They now give themselves to coaching, advising and encouraging the younger ones. They continue to embrace outreach teams from DTS’s, and the short-term energy they bring. They have put together a program where YWAMers can learn language and culture, and discover how to thrive long-term in this Middle-Eastern nation.

Flying back to Berlin yesterday, I was thinking, “Ahh. This really does work!” The young and old in community together in a nation that was known as the ‘graveyard of missionaries.’

This year some of our tribe are working hard to promote the Send. It might become the largest gathering around Jesus in Norway since Billy Graham was there in 1955. Behind the scenes, you can find Malachi’s prophecy in action, where some are turning their hearts towards other generations.

The genesis of this event came when Andreas Nordli, father of 5 and leader of YWAM Norway, came across a some old videos made at a YWAM festival held in Randers, Denmark in 1985. Floyd McClung had called for a gathering of about 4,500 YWAMers and friends. They gathered to be challenged afresh, receive the best training from global leaders, and build relationships. Over 8000 were present in the stadium when Luis Palau preached. (Judy and I were there helping to organize the event.)

You may ask: How will thousands find themselves in the Telenor arena on June 25? It takes prayer. And promotion. And the generations together.

There are 3 full-time traveling teams going to schools, youth groups, and churches across Norway, and places like the Faroe Islands. These are mainly 18-24 year olds, who are spurred on by Anne-Helen and Andreas, a generation older then them. There is Hans-Kristian, with great capacity and expertise for huge challenges and large budgets, how is leading a team of youth.

Andreas has been building relational capital for years among leaders of churches and ministries across the nation. No teenager is capable of doing that. His articles in national publications are explaining why to be “all in for Jesus” is actually Biblical and not harmful. Andreas helps with the  strategy behind the Send, and helped articulate what the 6 outcomes are. The app has been developed so that your ‘average’ young Norwegian can connect with at least one of those 6.

I see established leaders taking responsibility for this event, with a heart for a young generation in their nation. But as they lead out, they are also promoting young leaders by giving them platforms to challenge their own generation.

A major key to the success of the Send, Oslo, will be how the young and the old embrace and serve one another.

How could this apply to you, no matter what your age is?

  1. You can form friendships with both the younger and older people. The younger are hungry to learn skills, to gain advice, and connect with an older generation. They may not know how to initiate this, but will always welcome it. And older people will feel honored if you invite them into your lives. If you are in a ‘middle-generation’, you can interface with several generations.
  2. If you are older, take the initiative! Find a few younger people, invite them to share their story with you, and take an interest in their life. Listen to them, don’t talk down to them. Learn from them. Allow their energy and idealism to benefit from your life experience. You don’t need to have all the answers, but if you sincerely ask good questions, this will lead to deep connections.
  3. Pick some questions in advance, that will start a conversation, but will not stay shallow. Learn to listen well. A monologue will kill any relational energy. But dialogue is what Jesus modeled, and you can do this.
  4. To make new connections, courage and risk is required. It’s OK to feel vulnerable and to be transparent. Share your stories of failure as well as success. People connect when they hear of your weakness, and how you became strong.
  5. You can give a platform to younger people that they can’t create for themselves. Invite them to serve in one of your programs or events. Give them feedback that is honest. Model grit and endurance to them. Your presence is that main thing!
  6. YWAM needs you. The music will be loud, the culture youthful. You may feel like an alien. But without you and what you bring, others will never fully come into their destiny.

As someone who turns 70 later this year, I had often wondered if I’m in denial to still be in “Youth with a Mission.” Is there a place for me at the table? It may not come from a formal role or title. But the emerging generation will not be complete without my participation. And I will find great joy and fulfillment in serving people who will outlive me.

Jim and Judy are based in Berlin, Germany. They have 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters. They met while serving in Hurlach, and have served various seasons on the M/V Anastasis, in Lausanne, Thessaloniki and Kona. Currently, they serve as global elders and focus on leadership development by teaching, consulting and coaching.

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