(from the desk of Miriam)
The last day of LAAC Assembly on the redemptive role of youth has drawn to a close, and so we sit tiredly at gate 4—leaving the organized chaos of Central America for the chaotic organization of its northern neighbor.
Although my weak gringo gastrointestinal tract celebrates how quickly our time in Honduras has passed, my weak gringo heart isn’t quite so sure how to feel.
The assembly wrapped up yesterday afternoon with a chance for country representatives to gather and discuss next steps. Country teams returned to share inspiring action plans, most centered around the introduction of IMPACT clubs to their areas.
The North American team, consisting of 12 younger adults, mostly from the states, conversed in a predictably North American fashion about theory and value before settling on concrete next steps that focused on beginning conversations. It is ironic that most Central American teams returned with great confidence in tangible action plans, while we North Americans have a somewhat half-assed sounding commitment to further conversations.
I found this to be, upon first consideration, extraordinarily frustrating and stereotypical of North Americans. It seems a reality however, that church politics—while globally sticky at best—have a particularly powerful way of distracting the North American church from its purpose in North America. This means that if something like IMPACT clubs are to be successful in North America, they must therefore be carefully rethought for a North American context in order to satisfy congregational grumblings and/or find any sort of commitment from our overly busy youth.
Cultural differences make IMPACT clubs very successful in developing contexts, while they struggle to gain a foothold in the Northern Americas. For a large part, youth in Romania (where Dana Bates first developed IMPACT clubs) “get into trouble” because they have no structured activities. Youth in North America (I’m speaking here of the typical American youth group member) are kept so busy by concerned parents that they “get into trouble” to deal with their stress. When we consider how to adapt the successful IMPACT model to many places in North America, we must therefore remember that we are attempting to address two very different roots of issue.
A North American context also challenges the adoption of IMPACT principles into existing programming because the majority of youth programming in churches and NGOs remains overwhelmingly a consumptive model. We wondered (as the North American contingent) whether it would even be possible to import the principles of IMPACT to our programming without building a new skeleton of programming from which to work.
We may need to find a balance between our important discussions of the challenges of implementing empowering youth programming in North America, with the courage to try (and perhaps fail) to serve youth with more wisdom.Hopefully frustrated,