By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Having thought about training youth ministers across the world for some time, Sam Muhlbauer recently traveled to Sweden and Finland to do just that.
“This was an idea of mine about seven years ago,” he said. “But, the idea was put on hold when I went back to school to get my master’s degree in ministry leadership with an emphasis on youth from Crown College in St. Bonifacius.”
Then not too long ago, Muhlbauer, the youth minister at Living Hope Church in Little Falls, said he was challenged by a friend to take that first step forward in his faith.
He chose Sweden and Finland to begin his teachings because of his contacts there. Phil Zarns, a youth leader in Sweden, grew up in Little Falls and went to College with Muhlbauer. Zarn’s wife, Swedish-born Katja, has a brother in Espoo, Finland, who is also a youth leader. Janne Tiainen teaches at the local Pentecostal Church.
Muhlbauer and three other Minnesota youth pastors got together before the trip and brainstormed about what to teach. They processed different ideas and came up with two areas they wanted to concentrate on: youth pastors and youth groups.
Those two areas were broken down to vision casting: how to share visions with the young people; how to minister to students and help them grow and mature in their faith; how to accomplish the goals of each youth ministry; and discussions about worship, missions and smaller ministries.
They named their outreach program Nexus Leadership.
“Nexus means a link or a connection point,” said Muhlbauer. “We want to encourage and equip other leaders across the globe, bettering youth leadership.”
The group left April 3, flying nine hours to reach Helsinki, Finland. They boarded a train to Espoo where they met their host, got a hotel and met the youth leaders of the area.
“We were there for two days, presenting ideas and had wonderful dialogue with 13 youth ministers. It was a cooperative sharing time where we tossed around ideas,” said Muhlbauer.
While there, Muhlbauer was able to preach, with an interpreter, to Tiainen’s congregation during a Sunday service
The group had one day off to visit Helsinki.
From there, the four traveled by ferry for 17 hours across the Baltic Sea to Stockholm, Sweden.
Zarns met them in Stockholm and the four travelers spent time with him and his family.
They spent one night in a hotel, then took a train to Gotabro, Sweden. There, in a rural area, the Minnesota group joined a Pentecostal youth ministers’ retreat with about 22 others.
“There we had less teaching time,” said Muhlbauer. “We participated more in their talks concerning youth leadership.”
He said one topic was helping transitioning students stay connected with their faith after high school.
“We all connected very quickly,” Muhlbauer said. “While there is a large body of water that separates us from them, our goals are the same.”
Muhlbauer said that, through prayer, he has discovered this idea for global training can continue.
“Everyone would benefit,” he said.