Children’s and Youth Ministry at Wartime – Yuliia’s Story

Головна Children's and Youth Ministry at Wartime - Yuliia's Story

Yuliia Potapenko is an administrator and part of the worship team at the Source of Love Church in Nizhyn, Chernihiv region. For the past ten years, together with her church team, Yuliia has been organizing camps and clubs for children and teens. In this interview, we are talking about the Light Community and Cultural Center – an initiative they developed during the UETS Social Ministry Workshop Program to make their children’s and youth ministry more effective. Currently, they are conducting camps, clubs, and Alpha course meetings for children and teens as part of the Light Center Initiative.


Why have you chosen to serve young people?


Launching the Light Center for children and youth is a calling from God and not our choice. Young people are naturally drawn to us. They participate in our camps or clubs and then start attending our church. Their hearts get ignited, and they become very interested in church life. I see how God’s working with their hearts through our activities.



Why did you decide to study at UETS?


We needed resources for our ministry, so we decided to participate in the Social Ministry Workshop Program to learn how to find partners and raise funds for our initiatives. At UETS, I realized that my view of partnerships was very distorted. I realized that you can’t wait for something to happen. You have to start working towards it.



Your region was under Russian occupation. How did you find the courage to organize the first camp after your territories were de-occupied?


Russian troops surrounded us for two months. And even after our army pushed them back, it was still dangerous here because of air raid attacks. But there were a lot of children who stayed here with their families, and they needed something to do with their free time. Of course, we had some doubts because of the security situation, but then we won a grant for organizing this camp. So we took it as God’s blessing and did it. It was a step of faith.


And how did you conduct this first camp?


We based the program for the camp on therapy approaches because the children needed to work through their war trauma and learn to deal with the stress and various losses.



What about your club meetings? What are they like?


We have separate meetings for children up to 11 years old and separate meetings for teens and youth. At first, we planned to hold such clubs locally – just for children and teens from our neighborhood. But now children and teens from all over the town attend our clubs. 


At our children’s clubs, we play games, have different workshops, and read Bible stories. For example, we were reading a therapeutic story at our last meeting. These meetings are always different. Sometimes, they last a couple of hours, and sometimes, we have activities planned out for the whole day. 


When it comes to teens and youth meetings, they usually sing some worship songs and then read and contemplate on the Word of God. Sometimes, they play games or watch some movie and then discuss it. These meetings are always different as well, but they always involve some interpersonal communication when teens can share their hearts with the older members of our team.


Could you share some stories of children or teens influenced by your camps or club meetings?


We have many stories of children and teens from non-Christian families who started visiting our church after our camps and clubs. For example, one girl named Yaroslava, my daughter’s friend, had wanted to attend our camp for a couple of years before the war, but her family wouldn’t let her. After the war started, this girl visited one of our club meetings, which we called “I Love Ukraine.” After that, her parents also allowed her to go to the camp. Now, this girl visits our church’s youth gatherings and even asks to join our worship team. This girl is now saying: “I am starting to believe, and I want to join your church.” And her mom is now saying that she doesn’t worry about her daughter when she is with us.


Here’s Artem, who is sitting by my side at this moment. He is also from a non-Christian family. He visited our camps, and now he is part of our team. He is actually our youth leader.



And what is Alpha Course all about?


This is a series of meetings devoted to teaching teens and youth the fundamentals of Christianity. We hold these meetings for those who have already visited our camps and clubs and want to start attending church and learn more about God. We’ve learned that they tend to fall off if we don’t further engage them in some way. Hence, we organize these meetings for them. 


What impact would you like the Light Center to have?


We want to start operating on a city level to reach more young people and influence their values and beliefs. At this moment, we are doing what we can, but I believe God has a bigger plan for us.


Subscribe to the news