Europe X Brings New Generational Energy
Note: Nate and Stacy Tatman, featured missionaries for Global Strategy’s year-end impactX2 campaign, have recently been appointed as associate regional coordinators for Europe and the Middle East, with particular responsibilities for church planting and church health. Learn more about the impactX2 campaign by clicking here.
How important is it for pastors and their spouses to avoid isolation? It’s very important, and in the Church of God in Europe, regular fellowship between pastors is proving to be a game-changer. Every six months, young pastors and their spouses from the Church of God in Europe gather for a time of fellowship, learning, and strategizing as they seek to create a new generation of churches that have a strong church-planting DNA and are appropriately configured to reach a post-religious environment.
Launched in April 2018, Europe X meetings have been hosted in Budapest, Paris, Interlaken, and this fall in Treviso, Italy. Europe X pastors come from Hungary, Italy, France, England and Spain, and the meetings and network give them a place to share their struggles, concerns, and advice. They also become familiar with their brothers’ and sisters’ churches in the region. Modeled after the Three Worlds team approach, Europe X enables pastors to visit each other’s churches and see how ministry is done in different contexts. Pastor Laszlo Debreceni of The Nest in Budapest has greatly enjoyed being able to visit Europe X pastors in their respective countries: “You see that the Europe X pastors are in very similar issues as we are in Hungary, being bivocational pastors, social judgement on evangelical churches, and you also see how God works through that and gives us the steps forward. That really gives hope for the future.” Even visiting the church facility in Treviso was inspirational for the Hungarians as they contemplate moving to a new location.
The kinds of issues that Europe X addresses through discussions and teaching sessions can range from how to balance church and family life to how to introduce change to an established congregation resistant to changes. Not only is the time together practical, but it also offers emotional support and fun times of fellowship.
Spouses are very important to Europe X, which also includes one female pastor, Katherine Lovaglio of Arco, Italy. Missionary Christy Kihm, who coordinates Europe X with her husband Dan Kihm, says “When you are married, you are both in ministry full time—at home and at church. Both partners feel the joys, the stresses, and everything in-between, so it’s important that spouses are included so that they have access to the tools and information to help them handle it. When one partner is overwhelmed, the other will have the same information to process and deal with it.”
The churches may be at different stages of existence, but they all are trying to proactively re-configure themselves to create a healthy life-cycle and engage their communities at a higher level. The churches find that they have a lot in common, such as dealing with generational differences and integrating believers who are extremely new not only to Christianity but to the idea of religion in general. But there are also tremendous differences. The Church of God in Birkenhead, England, has existed for decades and is reinventing itself to reach youth, while @home in Paris is a brand-new ministry focused primarily on refugees from different faiths and cultures. One commonality is the deep dedication that these couples have toward their work.
One of the regular exercises at Europe X is having the pastors draw a picture of where their congregations are. The images that the pastors draw on the poster-boards are often very revealing and give the whole group an opportunity to analyze and speak into each other’s churches. Assistant Regional Coordinator Nathan Tatman says, “The activities we lead them through are designed to help them articulate where their ministries are at beyond just words. By presenting to the group, it forces them to process their context and get immediate feedback.”
The next Europe X meeting will take place in Switzerland, coinciding with the Three Worlds Leadership Network (3WLN), which like Europe X brings together young people that are involved in all forms of ministry, from music to youth work, to senior pastorates. “Isolation is a killer,” Regional Coordinator Patrick Nachtigall says, “and there have not traditionally been strong support systems for young pastors. The older pastors don’t tend to drop out of ministry and have a significant amount of control over the resources and structures of their countries. It is the younger leaders that can easily get lost in the shuffle and suffer when there are no support-networks to go with them through the hard times or offer training on important ministry-related subjects.” Europe X is expected to continue expanding as it incorporates more pastors from Eastern Europe.