India’s Nazarene Youth International (NYI) coordinator, Vijay Bhalerao, states that many Nazarene youth leaders in his country lack leadership training and the practical knowledge of what it means to work with young people.
“Many of the youth leaders in the churches do not know how to organize, plan activities for youth, and do not know exactly what to do," Bhalerao said after the conclusion of a Nexus course in North India. "Since they do not know, what happens is that many of the local churches’ youth groups are not functioning.”
The objective of NYI in India is for youth groups to function in every local church, and Bhalerao sees Nexus as one way to achieve that.
The first of the two-part Nexus course was held in Delhi 22-25 May for 15 youth leaders and youth pastors from districts in the north of India, with Bhalerao and Pastor Pritam Kasabe of Western Maharashtra co-teaching the material.
The course is divided into three modules and delivered over a minimum of two intense weekends. The first module challenges participants to think about their personal and faith values, their context, and their identity. The young men and women then learn about the physical, emotional, and spiritual transitions that can take place during adolescence. This is then followed by studying group relations and their roles as leaders.
The Explore and In-depth programs further develop these themes. The Explore module focuses on group dynamics, informal education, and leadership roles of the young people. The In-depth module enables people to develop their thinking of those subjects by exploring and putting into practice models of theological reflection. Those who complete the course receive a certificate of completion at their district assembly.
Nexus is the brainchild of Eurasia Region youth leader Diego Lopez, and Louise Kenyon, a former youth worker and now assistant dean and lecturer in social theology and youth work at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, United Kingdom. Kenyon helped to develop the curriculum.
The course was first piloted on the Church of the Nazarene's Spain District in 2016. After it was well-received there by youth leaders and district leadership, it was introduced to the India Field. Bhalerao and Lopez decided to offer it separately to districts by zone: east, west, north and south due to India's large size, population, and number of churches.
The course has already been completed in the west, and now the first of the two parts have been delivered in the north. The east of India is scheduled next. The Nexus course is also planned for Ukraine, Portugal, and Sri Lanka this year.
Having gone through the course himself, Kasabe is a believer that youth leaders in India need to learn the material.
“Many youth workers don’t have any idea what they’re supposed to do in their areas or districts," Kasabe said. "Whatever decisions they make, it is it is done randomly. But from this seminar I myself, as a student, understood there should be aim or ambition – aim at something and have some goal. When we set some goals then we can plan accordingly.”
Kasabe also said he learned about the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual development of youth at different stages.
“I learned … how to recognize their needs according to their age and how to interact and communicate and be one of them so they can understand not only themselves, but help them to understand the world and be connected with God in the simplest way," Kasabe said. “This is very helpful for me personally, and I’m definitely going to bring it in practice in my own district.”
Susannah Shejule, from Western Maharashtra District, appreciated the course's perspective.
"It gave us proper guidance on looking at youth problems in the right perspective and to handle issues of youths with patience, understanding, and very importantly, with the application of theological reflection,” she said.
Bhalerao's objective is for those who complete the course to teach it to others on their own districts. Nexus is not just about forming strong leaders; it’s about forming strong followers of Christ among India’s youth.
“I need to make our theology practical so that other young people will get connected to the Savior and know their Savior and that their growth is holistic growth,” Kasabe said.