Joel Goldberg, has much experience in youth ministry and is also the founder and leader of ‘Netivah’ – an organization that focuses on youth. The following is an interview with Joel.
What drew you to youth ministry?
I realized the need for ministry to youth while still in my teen years, watching friends of mine fall away from the Lord, thinking something more should have been done to help them. And so, as soon as I was no longer considered a youth myself, I got involved in youth ministry. About 10 years ago, I decided to focus on full-time youth ministry. I established Netivah Center in 2005, with a view to organize national youth conferences and encourage youth ministry in congregations. Three years ago, we branched out and began organizing national soldiers’ conferences and army preparatory courses, as well.
Can you describe the need for the kind of ministry in which Netivah is engaged?
Teenagers need a sense of community, a sense of belonging to a group of like-minded, similar people. Teens need encouragement; they need to know that they’re not alone. This is crucial for the development and formation of their identity. Our goal is to provide teens with a support group, with a sense of belonging. If we do not provide them with such a social network, they will find one on their own.
At Netivah conferences, youth groups from congregations all over Israel come together with their congregational youth leaders to learn from the Word and gain memorable new experiences. Our attitude is that youth ministry should begin and end in the local congregations. We encourage the local congregations to shepherd their teenage congregants. So, in addition to the youth conferences, we organize training seminars to equip youth leaders. I also visit congregations to speak to parents and youth leaders about the needs of their teens.
What are the unique challenges of doing youth ministry in Israel?
In Israel, many believing youth are quite isolated. It’s not unusual for a Messianic teen to be the only believer in their school. The
congregations here tend to be smaller, with a proportionately small number of youth. Most congregations can’t afford to assign a full-time youth leader. Many youth leaders are untrained short-term volunteers, still figuring out what they want to do with their lives, just barely out of the teen years themselves. There are also cultural challenges. Many new immigrant families are under a great deal of financial duress, and these busy parents can’t always give their children the attention they need. Geographically speaking, it is a challenge to gather all the youth together, as they are scattered far and wide across the country.
What is the most rewarding part about your work?
It gives me tremendous joy to have a young adult, an “alumnus” of our conferences, call me up and ask me, “Is there any way I can help with your next conference?” It pleases me to see them following the Lord, eager to serve, eager to participate in youth work with the next generation.