A knowledge of other cultures, volunteer work, missionary work and church life—these are some of the main ingredients in Brunstad Christian Church's international youth program—YEP.
Strong solidarity, a lively, environment and a burning, common enthusiasm for the church's Christian values makes a stay in YEP a life experience.
YEP (Youth Exchange Program) is Brunstad Christian Church's international youth program. Its objective is to:
Provide a better knowledge of the church's basis of faith and its history
Provide instruction in missionary work and church life
Teach and spread knowledge of international languages and culture
Contribute to respect and tolerance through cooperation in a multicultural environment
Provide opportunities for volunteer work at church conferences and projects
Each year, approximately 250 young people aged 18 to 25 years are invited to in the program, which has a duration of one year. YEP usually has participants from about 30 different countries. Roughly one third of these are Norwegian, another third come from other European countries, and the last third from the rest of the world. Those who participate come from various cultures, and their backgrounds can be very different. Nonetheless, they have a common motivation—they want to use a year of their life to contribute to the church's ideal activities—and they have an expectation that this year will give them a lot in return.
The year in YEP is a busy an eventful one. The youth program mainly consists of the following activities and opportunities:
Knowledge of the church's basis of faith and history are central for YEP, and therefore lessons are held covering a variety of themes relating to these areas. Many of the church's activities are based at Brunstad in Norway, which is the main missionary center for Brunstad Christian Church. Then it is also natural to have a lot of focus on learning the Norwegian language, both theoretical and with practical exercises. Norwegian participants take the role of mentors for the foreign participants. After a year in YEP, most of the young people can communicate well in Norwegian.
Many of the participants are active in the missionary work organized by Brunstad Christian Church. Some are involved in film production and broadcasting, others work with websites and online media. The church has a treasure trove of literature, and some participants work on translation of literature to their respective languages. In addition, there is a comprehensive production of songs, music and audio books, which are used actively in missionary work.
Some YEP participants also travel out on missionary assignments to various parts of the world. During the past five years there have been missionaries from YEP in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.
Many of those who have participated in YEP have later said that the experiences they had with church life was what made the most impression, and what they had most use for afterwards. The youth are able to actively participate in edifying gatherings, services and prayer meetings, and often visit a number of Brunstad Christian Church's local fellowships. YEP also focuses on the individual's role and responsibility in the church, and they are given ample opportunity for personal development of their gifts and in the ministry. The aim is that after a year in YEP, the participants will be able to actively join in tasks and ministries in their local fellowships.
Volunteer work is a central part of the youth program. Here the participants have the opportunity to work side by side for a common purpose. This creates a unique solidarity, and contributes strongly to understanding and tolerance between the various cultures.
Many of the participants spend their YEP year at Brunstad Conference Center in Stokke, Norway. Here Brunstad Christian Church organizes large international conferences five to six times per year, and in the summer the church rents the center exclusively for about two months. The YEP participants act as hosts for these events, carrying out practical tasks and providing much of the service for those attending the conferences. There are very many tasks that must be carried out, and comprehensive planning work must also be done in advance.
Brunstad Christian Church has many practical projects going on in various parts of the world, such as building local meeting and conference halls. Some YEP participants spend time on such projects, and work together with local church members.
Arrangements are made for many cultural exchange activities and networking in YEP. For example, cultural evenings are organized with a focus on various nationalities or cultures. In various group projects, participants receive the opportunity to get to know other cultures better, and are given the task to present these for each other.
Working, living and eating together, as well as being together during leisure time, creates a unique solidarity and network. Most of those who have completed a year in YEP return home with a large personal network, and experience shows that most of them maintain these contacts later in life.
Even though the YEP year is a busy one, with a lot of work and lessons, there is plenty of time for leisure activities and social gatherings. The many festive occasions and group trips are often cited as highlights by the participants. There are also many opportunities for sporting activities, music and outdoor life.
Most YEP participants are based at Brunstad Conference Center in Norway. However, in recent years Brunstad Christian Church has also established the program in other countries and continents. More and more young people participate in exchange programs with other YEP units outside Norway. This trend is expected to continue, and the church wishes to open up for many new international YEP projects in the years to come.