Last night I spoke at a youth service for a Sacramento area Russian church known as the House of Bread Church. It was a really fun experience on several levels.
First… it was intriguing to note some of the cultural differences from these English speaking Russian Americans. Not only was this group professional and well dressed (yes… even the teenagers), they were also much more polite and attentive than the typical U.S. youth group. More on that in a minute.
A little background. Most of the people in this group were born in Russia, the Ukraine, Estonia, etc. and moved to the U.S. with their parents when they were toddlers or young kids. Most of their parents moved here to escape religious persecution. Many of these students have stories of their parents or grandparents spending time in jail because of their faith. 22-year-old Eddie started off the story in prayer, sharing a story of his grandfather in Russia years ago refusing to renounce the name of Jesus. All he needed to do was deny Christ and he would be set free- he refused.
A powerful legacy that many of these students were left with.
Because of this legacy and tradition, most of these students have grown up in very strict Christian homes, attending churches where the girls wear dresses and the boys wear ties. The services are in Russian, because, as my new friend Anna explained, “Anything too American was seen as bad.”
So this particular church is a little radical, by Russian standards, because they do an English speaking service. Anna and her team of leaders respect the old traditions, but at the same time have noticed an open door to reach English speaking Russian Americans with an English worship service.
The age group of these ‘students’ varies from 16 to young twenties. Apparently many of these Russian groups organize their age groups a little different than the traditional American “jr. high” and “high school” group. These Russian groups reach kids, then tweens and teens up to about 15 years old, then 16 to young twenties (which, ironically is dictionary definition Gen Y). The group I spoke to last night was this group of 16 to young twenties.
This group was in much better physical shape than typical “born in the USA” Americans. I am 5 foot 9 and 185 pounds (about 15 pounds overweight- basically, I can hide my gut in a big shirt, but not in a swimsuit)… and I was by far the fattest dude in the room! 🙂
This group was well dressed. Anna, Jimmy, Eddie and the leadership team described this group as casual, remarking how radical this was for a Slavic church. But when I got there, the most casual guy there was jeans, a nice shirt and dress shoes. Everyone had on dress shoes. No flip flops in this CA church.
Most of these Russian Americans didn’t have an accent at all. Many of them were infants when they came here. If it weren’t for the dress shoes… you wouldn’t even know where they were born. J
They were more focused on true worship. This might be just this particular group, a mixed group of Baptists, Pentecostals, etc. (another thing you don’t see often in the Russian churches apparently… a mix of denominations). But these young men and women were into the worship and focused on learning. Aside from some of the Korean churches I’ve spoken at, this group was probably the most attentive.
The age group was fascinating. I spoke at their youth service. But their main church primarily reaches Russian Americans ages 20 through 40. Yes, you read that correctly: 20-40. The group least likely to be found in most American churches. But in this Russian community… this group is on fire!
I had a great time ministering with this group. They heard me train at the Youth Specialty Conventions two years ago and have been using our web site’s free resources ever since. I’m glad that I was finally able to go see them in action and speak in their service. I hope to see more of them in the future.