Although Denmark is officially a Lutheran country, many young people claim to be atheists. Lars Ørsøe was the only believer in his entire high school. When he mentioned to classmates that he was a Christian, they often replied, “Wow, you are the first one that I’ve ever met.”
He knew that if he were to invite one of his friends to his church, the Greve Church of the Nazarene, they would have no interest in coming. He thought it would be easier to introduce Danish youth to Christ if they had a less threatening location where they could gather.
Ørsøe began to imagine a house as the setting to host youth group meetings. He shared his idea with others at the church, and soon the board and the pastor, Kaj Ove Bollerup, embraced the vision.
In late 2009, the Greve Church of the Nazarene opened the White House, a house painted white in which five university students from the church, including Ørsøe, live while hosting youth gatherings and giving homework help. The White House is also a place where teens can hang-out with friends, talk about their problems, or stay when they have nowhere else to go.
More than two years later, the nearly nonexistent youth group has grown to a steady 15 or so young people meeting at any one time.
Four of the original five leaders continue to lead the youth ministry at the house – besides Ørsøe, they include Signe Bollerup, Anders Holm-Pedersen, and Catrine Hansen; the fifth, Jesper Ørsøe, has since departed for studies in Australia. Mission Corps missionary Katie Fitch, formerly a youth pastor in the U.S., joined the group last year.
The youth activity in the church is not centered around a specific time, but around a location – the White House.
“I think Denmark is a very tolerant country," Fitch said. "People are very open to different things, so it’s like, ‘OK, you believe in Christianity and that’s great, but I don’t care about it.’ So the idea of traditional church, people aren’t going to just walk in. It’s more comfortable in a house.”
Because loneliness is a common struggle for teens in Denmark, the White House meets an important need for friendship and a safe place to hang out, Ørsøe said.
For instance, one young woman spent a few days at the White House while she sorted through some big decisions she needed to make.
Ørsøe has seen his own brother, Kim, who is 17, grow in leadership and self-confidence through being involved in the youth group.
“He takes a lot of initiative and he shows a lot of potential right now,” he said. “There was some work in the church that we couldn’t continue at some point because there was too much work. He has taken a lot of that work.”
With the youth ministry now firmly established, Ørsøe said he hopes to see a core of committed, consistent youth to form in the near future.
--Church of the Nazarene Eurasia Region