China (MNN) — You've heard a lot of the stories about how fast the Chinese Church has been growing. What you may not have heard is one of the underlying problems that comes with the kind of growth the indigenous church is experiencing. One local pastor summed it up as "three too manys."
Erik Burklin with China Partner explains: First, "We have too many old people; secondly, we have too many uneducated people in our churches; thirdly, we have too many women that are all old." In other words, there isn't much in the church that relates to kids. When the kids get bored, they quit coming to church.
The Chinese Church is realizing they have a responsibility to reach the next generation for Christ. Church leaders are facing a dilemma: how can we reach the next generation for Christ? Burklin says on their last trip to China, they began discussing the needs in youth ministry.
Currently, Youth Ministry is virtually non-existent in the Chinese Church. That's going to change. Burklin says, "Starting in January, we're actually going to hire a part-time person who has some youth ministry experience who also has come with me the last few years to our English camps."
The part-time worker will start a training initiative called "Youth Serve." The name says it all, Burklin notes. "We want to serve the local Chinese church in providing much-needed training materials and tool to equip their church leadership in the area of youth ministry."
One of the strategic ways to share the Good News with young people is through English camps like the one in Zigong where a short-term China Partner team served this summer. The local pastor had some great ideas for attracting young people, says Burklin. "Every weekend, when they run this English Corner, young people are attracted to come. In addition, they've stared an Arts Center that is part of the English Corner, so they've remodeled the corner of that church facility."
This same pastor noted one other difficulty that came up with this approach. In an earlier interview published by China Partner, he said, "Our young people only believe with their head, not with their heart. Can you help us with ideas on how to help them believe with their heart?"
That's the challenge. The distractions and materialism confronting Chinese young people are loud messages to be countered by the "still, small voice." It's a new China, with different values and different idols. However, Burklin says, the Gospel stays the same. "The bottom line is to keep it biblical and to keep it modeled after what Jesus showed us to do: to live out our faith on a day-to-day basis."
In the year ahead, the new initiative will hopefully take on Chinese characteristics. It's an uncompromising message of the Gospel in a medium that can be understood. As the initiative multiplies, they hope to see these dividends paid in the future generations. "If we can reach the teenagers for Christ and have them be attracted to having a relationship with Jesus Christ, that would then spill over to an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ as they get older."
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