China (MNN) — A question every church faces at one point or another is this: “How do we reach the next generation of Christians and raise up new church leaders?”
Sometimes older traditions and methods can leave younger generations feeling disconnected from the Church. This is the big, nation-wide challenge facing the registered Church in China.
Erik Burklin of China Partner says youth ministry in China looks quite different from the United States. It includes individuals from 20 to 40-years of age. When China Partner initially broached the topic with partners within the registered Church, they were expecting a much different demographic.
“But that’s really kind of what they look at as young people. Anybody under 40 is, to them, the younger generation,” Burklin says.
Bridging the gap
The reason youth is a much older demographic in this case is because of the current Church make-up.
“The majority of the people who attend are very old. I’m talking anywhere between 65 and 80, and mostly women. So there’s a huge discrepancy between those who are actually attending church and those people who they would like to reach.”
So now, as 2017 approaches, China Partner is supporting the registered Church as they think strategically about how to reach this next generation of Christians.
Gauging the problem
To start the process, they’ve talked with younger people to find out why the Church is currently uninteresting to them. The truth is, things are run the same way they have been for years. As we’ve seen in other countries, especially the United States, worship styles have changed in the last couple of decades with newer generations of Christian artists. Bible studies and life groups have adjusted to new learning styles.
It’s not keeping up with the culture in a way that jeopardizes the Gospel message, but it’s considering how different generations connect, relate, learn, and function.
China Partner has one group of people in mind who have a lot to say about this gap, and how to fix it.
“We have sensed a lot of open doors there, especially in the Bible schools and seminaries. [The] younger, emerging Christian leaders are now being equipped, many of them in their 20s. They’re the ones who understand the need of how to reach the next generation. They understand the need of doing church differently than what we grew up with.”
In addition to bridging the gap between old and young Christians, the Church will also be salt and light to younger generations who do not yet know Jesus.
Bible demand: an indicator of Gospel interest
Another variable in ministry is growth. China has long been known as the fastest growing Church in the world. But Burklin explains this may be old data. Church growth, at least for the registered Church, appears to have plateaued. This is just another reason why it is so important to reach out to the next group of Christians.
Even so, there is a huge demand for Bibles. China Partner works with Amity Printing Company in China. Burklin says it is now known as the largest Bible printing press in the world.
“It was just phenomenal to witness again how quickly these Bibles come off the presses. In fact, they have a counter in the lobby and I measured it and it’s roughly a Bible per second that they’re printing.”
In addition, this press has morphed from a national resource to an international outreach. Burklin says 40 percent of Bibles printed here are sent overseas.
“Overall, what’s exciting is Bibles are readily available. I think there’s still much more that needs to be done in that area so everyone can have a Bible, but the good news is you can once again own a Bible legally. You don’t have to hide it, you don’t have to make sure nobody takes it away from you.”
This is a huge shift from the recent past in communist China. With these things in mind, China Partner looks ahead to what’s next.
Would you please pray for opportunities and guidance for this ministry?
Burklin says, “We always need God to keep us wise in how we operate in China, and what we do and how much we do in China. We don’t want to be in their way. We want to be sensitive to their needs and be available to them to what they need.”
If you would like to be a part of China Partner’s work to equip, serve, and partner with the Church in China, click here.