China (MNN/CPM) — In China, the evangelical movement is outpacing its leaders. According to the Chair of the National Three-Self Patriotic Movement of the Protestant Churches in China, the ratio is 1 trained pastor for every 1,000+ Christians.
While that's similar to a ratio that's standard in American mega-churches, many of these Chinese pastors don't have the same tools and resources available to them. In fact, many may struggle to have their own Bible, never mind on-hand reference books.
When you add in the upcoming generation of young people, there is an obvious need for help. China Partner President Erik Burklin says they've been answering that call for aid for 24 years.
The ministry team conducts Training Seminars in partnership with registered Bible schools and churches, under the auspices of the China Christian Council. In an effort to honor the Chinese Church being served, Training Seminars are only planned once an invitation has been given to China Partner to do so. For example, he says they have a good friendship with the Yibin Christian Church. "God has opened up the door of opportunity for us to return to this particular church. This, by the way, is our fourth time here to keep investing in the brothers and sisters of this region."
The team just wrapped up a 10-day training session. "Over 60 lay pastors–30 from the local church here in Yibin, and then 30 from the surrounding countryside churches–have come for some intense training in the area of family and marriage counseling, and evangelism."
After the seminars, China Partner distributed "Pastor Packs" (mini-libraries) of 7-11 books (including reference Bibles, concordances, Bible handbooks and dictionaries, commentaries, and other Bible reference study books) to every participant of a China Partner Training Seminar. Of this recent one, Burklin says, "We are able to provide much-needed ministry tools to equip them for more effective ministry in the future. In addition to training this week, we also passed out over 900 theological training books to all the participants of the training."
Each book included is written in (or translated into) Mandarin Simplified Chinese and authored by scholars (often Chinese living aboard) from Taiwan, Hong Kong, the United States. These mini-libraries can help Christian leaders with further independent Scriptural study; with sermon, Bible study, and counseling preparation; as study guides in their churches; and with their own daily devotional and family needs.
In addition to that training, the China Partner team added something new, Burklin shares. "This year, part of our team is conducting Sunday School Evangelism Explosion training for Sunday School teachers in the Yibin church. This has never been done there before."
It's a dovetail component to the YouthServe ministry China Partner just launched. That, too, played a role in the Yibin session, notes Burklin. "In addition, my sister, who is now our YouthServe Director, also gave a presentation of the needs of the Chinese teenagers and how the local church can be a part of making a difference for them."
What is YouthServe? An answer to prayer. According to the 2010 census, nearly two-thirds of the Chinese population (750 million people) is under the age of 35. Pressure to succeed is intense.
When in high school, students worry about the "gaokao" — the standardized college entrance exam. Many parents put tremendous pressure on their child to do well on it. The result of this one exam determines whether or not they get into a good top university. The better the university, the better the chance for a good job, and with it, the potential to earn well. It becomes a matter of family honor and prestige to be able to support a family as well as the parents in their old age.
However, the pressure breaks people. China has one of the highest teenage suicide rates today. Uncertainty in a changing global marketplace leads to depression. Failure isn't an option. But coping with the pressure and finding ways to help is one of the things China Partner took on to be part of the solution.
Since they exist to serve the church in China, one way you can help is to assist them in reaching the next generation. YouthServe helps emerging leaders to develop and implement training strategies to address the need for youth ministry training in China.
This type of training is part of what makes China Partner relevant and comprehensive in a changing China. 10-days of intense, high impact learning means that the church will be prepared to take on sharing the message of Jesus, giving people new hope, new direction and new purpose for their lives and future. Why keep pace? "God is at work, not only in Sichuan, but in all of China. It's just a privilege to participate with Him in this phenomenal work here," explains Burklin.