Covering Our Young People with Prayers
Strengthening the next generation’s faith in God has always been the cornerstone of Presence’s establishment and development. Our mission is to bring our youth back to God in a society that is becoming increasingly more individualistic. In the past, Presence was often perceived as an organization serving families and intergenerational ministries. While Presence does focus on building up families and intergenerational relationships, we also recognize the needs of young people and those of their families. Our commitment to family ministry has always been with the end goal of raising up our youth.
Difficulties of Youth Ministry
For many years, Presence has faithfully hosted Faith Seminars for young believers as a way of encouraging them to reflect on and live out their faith. Unfortunately, the number of young people in many small- and mid-sized Chinese churches has been declining in recent years. In some churches, there is a lack of youth fellowships to participate in our Faith Seminars. This is saddening and concerning reality. For churches that continue to maintain youth ministry, the frontline youth workers or parents have shared with us their experience with intergenerational conflicts caused by cultural and expectational differences:
1. Differences in Roles and Expectations
Due to natural language and cultural barriers, some first-generation immigrant parents feel helpless when they teach and discipline their children. As a result, they hope to pass on the responsibility of teaching their children to youth workers. Some parents lack clear expectations regarding youth ministry; they simply regard youth ministry as a place for child care services that would allow them to participate in their own adult fellowship gatherings. On the other hand, most youth workers see themselves playing the role of spiritual leaders, instead of the youths’ parents. They see themselves as big brothers and sisters who are there to encourage the youth in pursuing God, rather than someone who is responsible for disciplining the youth. Some Christian parents prioritize academic achievements over their children’s spiritual lives. Many youth workers feel discouraged when parents have their children reduce church activities to focus on schoolwork.
2. Barriers to Mutual Trust
Because of the aforementioned differences, there is a lack of mutual understanding between youth workers and parents. Sometimes, parents are needed to help serve in youth ministry due to a lack of young adult volunteers. Youth workers in leadership positions are mainly American-born or American-raised. Some of them may lack confidence and may not feel respected when they work with older adult volunteers because of the hierarchy from age that exists within Asian cultures. Some parents have concerns about their church’s youth workers who lack sufficient life experience. These two parties may have different ideologies and direction when it comes to guiding the youth. This creates a lack of mutual trust and cooperation among team members.
Finding a Way Out of Difficulties
We have seen churches trying to find a way out of these difficulties and conflicts. Recently, we visited a church where parents are the core team serving in youth ministry (please see the next article for details). As a result, parents are serving in the role of spiritual mentors to their children. Some churches integrate youth ministry into the larger context of family ministry. Some churches promote a younger pastor to take over the position of senior pastor when the current one retires. While we believe that these attempts may be challenging, we are grateful that these churches do not regard youth ministry as an independent part of the church. Shepherding young people, the entire family, and all ministries cannot be independently achieved because we are all part of the larger family of God and body of Christ.
Standing Firm in Building and Strengthening Families
In 2019, Presence continues to serve churches, communities and families. We collaborate with churches to provide training in the areas of parenting, cultural communication, mental well-being, and spiritual development. We also include online trainings in the form of blogs, video content and online courses.
Presence recently launched the “Presence Life Planning Curriculum,” which has been in development since 2017. This spiritual education curriculum is designed to address different needs and nurture holistic growth in adults and young people. We will further provide trainings to churches in this area by providing materials for Sunday schools and fellowships later this year.
Prayer and Hope
In 2017, we also launched a campaign for parents to pray for their children. We have compiled the prayers and discussion points into a booklet for fellowships, for groups and individual use. It can be downloaded for free at http://presencequotient.org/zh-hant/store/. (Currently, only the Chinese version is available. The English version will be released later this year.)
This year, we look forward to expanding our prayers for our own children to the entire young generation, including churches’ youth ministries and youth workers. Young people are also encouraged to pray for their parents as a way to practice serving across generations.
Praying for the younger generation is still Presence’s current and future focus. Although there are many challenges when it comes to nurturing young people, we are confident that there is hope in the Lord. We invite you to pray with us for current and future generations and trust in the Lord that all things are possible through Christ.
Agnes Ip, PhD, LMFT
Founder and CEO of Presence
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology