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Over the years of ministry, I have seen many young people who have participated in the youth fellowship of church distance themselves from the church after they go out for study or work, who lost their passion. Among the reasons, some think the main reason involved young people's working pressure and the outside environmental change.
However, I believe that Christian education is to be based on the needs of individual circumstances, aimed at training believers to have the ability to respond to external changes and challenges. The church dismissed her responsibility if she owed the reason for their loss to the outward factors. On the contrary, the phenomenon of the loss of young believers ought to remind the shepherd to examine the church's pastoral strategy and make new plans about how to teach young believers.
First, A Different World
Student-centered education is no longer a new theory, and of which there is an important principle: teaching is meaningful when the teaching content is relevant to students' needs and goals. If you use this perspective to examine the church's teachings, you will find that in many cases the church is concerned with whether the believers understand a set of doctrines rather than how to connect believer's life to faith and doctrine.
The era of internet where people can share information freely demonstrate a diverse ethnic landscape. People in the church should be able to appreciate differences in how people think, what people care about and how to face struggles, caused by the difference in age, background and occupation groups. The youth group is very different from other groups. What they need is not the extra "weight" of a belief apart from the various pressures on them, so if a faith can not solve their problems in their world, they will surely keep themselves away from it.
Second, The Walls of Heart
What is the most difficult problem in parenting children today? Presumably, for a lot of people it will be "communication." You love your child, concerned about his situation, earnestly instructing him, watching the child sitting quietly in front of you, but you did not know whether he accepted your teaching or not.
Young people admire freedom, in the habit of independent thinking. Influenced by the post-modern beliefs, they question the tradition and choose to abandon what bond them but is valueless. But in the face of many challenges of life, they really need a faith in life. Unfortunately, many young people in the church are not willing to express their true thoughts, because of the existing arguments in the church and the air that demands absolute obedience. So, although they are present in the training session, there is a high wall built in his heart. You think he has attended the session and completed the class, he should have a solid foundation of faith; in fact, this belief has not taken root in his heart.
The Possible Ways Out
Based on the above examination, I've made a few suggestions for reference.
1. Build N-generation cultural belt
I often say that "the youth ministry is a cross-cultural ministry." If the basic idea of the church is that young people follow the pattern of the elderly and adapt to the culture of the elders, the failure of their teaching could be predicted easily. The church should give young people enough space and create a culture suitable for them, and build the church into a family where they feel safe and independent and they can trust. When young people open their hearts, you can understand their needs and make a good plan of training them.
2. Explore the new model of relationship building
The danger of separation between church groups reminds us of the importance of building relationships. With time passing by, interpersonal interaction model changes. The podium does not have authority by itself and the preaching is not the best mode of education. It is the example of the shepherd and the relationship between him and the believers that makes shepherding successful. The relationship between the shepherd and believers determines the success or failure of shepherding, so the church's shepherds need to explore different models of building relationships, developing the ability to dialogue with young people, and go close to young people through companions and companies to build relationship with them in order to succeed in shepherding the youth.
3. From theory to experience
The traditional teaching mode in the church is less interactive and more lecturely. Dull classroom and dull text became a barrier in the new era of faith for people to meditate and deeper their faith. We need to change from a simple static belief model to a more interactive model in which young people can participate more and they can develop faith based on real life experience through observation and reflection, in line with their personality and helping them to be sensitive to real problems in different situations and to explore the meaning and impact of faith on life.
Having written so, I recall the apostle Paul's words "to what kind of person, what kind of people I will be" (1 Corinthians 9:22) The successful pastor whose life bore abundant fruit reminds us that successful shepherding must cross the interpersonal barriers, that is, building relationships with people.
The author is a preacher in Christian Church of Ningde, Fujian Province.
Translated By: Alvin Zhou
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