Three Methods for Shepherding Milennial College Students

By Elsie Hu, Yetta Yao , December 19, 2018 02:12 AM

A man reads the Bible.

Today, as young people's thinking has become more open and flexible, the methods that church pastors' use to pastor also need to be more varied.

How should the younger generation in the church be shepherded? Some pastors and preachers say that the old pastoral model can no longer fully draw in young people. Brother L. also supports this opinion, "(Moreover), pastoral methods need to be updated and renewed."

As the head of a fellowship in a fourth-tier city in the Yangtze River Delta region, Brother L. said that the biggest predicament for pastors is a lack of a co-worker.

Speaking frankly, Brother L said that, there is should in no way be blamed on others.  He himself chose not to ask the believers to stay and serve together with him. Instead, he encouraged the brothers and sisters in the fellowship to go to a better place to advance themselves.

1. Do not easily accept believers' requests to become full-time co-workers

Brother L, who is in charge of a fellowship, said that the era of pastors standing on the podium preaching fervently and receiving the followers' full attention has long gone. Today, pastors actually have a lot of heartache and hardship that is not known to believers.

After a period of time, if a follower comes to consult him and indicates that he or she wants to study theology and then be a preacher, Brother L. will first persuade the person to think it through thoroughly. Don't make a decision based on rash or impulsive thoughts.

This is due to three reasons:

First, Brother L. believes that a follower may only just have become a believer and was moved by the words in the Bible. However the impulse and sudden rush can only last for a while, and he or she will eventually have to face the pressures of money, society, and family.

Second, one key characteristic of a college fellowship is that the pastoring cycle is short and it is impossible to systematically shepherd believers and teach them the full knowledge of the Bible. In this case, Brother L. does not want to let immature believers easily embark on the journey of a full-time pastoral career.  "The original vision of our fellowship is to cultivate believers and evangelize non-believers. However, my idea of 'cultivating followers' is to help them become evermore spiritual maturity and deepen their relationship with God by faith. They are 'cultivated to minister.'"

Third, Brother L. believes that his pastoral work in this new era is about fostering successors of the church. They should not be stuck in one place but rather go to other places after they have matured.

2. Special pastoral strategies - deliberately adding some information in the sermon to encourage believers to think

Brother L. laughed and said that the believers he had raised up were the "fresh new humans" among Christians.

 "Because of the pastoral methods that I use with them are quite unique and more freedom-oriented, they grow up with a 'rebel' nature." Brother L. explained, "I often teach them to think more, allow them to doubt the pastor's sermons and express their own point of view. Therefore such believers are sometimes difficult to integrate into the traditional, large churches."

Although there are advantages and disadvantages, Brother L. still insists on his own pastoral style. He said that he hopes that the believers he has shepherded can have their own ideas and can wisely apply the Bible knowledge to their life and work, instead of blindly following the words of the Bible, being spiritual naive. Otherwise, when the truth of the Bible cannot be used to explain some situations, they might doubt and their faith might collapse.

"So sometimes when I am preaching, I will deliberately add a small 'error' to the message. I then will ask a brother, 'What did you think of today's preaching? Are there any points in the message where you might have other thoughts or feelings?'"

Brother L. believes that using this method is the best way to encourage Christians to themselves to grow and mature in their faith.

3. It is better to teach people how to fish than to give them a fish.

Brother L. believes that the best way for Christians to quickly grow in their spiritual life is to encourage them to study the Bible systematically and spontaneously. He came up with a solution for believers to learn the Bible by themselves. For example, take full advantage of various mobile Apps and learning software to help read, study, and memorize the Bible, so that even in their personal time, believers will gradually develop their own spontaneous learning habits.

In addition, Brother L. also sends his recommended Bible study method to the believers in the form of a document to teach them how to organize a Bible study at home. It also teaches believers how to discern whether the pastor's preaching content is wrong, lest they mistakenly join a cult without knowing it.

Referring to pastoral challenges at the present time, Brother L. believes that believers are growing too fast, society is progressing too rapidly, and information flow is coming too quickly. Pastors are likely to fall into the predicament of it being very difficult to introduce new things and to meet the needs of believers. "So this also inspires pastors to pursue learning more actively and diligently."

- Translated by Jake Jason

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