Number of Young People in the Church May Have Declined Sharply after Pandemic

A picture of some persons holding hands together
A picture of some persons holding hands together (photo:
By Josiah LiAugust 29th, 2023

Since 2020, the number of young people in many domestic churches has sharply decreased. At the same time, these churches have faced challenges in providing pastoral care for young members.

The financial pressure brought on by the pandemic has significantly impacted young people, including those within the church. Financial stresses, such as housing mortgages, have led to significant migration of young people for work.

In addition to the loss of members, providing adequate pastoral care for existing members has become a major challenge for youth fellowships. Some fellowship leaders are uncertain about how to enhance the spiritual growth of their members.

A staff worker who has been leading a youth fellowship in the northwest for over a decade expressed helplessness, stating that they didn't know how to encourage members to commit to the church and engage in service. Another church worker in the fellowship mentioned that he did not know the direction of ministry or what efforts he should make. Furthermore, since the core members serving the fellowship are mostly post-80s, it's challenging to attract those from the 1990s and Generaztion Z. Consequently, youth fellowships have gradually transformed into middle-aged fellowships.

A pastor from a county church in East China has also encountered challenges in providing pastoral care for young people. With his own children now working, this middle-aged pastor has devoted much of his energy to serving the church and has gathered over 40 young people. However, beyond regular gatherings, he's unsure about how to further support them.

The situation is even more severe in a church in Northeast China. The number of their youth fellowship members sharply decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic, with only around 10 people left. One pastor believes that young people nowadays are occupied with work and rarely have leisure time. They tend to relax at home by using their phones rather than participating in church activities.

To effectively pastor youth fellowships, some successful practices from other churches can be adopted. Targeted pastoral care is a breakthrough point for nurturing young groups. For example, those interested in music can be encouraged to participate in worship and learn instruments. Those inclined towards art and photography can form relevant groups, and book enthusiasts can form reading groups. Additionally, grouping by age segments, such as millennials and Gen Z, can facilitate more common ground.

Offering ministry positions within the church to young people promotes their commitment. This approach not only lightens the burden on fellowship leaders but also gives young people a sense of ownership rather than just being attendees.

To attract more young staff workers, the church also needs to address their concerns about the future. In a county-level city in Jiangsu two or three decades ago, volunteers in churches were primarily in their seventies and eighties. About twenty years ago, the current head of the municipal Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) arrived and addressed the issue of full-time pastors’ salaries. Consequently, a group of pastors in their forties and fifties emerged. Currently, they are training more young church staff in their twenties and thirties to prevent a talent gap in the church's future.

"Moses was getting old, and Joshua would run away," a grassroots pastor described the current state of some churches. If churches don't make efforts to nurture young people, this phenomenon will become even more pronounced in the future.

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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