Blog – Day 3

Wouldn’t you know it, after six nights in South Africa battling with jet lag and waking up at 1:30am and getting out of bed at 4am, now that it’s only one night to go before being back where the sun rises and sets at ‘normal times’ I finally sleep through!  Great to have a good sleep though – was totally exhausted at the end of yesterday so I really needed it.

Yesterday was a big day – a really good presentation in the morning followed by an excursion in the afternoon.  Both worth commenting on.

The morning presentation was from Terry Linhart who teaches Youth Ministry at Bethel College in Indiana, USA.  He along with David Livermore have edited a book on youth ministry with contributions from people across the world.  The book, Global Youth Ministry: Reaching Adolescents around the world will be out in March from Zondervan (http://www.terrylinhart.com/global-youth-ministry-book/).  In the session Terry presented a number of common themes that emerged out of youth ministries in England, Kenya, USA, the Phillipines, Croatia, Singapore, Australia, India, Korea, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Ireland and South Africa.

By way of introduction – some statistics: half the world’s population is under 25.  In 2005 85-90% of 15-24 yr olds lived in developing countries.  Over 60% of global youth live in Asia.  By 2025 over 1.2 billion people will be ‘youth’, one of the largest generations in history.

Here are the nine features of global youth ministry he identified:

  1. Global youth ministry operates within a wide range of theoretical awareness – some are highly pragmatic, others with more developed academic reflection.  We need collaborative relationships between academics and practitioners in youth ministry.
  2. Global youth ministry concerns itself with the transition to adulthood.  Therefore has interaction between global culture and local cultures.  In Africa there is no adolescence – the intersection of African rites of passage with Western culture creates confusion for African youth.
  3. Global ministry works to integrate youth in to the church.  Even in places where the church is seen as culturally irrelevant, there is a global desire for church to change, grow and be effective.  Youth churches are ebbing away; concern for integrating with the church.
  4. Global youth ministry is vast and yet compartmentalized.  Youth ministry leaders often don’t know each other in their area.
  5. Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East are global youth ministry’s new frontiers – need to identify, champion, listen to , learn from, and assist those pioneering youth ministry in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.
  6. Global youth ministry takes place within communities of relationships – role of significant Christian adults, relating to a larger community (developing trust is key), building across social dividers that separate communities, build relationships with those who don’t know Christ.
  7. Global youth ministry leaders share a pioneering perspective.  Even with regions with a long history of Christian tradition youth work is expressed as a drive into new frontiers.
  8. Global youth ministry is message driven.  This is what distinguishes us in Christian ministry from secular youth work.
  9. Global youth ministry works to contextualize the Gospel message to a specific culture.  There was a great passion for each local culture, and a passion for the gospel.  “The resources for growing up global… still are found in young lives transformed by faith, empowered by hope, and energized by the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.” Kenda Dean

I’m looking forward to getting hold of an advance copy of the book.  I think it will be a great help to overcome the isolation (and isolationism) of youth ministry in Australia.

What was clear is that the future of the church depends in large degree on the success of ministry to young people.  This generation of young people will face enormous economic and political challenges in their lifetimes.  We have a challenging task to disciple young people today in a way that will equip them for their future.  Of course the answer is to see them effectively united with Christ by faith; but I think we need to do more thinking on what ‘effectively united’ means – more than just an interest in ‘narrow ecclesial concerns’ (to quote Simangaliso Khumalo), but a fully orbed life in Christ that addresses economic, political, social and personal challenges directed by the word of Christ in Scripture that brings real kingdom transformation for God’s glory. 

Point 5 is intriguing – that the future of youth ministry is in Asia, Middle East and Latin America.  Because of our geographic location in the world, and with expectations that Sydney’s population by 2050 will reach 8 million with 50% from Asia, then we in Australia are well placed to engage more carefully with Asia and Asian youth ministry.   We know there’s a lot happening in Chinese and Korean youth ministry in Sydney but there’s not a whole lot of careful thinking and learning about what is unique about youth and youth ministry in these contexts.  Looks like the challenge of reaching multi-cultural Sydney is coalescing with the challenge of a globalised youth ministry.

The rest of yesterday was spent in a bus trip down to Johannesburg to visit the Apartheid museum, a brief walk through Soweto and dinner in a Soweto restaurant with a brief talk from a pastor working there.  The Apartheid museum is well worth the visit – too much information to take in at once, but a great presentation of the story of Apartheid and the miracle of the 1994 elections.  We went from there to Soweto – I walked along Vilikazi street where Nelson Mandela lived on the same block as Desmond Tutu, the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel peace prize winners.  We stopped at the corner where Hector Pieterson was killed in the 1976 Soweto uprising – he was a twelve year old boy, shot by the police.  The image of him being carried by another young person with his sister walking beside them in tears was published around the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hector_pieterson.jpg).  It was another reminder of both the power and vulnerability of young people in a world of violence and struggle. 

A globalised youth ministry has to reflect on how to serve young people in the name of Christ in a way that recognises the challenges of the moment: 

James 2:15-16 “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

Today’s footnote:  while waiting for the bus at the Apartheid museum we spotted a helicopter joy-ride in the carpark – R600 for four people, that was $20 each for an 8 minute helicopter flight out over Soccer City and around Soweto. The video’s on facebook – http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150122268048413

Great Stuff!  

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