“I believe but I do not attend this church because the service is a little boring and there are only old women at this church”. This is what Betty told me, a 17-year-old Chinese high school student in the city of Zigong, Sichuan Province.
This summer I was able to serve alongside my brother, Erik, in Zigong as an English teacher at a language camp for high and middle school students with Hua Mei, a Chinese Christian relief and service organization. During our time there, the pastor couple from the local church asked several of us international teachers to hold an “English Corner” at their church on Sunday afternoon. Approximately 30 high school students from the local area came to the church that afternoon, eager to improve their English and to rub shoulders with us “foreigners”. But when I asked how many of them attended church, only two raised their hand.
Betty had also come to the church that afternoon. In a conversation with her after our “English Corner”, she told me that she became a believer through her grandmother, who was a member of the church. However, when I asked her if she attended the church as well, she gave me the answer above.
Later that week, we were able to sit down with the pastor couple of that same church to talk with them about their ministry. “We want to attract more young people to our church through our arts center and things like the English Corner, ” they told us. “However, our young people only believe with their head not with their hearts. Can you help us with ideas on how to help them believe with their heart?”
“Can you help us….” Those words still ring in my ears. In a survey, Chinese pastors and church leaders have identified Youth Ministry training as one of their top three needs. As of now, Youth Ministry is virtually non-existent in the Chinese Church. Those churches that are trying to reach teenagers have no training or materials to help them. Yet, as Chinese young people are growing up in a new China, with the pressures of materialism and education pulling at them from every side, the message of grace and freedom through Christ is needed more than ever. And the community and support a church could provide for these young people would be a lifeline for them.
As I remember the many young faces I met on my trip to China this summer, including Betty’s, I pray that the Church in China will find new ways to reach the youth of China and that God will raise up trainers and partners that will aid them in their efforts. Will you join me in that prayer?
-by Linda Pervenecki