April 29-May 5, 2013
Editorial: A Reflection for Youth Ministry Sunday
Translated by Lydia Ma
Yao Jen-to, a senior staff member of former DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, was recently heard saying that Taiwan independence has lost its appeal or marketability in mainstream Taiwanese society. His comment immediately sparked a heated discussion about whether he was right and whether it was appropriate to use the word “marketability” on such a sensitive topic.
Regardless of whether or not Yao had a point, we live in a day and age when statistics and numbers are seen as the most important markers of support for something. This phenomenon has also seeped into Christianity whenever churches consider ministry and evangelism. Many churches tend to conclude that “successful” ministries must be backed by a big “market” for them or a high number of “participants”. This view is especially prevalent when it comes to evaluating youth ministries. We often hear worried church leaders say that the PCT is losing its young members. However, most people who say that younger generations are leaving the PCT in droves have been unable to back their claims with accurate statistics on the number of young people leaving PCT churches and who these people are.
For a time, a lot of people believed that the chief reason why young people were leaving the PCT was because they didn’t understand the Taiwanese language used during Sunday worship services. For this reason, many PCT churches began holding additional Mandarin worship services 15 years ago. The PCT also began designing a number of programs to attract youths. These programs often use the internet, music, and discipleship as tools and means to draw the attention of youths. Examples of popular programs that were designed and carried out successfully include “Daylight Youth Camp”, “I Love Taiwan” mission camp, and the “Ecumenical Youth Exchange Program”. Sadly, despite these successes, the longstanding perception that the PCT is suffering from youth attrition has not faded from people’s memories.
In face of this public perception and various challenges pertaining to youth ministries and youth evangelism, we must ask ourselves whether “marketability” is a suitable benchmark for evaluating Christian ministries. Just as we don’t give up promoting Taiwanese independence just because some people believe it has lost its market, we must in the same manner not give up insisting that youth ministries should be based on values such as contextual evangelism, multi-dimensionality, mutual acceptance, outreach, ecumenism, justice, and peace, rather than some other values that may cause our youth population to swell but produce shallow Christians. A lot of times, our worries are misguided because we get caught up in the sheer number of people other denominations can muster up at special conferences and take this number as an indicator of whether an evangelistic ministry is successful.
In the words of David J. Bosh, a church that grows exponentially in quantity but lacks a burden for society is a church that refuses to deal with the realities of life, but prefers to hide behind a shroud of escapism. As we mark Youth Ministry Sunday, let us re-evaluate and re-envision PCT youth ministries. It is my hope to help our youths build solid Christian foundations that can inspire them to serve their church and their society. I believe that building our youths’ faith based on solid foundations such as the Bible and Christian principles is the only way to ensure that their faith will withstand the test of time.