Youth We Don’t Talk About
What would you do if you were the only youth pastor in your city?
Let’s go one step further: what would you do if you if you were the only person interested in reaching young people in that city?
The staggering reality is that there are many such cities that have no one interested in reaching youth. There are an estimated 3.1 billion people in our world who haven’t yet heard the gospel. Given that more than half the world’s population is under the age of 30, that means there are quite a few young people who have yet to hear the good news about Jesus.
Several years ago, my wife and I went on a six-month trip to India to work with a network of church planters. We had been involved in youth ministry for five years, and we were stoked to share our experiences with others—we went in hopes of partnering with youth workers in India. We would never have called ourselves trained missionaries, but we were excited to share what we knew about youth ministry.
We were devastated to discover that there were no youth workers and very few youth were engaged in the church. We spent some time talking with the local leaders of the church planting organization to find out how we could help, and they asked us to sit down with the different field workers to share the basics of relational youth ministry. Over the course of a month, my wife and I spoke with 30 different church planters and their wives. We brainstormed together about how they could bring youth into their fresh church plants. We talked about relationships, ownership, the need for a team, the concept of people over program, and how to craft a youth ministry that matched their culture. Then we told them we wanted to come visit them at their homes and meet the youth in their villages/cities/slums to see a youth ministry in action.
A church planter named Simon lived in rural India where elephants stampede and roaming tigers are common dangers. Simon came to us exasperated:
“I just don’t get young people—they barely come to church, and when they do, they sit in the back, slouching in their seats with their arms crossed like they couldn’t care less about being there.”
We couldn’t help but laugh—to us this sounded like regular teenagers. We asked him to consider creating a special program just for young people—something they could completely own that was unique to their age group and context. A month later, we took a four-hour drive out of Kolkata and arrived at his village to find 65 youth gathered at his house!
I could easily share more stories of God’s work in India, but my point is this:
There are many more cities in the world comprised of countless young people with zero access to the gospel.
90% of the world’s trained youth workers live and work in the United States and minister to 3% of the world’s youth. Imagine you’re driving down the road and see a huge log that has come off a logging truck and is blocking the freeway in front of you. You see 100 people trying to move it, but 99 of them are on one end and only one person is on the other. What needs to happen? Clearly, we need some help on the other end of the log.
Friends, is God calling you to the other end?
God has called my family to proclaim the gospel to youth around the world, and we’re excited about the role he’s given us.
Maybe you’re asking some questions right now: How can I be involved? How can youth workers and youth ministries have a global conscience and understanding of the needs in our world? If this struck a chord with you, I would love to hear from you. I believe there are many others out there with a heart for young people and a heart for the unreached.
Here’s the truth that punches me in the gut: If a young person (or any person for that matter) wanted to hear the gospel in North America, it would be fairly easy to accomplish. But in many other countries outside of North America, you face two problems: 1) Many whole countries are considered “unreached,” which means people don’t even have an awareness of the gospel. 2) Few people in these unreached geographies are concerned with young people or are equipped to reach them.
We have a wealth of youth ministry resources in the United States, and we should pass those resources on to others. We have a responsibility to share with those in need what we’ve been given. Whether you go or stay, you can play a role in the expansion of God’s kingdom. Take a minute to ask God how he might use you. It might just change everything.
Jeremy is the Mobilization Coordinator for Global Fellowship, a mission organization with a desire to send youth focused missionaries to reach the next generation. He’s married to Anne and they have 3 amazing children who love to travel with them.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.