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No ordinary youth ministry

What are your life goals?

– my high-school teacher friend asked his class. The cost of asking that question was reading through 100 pages listing things his Chinese high-school students wanted to do in life. I say a ‘cost’ but really, it was his privilege and joy. He got an insight into their hearts, learnt about their hopes and dreams, and gave him clues about things that, as their teacher, would engage and excited them. As a believer, committed to serving Christ in the urban Chinese center he lived in, it gave him in-roads for the gospel.

What does youth work in China look like? Nothing like your typical ‘youth pastor’ job in America, that’s for certain. There is rarely the opportunity to run a youth group on a Friday night, not only is it even more illegal than regular church, but most kids are at some form of tuition. In fact, seeing youths at church is rare enough in itself, as even Christian parents don’t think twice about leaving their middle to high school aged children at home to study on a Sunday instead of bringing them to church.

Well if it doesn’t look like that, what does it look like?

It could be teaching 30-40 hours a week at a middle school or high school (and by the way, it doesn’t have to be English, think maths, philosophy, sport… anything you are willing to teach!), being available to your students for office hours, ready to give them some time when they drop by to talk. Taking the opportunity at Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, 4th of July, any festival you can try and think of, to run activities that would be sanctioned by your schools as cross-cultural learning. It could be making yourselves available to them on social media so that when they have life issues, they can come to you, one person they know will listen and care for them. (Of course, all this within the boundaries of what would be appropriate, above-board behaviour for a high school teacher.)

So it’s not your ‘ordinary’  youth ministry. The challenges are not small. And the investment is long-term, with fruit that can take years to grow – fruit that you may not even see within your face-to-face time with them.

But this is no ‘ordinary’ God we serve.  And He is at work in the lives of those who will lead China into tomorrow – one way He does so is through ordinary people who go, teach amongst them and show His love and care to them in an extraordinary way.


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