The Way Forward
Uniting The Generations
The feedback for this year's 40-Day Fast and Prayer booklet has been positive and encouraging. However, it has kept many wanting: what is the way forward for the Malaysian Church?
NECF office has, in the last few weeks, been organizing meetings to brainstorm with various groups on how we can unite the generations, both physically and spiritually. Our greatest concern is that we do not want our churches to end up like those in the west. Failure to raise effective leaders and to pass the baton successfully to the next generation has led to the decline of churches there.
To begin with, the senior generation needs to understand the thinking, shape and expectations of the generations after us. Some of the perceptions and expectations that the seniors have will differ significantly with what the next generation holds. There is a need to breach that gap so that we will be able to understand each other and come to a middle road to resolve this generational ambiguity.
At our deliberation with the younger generation and after hearing them out, we have been able to list some pertinent points raised by them. Suffice to say that it is consistent with and affirms the research report that NECF conducted in partnership with One Hope Ministries. The following are some salient pointers raised by the younger generation which churches would do well to note:
- Believe in Team Leadership
We should no longer identify one single leader like in the old days. We have to coach a team and then pick one or even two from the team to provide direction with others in the team playing complimentary roles. It is clear that the younger generation prefers plurality of leadership so that the talent and gifting of each one will complement and strengthen the entire leadership team.
- Cut Across Denominational Lines
The younger generation strongly identifies themselves as being "denominationally blind". They are prepared to work across the board with peers who have the same mindset and ethos rather than on denominational affiliations and traditions. Relationships and shared values matter to them. This explains why church membership is less important to them.
- Importance of Biblical Worldview
Many do not have any clue what and how they can participate in nation-building or how to seek the welfare of the nation--for the simple reason that they lack the biblical worldview and understanding. This may be due in part to our theological heritage. Seniors with a broader vision in terms of ministry have an important role in guiding and shaping the younger generation towards a right biblical perspective and foundation.
- Harnessing Potentials and Energies
We have to admit that the younger generation is energetic, creative and bold. They will speak up for what they feel is right; and will act boldly upon their convictions and beliefs. It is incumbent upon the seniors to help nurture and channel this potential to the best interest of the kingdom of God in a way that is both meaningful to the church and to the individual. This demands patiently listening to both sides without pre-judging the issue.
- Integrating Spiritual Wisdom with Reality
Because of the lack of biblical worldview and understanding, many young people find difficulty in integrating their spiritual life with actual realities in their work and in the marketplace. Seniors have the responsibility of helping them to overcome this dilemma, to love the nation and to assure them of their place, contribution and role in the well-being of this nation. Their future depends on what and how they will be built upon. This requires giving young people the necessary space to carve out their identity and to live out that identity rather than to be conformed to what others want them to be.
- Respecting and Accepting Each Other in Love
Methodologies of the younger generation sometimes blow the minds of the seniors, but they still get the job done, though very often not to our liking and even disagreement. There is a compelling need to learn to respect and accept each other in love though we may be different. Relationship is important and it is imperative that seniors do not cut the younger generation out because of differences. Also, it is this sort of relational skills that enable them to work through the obstacles and accomplish their goal.
The points raised may not be exhaustive and would differ within your local context and geographical areas. You can download the youth survey amongst both English and Tamil Youths.
In this time and age, NECF sees herself as a facilitator in providing the available resources that would enhance your "bridge-building" with the younger generation. Recent Barna Research in United States for 2006 specifically mentioned that youths from ages 20-29 are dropping out of church at the ratio of 2:3. About 90% get saved before they reach 18 years, and the number dwindles after that.
May we as leaders of different churches take a serious view of what we are faced with and be prepared to network and share our resources to build strong churches and raise the emerging leaders for the future.