Youth ministry in Asian churches face similar challenges

The LWF's Global Young Reformers Network member Sumita Chin, from the Lutheran Church in Malaysia, describes the challenges facing youth ministries in many Lutheran churches in Asia. Photo: LWF/S. Lawrence
The LWF's Global Young Reformers Network member Sumita Chin, from the Lutheran Church in Malaysia, describes the challenges facing youth ministries in many Lutheran churches in Asia. Photo: LWF/S. Lawrence

We often hear people saying young people are the leaders of tomorrow but how often do we consciously allow and provide our young people with the responsibilities and opportunities to lead? As much as we, youth, would like to be the change, challenges and obstacles will definitely come our way.

I was privileged to attend the Global Young Reformers Network (GYRN) meeting for the Asia region, held in April 2015 in Taiwan. Many other youth from different countries participated, and from our discussions and interactions, I was able to identify similar issues that we all face. One of the common issues noted was liturgy and worship, regardless of the country in which one resided.

In this day and age, there has been great advancement and development in many aspects, especially in the field of technology. Well established churches that have been around for many decades are still practicing liturgy (for Lutherans) which may seem irrelevant to young people in today’s modern society, as most of them are greatly attracted towards more modernized worship that would fulfill their young, vibrant and energetic character. Such youth would still attend church, but mainly because they grew up in the church. However, they may not have the desire to serve the church. This could also be because the meaning of liturgy was not properly explained to them.

Youth presence and participation

Another issue identified at the GYRN regional meeting was the absence of young people in the church or their lack of participation in the various activities. This could most probably be due to the churches’ focus on other ministries rather than the youth ministry. The lack of encouragement from the church is also a contributing factor. Therefore, it is definitely important and vital that churches encourage and acknowledge the ability and capability of the younger generations.

From the Philippines, I learned that many young people have lost interest in pursuing theological studies. Also, at the Lutheran church national convention, where decisions are made, there is a poor representation of youth and women delegates.

Gender inequality and acceptance

India is a country that still experiences gender inequality, and this can be clearly seen in the caste system that is so inherent in the society. My friends from India reported that their youth ministries and the issues they face are heavily related to gender inequality. There is an imbalance in the participation of young women in certain regions across India. However, I believe that if young people are given a voice, we will be able to become active agents of change that will help bring about lasting change.

Sexual freedom was one of the issues identified by participants from Taiwan. I learned that young people are so heavily influenced by western culture and practices that they feel their churches are too conservative.

In Singapore, the youth face issues with truth, love and identity. Young people, as mentioned earlier in this article, desire modern worship. Thus, they search for relevance in the church that they attend. In addition, young people also desire love and acceptance. They would feel more encouraged when they belong to a group of friends, a youth group or even to a church.

Wonderful experience

Still, I am very much encouraged to see that all the issues mentioned above are not a threat to the GYRN delegates. Despite the challenges we face, all of us continue to strive to create change in our churches, communities and the world. It was such a wonderful experience to have been able to meet these many young people who all share the same values and principles and the desire to be a reformer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.