22 March 2021 | St Albans, UK [Paul Lockham]
From 15-18 March, the third series of the TED Devotional Webinars on Wellbeing was focusing on youth and the office staff were yet again joined by colleagues from the unions and fields within the Trans-European Division and their Inter-European Division counterparts.
On Monday morning, Pastor Paul Tompkins, current Scottish Mission President and former Youth Ministries Director who served on the conference, union and division level, commenced by asking what is missing between the letters CH — CH?
Tompkins shared from his own experience, study and research that the search for identity and purpose are issues that don’t just occur for young people but occur at many life stages. Focusing on the issues for young people, he referred to a question he would commonly ask young people at events and in churches, “Do you see yourself as an Adventist at age 40?” On one occasion he received a stunning answer, “I hope I will be an Adventist at 40, but I’m not sure about next year.”
Form surveys that have been carried out it becomes clear that a meaningful church experience and a deep personal experience are the testing factors in why young people remain active in church. From the Valuegenesis Europe study the following conclusion was highlighted, “We need to feed the core and not default to entertaining the fringe.”
One of the greatest needs of young people (and people of all ages) is to know that church is a place of sanctuary, care, nurture and a safe spiritual home for all. A place to be challenged and belong. Out of this need the iCOR (Intergenerational Church of Refuge) concept has been born.
The question for us to consider is actually “Who’s involved at CH—CH?” and work to help our congregations become spiritual homes for youth of all ages.
Journey to Joy in the life of Young People
Pastor Dejan Stojković, Youth Ministries Director of the British Union, both entertained and challenged on Tuesday when he commenced his presentation with a story of a youth group outing to a theme park. From praying with a lady in the queue to the scariest ride in the park, to describing his own terror as the ride progressed, he concluded that the young people were just seeking joy and happiness…
After looking at various “happiness” factors the measurement of which is somewhat subjective and nearly always transitory, Stojković spoke of the fruit of the Spirit as Paul outlined it in Galatians 5:22-23. Joy is that part of the Spirit’s fruit that should not be subjective or transitory, instead joy, based in a Christian experience, should be the source of abiding happiness.
Looking at the “joy killers” of unsatisfied expectations, unresolved conflict and unconfessed sin, he focused on the joy builders and the need for allowing church to become a place of real joy.
Deep or Shallow Discipleship?
Pastor Jonathan Holder, a district pastor in the North England Conference of the British Union, began by sharing his experience of talking with members, and others, who have “slipped out” of attending church services. He has encountered three groups:
- those who are just struggling with some issue or circumstance that leaves them feeling less than ok,
- those who are disappointed, or hurt, by the way others in the church are “behaving”
- those who “know it all” and lack a teachable spirit
And each of these has its own impact on the wellbeing of the church and its members and pastor. For Holder the answer is true discipleship which seems rarely to feature in church practice even though it is part of strategic focus based on Matthew 28:18-20.
Looking at the apostle Paul’s example in 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 1 Corinthians 11:1 he explained that Paul was stating the best way to learn to be a Christian is to imitate someone who is a Christian following Jesus. He then shared some thoughts from Dallas Willard, Peter Scazzero and John Ortberg that underline the need for real discipleship.
Sharing his observations from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and their twelve-step recovery programmes, Holder pointed out that the four steps of acceptance, safety, honesty and guidance are actually the basis for discipleship to occur emphasising that the fruit of discipleship is found in Jesus words in John 13:35.
Connecting Generations – Understanding Gen Z
Pastor Njabulo Ndlovu, who pastors the Aberdeen district of churches, is Pathfinder Sponsor for the Scottish Mission, and father to three Generation Z young people, presented Thursdays’ Webinar. Ndlovu started by commenting on the fact that his three children and all the Pathfinder young people of the Scottish Mission are Gen Z, a generation that is born between 1995 and 2012.
He outlined some of the distinguishing features of Gen Z, this first fully digital generation and went on to describe their desire for equality and acceptance of all people, where in their eyes there is no group who are of more “worth” than another, and they readily challenge any perceived inequality.
After looking at the connectedness of generations in the Bible, where the results of one generation’s actions continue to play out in the next four generations, Ndlovu drew on Deuteronomy 7:9 and Genesis 9:12 and 17:9 to show that God’s desire was for good to flow through the generations for all time.
Ndlovu then turned to understanding the young people of Gen Z in order to engage with them. One of the major problems is their poor self-image as a result of their connectedness in their virtual world where image is everything. Engaging with them requires genuine loving acceptance and validation. He emphasised that, although we are there to pass the knowledge to the next generation, we can learn a lot from the good values that Generation Z hold and that need to be appreciated, acknowledged, embraced, and carefully placed in the Biblical context so the Gen Z can live out their positive values and overcome the negatives of their generation in the Christian context.
tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, editor; Deana Stojković, associate editor
119 St Peter’s Street, St Albans, Herts, AL1 3EY, England
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Fancy singing a hymn?.