The next generation

I’ve been doing some research. At SIM NZ we wanted to know what other offices like ours were doing specifically to prepare children and young people to be the future of mission.

Children/teenagers are the next generation for SIM and other mission agencies so it makes sense to be in partnership with our churches to plant seeds of interest in the idea of mission.

Culture Kits are a creative initiative begun by a UK teacher and now managed by an SIM communications coordinator in Asia (associated with SIM USA). The kits are presently available in English, and focus on different regions of the world where SIM works. They are beautifully designed introductions for children aged up to 12 to the people and customs of places such as the Middle East and the Andes region of South America with stories, activities, recipes, games and information, including a clear message of learning about mission. They would work as part of a package to offer to churches, helping us to reach the next generation.

SIM France/Belgium has a project with Dévotion, a Christian hip hop/ pop band, who have composed a song exclusively for SIM, recorded on video in Niger. This gives global missions a special exposure with younger generations, and will be distributed in the next few months. An idea that could be tried here.

SIM UK is making reaching the next generation one of its key goals following their recent strategic review, and is already trialling a youth programme for use in UK churches to engage young people with global gospel needs. We will look at this programme to see if it would be appropriate here.

Andrés Corrales of SIM Uruguay takes a deep look at today’s youth, who are “comparing the paradoxes that seem to come with structured religion and can so easily accept anything that feels or looks like spirituality.” He describes them as “maybe the most complex youth who have walked the earth” and has some suggestions for how we should engage them, such as:

  • don’t just teach — ask them questions as a model for encouraging them to find the truth and to counter their worldview;
  • remember the importance of everyday, informal spaces as crucial for reaching today’s youth;
  • don’t just teach — spend quality time  with them and make a space in your heart for them.

His article is available on request.

When it comes down to it, research shows that most mission workers are influenced to go into missions because of their exposure to other people already serving. In the old days this usually happened through churches giving pulpit time to visiting missionaries and through reading books about their lives. Today any project to improve what our youth understands about mission, whether through social media, video, music or whatever, needs somehow to tap into the same source: real people who have been there, or are doing that.

What is your local church telling its young people about mission?

— Zoë Cromwell