Reaching and discipling the next generation
Younger voices than mine echo in my heart and mind, voices from a generation half my age and younger or from those who serve with that generation. They are living for Jesus and calling us to live as His church in a transformational manner today. The questions and related comments below are drawn from the Strategic Vision Committee of the PAOC’s General Executive. This group has been reconstituted to focus solely on our mandate to “reach, disciple and develop the leadership of those who are millennials and younger.” Members are from these age brackets or those who serve directly in leadership among them. Listen to their call, their passion, and their wisdom—which may well make the difference in whether or not we develop entire new generations of Jesus followers in Canada’s future church.
What should our focus as churches be if we are to reach younger generations?
“I think that the engagement of emerging generations requires a determined focus. We need to ask ourselves at every level of leadership: what are we prepared to do in order to pass on faith in Jesus to the next generation? I think our answer needs to be anything (short of sin). What does it mean to us to pass faith in Jesus on to emerging generations? Everything.”
“A church that plans to be vital always includes a mandate for the church to lean young … reaching and discipling the young within contexts that develop their lives and ministries.”
“To reach requires flexibility and innovation: flexibility so that we can be in relationship with the next generation; innovation so that a church successfully morphs beyond programmatic ministry into relationally based ministry.”
“The work of the Spirit must be emphasized once again in our local churches and youth ministries. There must be intentional focus on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for teens to reach teens. Parents and leaders who equip youth must understand new ‘approaches’ of seeking Holy Spirit baptism, the gifts of the Spirit, and the tie [of both] to mission.”
How can we be effective in our mission to make disciples of those who are younger?
“Consider that parents are the primary spiritual mentors. The home is the first possibility for many children to be raised up to be a disciple of Jesus. We must invest in helping parents to have the courage to really disciple their own children—resourcing, equipping, teaching, and encouraging parents to be the primary spiritual influence in their child’s life.”
“Substantial change is needed beyond music adjustments or more jokes in the sermon. Young potential leaders are looking for a clear vision and mission, and values that resonate with their generation. Intentional space also needs to be made for young leaders to develop skills through relationship and opportunity.”
“If we are going to properly mentor the next generations, we must engage them in opportunities for ministry and mission with older adults … true community being developed in mission. I think we need to adopt an ‘apprenticeship’ approach to making disciples as we develop their leadership.”
What are our responsibilities in the various contexts of God’s family in order to develop a new generation of leaders …
- In the local church?
“Effective local church discipleship of the young incorporates a leadership development component with a trajectory toward next levels of leadership formation. Provide contexts for Grade 8s and younger to ‘lead now.’ We must start to mentor disciples and leaders at younger ages. We need to broaden our view of the next generation and start developing leaders within local church leadership tracks even before they start formalized training.”
“Professionals are not necessary. Let children/youth be mentored in full church involvement by the head usher, the worship leader, the kids church teacher, or their very own parent. The mandate does not need to come from the lead pastor and church leadership.”
“There must be clarity of intergenerational callings within a churchwide strategy to reach, disciple, and develop the leadership of those who are younger—a framework that accounts for the responsibilities that each generation carries (i.e., Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z).”
“Those who are younger must be ‘championed and mentored’ at the tables of leadership and be a key part of the decision-making process.”
- Within our colleges and learning institutions?
“It is essential to examine and re-evaluate (with input from the districts and colleges) our educational and ministry formation model. Needed are apprenticeship models toward ministerial training (in partnership with approved churches and Bible college training). Consider resources such as the Maritime Apprenticeship Program.”
“We will need to prioritize key next gen focuses in theological development such as creation care, Spirit-empowered living, and justice.”
“Pentecostal churches and theological institutions, through partnerships with other organizations and ministries, can train the next generations to become influencer—not only in the church setting, but also in the marketplace, politics, education and health care.”
Final thoughts for those who lead millennials and younger?
“Mentoring networks must be established regionally and nationally for those who lead millennials and younger.”
“Training must be offered to those who lead small and mid-size churches on how to turn ministry over to those who are younger.”
“Educate on how to equip our churches to be youth-friendly and youth-effective. Are there tools we can produce? Educate our congregations on who the next generations are.”
“Equip lay-driven youth leadership, which is the leadership in most of our churches. Our national Next Gen Children, Youth and Campus Guiding Groups must continue to develop the apparatus and resources to better train and deploy those who lead younger people.”
“Mature leaders who may feel detached from the younger generations must be mentored on how to make key changes in their context which would allow for greater growth in leadership within the next generations.”
“Everyone’s going to have to give up something for the greater good.”
“What we are calling for is a culture shift, which takes time and must be lived out.”
I trust that as you prayerfully ponder these words of wisdom, you will be both encouraged and challenged along with me. Historically, whenever the people of God have fulfilled their mission to pass on a living faith to next generations, they have always put into practice many of the principles mentioned here:
- The home as a principal disciple-making community
- Intergenerational relationship and mentoring
- Spirit-empowered, truth-based faith development leading to a life of mission
- Sacrificial servant leadership that always pours into those who are young and/or newer in faith.
These and other critical principles are the call we must respond to in order to have a future as a church in Canada, with local, national and global impact among those who are younger. Are we prepared to give up what we need to in order to fulfil this God-given mandate? Are we prepared to shift a church culture away from personal preference and convenience in order to be a disciple-making movement?
Dear Lord, graciously draw us back to how You spent most of Your time on the planet. From intimacy with the Father and the empowerment of the Spirit, let us make disciples of those who are younger and of those who are not yet in relationship with You. Whatever that takes. Amen.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.
1. Ministry Apprenticeship Program, Maritime District of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, https://www.maritimemap.ca.