The future of the church in China—like the future of China itself—is fraught with questions that do not have easy answers.
Will denominations reemerge in China?
How will China’s government deal with a growing and increasingly influential unregistered Christian movement?
Will China really have more Christians than any other nation by the year 2030 (if not before)?
How will Chinese Christians going abroad as missionaries impact the countries to which they are sent?
These are important questions. But a more fundamental question—which also does not have an easy answer—concerns who will lead the Chinese church of the future.
According to the China Gospel Research Alliance (CGRA) 2015 study, one of the primary concerns of Christian leaders in China is raising up the church’s next generation.
The reasons behind this concern are many.
- Given the mobile nature of China’s rapidly urbanizing society, there are no guarantees that children who are raised in Christian families will maintain their ties to the church when they get older.
- Busy pastors, many of them first-generation Christians themselves, do not have the experience or resources to devote to serving youth, even if they do acknowledge it as a critical need.
- Government policy discourages children and youth from believing in religion, and the realities of China’s education system require that young people spend long hours preparing for tests as they move up the academic ladder, leaving little time for church activities.
Coming out of the CGRA study, a group of ministry and church leaders convened to take a closer look at the needs of youth and the opportunities for the church to engage at a deeper level.
Their report examines in greater detail some of the obstacles referenced above, looks at specific measures currently being taken to address these challenges, and offers suggestions of how Christians can work together in the future to develop the church’s next generation. As their findings indicate, the responsibility for meeting the needs of China’s Christian youth does not fall only on the pastor. The effective youth ministry of the future will require a multi-faceted approach involving various segments of the church and community.
China’s youth comprise the most privileged generation in China’s history, but perhaps the most conflicted generation as well. The future of China’s church hinges upon its ability to engage effectively with its next generation.