So far, I have stated family is foundational and church leaders are crucial in reaching second generation Chinese Americans who are caught between competing worldviews and struggle with identity. Grace should be the foundation of a home and church. Developing and passing on a Biblical worldview is crucial in helping the second generation make the faith their own and find their identity in Christ.
While there are basic principles families and churches should follow when working with youth, the following principles are more important for working with second generation Chinese Americans. I’ll begin with what families and churches can do.
Principles for Families and Churches
Listen to their heart, struggles, and frustration without taking it personally. Remember, what is said is often a symptom of something deeper. Pray for wisdom. One comment often given, was in the mind of the second generation, few really listened to them.
This is foundational. Grace is the basis for the gospel and the Christian life. We talk about it and must live it out.
Learn about the Western worldview.
This takes time, humility, and lots of conversations with those who are familiar with the culture.
They need genuine encouragement. Tell them the good things they do right!
Enter their world. Try to see things from their perspective. Give them an opportunity to express their opinions, even if you don’t understand or agree. Try to understand their personal journey and the struggles they face.
Beware of legalism.
Be careful of lists for them to “measure up to.” It is good to have rules, but if there is no grace, you will push them away.
More Principles for Families
Model how to use social media.
Explain to them about the blessings and problems of social media and be an example.
Don’t exalt education or a getting a good job above where it should be.
This is a quote from one second generation in my research:
I’m glad my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me from a young age. . . . I’m also glad that I’ve had a relatively easy time in my classes. . . However, my worst subject right now is math because I tried so hard when I was younger not to conform to the stereotype of “Asians are good at math.” I’d say my parents push me, but it isn’t as much as before. If anything, now I push myself. However, I do feel pressure to do well from my parents and doing poorly in school often makes me very sad. Unfortunately, now I’m a workaholic, as I live in a constant state of stress in which I feel guilty when being unproductive . . .
Be careful of expectations.
Are they realistic? If they don’t get the best grades or serve in the church the way you think they should, what will you say and do?
Don’t compare your children to others.
Here is another quote, “. . . stop comparing your children to other Chinese children; that doesn’t help or motivate us. . . . stop comparing our lives now to your experience in China in terms of quality.”
Remember what Christianity is.
Don’t use Christianity to force them to act and think the way you want. Some mentioned this in my research, and the impact is very negative.
Learn a Biblical worldview of parenting.
This was a consistent statement I heard. We are all a product of our family, our past, our culture and other factors. However, we must go to the Bible, not our culture, to learn what God says about parenting.
More principles for church leaders:
Integrate the second generation into the adult congregation.
The older and younger generations need to interact. Give them opportunities to serve— worship, singing, technology, social media; equip some to teach a Sunday school class, lead in prayer, help with the offering, and so on. Take them on short-term mission trips locally and globally with the adults. Let them lead a local trip. How can they learn about ministry if they are not involved in ministry?
Don’t look at them as a different church.
While they have their own activities and studies, they are part of the congregation you serve as a leader.
Talk about tough subjects.
Teach about sex, racism, identity, politics, dating, drugs, etc. from a Christian worldview. One comment I heard was “As a Chinese American, sometimes I feel very out of place. I feel like the first thing people notice about me is my race, and general assumptions are made subconsciously.”
Do a series on these topics.
Teach about social media, parenting, identity, and more from a Biblical, rather than cultural perspective.
If possible, hire an English youth pastor.
Some requested this. I was an assistant youth pastor for a Vietnamese church. It can make a difference, as long as the youth leader is in line with the leaders of the church, and as long as church leadership sees them as equals. If you have an English youth pastor, communicate with him/her.
Prepare older teens to handle their freedom in college.
It is one thing to have a structure within a church or family. It is different when young people are out on their own. They need to know how to be responsible.
Admit there are cultural and generational differences and work to overcome them.
Study each culture. Learn about what the second generation is thinking. Ask their perspective on issues and ask why they think the way they do. Seek to understand them in their own context.
Work with other Asian churches.
They struggle with similar issues. Come together, learn from each other, and ask other pastors for help.
If possible, have bi-lingual services.
If not every week, have one once a month where everyone is together, where the second generation can be more involved.
Finally, as I end this series on reaching second generation Chinese Americans, I challenge non-Asian pastors and leaders to get involved. We often think cross-cultural ministry must be overseas. Often it is, but we must not neglect our brothers and sisters within our own back yard! Talk with Chinese church leaders and learn from them. Encourage one another and serve together. We all have struggles, but as we work together for God’s glory, we can reach the next generation and those who come after them.
Some Helpful Resources
“Differences Between Chinese and American Culture and Social Media,” part 3 of Reaching the Second Generation for Christ.
Additional Resources, several in Chinese
Tapestry of Grace: Untangling the Cultural Complexities in Asian American Life and Ministry by Benjamin C. Shin and Sheryl Takagi Silzer
9Marks Ministry in Chinese
9Marks Ministry—Chinese Resources (Some resources are available for free download in Chinese)
The Hope Project in Chinese Online
Answers in Genesis in Chinese
Third Millennium Ministries in Chinese
Image courtesy of the author.
Michael Weis was born in West Virginia, heard the gospel in upstate New York, and put his faith in Jesus as a young boy. Upon graduating from college with a Bachelor's degree in Technical Theatre, he moved to Florida to work in the entertainment industry and began studying Christian …View Full Bio
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