In my first post I shared about my background, cross-cultural experiences, and how my passion to serve the Chinese church developed. This transitioned to my doctoral dissertation on reaching second generation Chinese Americans for Christ, though the principles apply to any second generation youth. Also mentioned was the important role families play in their children’s lives.
In the book, Already Gone, a study was done on why the youth and young adults leave church. Then, it was estimated 61% of young adults who were regular church attendees no longer were connected to a church in any way. 1 While these are American statistics, they parallel much of what Chinese churches are seeing in the “silent exodus” of youth leaving, with most not returning. This can change, and it begins at home!
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is the Hebrew Shema. It is the core of the Jewish (and Christian) understanding of the character of God. It declares that parents and grandparents are to teach children diligently the ways of the Lord. God established the family in Genesis 1 and 2, with Adam and Eve, and family is the core of every society.
In these verses we find God’s instructions to the Israelites, and by application to all of us—to tell our sons and daughters about him, “. . . when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (ESV). This goes beyond a Sunday school class, church activities, or devotions—all important and have their place. But telling our children and their children about the Lord, his word, love, holiness, mercy, righteousness, grace, wrath, goodness and more, should be a lifestyle. We must talk about our God in a way that helps them see that he is real in our lives. We cannot pass on what we do not possess.
There are four principles in this text to help us pass on our faith and help our kids and grandkids to own it.
First, in 6:4-6, we are instructed to love God. If we do not love him, we will not be able to teach others to love him. We must reflect his love and truth and raise the next generations in the nurture and discipline of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). This includes service, but not legalism; not works based, but love based.
Second, whenever you have the opportunity or make the opportunity, they were, and we are to teach the following generations about him, as 6:7 states. This is why truth goes beyond the church walls and spills over to real life. Tell them of times God has been faithful to you and that he can be trusted, even in hard times. Tell them how he answered your prayers. Tell them the gospel and live out the gospel.
Third, verses 8-9 emphasize the need to teach them God’s word. This is where church leaders come in, which will be addressed in a moment. It is within the context of family, that the primary spiritual education needs to take place. Regardless of what we think, parents have the greatest influence on their children. It is within the family structure, based on Biblical truth, that they will find their identity in Christ.
Fourth, they are responsible for their own decisions. Though not specifically stated in these verses, the Bible testifies to this truth. They must own their own faith, and not depend on their parent’s faith, particularly when they go to school or a job for the first time.
Church leaders are also important. While they can never take the place of family, God has given them the responsibility and honor, to serve and equip others to reach their families. They have a supporting role and should provide spiritual nourishment for every generation God has entrusted to them. Help your congregation understand the importance of grace. Do a study on the Christian home on Sunday mornings, in small groups, or both. Teach others what you have learned regarding the struggles the second and following generations face. Organize conferences for parents and grandparents that focus on those specific struggles. Find resources, ministries, blogs, videos, websites and more and pass them along to others so they can be equipped to help their kids. The pictures in this blog series are books that will help you with these matters.
While this goes for families, church leaders should also talk with and listen to the youth. Give them opportunities to serve and let them give their input. Ask them to fill out a survey and tell them to be honest. Ask what they feel the strong points of the church are, what the weak points are, what they struggle with, what their needs are, and how the church can answer their questions. Believe me . . . they have questions. I did a short training series on apologetics (defending the Christian faith) with Chinese youth a few years ago. They had some great questions. It was an honor for me. They appreciated it, and were tasked with passing on what they learned.
When it comes to their questions, families, pastors, Sunday school leaders, etc. please understand—Let them ask. Find answers and take them seriously. They are around people who ask questions. It is not disrespectful to ask questions to those in authority. Yes, it can be done disrespectfully, but we grow by asking questions. “Because the Bible, the pastor, the youth leader says so . . .” won’t help. Encourage them to ask and own what they learn.
On my YouTube channel is a video playlist—Reaching the Second Generation of Chinese Americans—with more details on the topics in this series. Watch, share, comment, and use them in any way that will help you and others. They are in English and Chinese.
For this specific topic watch Pt 1 – How to Reach the Second Generation.
The next post in this series will give an overview of basic and specific issues the second-generation face.
Image credit: Michael Weis.
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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