The Lantern

The Youth in China

Recent research on church leaders in China conducted by ChinaSource and others revealed that one of their chief concerns is raising up the next generation. Youth ministry is still a relatively undeveloped area, but, as the quotes in this month’s Lantern show, the needs are great. Please join us in praying for a breakthrough among China’s young people. 

Brent Fulton

When most people think of youth in China, we think of study machines—young people driven by the ambition to succeed and prosper, not just for themselves, but for their families. And while there is much truth to this narrative, it is incomplete; for there is a darker side to the lives of many young people in China. We would like to highlight some recent stories about Chinese youth; all of them speak to the despair and loneliness experienced by millions. Hopefully you will be prompted to pray.

In June, the online journal Sixth Tone (a mainland China publication) published a sobering article about youth in contemporary China titled ”Turn Off, Drop Out: Why Young Chinese are Abandoning Ambition:”

In recent years, an increasing number of urban, middle-class Chinese young people have begun to identify with sang culture. Simply put, sang refers to a reduced work ethic, a lack of self-motivation, and an apathetic demeanor. “I’m just a waste of space,” “I don’t care all that much for life,” and “I’m listless to the point of despair” are typical phrases uttered by sang youths.

In April, The Economist published a long article, titled ”Alienation 101,” about isolation experienced by many Chinese students in universities in the United States, focusing on the University of Iowa.

Haddy found solace in the sheer mass of Chinese students at Iowa. When she was initially shunted off into temporary housing—bunk beds crammed into a building lobby—she texted a Chinese girl she had met on the plane (business class, naturally) and moved in with her off-campus. Her friends are all Chinese. Some nights, Haddy goes to bed and realises she hasn’t spoken a word of English all day.

Recently, the Chinese Christian online journal, Territory, recently published a very long article titled “Despair: Blue Whale or Christian Faith.” It highlights the much-discussed role of the Internet in contributing to and feeding on the growing despair among young people. “Blue Whale” is an internet game that, through a series of ever-increasing “dares” encourages young people to commit suicide. It is becoming popular in China. Earlier this month we published (in two installments, here and here) a translation of the Territory article.

It was written by a believer who had once been involved with the game. Writing about the game itself, he says:

. . . the Blue Whale game targets this group of people because they suffer from all sort of issues—they have sunk into depression, negativity, and exhaustion, hovering in that gray area between life and death. At that moment, if someone gives them a pull, they might be able to rekindle their hope. But, if someone gives them a push, they will fall off a bottomless cliff. The purpose of the Blue Whale game is to entice and threaten people to “help” them resolve to die.

And in offering suggestions on how to begin reaching out to the lonely who are ensnared by such games, he writes of the importance of listening:

One of the most basic things we can do is to listen to the lonely. I’ve learned some basic principles of listening over the years. For example, don’t just talk about your own story (avoid making oneself the center of the conversation), don’t ask for more details, don’t silence or change the topic, and cautiously offer advice.

Please use these articles as prompts for you to pray for the youth of China.

News and Notes

  • Recently Brent Fulton was interviewed by South China Morning Post about China’s emerging missions movement.
  • On July 16, Joann had the opportunity to speak to the congregation at the First Baptist Church in Coffeyville, Kansas, and tell them the story of their old bell that is hanging in a church in China.

Ways to Pray

  • On July 1 China marked the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Ask the Lord to guide believers in Hong Kong as they serve amidst rapid social and political change.
  • Youth in China face many challenges and often live with the pressure of high expectations from family and society. Pray that the churches of China find ways to effectively reach the youth in China.
  • Pray that good resources are developed for those who are working with Chinese youth both inside and outside the church.

In Case You Missed It

A selection of recently published items:

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ChinaSource Team

ChinaSource Team

Written or edited by members of the ChinaSource staff.          View Full Bio

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