A Win-Win Situation
It’s often said that “young people are the church of tomorrow” but Stephen Hope – one of the pastors of Pelsall Evangelical Church in the West Midlands – disagrees. He says young people are the church of today and the church leaders of tomorrow. Here Stephen explains how he is helping to equip our youth to be those future leaders.
I became a believer in a small FIEC church in Ivybridge, South Devon. Two years ago I was called as Pastor to Pelsall where I inherited a group of young people who were excited about Jesus and keen to grow more like him. But how could I best help them to develop in their walk with Jesus?
One way of nurturing a young Christian’s faith is by involving them in short-term mission. In fact, this is a great way that FIEC churches can work together to help impact our nation for Christ while equipping our youth for service in God’s church.
After taking nine young people to my former church in Ivybridge for a week-long mission, I would go as far as saying it’s a win-win situation.
As well as serving the church with a holiday club, a quiz night, leafleting and a work day, we were able to spend some time seeing the beautiful sites of South Devon as well as developing friendships with the members of the church who worked so well alongside us.
A Win for Us
Although there are plenty of opportunities to serve the Lord in our home church, it’s important that young people have a vision for the kingdom outside of their immediate context. Going to a smaller church and seeing the challenges helps them to pray more effectively for the church in Britain and to understand that church is not all about size. It also enables them to be an encouragement.
Practically it means young people can work together as a team. Our group got to know new people by staying with Christians in the church who they’d never met before and they also had the chance to test out practical gifts and new ideas in a safe environment.
As the week went on we saw them grow in simple but significant areas in their spiritual lives too. Many began to pray out loud; they showed patience with each other and grew in confidence in talking to people they didn’t know very well.
A Win for Them
One of the dangers of short term mission is to come and go without leaving any legacy at the church where you serve. With this in mind we did a holiday club for five days with the intention of Ivybridge starting a children’s work afterwards using the contacts made at the club.
Ivybridge held a follow up event in July and a good number of children from the Easter holiday club returned. Their homes have also been visited by the pastor and his wife and there has been positive interest in two follow-up events planned for the autumn.
A big highlight of the week was a meal cooked for the church members and the friends they invited. Afterwards some of the young people gave testimonies and taught a couple of new songs to be sung on the Sunday we were there and at Ivybridge in future – another legacy we could leave behind.
It was amusing to see some of the young people learn how to do tasks such as peeling and chopping, which had blatantly never been done before – so a win for the parents too!
A Win for the Kingdom
But I pray that the biggest winner in this endeavour is the Kingdom of God. We are part of a church where there is no university nearby and inevitably we will see some of our young people leave. I would love to see them leaving us and being able to go to a church or Christian Union of any size and play an active part in it having had experience of serving God whilst growing up with us.
We plan to make these short-term missions a regular part of our church calendar and would love to see other FIEC churches working together with us in this. Perhaps you are a smaller church who would benefit from having a group of young people come and kick-start a ministry and bring some encouragement to the church. On the other hand perhaps you are a church who has a group of young people who would benefit from the experience of doing a short-term mission with another FIEC church.
If you are interested in a similar partnership, why not contact me or speak to me about it at the Leaders’ Conference in November? I would love to pair up churches and see FIEC working together to impact our nation investing in both the church of today and the church of tomorrow.