Soaring Methodist Youth
I have been honoured and privileged to serve the Methodist Youth in Malaysia. It has been a deep learning curve for me and yet there are many nuggets of blessings in this ministry. Our young people are first and foremost, God’s children. They are also members of the Methodist Church in Malaysia – growing, serving, being disciples and being God’s agents of reconciliation to their homes, church and communities.
‘Hidup ti meruan’
This is the Iban phrase which means ‘Eternal life’. “We obtain eternal life when we die or when Jesus comes again” – that’s what many believe. Therefore the life they live now is temporal, of little significance and riddled with challenges and difficulties. Yet in my journeys around Malaysia, I see many stories of life that surely is eternal as how the bible defines it, “Now eternal life is this: that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Witnessing to our young people – from the rural areas to the urban areas, you will see people worshipping and serving the Lord exuberantly. And this is heart-warming.
As a church we need to show them that what they are experiencing is the life eternal given graciously by God, thus enabling them to worship and trust Him in every aspect of life. We need to pray for our young people to realise this as on the one hand you can see them serving and worshipping God and yet on the other hand we also see them worrying and struggling about life.
This generation of young people long for authenticity in their relationships in living. Amazingly without much effort, they find it through friendships. Many friendship groups form within our youth gatherings. These groups are based on how comfortable they are with each other especially when there are some common interests among them. These interests could be anything ‘under the sun’. These is a sense of belonging in these groups and they feel relaxed, secure and are able to participate in that particular group with ease and authenticity. Certainly there is always the danger that some people may not have a sense of belonging to any particular group in church, yet our young people rarely are overly concerned by this as they have other groups that they belong to. In short, our young people function in groups. And we praise God that once they belong to these groups, authentic relationships begin to form. By the way, these groups form organically solely through interactions between young people.
Our challenge is firstly to give them encouragement for these groups to form. In other words, we need to allow these friendships to take place. We can organize events, games or outings with the sole purpose of helping our young people form their own groups. When these groups form, we can then influence them to include spirituality in their conversations. In fact, due to this sense of belonging and authentic, real relationships, an deal place is created where our young people can talk and share about God in their lives. Yet this task is not easy. The moment we try to be a part of these groups without having anything in common with them, authenticity dissipate. Usually how I gain access to these groups is through discipling individuals. If we have enough counsellors and youth leaders who spend time with our young people, mentoring, praying with and discipling them, we don’t have to be too concerned about changing a group. Organically they change themselves.
Every time I meet various groups of youth throughout the Methodist church in Malaysia, I always ask myself if these young people are growing to become disciples of Jesus Christ. I intentionally ask myself this question because it is so easy to lose this identity through their various activities, issues and challenges. We do not want the church or their youth meetings to be just a social, friendship making activity. We want them to find Christ and to become His disciples. In my experiences mixing with these youths, this is my greatest challenge in the ministry. At the end of the day, are we seeking to point our youths towards an active living relationship with our Lord who teaches them through the Holy Spirit and be His people in Malaysia?
Are we there yet in our programs, activities and interactions of our youths? I don’t think we will be able to give a uniform answer for every member of our MYF but there are telling signs that there is growth in this area. There is a growing emphasis I see in the place of prayer and worship in young people and the MYF. I do think that we are still lacking in giving our young people the tools for personal devotion, bible study and witnessing for Christ to their friends. But still there is a lot of work that needs to be done.
What do we need for the MYF today?
1. Empowerment. Everywhere I go I try to encourage the young people to trust the Holy Spirit in helping them understand the bible. Many times they don’t see the need to spend time with God in reading the Word simply because of the lack of their confidence in understanding the bible. There is also their lack of belief that God speaks to them directly through His Word. I always try to ask for their opinions of different passages of the bible when I have normal interactions with young people. This can also be done through their social media platforms. I do not take their postings when I read them as just random musings. In encouraging them to voice their opinions, we empower them to believe in the God who speaks.
2. Personal Time of Worship and Prayer. I also make it a point to always encourage our young people to spend time alone praying and worshipping the Lord. They are so busy with many things. They know they need to spend time but I realize in my work with young people that many do not know how to spend time alone with the Lord. Many do not know how to pray. These seem basic but very important skills that need to be nurtured.
3. Realizing. Finally we also need to help our young people believe in the life our Lord has laid out for them. Through their lives, the ups and downs, we need to encourage them to experience God in them. This includes exhortation to trust the Lord, to praise and thank God in all circumstances, to repent and to forgive and finally do not feel condemned but to hope on the finished work of the Cross.
May God continue to shape these young people after his own heart!
Executive Youth Director