I have served in the EFCA for over 20 years. Every one of them was focused on the next generation. As I look back on my time as a youth pastor at three different churches, I have fond memories of the students and families that I had the privilege of serving. Those places of ministry taught me a ton and I’m grateful for the highs and lows that have shaped who I am today and the opportunities that lie before me. I’d like to think that much of what I did brought glory to God and will produce fruit for the kingdom, but I must admit that there are some things I wish I had done differently.
This past Sunday we visited an EFCA church in our area. As first-time visitors we were warmly welcomed and found our seats near the rear of the sanctuary. I noticed from the bulletin that the Senior Pastor was not speaking and prepared myself for what might be a long morning. After an opening song and call to worship, the Sr. Pastor moved to the pulpit and began to introduce the morning’s speaker and topic at hand.
He went on to admit that after the 40th sermon in a 49 part series of messages from the book of Acts he had failed his congregation. For the majority of their time in Acts he had focused their attention solely on the church and unfortunately missed a key message they needed to see and hear.
The book of Acts not only recounts the beginning of the Church, but it also reflects the missionary heart of God expressed in the gospel and practically lived out in the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul. I was stirred not only because of the humility of this leader, but also because of the great need to call the church of today to take seriously the call to missions. I wanted to jump up and cheer, but stayed seated contemplating my own leadership in this area. I must admit that over my years of ministry I, too, had failed in this area.
According to a recent Barna study, 53% of the young men and 42% of the young women who are actively involved in your church would consider Christian mission work as a viable option for them to pursue as a long-term career path. Let that sink in for just a minute. Almost half the young adults in your church between 18-24 would strongly consider a leap of faith to join God in the harvest field.
Imagine what would happen for the cause of Christ if they did. Rather than having an ever-shrinking pool of pastors to lead the church into the future, we would be flush with young leaders ready to take the responsibility of shepherding God’s people. We would see the gospel preached to every unreached people group on the planet. The 3 billion souls who have never heard the name of Jesus would have hope for eternity rather than go on with their lives oblivious to the fact that they can be forgiven of their sin and spend eternity with the God who loves them. The next generation is paramount to the cause of Christ. The Church needs them.
Unfortunately, most won’t even consider this high calling. We must do something about this! The young adults in your church need your help.
The number one reason young adults say they were able to take any steps toward full time ministry is because a pastor or mentor asked them to do it and supported them along the way. Your influence is vital in the process of the next generation stepping out to be gospel influencers to the ends of the earth.
There is a simple and unfortunate reason the next generation is not taking a step toward full time missions… no one is asking them. Many of us sensed a call from God on our lives and took steps toward pursuing that call but that trend seems to be waning among the emerging generation. Without trusted leaders and supportive churches, the downward trends of a shrinking missions force will continue.
With some simple and intentional steps, we can do our part in sending the next wave of missionaries to bring the gospel to the world.
If you have young people in your congregation, the simple step of asking them to consider missions could be the only catalyst needed for them to start moving in that direction. Do not underestimate your voice and encouragement in the life of the next generation. They long for adults to believe in them, trust them and motivate them toward following God.
Coming in as a close second place motivator of the next generation is meeting people who have taken the steps to become full time missionaries. Being exposed to healthy ministry leaders who are bringing the gospel to the world is inspiring. Do your best to bring missionaries to your church and give a platform to those you support. Make them aware that the EFCA has a missions organization called ReachGlobal and has nearly 500 missionaries worldwide. Don’t relegate missions to one Sunday a year, shine a spotlight on world missions as often as you can and raise awareness on how the next generation can be involved.
There is no greater recruiting tool for missions than to send your people on short term missions experiences. Do whatever you can to open up opportunities for the next generation in you church to join in the gospel work happening all over the world. Make sure that your youth ministry and college students are choosing to participate in trips that continue to have lasting impact long after they return home. Provide easy next steps for them to return. Introduce them to reputable organizations that can involve them in ongoing ministry and can help them take next steps toward missions.
Ask God to raise up a group of students from your church who will join Him in the mission field. Set and alarm at 10:02am every day to be reminded to do what Luke 10:2 says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. PRAY to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into the harvest field.” This simple act starts to knit your heart to God’s heart over the need for more workers to be raised up from among your congregation.
Sending missionaries requires monetary support. In a day and age where the next generation is facing significant financial hurdles with education costs and very few people committed to supporting missionaries individually, it will be imperative that your church set aside money in your budget to support the next generation on the mission field. What better way to say to the next generation that we trust them and support them than to have intentionally budgeted for their involvement in long-term missions. But it does not end with dollars and cents. Support means encouragement, relationship and participation.
The EFCA and ReachGlobal exist to multiply transformational churches among all people. Disciple-making is the heart of our movement. Collectively, we long to see Christ glorified in our efforts to help every person take next steps in their journey to join God in the great commission wherever He calls them. As leaders, we have the privilege and responsibility to provide easy next steps for the next generation to join God in His work here and around the world.
Will you join me by making the call to the next generation to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? Maybe all it will take is asking. Working together, we can mobilize the greatest force for the gospel the world has ever seen.
*Within the EFCA, Apex Missions aims to serve you and help the emerging generation in your church who would consider missions long term by providing the easy next steps to take. If you would like to know more, visit apexmissions.org or email David at firstname.lastname@example.org