“How do we engage the millennials on missions?” Joseph Chean asked me.
I was sitting in a room full of executive directors from various agencies including Cru, WEC and Pioneers InAsia. I was the youngest in the room at 27, not even one year into the working world or full-time ministry, sitting in a room full of elders who’ve been in ministry and the mission field for decades.
And it was my first time joining the FOMOS monthly meeting, only made possible because my director had asked Joseph Chean, the chairman of FOMOS, if I could attend the meeting – to which he graciously said yes. Not only is Joseph Chean the chairman of FOMOS, he’s also the national director of YWAM and committee member of Love Singapore.
And now I had to answer him. Somehow, I managed to reply: “My generation is asking your generation, how are you passing the baton down to us?”
That proved to be a defining moment in my ministry journey. Up to that point, I had often wondered if my generation had already been swayed away by today’s individualistic, materialistic culture such that we have stopped seeking His kingdom.
I kept Joseph’s question in my mind, and waited for God to reveal His answer.
In the next six months, I met many millennials passionate about contemporary missional issues – social justice, relief aid, refugees and human trafficking.
I met a young lady who assembled her own team and linked up with YWAM in Taiwan. They bought their own tickets, flew over, and brought Christ’s love to the locals there.
There is no lack of millennials who want to bring social justice to those who need it – it’s just that these young people are bypassing traditional mission agencies.
I met a young man who gathered three friends, bought tickets, flew to Athens, and started working with the refugees and drug addicts there – bringing hope to the hopeless.
I have a friend who went to Thailand for two months to teach English to children in their village schools and a Buddhist monk. This friend built relationships with the locals there, helped out in orphanages and did Bible studies in Mandarin with the Thai Church.
Through these encounters, I realised there really is no lack of millennials who want to bring social justice to those who need it – it’s just that these young people are bypassing traditional mission agencies such as the Church and mission organisations.
So the question isn’t so much “How do we engage millennials”. It’s not an issue of asking where the labourers are. Rather, it’s asking if our current means of engagement are outdated for this generation.
But Joseph Chean hadn’t gotten his answer, so he called for a panel consisting of millennials including myself (Interserve), Jiamin (OM), Wayne (YWAM) and Ian (OMF). It was out of this panel that Passion 4 Missions (P4M) was born.
P4M aims to create a safe space for young people who are interested in missions to gather, build community and have some of their questions answered. We want to gather young people who are interested in mission work but whose churches currently have no structure to fan their passion for missions.
We gather on the last Wednesday of all odd-numbered months (e.g. January, March, May) for a time of worship, prayer, sharing and conversations. These are the “ingredients” we promise, but how we cook each “dish” differs from gathering to gathering.
The inaugural P4M session took place on July 26, 2017. The four of us weren’t expecting much – maybe a cosy group of 10 to 20 people, sharing stories over some simple finger food. But as the day drew nearer, the registered numbers kept rising, and we had a whooping 78 attendees that evening. Both the youths who are passionate about missions, and the experienced missionaries who had returned from the field were present.
We wanted the pilot test created a space for us to share the hindrances we face with regards to missions so we purposely dedicated a large chunk of time to sharing and listening to one another. We poured our hearts over these 3 questions:
- Describe a time when you experienced a deep call/passion for missions
- What do you sense is the purpose for which God has gathered your generation for world missions at this time?
- What are some things that hinder you/your generation from getting actively involved in missions?
Some of our top findings from these questions are how people’s hearts are set on what is eternal and are willing to give their first fruits and prime years to the Lord. We are passionate about authentic relationships, social justice and desire to see unity in the body of Christ.
However, there were hindrances too which includes parental objection, fear of missing out in the career field, and just being too comfortable to step out.
But as we conversed and listened to each other, an amazing atmosphere was birthed that night. The experienced missionaries were encouraged by the passion of the next generation while the younger generation gleaned much wisdom from the seniors who walked before them.
The Holy Spirit kept connecting different people together for His kingdom purposes. It was a beautiful picture of different ages expressing the same heartbeat to see His kingdom come.
At the end of it, we gathered feedback and an overwhelming 100% indicated their desire for more P4M gatherings. The stories we heard from everyone at the first session helped determine the themes for the next five P4M gatherings:
- 27 September: Fear Factors
- 29 November: Relationships (Part 1) – “Parents”
- 31 January: Relationships (Part 2) – “Plus-ones and Friends”
- 28 March: Suffering on the field and comfort for personal desires
- 30 May: Visibility with church leadership
What started out as a curious question, that resulted in a panel discussion, then a simple project – became a runway for the GoForth Missions Conference, which takes place next year from June 21-23, 2018.
The heartbeat of P4M isn’t the number of young people who turn up for a mission-focused gathering. Our heartbeat is seeing young people getting equipped to find resources and training for themselves.
We want to see resource hubs rise up as places for spiritual covering and finding mentors to journey with them. The last thing we want to see is to see young missionaries getting burnt out on the field, or even losing their faith because of inadequate spiritual covering or training.
To me, we millennials are the most well-travelled generation. In any case, we will find ourselves on the mission field one way or another. We will be sent out to the nations, either through work, going on a holiday or even crossing the road to speak to a migrant worker.
The question for us then is, “Do I know what to do in the mission field?” In other words, do you know how to “translate” the Gospel in a way that is relevant to the worldview and culture you’re in?
The Gospel is for every nation, tribe, people and language. Christ is for every culture, worldview and background we engage. After all, every heart that does not have Jesus in it is a mission field.