From June 7-9, 68 young adults from across North America gathered together to worship God and learn from one another on how to engage 18-30 year olds in the Christian Reformed Church. These young adults, leaders within their congregations, are passionate about their faith and concerned about declining membership in the Christian Reformed Church, specifically within the next generation. As an attendee, it was truly an inspirational weekend of unity and celebration through the power of God. The highlight for me was a time of worship with Synod delegates and re:kindle participants on Friday evening, talking about the future of the church and joining together in conversation and prayer.
Some critical questions asked throughout the weekend include:
- Does your church have a strategy for reaching out to the next generation?
- What will your church look like 30 years from now?
- What are the on-ramps to becoming involved in your church? Are there programs to engage young adults?
- Would a visitor know what the sacraments are for and why you are celebrating them?
- Does your church’s worship tell the gospel story?
Although these questions don’t really talk about global missions and caring for the poor, there was some discussion about “the missionary field in our back door” and how reaching the next generation is making disciples within our nation. As well, World Renew lead a breakout session on Global and Local Responses to Poverty. World Renew director Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo, together with three volunteers from World Renew – Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga, Danielle Rowaan, and Ryan Geleynse – used a framework to discuss dilemmas and questions that may arise when churches discusses short-term mission opportunities. Difficult questions were asked, such as who benefits more from a mission trip – the volunteer or the community members living there? Additionally, community partnerships, where a North American church partners with a community in a developing country and sends teams there on a regular basis, were discussed and encouraged. I found the framework to be a great practical tool that can be given to your church when planning your next missions trip.
I think many young people, specifically in the Christian Reformed Church, see missions as going out and helping out with a project, whether it be building a church or school, etc whereas sharing our life story with non-Christians and bringing people to the Lord is more reserved for those who have gone to school and are trained in the word. I think this perspective needs to change. In John 4, the woman at the well who has been married five times and is currently living with a man who is not her husband, shares her testimony with the townspeople and invites them to come meet the Messiah. She has no training and has just met Jesus, yet He is using her to spread the gospel. Maybe we need to have more opportunities where people learn how to give their testimony and talk about their faith in openness and honesty.
I would love to see global missions become more of a priority at re:kindle in coming years. Going on a mission trip is life changing and often reignites people’s faith lives. Youth and young adults are more likely to be involved in their church community after going on a mission trip. It’s also a great starting point for developing conversations about being a Christian with friends in North America. It would be amazing to see the formation of a YALT mission team where 18-30 year olds volunteer each year together in a developing country.