Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry in the Asian Church (Rooted 2017 Workshop Preview)

I attended my first pastor’s conference back in 2011 at The Gospel Coalition National Conference in Chicago. I was still in seminary, fresh in ministry, and looking for help as a young (and very naïve) Youth Pastor. I remember the excitement I felt as I was boarding the plane, knowing that I was about to hear my contemporary heroes of the faith teach me, guide me in ministry, and mentor me live from the pulpit. Over the next three days, I felt star struck seeing my favorite authors walk around amongst the crowds like common men, and my head and heart were jam packed with information and encouragement for ministry. What I didn’t expect, however, was the feeling of discouragement that set in after I got back home from the conference…

As encouraging as conferences can be, there is always a sense of discouragement that hits me when I go back home to my church. Reality sets in that things are not the way they should be with my ministry. As convicting as the Biblical truths are from ministry conferences, I’ve often felt that the barriers to implementing those convictions in the Asian Church are too hard to overcome. What starts off as an excitement to be encouraged by my heroes in ministry results in discouragement when I hear about their ministries and feel that doing the same is near impossible in my own.

For those of us working in the Asian Church (or immigrant of Asian-American), there are often cultural barriers, nuances, and practices (both good and bad) that limit us from doing ministry the way we are taught from the majority Church in America. Add to that the near powerless role we play as Youth Pastors in highly Confucian, patriarchal cultures, and we feel little hope of shaping our cross-centered ministry the way the majority Church in America is able to.

Similarly, reading books on Biblical Leadership is paralyzing. It reveals to me just how far we are from that ideal. Listening to sermons on best practices in ministry cause me to despair and wonder if we’ll ever get there in the Asian Church. There have been many times I have been left looking at the (seemingly) greener pastures of the non-Asian Church, or throwing my hands up in frustration at the lost cause before me. Rather than growing in my aspirations for ministry, I’m left hanging my head as I crawl back into the corner that is Youth Ministry. But does ministry in the Asian Church have to be this way?

After eight years serving in Youth Ministry in various Asian-American and Asian-Immigrant contexts, I’ve graciously discovered that though the Asian Church seems like a lost cause when it comes to “Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry,” God still has a purpose and a plan for us. We may have to let down some of our expectations of the ideal Youth Ministry, but we cannot wave a white flag of surrender and frustration in the face of opposition. Though the Asian Church does have unique barriers and challenges we must overcome as ministers of the Gospel, the Asian Church is still Christ’s Church. And if Jesus promised he would build his Church, then that includes us in the Asian Church too.

This workshop will take time to look at the Biblical principles of Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry, and evaluate how much our principles are derived from Scripture versus culture. Then we’ll confront the basic challenges to implementing these principles in the Asian Church, and ask how we can practically overcome these challenges for a more Biblical, sanctified approach to ministry. I look forward to discussing the cultural barriers that face the Asian Church as a whole, and coming away with a renewed hope for what God desires to do with us, our Youth, and our congregations.

This workshop will be presented at Rooted 2017 in Dallas, Texas on October 26-28. To register for the conference, click here.

Clark is the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church SF, and has served in Youth Ministry in the Asian-American context for over a decade. He received his M.Div. from Talbot Theological School in Southern California, and is a Doctor of Missiology (D.Miss) candidate at Southern Seminary (SBTS). He is also an emeritus member of Rooted’s Steering Committee. He and his wife, Janet, have two daughters, Kara and Nora.

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