Leadership training in China: reaching youth through small groups

Photo courtesy of China Partner.

(Photo courtesy of China Partner)

China (MNN) — A lot is happening for the Church in China. Make sure you’re not missing it.

In China, house churches are often not legally registered as the government demands of them. These churches are small and imitate the house churches described in Acts. They provide a place of intimate community and solid discipleship. The problem is: they do not have a lot of freedom to operate.

China Partner comes alongside the registered Church in China to support them. Working with the Church that’s recognized by the government gives them more freedom to operate as a foreign entity.

Erik Burklin says China Partner starts with the leaders. “We’re equipping especially lay pastors and volunteer church leaders–those who are actually doing the ministry of local churches, many of them who come from rural churches.”

China Partner is on the ground right now in Fuzho, the capital of the Fujian province. On this trip they will visit two more provinces.

The pastors from various churches are invited to a training center where they are taught Christian leadership through spiritual formation. At the training center this time, Burklin says there are some new topics being covered: “This is very exciting. We are starting to focus more on some of the more of the practical issues of the pastoral leadership. One of them is marriage and family.”

Burklin explains that lay and volunteer pastors in China are too often expected to be in “ministry mode” at all times, ready to address the many needs of the congregation at any moment. Meanwhile, they have to work a job or run a business on the side in order to provide for their family. Part of the training will address what boundaries are appropriate to set up, and how to keep them so that the pastors can take care of their family.

“The other thing that we’re concentrating on is youth ministry training. The way we’re doing that is through some much-needed small group ministry training, just helping them to understand the principles of how small groups can actually help build community amongst one another. Therefore, in a smaller group setting, they have a little bit of a better way to also reach the next generation for Christ,” Burklin says.

Burklin explains that these small groups are really no different from house churches except that the government doesn’t interfere with them.

“House churches are really small groups meeting in a home,” he says. Small groups are becoming more and more necessary for registered churches as they grow rapidly.

“Within the registered churches there is really a tremendous need of teaching them how to operate in a small group ministry setting because so many of these churches are huge,” Burklin says.

“Many people have come to faith over the last few years, but now the big challenge is: ‘Okay, how do we train these new believers? How do we disciple them, how do we equip them?’ A small group ministry model is very helpful” for that context.

While this small group setting can reap some of the same benefits as the house churches do, they also have another advantage. Registered churches in China often have a good relationship with the government, depending on the location. Burklin says there is an extreme mutual respect. While the churches don’t agree with all aspects of the government, they are respecting the leadership that God has put into place without compromising their morals.

And sometimes, churches even use their relationship to witness to government officials.

As pastors come to seek this valuable training, there are many things you can do to help. Most importantly, you can pray.

Burklin says, “Pray for their spiritual health and also their families. They have tremendous pressure put on them to…be ministers 24/7.”

Here are some other ways to get involved.

For more background on China Partner, check out these stories.