“I sure wish some college students would come to our church! What should I do?”
I recently had lunch with a Japan Baptist Union pastor who, a few years ago, accepted a call to a small congregation within walking distance of Kanto Gakuin University, where I serve as chaplain. This pastor has a heart to share the gospel with students, and was looking for some ideas about where to start in student ministry.
Over a lunch of tasty sushi, I heard this church’s story. The church has been in the neighborhood for decades, and a handful of people attend every week—but the congregation doesn’t include any KG students. Space is extremely limited—the church has a small sanctuary (about the size of a large American living room) on the second floor of a rented building, and that’s about it The church has no on-going outreach programs, and maintains a “traditional” style of worship—meaning lots of hundred-year-old hymns played on a thirty-year-old electric organ.
“Hmm…” I thought as I listened.
This is not the first time I’ve been a part of this kind of conversation. We have lots of great younger pastors to work with in the Japan Baptist Union, but they face a real battle when trying to grow their churches. Building relationships with youth requires lots of planning, program models are not easy to come by, ministry space is limited, and congregational inertia sometimes keeps churches from creating worship & fellowship opportunities that youth feel are “real.”
The good news is that this pastor is not discouraged! With faith in God this young leader is yearning to move this congregation towards a new future—one that will require some change, but bright with possibilities, nonetheless. I’d ask you to pray for this little church right now as you read, and pray for its pastor, Rev. Toda.
Being a chaplain affords me lots of opportunities to minister directly to students—and I’m thankful for each of those. But I also realize that students need to find strong communities of faith that can meet their needs. We chaplains need strong churches for our work to bear fruit. So please lift up a prayer for our partner churches in Japan!
In 2008, in addition to normal chaplaincy work, I was blessed with the opportunity to cooperate with one Yokohama church in developing a ministry to KG students, and we helped another parachurch campus ministry set up a work among Kanto Gakuin students. But it’s taken a while to build a vision for student ministry among our Japan Baptist Union partner churches. So continue to keep us in your prayers, that we may be guided by God’s Spirit as we try to encourage JBU pastors to minister more effectively to the young people we’ve been entrusted with!
Shalom to You!
Dwight & Kari Davidson