At the Walking Along with Second Generation Leaders Conference on Sept 23, 2023, Presence hosted a sharing by Dr. Agnes Ip about how RE:NEW has helped first-generation and second-generation leaders work together to serve today’s youth. Dr. Ip also led a Q&A with youth pastor Andrew Wong and intergenerational pastor Leona Wong to ask about their experiences and perspectives.
In Dr. Ip’s sharing, she explained how Presence actively seeks to understand more about the lives of Christian youth today by conducting research through surveys. We conducted one survey on youth and youth workers in the church regarding their daily and spiritual lives. Presence also put out another survey concerning the lives of Christian youth after the pandemic and into re-opening. You can see the results of these surveys here.
Because of the struggle of trust and misunderstandings that arise between the mix of Eastern and Western cultures among Asian American youth, youth leaders, and parents, RE:NEW has hosted youth ministry prayer meetings for youth workers in Asian American ministry to be able to share their strategies, struggles and to pray together.
We have also emphasized youth ministry as a family ministry. Through our HD program, our goal is to help the three generations of youth, youth workers, and parents have healthy communication and understand their roles and responsibilities in bringing up the youth.
From Pastor Andrew and Leona’s Q&A time, they touched on several ways first-generation leaders can walk alongside second-generation leaders.
For one, second-generation leaders are seeing the need for youth to have safe spaces where they can feel free to learn, be themselves, and share their thoughts without judgment or fear of what the older generation will say or think. Because of the tight-knit family community of Asian American churches, the older generation always seems to hold the roles of elders, aunties, and uncles to the younger generation. This leaves little room for youth and youth leaders to grow into adulthood. Even youth leaders feel the imbalance and lack of peer-to-peer relationships between the youth pastor and other pastors of the first generation.
Sometimes, when that balance is attempted by 1st gen pastors to hand more responsibilities to the 2nd gen pastors, it can feel too quick or abrupt. Responsibilities are simply given and expected of youth pastors without any training or mentoring of 2nd gen pastors. Second-gen pastors are looking for a more empowering mentorship relationship from 1st gen leaders rather than the top-down dynamic of senior ministers just expecting more from youth leaders.
Pastors Andrew and Leona explained that mentorship is not just about teaching and passing down one’s experiences and methods to the younger generation. Especially since there are so many differences between generations and congregations, what 2nd generation leaders really need is more of a motherly or fatherly figure who will grow and walk alongside them.
Oftentimes, first-generation leaders are still learning and doing ministry themselves, so second-generation leaders can benefit from learning alongside them and thinking together about new methods to minister to their congregations. Also, mentorship is not so much about recreating a younger leader in the image of the older one, but more so about drawing out the unique giftings of the younger leaders that may not exactly be the same as that of the 1st gen pastor.
Ultimately, Pastor Andrew shared that if 2nd generation pastors are to act as a bridge between the 1st generation and the youth, they need a strong foundation on both sides. Only then can they support and help the two sides communicate and work together.
Pastor Leona also pointed out Malachi 4:6, in which God said he would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. She said that it means a lot for first-generation leaders to take the first step of reaching out to care for and think about the needs of the youth ministry. Instead of always expecting youth ministers to take that first step and petition whenever they have needs or wants for the youth, it makes such a difference when the older generation goes out of their way to ask the youth about their needs. That will draw the youth to want to care for, help and serve the older generation willingly and not just out of duty.
Overall, it was a unique time for 1st generation leaders to hear directly from 2nd generation leaders about how they can walk alongside and support them, not only in youth ministry but to work together in intergenerational family ministry.