For the last two years I served as co-editor for GLOBAL YOUTH MINISTRY, a book that champions the dynamic development of Christian youth ministry around the globe. Written by a representative group of veteran youth ministry leaders, the resulting text is a fascinating read, a bird’s eye view of various cultural contexts and the concerns of youth ministry leaders in those regions.
One of the first champions for global youth ministry in North America was Randy Smith, founder of Youth Ministry International. Randy challenged North American youth pastors to consider international youth ministry, arguing that 97% of the world’s formally-trained youth workers ministered to 3% of the global youth population. That statistic changed dramatically over the last 15 years (and it’s difficult to measure, as we discovered) as numerous international colleges, universities, seminaries, mission agencies, and training institutes have set out to address the needs of youth in their regions through the development of youth ministry and practical theology degree programs.
Why the fuss about global youth ministry? Consider these statistics:
- Half the world’s population is under the age of 25, a percentage that will grow before it gets smaller.
- Over 70% of the global population is less than 25 years of age.
- In 2005, 85-90% of those aged 15-24 lived in developing countries.
- 60% of global youth live in Asia.
- By the year 2025, over 1.2 billion people in the world will be considered “youth’, one of the largest generations in history.
- Despite its size, it’s not an economically powerful group – more than half of the youth of the world survive on less than $2 per day.
The potential for such a large demographic seems unlimited. This generation’s reaction to fast-developing global changes should significantly (and dramatically) define the future for most regions of the world. It is no wonder then that corporations, churches/mission groups, colleges and seminaries, service agencies, parents, and governments increasingly focus their attention on children, youth, and the concerns and preferences of adolescents.