This week we were reminded of the dire economic situation facing the youth of the world. Since 23.5% of the world’s poor are youth and 75 million youth are unemployed (a number that will keep growing), this presents significant challenges for governments, agencies, churches, and ministries (not to mention families!) in many regions of our world. In fact, all over the world, even the US, high school and college graduates will be in much poorer economic situations than their parents and especially their grandparents were at their age.
When I look over the ‘field’ of youth ministry, I sometimes grow concerned that we can become a vocation focused on running programs, teaching/speaking lessons, or even a personal exercise in leadership and personal status versus one based on Christlike service. As I read through Scripture on ministry like a ‘shepherd’ (I Peter 5:1-11) and the missional and service focus of the New Testament church, I wonder what our responsibility is to the youth in our community, our region, our country, and around the world.
Two recent events reminded me, again, of the need for developing a global perspective, particularly among Americans. I hosted a prominent global youth worker this past week; he and I had never met before. As our conversation developed, he said, “Well, I’ll be honest with you because I can see you have a global perspective” and then he shared his heart about some matters. The truth is that there is always another level of honesty, an ability for one to be truly who they are, when engaging in cross-cultural conversations. And the axiom is: People from other cultures are hesitant to be candid with Americans until they discern whether we are ‘safe’ and possess the ability to see the world through other cultures’ vantage points. I came away from that meeting renewed in my commitment to help others (and to keep learning myself) how to have a global conscience.
The second event was a regional meeting with leaders in urban youth ministry and camps. As the conversation ranged and we discussed some of pressing multicultural issues, I mentioned the forthcoming book, What Can We DO?, that I co-authored with David Livermore. They surprised me with their strong enthusiasm for the book and that they were interested in finding ways to purchase quite a few to get them in the hands of the youth ministry leaders in their organizations.