Worldwide opportunities for ministry amongst the young
Posted on: 14th February 2020
As we prepared Checkpoint Autumn (2020), we were also asking CMS missionaries past and present in Europe, the Middle East, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Japan, Tanzania, South Asia and here in Australia to speak to us about mission opportunities—in schools in particular. They were quick to tell us that there are indeed classroom opportunities amongst the under-18s—but a lot more besides.
A clear point of need in mission locations all around the world is for Christians willing to work with those under-18—often in schools, but not always. So we asked a range of CMS missionaries and ex-missionaries about some of those needs.
Whilst everyone we spoke to was willing to mention particular opportunities (especially in schools) the message that came through most clearly was that children, like all Christians, needed to be discipled in the basics of Christian faith and living.
It is true that this can happen in schools—particularly schools run by missionaries and mission organisations—but many of our missionaries mentioned other possibilities. So here we look at some of those possibilities and, just as importantly, ask ‘Who should go?’
Who should go?
Every missionary we spoke with agreed that what is needed most are people with a deep gospel commitment to the Lord Jesus. The man or woman who offers to serve amongst children and youth must be someone with a growing relationship with God who is “keen to love and serve others”, says C (serving in the Middle East with S).
C serving in the Middle East with M notes that in the international school where she has taught Biblical Studies for some years, many children are committed to faith but lack strong biblical foundation. Classes are small, which means there is plenty of opportunity to get alongside children. You need to be “a person who loves young people and wants to get alongside them; a person who has a good grasp of the fundamentals of the Christian faith and is able to disciple and encourage young people,” says C.
For teachers specifically, it is important to have a good knowledge of the subject area in which a person will be teaching. Former CMS missionary Helen Reid, who served with her family in the Middle East, mentions a tangential yet important benefit of this: “Having well-trained and experienced teachers teach their children gives missionaries a lot of confidence in remaining on the field and continuing their ministries.”
Naomi Rubie in Ethiopia offers a complementary view to Helen’s. She learned that teaching at Bingham Academy in Addis Ababa called for flexibility, resilience and doing things she had never done before:
In eight years I have never taught the same subject twice! It is not an 8am to 4pm teaching job here—it’s being in relationship with kids, sharing your life so they see Jesus in you in different situations, and that takes time and energy outside school hours…you may not teach where your training lies…you are so busy learning how to be in a new culture in new circumstances, you need to be at least confident in the classroom so that part isn’t too stressful!
Opportunities for teachers
Helen Reid (quoted above) has had many years of experience in education. She summarises:
Teachers are needed around the world in a variety of schools for missionary children. Every year schools are looking for staff. Whether you are ready now or in five years there will still be opportunities to serve as a teacher. If you have experience teaching in Australia and are wanting the chance to expand your teaching skills to new curriculum, a new culture and the opportunity to keep missionaries on location, then you are the sort of person MK schools need. If you are adaptable and flexible and willing to learn, then you will be highly sought after.
Ex-CMS missionary Chris Cooper, now serving as a CMS Regional Mission Director, suggests that as well as looking at mission schools in other countries, one good Australian possibility is working amongst indigenous children in local public schools where their communities are located.
Brad Jackson, working in Japan, offers the sound advice that those giving consideration to specific schools should look closely at the school’s policies around evangelism. He says “I would classify schools as either pro-evangelism, neutral or uncooperative”, and goes on to note that a number of Japanese schools founded by churches and Christian organisations have drifted to the point where they are actively discouraging of any evangelistic initiatives.
Opportunities for non-teachers
Tamie Davis in Tanzania says, “We don’t only need teachers! Our school has benefited greatly from an occupational therapist and a school counsellor, both services that are unavailable here…in a similar vein, many schools struggle to source experienced leaders and administrators. I want to encourage school principals and directors to know that there’s a great need for their skills too.”
S (who until recently served in South Asia) agrees. “[We need] more school leaders and business managers…they are one of the key enablers of mission in many places, though it is often tough to make them viable without compromising core purpose and values. Partnerships between the big Christian schools in Australia and less resourced mission schools would be great too.”
What gospel opportunities exist?
Here again, the answers from missionaries show that opportunities abound. Maaike Prins in Cambodia has found that there are gospel opportunities “in every single lesson” in the Christian school she works in. In international schools in Japan, some schools allow teachers to be active in evangelism, says Brad Jackson. Elsewhere, he notes, finesse of approach is required, but just as with any other missionary, opportunities will come to those of godly “character, competence, and convictions”.
Tamie Davis speaks of the ministry of healing, teaching and pastoral care amongst missionary kids (MKs), “However, our school is only 20% MKs, so…the opportunity is there to love and serve kids of non-Christian backgrounds as well.” Naomi Rubie notes too that “50% of our students are MKs but that doesn’t guarantee they have chosen to follow God themselves. In fact, sometimes they are angry about being away from their home country or have become numb to Christian things.”
Ready for sacrifice
There is no question that sacrifice, whether as a teacher or someone focussing on children’s ministry is involved. Missionaries made a number of observations along similar lines:
“It is difficult to get teachers to come—they need to be supported by a Christian organisation and the school only pays them a small allowance.”
“You need to be willing to work hard and long hours.”
“Living in developing world countries needs a spirit of adventure. Nothing functions like you are used to.”
But to bring the gospel to younger people is to affect not only this generation, but generations to come, into eternity.
CMS is always interested in speaking to teachers and others with the conviction, character, and competence to work with young people. Speak to your CMS branch about the possibilities.