The huge need for children’s and youth workers in Tanzania
Posted on: 9th February 2023
Half of Tanzania’s population—more than 30 million—are under 18, and their world is very different to the one their parents grew up in. Former CMS missionary Judith Calf, who completed her service in Tanzania in 2022, reflects on the opportunities for children’s and youth ministry in a country continuing to undergo significant social change.
I recently heard an address by the President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, about the decline of values and morals among Tanzanian youth, and the impact this had upon the nation. She urged Tanzanians to consider where parents and religious leaders have gone astray in teaching maadili, a Swahili word with a broad meaning of right conduct and behaviours reflecting the values of society, including morals and ethics. She called on them to contribute as much as possible to teaching children values and morals for the benefit of the nation.
Perhaps in Australia we feel the shrinking of opportunities for faith communities to speak into the lives of young people. By contrast, in Tanzania, and many other countries around the world, the voices of spiritual and faith leaders are seen as necessary to the health and wellbeing of the nation.
Growing up in a changing world
Like so many countries In Africa, Tanzania has seen massive change over the last two decades, particularly for the younger generations. When I first arrived in Tanzania in the late 1990s, it was rare for a child to progress beyond primary school, and most Tanzanians led lives centred around local subsistence agriculture.
Now, the numbers of children accessing and completing secondary education have exploded. The arrival of mobile phone technology in the early 2000s, followed by internet access, means a child born in Tanzania today will grow up in a world vastly different to the one their parents knew. And, as with most countries in Africa, urban migration continues at a fast pace.
Two challenges for the church
Where is the church in all of this? What is the face of mission partnerships in these early decades of the 21st Century and into the future? CMS has deep roots in Tanzania, reaching many Tanzanians with the gospel for the first time throughout the 20th Century, nurturing new believers, and training church leaders. With local evangelists and pastors, church growth has been rapid. It’s common now to meet third and fourth generation believers. And it’s still common to meet first generation believers, as zeal for evangelism and new church plants remains undiminished.
These two groups of believers stand out as I reflect on the opportunities and challenges of church and mission in Tanzania.
First, there is the challenge of establishing and maintaining living faith among the younger urban generations, as many now dwell away from tribal, cultural and faith heritages, where traditional denominational patterns may seem disconnected from their generation’s experiences and expectations.
Second, how are those first generation, new believers to be supported and discipled in the more remote village centres where there are limited resources and risks of exposure to false teaching?
Tanzania is at a crossroads of resisting nominalism and secularism in established churches, while maintaining a zeal for new churches in yet-unreached areas, both urban and rural. What can unite these two challenges is culturally sound, biblically strong training for life and ministry.
“The church needs leaders who are well-equipped to serve the current and future generations.”
Tanzanian theological colleges need Bible teachers and ministry trainers.
Children’s and youth ministry
Just as President Samia links the wellbeing and growth of Tanzania to the values taught to the children and young people who make up a large proportion of the overall population, so the church must prioritise evangelism and ministry to this generation.
“It’s rare to have designated training for pastors and evangelists aimed particularly at youth and children.”
For both cultural and resource reasons, it’s rare to have designated training for pastors and evangelists aimed particularly at youth and children. Many dioceses have a children or youth department, but that may be one person for more than 50 existing parishes. CMS missionary Katie Taylor shares about her involvement in addressing this issue here.
A further challenge, but also an opportunity, arises from the number of children who live away from home to attend secondary school, either in boarding schools or accommodated locally to attend a day school. Secondary school Christian groups have long been vital, but they lack support and resources.
Young souls are thirsty
Pastor Hosea Baraseka of Lweru Diocese is currently in charge of all Sunday School ministry, all youth ministry and teaching Bible Knowledge in secondary schools in Lweru (four local government regions of Tanzania that are home to tens of thousands of young people).
He would love a colleague to come and help him grow these ministries. Could that be you? Half of Tanzania’s population, that means more than 30 million, are under 18. They need to hear and grow in the gospel. Spiritual conversations are an everyday occurrence. Questions of life and faith are expected. Souls are thirsty.
With a long history of gospel ministry in Tanzania, CMS is still a valued partner. This current generation of church and gospel leaders value those who can come and work alongside them to grow gospel communities now and for the future of Tanzania.
Could you serve alongside gospel workers like Pastor Baraseka to help reach and grow young disciples in Tanzania with the good news of Christ? Get in touch with CMS to find out more about the opportunities to serve in this vital ministry to children and young people. Go to www.cms.org.au/opportunities to find out more.