Reaching the emerging generation


Youth Pastors’ Book Set Conference (YPBS) is supported by SIM Malawi project #MW96558 Pastors’ Book Set Conference

Figures show that almost 67 per cent (actual figure is 66.89%) of the population of Malawi is under 25 years of age. Working with the youth of the country is vital for its churches, and around 100 youth workers and pastors recently came together in Lilongwe to hear from home-grown and international speakers about reaching the emerging generation.

Delegates to the YPBS in Lilongwe were challenged by stirring words from Revd Francis Mkandawire, General Secretary of the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM). He reflected on his life and on a turning point which he hoped would inspire the 100 or so youth leaders and pastors attending the conference.

Campus ministry:  University students meet to discuss challenges they face with on-campus ministries and what SIM Malawi may be able to do to fill some gaps

“When I was balancing as to whether or not to serve God I saw a poster on a wall. It said ‘You only have one life and that life will soon be gone. Only that which is done for Christ will last.’

“You will never waste your life when you waste it for Christ! Give yourself fully to Christ and He will give Himself fully to you.”

These words at the end of  the conference underpinned what had been said during the week from a panel of speakers from within Malawi and from outside. One of the key words which came up time and again was ‘invest’ or ‘investment’. Speakers talked about the need for people to invest in the youth of Malawi and how that investment could reap great dividends for the country in the future.

Investment is at the heart of Paul’s Second letter to Timothy which was opened to the conference by James Wainaina from iServe Africa in Kenya. He took delegates through the book chapter by chapter and opened up how Paul invested time and energy in Timothy to encourage and inspire this young man at the start of his ministry in Ephesus.

James spoke about the link between truth and love in terms of youth ministry: “Truth without love is like a surgeon operating without an anaesthetic; love without truth is like a surgeon giving anaesthesia without operating.”

Speakers and organisers: Some of the team behind YPBS2018

Tim Hawkins, an Australian now based in South Africa, looked at how leadership character, skills and vision can be developed and also how those present at the conference can become a generation changer. He spoke from more than 40 years’ experience in youth ministry; how the longer you do it the easier it becomes because you have already made your big mistakes and know how to deal with any that still come along! But he also challenged the leaders to be in the work for the long haul.

He spoke about how doctors do not change jobs after three years or, if they did, what a mess the medical word would be in! He asked: who would train the doctors of the future? Only those with a few years’ experience and that would not be helpful

Delegates heard about Effects of Globalisation on Youth in Malawi, and the Church's Response from Linda Kalukusha from Young Life in Lilongwe, and also how to engage with young people in high school and how to deal with myriad problems around the area of sexuality from Patrick Kaudzu from the Students Christian Movement of Malawi (SCOM).

Emma Brewster, SIM’s Point Person for University Ministry, introduced delegates to the idea of the City of the University, and looked at some of the issues facing students and people engaged in outreach ministries in this area. Following on from her workshop, university students and lecturers were invited to stay at the end of the day for a meeting to look at what is happening in campus ministry in Malawi.

The vast majority of those participating in the meeting were students, and they talked about some of the challenges they were facing in campus ministry. They also talked about some of the perceived gaps, and sought to find out if SIM Malawi might be able to help to plug some of those. Although nothing formal came out of the meeting, the details of those taking part were taken and it is hoped that a follow-up meeting will be arranged to take things forward.

YPBS 2018 is the 11th PBS which has been organised by SIM Malawi since 2008. These have covered three main ministry areas: Marriage, Mission and Youth. As the name suggests, a book set is the main ‘take-away’ for the delegates.

Peter Ong, SIM Malawi’s Youth Co-ordinator and one of the organisers of the YPBS, spoke about the immense privilege he and his co-organiser Jonathan Njiragoma, had to put the conference together and to work with youth workers across Malawi.

“I am the product of youth leaders who invested in my life, so the principles about investing in young people we have been hearing about this week really do work,” he said.

“When I was at high school, one of the youth leaders who invested in us had a real passion and vision for God’s mission. He is now serving as a lecturer in a country where God is little known. Because of that passion and vision that he had, I was able to invest in high school kids whom God brought into my life, and I am still doing that today here in Malawi.”

Reaching children and youth is one of the five focus areas for SIM Malawi and, in recent years, a good deal of time and effort has been expended in this area of work. YPBS illustrates a significant area of this work to train and equip children’s and youth pastors and workers to develop their groups so that they can become the Church and national leaders of tomorrow. With such a young population in Malawi, this is a vital part of the work, a subject which SIM Malawi Country Director Mike Hammond underlined when he closed the conference. He urged the delegates to make sure that they made use of the resources they took away with them, both the talks they had heard and the books in the boxes, and that the books did not just sit on a shelf and gather dust.

He also issued a challenge to the departing delegates: “Your challenge is to take what you have heard and have been given and use it to equip the youth in your churches and those around you that you come into contact with, no matter what your ministry sphere is, so that they can take their place in the Kingdom of Christ.”

Recordings of the main sessions of YPBS 2018 can be heard through this link

First book set: Revd Francis Mkandawire from EAM (left) and Mike Hammond, Country Director SIM Malawi, present the first book set at YPBS2018