Originally published in The Gospel Herald, February 11, 2006:
Understanding & Mentorship to Support Second Generation Church Leaders
by Eunice Or
While many Chinese churches in the United States celebrate the tremendous growth over the last few decades, uniting the first and second generation ministers has become a common concern.
In the latest issue of the magazine published by the prominent mission organization Gospel Operation International for Chinese Christian (Go Intl), Director of the U.S.A. office Rev. Jeffery Lee has discussed the issue in his article “Ministering with English-speaking Ministers.”
Many Chinese churches are experiencing an exodus of English-speaking second generation, Lee sharply pointed out the crisis. He explained that many Chinese churches have neglected the need of the second generation. While the dominantly Chinese-speaking churches built by the first generation immigrants are lack of the resources to provide pastoral care for the second generation, they appear reluctant to spend money on the ministry.
The lost of the English-speaking second generation directly results in the shortage of second generation church ministers- the young talented ones needed by Chinese churches to nurture the native generations to come.
Even among the very few second generation church ministers, they have encountered many obstacles while co-working with the first generation Oversea Born Chinese (OCB) leaders because of the differences in culture, Lee said.
One of the very obvious problems in the Chinese churches is that first generation Chinese tend to have their expectation for the second generation leaders, which could be very different from that of the church.
For instance, many Chinese parents overemphasize on academic achievements but neglect spiritual growth of their children. More than considering the second generation minister as someone who takes care of children and help spiritual formation, parents even expect the second generation ministers to teach their children to become obedience to them and excel in school. While the second generation ministers are supposed to be a role model for the children, parents do not encourage their children to learn from the ministers in terms of serving the church.
Furthermore, first generation church leaders tend to have unreasonablely high expectation for the second generation ministers. Due to language barrier, the first generation church leaders cannot communicate well with them to point out their problems and give guidance. Church members also do not respect the young leaders very well.
Lee suggested that understanding of other church members and mentorship by the senior first generation church leaders are the two important keys to resolve conflicts.
Parents should be able to appreciate the heart of serving of these young second generation ministers, teaching their children to learn to love God from the role model, Lee said. First generation church leaders must understand that the second generation ministers grow up in a very different culture. and try to adapt to their ways of doing things. They must also embrace the insufficiencies of the young ministers.
Lee explained how mentorship is important to support second generation ministers. First generation church leaders and members must take imitative to show concern to them. Building up a close mentorship network enhances communication so that they can understand each other better and to avoid conflicts. Young ministers can also receive guidance and advices.
“Chinese churches with dominantly first generation immigrants should become humble and support the second generations to serve God. By fulfilling God’s will, we glorify God and benefit many people on this world. The number of second generations that are willing to dedicate in serving is very few, so they are very precious. We must encourage them, understand them with patience, so that they can keep their heart firm to love God and serve God,” Lee concluded.