We all know those people who are physically awkward. The ones you pray aren’t put on your team because, for some reason, they try to catch a ball with their face or trip over their own feet when running the 50-yard dash. I am one of those people. Due to my complete lack of hand-eye coordination, fear of flying objects and general clumsiness, I live in terror of any group physical activity or team sport. One of the events, among many, I refuse to do is the relay. It isn’t the running that scares me; it's the coordination it takes to pass the baton.
In the last decade, missions experts (“An expert is a person who made all the mistakes that can be made in a narrow field” - Niels Bohr) have focused on transforming the western approach to poverty alleviation and evangelism. This new era in missions focuses on dignity based outreach and has been propelled through books like “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity.” Through the years missions leaders have worked hard to use these well written and powerful materials to prepare teams for mission. However, we Boomers and Gen Xers will soon be passing the baton of missions leadership to the next generation. To do this well, we need to be thoughtful about how millennials engage the world around them, what they value and how they learn.
I recently put out a survey to about 30 of my millennial friends (ages 16-30) and asked them to answer a few questions about missions. To be clear, these are not your average young adults. They are all deeply passionate about their relationship with Jesus and see service as a core component of their walk. I learned so many things from my quick google survey. One of the biggest things I learned is that, though the information we have is powerful, the training tools we are using are out of date in their approach.
The majority prefer deep, honest small group discussion based on a video or podcast. I have to agree, I actually enjoy this type of learning. Here is the problem; despite endless research, I can’t seem to find those resources. The best materials we have are books that are considered boring to those who have little or no experience in the missions field. Am I missing something? Or is it time we work with the next generation to share all the things we have learned through painful failure, in a way they understand? If not, we may see our greatest fear play out as the baton is dropped.